Trenchant Lemmings
Pointed missives thrown blindly into the void, there to pass unnoticed and unloved.
Some Pointless Invective

Dobedobedoo. You know, it wouldn't be a proper modern high-tech massacre from the sky if we didn't allow a suitable period for thumb-twiddling beforehand. Robert Fisk says the Iraqi defenders have been playing soccer. Perhaps they looked closely at what Dubya has been saying and decided the last two months were just surreal performance art.

Of course, practically speaking, the two days notice gives non-combatants (other than the 20 million or so unfortunate enough to be locals) time to "get out of the area where the bombs will be dropping", as Peter Cook so helpfully advised all those years ago. Another practical effect, however, is to demonstrate that the US don't seriously believe Iraq has WMDs. If they do so believe, two days does seem like an uncomfortably long window of opportunity to provide for Saddam to use them, thereby pre-empting the pre-emption.

Time enough to get the inspectors out, as well - don't want them hanging around when the US forces stumble across that previously elusive smoking gun. "I don't remember that being there when we searched this place on Tuesday!" As Paul F. deLespinasse recently argued, just because the US has delivered some crackpot ultimatum is no reason to break off the inspections. Kofi Annan could have said, "Well, George, these inspectors are present in Iraq under the instruction and authority of the Security Council, so it's up to the Security Council to withdraw them, so why don't you get your good self down to the Council and rustle up the numbers to bring them back, me old flow'r?" But he didn't. Safety first, I suppose.

DeLespinasse argued:
[I]t is unlikely that President Bush and his advisors would proceed with an attack, which would be a public relations nightmare as long as the inspectors are still in Iraq.
Ye-es, but given that one of the first "military targets" hit in the 2002 attack on Afghanistan (oh, sorry, "counter-attack") was a United Nations building, thus occasioning the deaths of four local UN workers engaged in mine-clearance, Kofi may have chosen wisely on the side of caution.

Been spending a lot of time on a news chat-forum arguing the toss with local war-buffs. After a while, people got bored with the tiresome facts-based arguments that talk of WMDs, UN resolutions and terrorism links necessitated and the "debate" degenerated into a ping-pong of judgement calls masquerading as moral absolutes - "Bombing people is evil." "No, Saddam is evil." "Saddam is evil but not as evil as bombing people." "No, he's more evil." "No, bombing is more evil than Saddam." "No, Saddam is more evil than bombing." "NO - bombing is more evil." "Evil is more Saddam than bombing." - well, you can see how much headway we were making.

So, let me say it - I'm prepared to accept that my position is a judgement call: whatever Saddam is doing to dissidents and other victims these days is not as bad as what's going to happen to Iraq as a whole when this war starts. Yes, the man was a genocidal loon - when he had US military and diplomatic support. The last mass killing Saddam engaged in was putting down the rebellion Bush I encouraged and then abandoned when someone in the State Department suddenly remembered why they'd been supporting Saddam in the first place - better a recrudescent dictator and a decade of sanctions than two Former Republic of Iraqs, one Kurdish, one Shi-ite and leaning towards Iran. (Although, given that Turkey went democratic to please the EU, then elected a government that doesn't know how to say "How high?" at the appropriate prompt, perhaps we'll be seeing an independent Kurdistan after all.)

Without his patrons Saddam is denuded and contained and not significantly more unpleasant than most of the other thugs we in the "West" happily tolerate, do business with and prop up. Does that mean he should stay? No. But in deciding to take him out I think it fair to weigh in the balance the cost of this "shock and awe" invasion against how much of a bastard this man is and what he might do. I think the former will be much worse and, yes, that's a judgement call. I may be wrong; I hope you're right.

That said, the "Bomb for Freedom" crowd's talk of Iraqi children throwing rose petals before the feet of grinning GIs advancing through the cheering citizenry of a liberated Baghdad does tend to give the impression that our pro-war colleagues are some kinds of empty-eyed, fudge-brained, infantile golems newly spawned from petri-dishes, fresh to the world and innocent as tadpoles, such is the vacuity that seemingly resides in them where the rest of us have some recall of events so recently occurred you would be stretching the lexicon to call them history. Not that I mean that in a bad way.

So I've taken the pledge: no more chat-forums. If I want to be patronised by functional illiterates who think it somehow courageous and tough-minded to support a war somebody else will be fighting, I can talk to my MP. And it has absolutely nothing to do with the large percentage of my posts disallowed by the moderator.

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