I think Bush and Blair have got a great deal wrong in the way they have handled Iraq since the war. But that should not obscure the fact that we went into Iraq for the right reasons. Iraq was not entitled to all the protection of a normal sovereign state. It had invaded its neighbours, was subject to UN sanctions, could not fly planes in its own airspace and had failed to comply with UN resolutions. It had developed weapons of mass destruction and maintained the capability, if not the large stockpiles, as the Butler inquiry confirms. There was a real danger that these weapons would fall into terrorist hands with devastating consequences. This, in the words of Tony Blair to Parliament on 18 March last year, represented ‘a fundamental assault on our way of life’. I agree.~ George Osbourne, The Spectator

We have all heard this tired, ghastly nonsense for so long that it is almost pointless to answer the absurd conclusions of war advocates. But Mr. Osbourne has put the defense of the Iraq war on such shaky ground that it will be a real pleasure to break his appalling position to pieces. Aside from all the normal dishonest and misleading things that war advocates tend to say about Iraq, Mr. Osbourne has the nerve to claim that invading Iraq was to safeguard our “way of life.”

It was not true for Britain, and it was not true for the United States. If some tinpot country on the other side of the globe obtains even nuclear weapons (which Iraq was in no realistic danger of ever doing), our way of life would go on for the simple reason that the tinpot country has no incentive or interest in using those weapons against the greatest miltary power on earth and its allies. Arguably, we have much more to fear from Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamists, because the Islamists and their security services are sometimes the same people–nothing like this could be said for Iraq. But what is our approach to Pakistan, arch-proliferator and terrorist sponsor? We sell them weapons and raise them to equal standing with our best allies. Our way of life remains, thank God, quite secure in spite of the insane policies of our governments.

Besides, governments do not hand off their most-prized weapons to third parties and extremists with their own agendas. It has never happened, and I will venture a guess that it never will happen. It is particularly difficult to do this, though, when they do not possess these weapons, which most honest observers suspected about Iraq by the start of 2002. I say honest observers, because most of the ‘expert’ opinion supporting the government position was demonstrably either not honest or not competent.

Let us understand a few more things about Iraq. It was put under sanctions more stringent and oppressive than those imposed on the defeated Central Powers in 1918 after losing a horribly lopsided war in which it suffered most of the losses. Though arguably it had already been punished more than enough for the government’s crimes, Iraq had to endure thirteen more years of privation, continuous bombing and interference in its internal affairs that would justify the most ferocious outrage if it were done to another country by one of our adversaries.

The ensuing moral horror of that sanctions regime was, for an action of the “international community,” unparalleled in its sheer barbarity and futility. The no-fly zones were illegal under all international law–they were established unilaterally by Britain and America, and they were used to conduct an undeclared, illegitimate war against Iraq for a decade, causing some unknown number of casualties in the process. This country, which was being routinely terrorised and besieged for the crimes of a few men, was supposed to be the threat to our way of life. Now, I ask you, can a person who believes such a thing be in his right mind?

Iraq had invaded its neighbours, and so is not entitled to the normal protections of international law–how much less protection then would our country receive after starting a war on the other side of the world? One would have to suppose that another Near Eastern state that has developed nuclear weapons, invaded its neighbours, routinely subjugates a captive population and is subject to U.N. resolutions also deserves nothing less than the third degree. Yes, these treacly, latter-day prophets of human rights must be raring at the bit to bring justice to Palestine! Isn’t Israel somehow a threat to our “way of life” as well? Their nuclear weapons might, just might, fall into the wrong hands–you can never be too sure! Strangely, the attack Iraq lobby becomes astonishingly quiet on this subject. It is hardly a secret why that is so, but that is a topic for another day.

But why stop with Iraq? Quick, find another small, outmatched country to vilify! Obviously, if other governments engaged in the kind of paranoid vilification of an Israel, Pakistan or Taiwan, such as ours engaged in with Iraq, we would quite properly regard their statements as nonsense and so much chauvinistic bluster. How pitifully vulnerable is our way of life, if a government’s merely potential possession on the other side of the world of weapons which we possess in abundance constitutes a “fundamental assault” to that way of life? Who today now regards Russia as a threat to our “way of life”?

Of course, the whole case falls apart when one realises that Iraq, of all the presumably anti-Western states in the region, had the least connection to sponsoring terrorism of any kind anywhere in the world. Iraq literally had no means of delivery that would fulfill the lunatic prophecies of the British and American governments. Every honest and informed person knows this, at least now. Why does Mr. Osbourne, a Tory, for goodness’ sake, continue to preach such rubbish?

It is perhaps forgivable that reasonable people were frightened into believing the dire warnings of the government, and that they chose poorly when it came time to either support or oppose this war. What is quite indefensible is the continued perversion of the truth that some small country’s exaggerated arsenal endangered the way of life of the most powerful countries in the world. The Russians might as well attack Poland for fear of being conquered–it would make as much sense.

This weird, largely inexplicable Iraqiphobia is a profoundly exaggerated echo of the hysterical British fears about German ambitions, fears which precipitated a war that wrought the very destruction of British supremacy more effectively than limited German aspirations could ever have done. It is all the more ridiculous, though, because Iraq could never have aspired to be the equivalent of Germany’s “threat” to Britain.

It seems pretty clear to me that if there is a “way of life” that requires us to start wars with countries that have never done us any harm, that way of life is pretty dreadful and ought not be defended. I very much prefer to believe that our way of life does not require this, and never will require it. I can only hope that the George Osbournes of the world come to see this as well.