Monday, 28 April 2008

Honour killings in Iraq

A depressing report from today's Independent. Not only have we failed to halt such barbarity in Afghanistan, but it has now obviously become common in Iraq too. On our watch, as it were.

These things matter because they are so at odds with all we believe about human rights. If moral obligation offers justification for the Iraq invasion it requires us to intervene here, certainly not to sit back and hand power to a government that condones such acts.

Here in the West we believe in the concept of democracy and that has left us between a rock and a hard place. It appears that many Islamic societies possess a significant majority prepared to support Sharia law, which embraces notions of morality we absolutely reject. Honour killings have no more moral justification in an approving democracy than in a despotic theocracy (and the latter may be the choice of the former anyway). To the extent that democracy lends legitimacy to the illegitimate, it is not the be-all-and-end-all of human rights that so many in the West imagine.


Political Umpire said...

Which is why, as was conveniently forgotten, Saddam Hussein was an ally of the West for so long. He still was, if anyone had bothered admitting it. Islamic extremists had no place in Saddam's Iraq. His regime was brutal - but geared towards him staying in power. He would never have tolerated Islamic extremists, because they would have threatened his power base. Now he is gone and the new central gvt's writ does not run in significant chunks of the country, the clerics have taken over and if anything everyone is worse off.

Stephen said...

I can't help but agree PU. The politicians who carried us into the war not only failed to consider the consequences, but rejected the pleading of the many who foresaw precisely the situation we now find ourselves in.

Political Umpire said...

The fate of the enterprise was effectively sealed by the fact that planning for post-war Iraq started about 13 weeks before the event (in contrast for the planning for the war itself, which had been going on since 1991, and was conducted with stunning efficiency accordingly), whereas in WWII it began in 1942 - three and a half years before the fall of Nazi Germany. Also it was undertaken by the defence dept, which had no experience or expertise in such things, as opposed to the state dept., which had 13 substantial volumes on Iraq.

Moreover, aspects of the infrastructure were needlessly targeted - the phone exchange, for example, and mundane administrative buildings - when such simply wasn't necessary as the Iraqi army had no chance in the field however strong the state remained.

Net result: complete chaos on the ground the day after Saddam fell.

To put it bluntly, only a harsher version of the old British colonial model would have worked - round up all police and army the day after, double their pay and shoot any deserters. Find local trouble makers like Al Sadr and hang him in the town square. Then make it worth the while of the local chiefs - Sheiks in Iraq's case - to be loyal to you, and let them run the place.

All very unpleasant and politically unacceptable, but there were two options: leave Saddam in place as our useful idiot in the region, or take over as above to ensure that the place is stable and our nice cheap oil keeps flowing, as well as the Iranians et al getting the message. As dreadful and immoral as that might have been, it would have been better than what we actually got.

Stephen said...

Even 13 weeks surprises me. If you'd told me that they'd pencilled it on the back of a fag packet, just maybe. The ludicrous conviction of the politicians that Iraqis would unite as one to thank their liberators seemed to negate the need for any planning at all.

Political Umpire said...

In 'fairness' to the Americans, most of them were pretty callously indifferent about the situation and well aware that Britain was just tagging along with the big kid in the playground (so no need to pay any heed to the views of the British). The start of one US planning meeting apparently began 'we don't owe the Iraqis anything, they should just be grateful if we get rid of Saddam'.

That said, the US Generals asked for several hundred thousand more troops than they got; the Rumsfeld/Cheney lot just wasn't interested.

In Britain, meanwhile, Clare Short had denounced the war - but hung on to her salary I mean principles and cabinet post anyway. But she was virtually on strike, and it was her dept (international dvlpment) which should have been at the forefront of planning for the war.

Thus Ms Short's little fit of pique may have cost a lot more than her own credibility ...

(Later, of course, she decided she'd had enough of Labour and became independent - without troubling the electorate with a byelection to see if they still wanted her ...)

At least Robin Cook, not a man I otherwise admire, had the courage of his convictions in that instance.