Sorry for the absence of posts lately. Here are some things I've noticed. Slate asked several writers who had supported the Iraq War to respond to the question "How did I get Iraq wrong?"; Christopher Hitchens comments "I didn't". (I didn't either. This was my summary of the case on the third anniversary of the intervention, when the prospects of success in Iraq appeared bleakest.)
If there is one person whose views I wouldn't take seriously on this subject, it's an international civil servant who, while nominally in charge of the IAEA, failed to perceive that Saddam Hussein had been tricking him. Only after the first Gulf War and the reversal of Saddam's annexation of Kuwait did the IAEA fill in the huge gaps in its understanding, when the German government provided the missing information about Saddam's centrifuge programme. The author of that gross failure, Hans Blix, writes in The Guardian today. He does not explain and he does not apologise.
Also in The Guardian today, Seumas Milne writes: "The unprovoked aggression launched by the US and Britain against Iraq five years ago today has already gone down across the world as, to borrow the words of President Roosevelt, 'a day which will live in infamy'." Last year Nick Cohen - with me in a minor supporting role - received irate but feeble criticism when he pointed out in his book What's Left? that parts of the left had demonstrably crossed sides. Milne writes for what was once the principal voice of British liberalism. If you believe that Saddam Hussein's regime was a lawful authority of non-threatening character whose sovereignty was unjustly violated in actions akin to those of Imperial Japan then, at a minimum, you might want to reflect how easy this makes the argument for us.
Serious though the subject be, a Green Party candidate called Richard Lawson manages to inject levity into the discussion in a letter also in (where else?) today's Guardian. He writes:
"The Green party here and in Europe is pressing for the UN to publish a distillate of its reports into all countries' human rights records in an index, ranking governments' practices from best to worst.
"This will have several positive effects. Many governments will protest that they have been misjudged, and purge jails of political prisoners before UN inspectors arrive. All countries will seek to increase their standing, so it will exert a continuous motivation to improve governance. Importantly, it will become far harder to demonise a regime on whom our leaders intend to wage war if people can easily see there are many worse performers. Most importantly, the worst performers can be legally investigated and taken to the international criminal court. Once this has happened a couple of times, those near the bottom will start to ask for help in improving their governance."
He speaks the truth. This really is Green Party policy. The great Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr observed that pacifism "either tempts us to make no judgements at all, or to give an undue preference to tyranny" (Christianity and Power Politics, 1952, p. 28), and this is a nice example. The notion that a Kim Jong-Il or Saddam Hussein will be vulnerable to the force of moral disapprobation and legal investigation is one that, I fear, doesn't seem quite so out of place as it ought to and once would have been when published in The Guardian - a newspaper whose values I share and occasionally attempt to express in its pages.