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A Matter of Principle

A Matter of Principle: Humanitarian Arguments for War in Iraq

EDITED BY Thomas Cushman
Christopher Hitchens
Adam Michnik
Paul Berman
Tony Blair
Ian Buruma
Ann Clwyd
Mitchell Cohen
Norman Geras
Jeffrey Herf
Richard Just
John Lloyd
Jose Ramos-Horta
Roger Scruton
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    A Matter of Principle
    Book Description:

    Current debate over the motives, ideological justifications, and outcomes of the war with Iraq have been strident and polarizing.A Matter of Principleis the first volume gathering critical voices from around the world to offer an alternative perspective on the prevailing pro-war and anti-war positions. The contribu-tors-political figures, public intellectuals, scholars, church leaders, and activists-represent the most powerful views of liberal internationalism. Offering alternative positions that challenge the status quo of both the left and the right, these essays claim that, in spite of the inconsistent justifications provided by the United States and its allies and the conflict-ridden process of social reconstruction, the war in Iraq has been morally justifiable on the grounds that Saddam Hussein was a brutal tyrant, a flagrant violator of human rights, a force of global instability and terror, and a threat to world peace. The authors discuss the limitations of the current system of global governance, which tolerates gross violations of human rights and which has failed to prevent genocide in places such as Bosnia and Rwanda. They also underscore the need for reform in international institutions and international law. At the same time, these essays do not necessarily attempt to apologize for the mistakes, errors, and deceptions in the way the Bush administration has handled the war. Disputing the idea that the only true liberal position on the war is to be against it, this volume charts an invaluable third course, a path determined by a strong liberal commitment to human rights, solidarity with the oppressed, and a firm stand against fascism, totalitarianism, and tyranny.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93216-6
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Introduction: The Liberal-Humanitarian Case for War in Iraq
    (pp. 1-26)

    What exactlywasthe war in Iraq? It has alternately been seen as a move to protect the national security of the United States in light of the tragedy of September 11; a preventive war of selfdefense against terrorism; a way to foster stability, security, and democracy in the Middle East; a counter to arms proliferation and support of terrorism around the world; an exercise in the expansion of the American empire and protection of American material interests in the region; a war for oil; an illegal act of aggression that has fostered hatred of the United States and helped...


    • 1 The Case for Regime Change
      (pp. 29-38)

      The case for the removal of the Saddam Hussein regime was, in most of its essential aspects, already complete by 1998, when the United States Senate unanimously adopted the Iraq Liberation Act.¹ At that period: .

      Iraq’s “sovereignty” had already been severely qualified by the imposition of international sanctions and by the further imposition of “no-fly zones” to prevent the repetition of genocidal attacks on the northern and southern populations of the country.

      Iraq had failed conspicuously to come into compliance with a series of important United Nations resolutions, mostly related to the identification and destruction of weapons of mass...

    • 2 Liberal Legacies, Europe’s Totalitarian Era, and the Iraq War: Historical Conjunctures and Comparisons
      (pp. 39-56)

      The historical irony of the war that overthrew Iraqi totalitarianism is that most liberals on both sides of the Atlantic opposed it, despite the fact that Saddam Hussein’s Baath regime had ideological lineages and affinities to the fascist and Nazi regimes of Europe’s midcentury.¹ The exceptions of the Blair wing of the British Labour Party, the editorial boards of theWashingtonPost and theNew Republic, and a minority of liberal intellectuals in Europe and the United States proved the rule. Those who play a key role in defining the meaning of liberalism as a set of positions in contemporary...

    • 3 “Regime Change”: The Case of Iraq
      (pp. 57-75)

      It was widely advertised that the US invasion of Iraq was motivated by a concern about the ability of its then-dictator Saddam Hussein to use weapons of mass destruction. As is well enough known, several problems arise with that claim. One is the fact that this concern appears to have been false, at least if we construe the claim narrowly to imply that Saddam was equipped with such weapons at and immediately before the time of the invasion. It is not clear that the claim need have been quite that. It is generally agreed that he had had such weapons...

    • 4 In the Murk of It: Iraq Reconsidered
      (pp. 76-92)

      Let’s begin with this assumption: Forceful arguments were made in good faith by foes and proponents of the Iraq war, even if bad faith also characterized many political players as well as intellectuals in the United States, France, Germany, Iraq, and elsewhere. The consequences of the war are what matter most now. They are still unclear. Collateral damage in a war is often visible quickly; collateral benefits may take years to emerge. One undeniable good is self-evident: Saddam Hussein’s murderous rule is over. Nonetheless, reconsideration leads me to a paradoxical, unsatisfying, and unsatisfactory conclusion about the Iraq war: Most of...


    • 5 National Interest and International Law
      (pp. 95-105)

      Two rival views of international relations now compete for influence among our political elites, the national and the transnational, and the war in Iraq has sharpened the conflict between them. Neither view clearly justifies the war or clearly condemns it. But it seems to me that the national approach is a better guarantee of peace and stability than the transnational alternative, and cases like the Iraq war provide some evidence for this conclusion.

      According to the national view, the business of politics is to maintain law, order, peace, freedom, and security within the borders of a sovereign state. Dealings with...

    • 6 Just War against an “Outlaw” Region
      (pp. 106-124)

      The Kantian-inspired democratic peace theory is based on a simple and powerful idea that democracy in itself is a peace-generating leitmotiv. The universality of this theoretical assumption continues to be the subject of lively debates among scholars. Some argue that liberals should exercise restraint when contemplating war or the use of forceregardlessof the regime type of the adversary,¹ others admit that liberal democratic societies have often engaged in war against nondemocratic states, but since 1800, firmly established liberal societies have not fought one another.² My purpose in this essay is not to add further to an already fairly...

    • 7 Moral Arguments: Sovereignty, Feasibility, Agency, and Consequences
      (pp. 125-144)

      Was it “the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time”? Between that view and its diametric opposite are other possibilities—for instance that it was the right war in the right place at the wrong time, or even the wrong war (because conducted inappropriately) in the right place at the right time. Those of us—including myself—who opposed this war because of apprehensions in the vicinity of the latter positions nevertheless often found ourselves more in agreement with the arguments of the architects than the detractors of this war. The antiwar movement seemed preponderantly to rely...


    • 8 A Friendly Drink in a Time of War
      (pp. 147-151)

      A friend leaned across a bar and said, “You call the war in Iraq an antifascist war. You even call it a left-wing war—a war of liberation. That language of yours! And yet, on the left, not too many people agree with you.”

      “Not true!” I said. “Apart from X, Y, and Z, whose left-wing names you know very well, what do you think of Adam Michnik in Poland? And doesn’t Václav Havel count for something in your eyes? These are among the heroes of our time. Anyway, who is fighting in Iraq right now? The Coalition is led...

    • 9 Wielding the Moral Club
      (pp. 152-159)

      Here is Gore Vidal, often hailed as the most important literary essayist in America, a liberal maverick, whose languid but always spirited voice of opposition to most US administrations since Kennedy’s Camelot never fails to find the keen ears of the European liberal-left. He was asked on Australian radio about what Vidal calls the “Bush-Cheney junta” and how the Iraqis could have been freed from Saddam Hussein’s murderous regime without US armed force. His answer: “Don’t you think that’s their problem? That’s not your problem and that’s not my problem. There are many bad regimes on Earth; we can list...

    • 10 Peace, Human Rights, and the Moral Choices of the Churches
      (pp. 160-178)

      In 2002–2003, Christian churches were at the forefront of the campaigns against a US-led military intervention in Iraq. The unified position of the churches was quite remarkable. All over the world, Catholics and Protestants joined forces to counter the American “threat.” To lend rational support to the resistance, the Christianjust wartradition was revived. Criteria qualifying the war as just or unjust were used in numerous statements, letters, and articles, with a predictable outcome: that the war against Iraq was unjust. This was a predictable conclusion because Christian doctrine today favors pacifism and is based on the assumption...

    • 11 Ethical Correctness and the Decline of the Left
      (pp. 179-190)

      The venture was certainly risky; regime changes always are. The hundreds of murders, rapes, and miscellaneous cruelties may not have been part of the plan, but they were clearly unavoidable once it began to be implemented. The subsequent loss of thousands more lives must have been predictable, too, along with the looting and wanton damage to historic treasures. It did not help that planning and intelligence came not from within the country but from exiles and émigrés—many of them political neurotics who had got a little out of touch with the country that they wanted to lead and from...

    • 12 Pages from a Daily Journal of Argument
      (pp. 191-206)

      This is an amended version of part of a talk given to the Workers’ Liberty summer school in London on June 21, 2003.

      I want to say something about support for democratic values and basic human rights. We on the left just have it in our bloodstream, do we not, that we are committed to democratic values. And although, for reasons I can’t go into here, some on the left are a bit more reserved about using the language of basic human rights, nonetheless, for many of us it was this moral reality, and especially its negation, that played a...

    • 13 Liberal Realism or Liberal Idealism: The Iraq War and the Limits of Tolerance
      (pp. 207-220)

      A few weeks before the Iraq war started, I found myself at a gathering of liberal activists in Washington. The group hadn’t convened specifically to talk about the war, and it spent most of the meeting discussing domestic issues—Bush’s tax cuts, Social Security, health care, and so on. But war was in the air, so it was unavoidable that the subject would be raised. On the agenda as the last item, someone had written, “What do we do when the bombs start falling?” As the meeting was about to adjourn, a participant pointed out that we hadn’t discussed the...


    • 14 Iraq and the European Left
      (pp. 223-232)

      Michael Moore’sFahrenheit9/11 has begun playing in Europe as this essay is being finished. For many European as well as American reviewers and commentators, the response to it has fallen into a kind of liberal groove: that it’s extreme and unfair, but you have to admit it’s nice to see Bush and the US administration ridiculed. Thus David Edelstein, a film critic for the Web magazineSlate, commented, “I was troubled by the cheapness of Moore’s interviewing techniques. But I laughed my ass off anyway.”¹

      I didn’t, because it seemed to me that the joke was on us: the...

    • 15 Guilt’s End: How Germany Redefined the Lessons of Its Past during the Iraq War
      (pp. 233-242)

      The postwar period is completely over now—that was how German chancellor Gerhard Schröder commented on his invitation to the celebration of the sixtieth anniversary of the Allied landing in Normandy on June 6, 2004. His participation attested to the fact that the liberation of Europe from Hitler had also been a “victory for Germany.” The celebrations confirmed the new historical-political self-awareness of the German government’s leader. In the commemorative speeches of the Western statesmen, there were no longer any vanquished, symbolically underscoring that Germany has become accepted without reservation in the circle of Western democracies and that its National...

    • 16 The Iraq War and the French Left
      (pp. 243-258)

      Throughout the crisis in Iraq, French socialists melted into the national consensus against the war. This reaction occurred practically without debate—a strange attitude for a party with a habitual taste for internal controversies. Is there a duty to intervene against a dictator? What about the future of the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union? And what about the future of relations between Europe and the United States? Is there any credibility to a “peace camp” that includes Vladimir Putin’s Russia? Should one adopt an attitude of critical support or confrontation toward the United States? Should France abstain or...

    • 17 Tempting Illusions, Scary Realities, or the Emperor’s New Clothes II
      (pp. 259-268)

      Boy, they were right: the emperor was quite naked! No weapons of mass destruction. No Scuds in abundance. No army prepared to drag invading forces into street warfare. No elite units ready to sacrifice their lives on behalf of Saddam Hussein, the president, the dictator, the mass murderer.

      So governments faced calls for public inquiries, parliamentary commissions, legal scrutiny, and new elections. Why? Two possible reasons for an inquiry would make sense. First, the well-known reason would be to force governments to answer the question as to why the Iraq war was initiated when it was, if Iraq indeed posed...


    • 18 Antitotalitarianism as a Vocation: An Interview with Adam Michnik
      (pp. 271-280)

      Adam Michnik, a leading force in the Solidarity trade union movement and the founder and editor of the largest Polish daily newspaper, Gazeta Wyborcza, was an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq. In this interview, which occurred in Warsaw on January 15, 2004, Michnik clarifies his position on the war and discusses the responses of other European intellectuals.

      THOMAS CUSHMAN: I’d like to focus on the response of Polish intellectuals and former anticommunists and activists to the war in Iraq, Polish relations with the United States more generally, and how the latter have affected relations between Poland and other...

    • 19 Sometimes, a War Saves People
      (pp. 281-284)

      The new Socialist government in Spain has caved in to the terrorist threats and withdrawn its troops from Iraq. So have Honduras and the Dominican Republic. They are unlikely to be the last. With the security situation expected to worsen before it improves, we have to accept that a few more countries—which do not appreciate how much the world has at stake in building a free Iraq—will also cut and run.

      No matter how the retreating governments try to spin it, every time a country pulls out of Iraq, it is Al Qaeda and other extremists who win....

    • 20 Gulf War Syndrome Mark II: The Case for Siding with the Iraqi People
      (pp. 285-296)

      Gulf War Syndrome Mark II has not been officially diagnosed, but the political classes of Britain and the United States are now lurching into the advanced stages of the disease. Its symptoms are simple and—for Iraqis—deadly. The carrier automatically assumes that a majority of Iraqi people agree with his position on the invasion of Iraq. He does not seek any evidence for this belief; indeed, all evidence derived from the real world (as opposed to common sense) is denounced as “unreliable” or “contradictory.” Because the sufferer knows through some unexplained telepathic link what Iraqis think, he feels free...

    • 21 “They Don’t Know One Little Thing”
      (pp. 297-308)

      The quote that serves as the title for this essay is by an Iraqi woman in Jordan, being interviewed by the BBC at the time of the toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein. She provided his response when she was asked about antiwar protesters, together with other women who were gathered together to recount the horrors of the regime of Saddam Hussein.

      I wondered at first whether the women were exaggerating. They told me that in Iraq, the country they had fled, women were beheaded with swords and their heads nailed to the front doors of their houses, as...

    • 22 “Why Did It Take You So Long to Get Here?”
      (pp. 309-326)

      It was an early evening in Baghdad when I arrived at the office of the Institute of War and Peace Reporting, but still many young students were there working on leads and storylines. The institute works in many of the world’s hot spots. It seeks to aid the process of rebuilding postconflict nations by teaching journalism.

      The students were an illustration of the rapid change that had taken place in Iraq. Twelve months earlier such a gathering would have been impossible. For decades, journalism in Iraq consisted of reporting the words of Saddam Hussein for publications owned by other members...


    • 23 Full Statement to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003
      (pp. 329-339)

      I beg to move the motion standing on the order paper in my name and those of my Right Honorable friends.

      At the outset I say: it is right that this House debate this issue and pass judgment. That is the democracy that is our right but that others struggle for in vain. And again I say: I do not disrespect the views of those in opposition to mine.

      This is a tough choice. But it is also a stark one: to stand British troops down and turn back; or to hold firm to the course we have set. I...

    • 24 The Threat of Global Terrorism
      (pp. 340-352)

      No decision I have ever made in politics has been as divisive as the decision to go to war to in Iraq. It remains deeply divisive today.

      I know a large part of the public want to move on. Rightly they say the government should concentrate on the issues that elected us in 1997: the economy, jobs, living standards, health, education, crime. I share that view, and we are.

      But I know too that the nature of this issue over Iraq, stirring such bitter emotions as it does, can’t just be swept away as ill-fitting the preoccupations of the man...

  11. Contributors
    (pp. 353-360)
  12. Index
    (pp. 361-372)