On the way to the Henley Regatta[, darling], Sonya showed me the front cover of Friday’s Evening Standard. It wasn’t until she stepped out the headline to me—“Gilligan: This Was A Just War“—that I parsed it correctly. My belief that Andrew Gilligan would oppose military action in Iraq was so strong that I couldn’t even mentally process his support for it.
As you’d expect from the man, it’s not a very good piece, but he does put into perspective one aspect of the debate:
“One year on (since the war began), however, the most important fact is that nobody’s worst fears on that wakeful night have come true. The vast majority of us, Iraqis, journalists, and Tony Blair alike, survived. Fedayeen guerrillas struck the coalition with small numbers, but there was virtually no real fighting with Saddam’s regular forces. The bombing of Baghdad looked scary on TV, but it didn’t even begin to approach the daily tonnage dropped on ,say, Hanoi during Vietnam, London or any German city during the Second World War.
“‘Shock and Awe’ lasted an hour and a half, rather than the promised three days. And with only a few ghastly exceptions, the targeting, in the capital at least, was very precise. Colleagues who arrived after the war was over kept asking us where all the destroyed buildings were.”
Describing what happened in Iraq as a “war” is just silly. “War” is what has been happening in the Democratic Republic of The Congo for the past ten years at the cost of millions of lives. “War” is what’s been happening in the Sudan. Even the most inflated casualty numbers the “Stoppers” can come up with would represent a “quiet patch” in many countries during the 20th century. Over ten thousand people died in one day invading one country the size of Iraq during WWII.
Before the “war”, I lost count of the number of times deeply ignorant people used the phrase “carpet bombing” with a sage gravity. At the same time as characterizing Bush’s use of words like “evil” as simplistic they would bracket the precision targeting of non-explosive concrete blocks to Ba’ath Party buildings with the scorching of Dresden.
One of the profoundest handicaps of the anti-war crowd was and is their complete inability to discriminate between degrees of awfulness—an ability that is all too important on this sorry planet.