Paul Anderson, Tribune column, 6 February 2003

Last week, David Mills used his Tribune column to point out that the anti-war left in Britain has given scant consideration to the possibility that war on Iraq will be a stunning military success (at least in its own terms), an outcome that will leave Tony Blair in an extraordinarily dominant position in British politics.

His point is a good one, but I’d go even further. The anti-war left hasn’t even thought about what happens if, as now seems increasingly likely, all the efforts of the opponents of war, in the UN Security Council or on the streets of the world’s cities, are in vain — and the US actually launches the attack on Iraq that it has been preparing for a year.

To put the issue simply, as soon as the fighting starts in earnest, the anti-war lobby will have to choose among three options: demanding that military action ends at once; supporting a swift victory by the US with minimal casualties; and hoping that the US gets bogged down, with the result that public opinion in the west turns against the senseless slaughter.

The last of these is, of course, at the core of the Leninists’ approach to the current crisis. For them, Trots as well as Stalinists, “revolutionary defeatism”, the belief that one should support the “other” side in any “imperialist” war and work to turn the conflict into civil war, is a matter of faith. But for anyone who opposes war on the grounds that killing people is wrong and the number of deaths should be minimised, it is morally untenable (though judging by the disappointment one could sense in many peaceniks’ voices after other recent interventionist wars failed to result in vast numbers of body bags being flown home, there might well be a surprising number of takers for it). The only defensible options are “Stop the killing now!” and “Get the war over as quickly as possible with minimal casualties”.

“Stop the killing now!” has its attractions, not least that it is consistent with what the anti-war Left has been arguing for ages — in other words, that war against Iraq is a bad thing and should not take place. In terms of Realpolitik, however, it is a non-starter, for the simple reason that, once the fighting starts, any cessation of hostilities by the US would be seen as (and would be) a massive victory for Saddam — the worst possible outcome to this crisis apart from a protracted war in which hundreds of thousands die.

So I’m afraid that, if the US does attack — and I still hoping against hope that it doesn’t — I’m going to be executing a rapid U-turn and praying that it makes it to Baghdad and overthrows Saddam Hussein in double-quick time, with minimal casualties on both sides. As that great moralist Macbeth put it:

If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
It were done quickly


Still on the subject of the Left and Iraq, I hope Tribune readers will not be too offended if I ask whether Tony Benn’s mission to Baghdad to interview Saddam did anything whatsoever to further the cause of peace.

Criticising Benn has in recent years once again become tanatamount to blasphemy on certain parts of the Left, so I expect a hostile postbag. But was anyone really convinced by Benn’s performance? His questions to Saddam — a brutal dictator, mass murderer and serial international agressor — could not have been less critical or his demeanour more reverential.

I know the analogy between Saddam and Hitler has been overdone, but on this occasion Benn really did put me in mind of George Lansbury after he was ousted as Labour leader in the mid-1930s, visiting Hitler and Mussolini and pronouncing them men of peace.


Finally, a word on the Lords. Most of the blame for Tuesday’s farce, in which every option for reforming the second chamber was defeated in the House Of Commons, has rightly fallen on Tony Blair, whose cynical decision to make known his support for a wholly appointed Lords appears to have swayed a sufficiently large number of New Labour carreerists to scupper a Commons majority for a wholly elected second chamber.
But he is not the only villain of the piece. Several Labour MPs who are anything but Blairites voted with the Prime Minister and his cronies against an elected second chamber on the grounds that they didn’t want any sort of upper house.

Yup, it’s good old bone-brained Old Labour cretino-Leftism on the march yet again, supporting the an indefensible status quo against the best realistically achievable in the interests of an unattainable utopia. Thanks to their dim-witted but oh-so-principled stance, we now appear to be stuck with an undemocratic travesty of a second chamber for the forseeable future. Well done comrades! It’s great to see that the spirit of the 1983 election campaign lives on!

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