Saturday, February 03, 2007

"Containment was working"

I don't want to belabour an old point or anything, but you are still liable to read in the liberal columns and opinion pieces from time to time that, with respect to Iraq, "containment was working". That is the extreme dissenting position as far as the US media is concerned, for instance, but it also pops up on the blogs and in Letters to the Editor. It's a sickly phrase. Working at what? Killing hundreds of thousands of children? Containing what? Saddam was a threat to America? Or anyone, besides the population of Iraq, who happened to be the chief victims of 'containment'?

Let's remind ourselves of what 'containment' was. Recall how James Rubin described the policy if UN inspections and sanctions to John Pilger when he was the State Department's spokesman: "not sanctions per se, but to deny Saddam Hussein's regime the funds they would otherwise have to rebuild their mad military machine". He repeated this a few times in different ways. Asked about the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, for instance, he retorted that "in the real world, real choices have to be made, and it's our view that to allow Saddam Hussein unchecked access to hundreds of billions of dollars in oil revenue would be a grave and clear and present danger to the world."

Never mind the absurd fantasy that Saddam Hussein would have consituted a danger to the world. The logic of this position is very simple: to prevent Saddam Hussein's war machine from being reconstituted, Iraqis have to be starved and denied medical treatment so that the youngest die off in the hundreds of thousands. Now, if you accept the idea that Saddam was a real threat and was in need of being deprived of access to those funds, then the humanitarian position was to support an invasion of Iraq. Since there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein was a serious threat to 'the world' even when he invaded the other slave state next door, and since it is abundantly obvious that there was no such process of 'containment' under way, I simply think it is well past time to stop saying 'containment was working'. That's all.