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War on Iraq – How Did I Get It Wrong?
Well, we don’t know that I did get it wrong. History will judge. But I supported an invasion of Iraq, and I don’t see how I could have done that if I’d know how events would transpire. I also ungraciously made sarcastic remarks about a newspaper advertisement from several teachers’ unions claiming that a war would lead to tens of thousands of civilian deaths.
Why did I write these things?
Two reasons. Firstly, my political background. I grew up in a left-wing household. My father was for a time a Communist. He believed in wars of liberation. He once told me the Viet Cong were his friends. I took part in anti-US demonstrations during the Vietnam War. I had a poster of Che Guevara on my wall.
A lot might have changed when, in my 40s, I became a Christian. But I continued to believe that people everywhere deserved liberty. And I viewed Saddam Hussein’s regime as one of the world’s most tyrannical. My father was Jewish, and some of my ancestors died in the Holocaust. Then the world said “Never again,” and I supported wars of liberation. I believed in justice.
The issue of weapons of mass destruction was virtually irrelevant for me. The title of my article in support of an invasion was “Where is the justice in not attacking?”
The second reason was the 17 years that I spent in Japan, from 1976 to 1992, when I naturally learnt a lot about the country and its history. The Japanese relished democracy. In fact, I recall a former correspondent from The Times newspaper claiming to me that Japan was the only full democracy (at that time) in Asia. Singapore didn’t count, he said, because it banned the Communist Party. (I forget why India wasn’t, in his view, a full democracy.)
Anyway, democracy hadn’t arisen naturally in Japan. It had been imposed on the country by the US occupation forces after World War II. There’d been people at that time who said the introduction of democracy and of concepts such as the right of women to vote was a mistake. They said that the Japanese didn’t understand the notion of freedom, that they wouldn’t know what to do with it. They were proven wrong. I assumed that the Iraqis would also welcome an imposed democracy (and to a certain extent I think they have), and that, like the Japanese, they would set to work to build up their country.
I guess I stand with West Australian Premier Alan Carpenter who just a couple of weeks ago told our local Good Weekend magazine (not online) why he had been “enthusiastically gung-ho” about removing Saddam Hussein.
“The picture I was painting, albeit flippantly, was ‘we’ll get in there, knock them over, stick up the hamburger stands and they’ll all be playing beat-box music on the streets’,” he says. The Premier now thinks the war a calamity. “I realized that my analysis, my knowledge was just so shallow and so deficient.”
I doubt that anyone was influenced by my writings, but if they were, I apologise.
My articles were part of a series attempting to discover (for my own benefit as much as for anyone else’s) what God is doing nowadays when war occurs. The good news is that God is surely active in Iraq. His ways will prevail.