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Our Say : Delusions of war

This is a war of many delusions; about power, self image and perceptions of others. The bombing is real and the pictures of Baghdad suburbs on fire are genuine...

This is a war of many delusions; about power, self image and perceptions of others.

The bombing is real and the pictures of Baghdad suburbs on fire are genuine, reminding us that beyond what we see on TV screens and the sound bites that we hear, real people are dying and suffering. The Anglo-American invasion of Iraq, a country of 25 million people covering an area of 440,000 square kilometers, is almost one week old. We are not sure how and when this war will end.

The political leaderships in Washington and London are warning of a tough and long war. President Saddam Hussein too has promised a protracted encounter. If it does turn out to be a prolonged conflict then we can be sure that the costs of this unnecessary war will be enormous on all sides.

But it was not supposed to be like that. Invading armies expected to be welcomed by cheering Iraqis and the march to Baghdad would be interrupted only by joyful masses coming out of their towns and villages to greet the ‘liberators.’ Now the coalition forces are bogged down by ‘pockets of resistance’ in Um Qaser, Faw, Zubair, Nasiriya and Najaf. The ‘enemy’ is not behaving as it should. There are no conventional battles and the march to Baghdad, while swift in some areas, is too easy to take for granted.

And then there is the immense air power of the coalition. There is no doubt that Iraqi defenses and troop concentrations have been dealt severe blows, but instead of weakening their resolve, the people of Iraq remain united and are rallying around their leadership. Coalition planners deluded themselves into believing that the Iraqi leadership will lose control of the country after the initial blow. But Saddam remains defiant and his army is engaging the enemy with shocking results.

In addition to all this it is now clear that the people of Iraq are suffering. Millions are without water and electricity in Basra and there is real concern of a major humanitarian disaster. The claim that people will be spared the tragedy of war is another delusion. Ordinary Iraqis will die in this conflict and coalition forces are responsible.

What went wrong? From the onset this war lacked legitimacy. President Bush and Prime Minister Blair confronted the entire world and pushed towards the point of no return. They broke the law claiming they were fighting Iraq to uphold it. They are killing Iraqis when their mission is to save them. They will burn Baghdad in order to liberate it. They are turning Saddam Hussein into a hero for Iraqis and others when their intention was to disgrace and humiliate him.

How could Bush and Blair be so misinformed? Their victory in this war is already blemished. They now know that millions of Iraqis stand between them and Saddam Hussein. They feel public mood is changing in their own countries. As this war drags on, and it will, America and Britain will be seen as aggressors and occupiers. The political fallout will be great and the region will be left in turmoil.

Did we need this war? Saddam Hussein was already disarming and the UN had hundreds of inspectors in Iraq. A political process backed by the UN was holding and getting stronger. Saddam was isolated and his regime was cornered. No matter how this war ends America and Britain will have to justify the high cost of ‘liberating’ Iraq, not only to the world, but to their own people.

The Star

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