The last excuse for the Iraq war is founded on a myth

Seeing the second world war as a pure struggle to defeat an evil dictator has led us into foreign policy traps ever since

Peter Wilby | The Guardian,  Friday April 25 2008

 Now it is clear that Saddam Hussein had no WMD, that al-Qaida has become stronger in Iraq, and that liberal democracy has failed to spread through the Middle East, one fallback justification for the Iraq invasion remains: it overthrew a murderous, fascist dictator.
Even if it went catastrophically wrong, runs the argument, the invasion had a good, liberal, humanitarian cause embedded in it. In that sense, as Tony Blair often suggested, it was like the second world war. Much of what the allies did between 1939 and 1945 – the blitz on German towns and cities, the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki – may have been morally questionable, but the ultimate war aim of overthrowing fascist regimes was irreproachable.

But was the second world war quite what we think it was? I have just read Human Smoke, by the American author Nicholson Baker. It has caused controversy in the US, and will probably be the most hotly debated book of the year when it reaches Britain next month.
Essentially, Baker puts the pacifist case against the second world war. I am not a pacifist and, therefore, do not accept it. The historical evidence that Baker adduces is selective and sometimes unreliable: for example, Hugh (later Viscount) Trenchard, the founder of the RAF, is frequently quoted as though he were a figure of some importance which, by the 1940s, he wasn’t.

Baker’s account, however, reminds us that the war was not fought for humanitarian or democratic ends. Britain fought Germany for the same reason it had always fought wars in Europe: to maintain the balance of power and prevent a single state dominating the continent. America fought Japan to stop the growth of a powerful rival in the Pacific.

Continued . . .

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