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There was a memorable scene in the House of Commons in the early days of the invasion: the Minister of 'Defence', Labour's Hoon, loutishly laid back at the Despatch Box, urging on the anarchic plundering of Iraqi public buildings, including hospitals and museums, as an expression of the freedom that Britain had brought to Iraq. 

The American administration acted with blundering brutality, guided by authentic simple-mindedness about human affairs. The possibility of such a thing ended in Britain many centuries ago—perhaps under the regime of Elizabeth, and certainly not later than the collapse of the Puritan regime and the establishment of the Restoration regime in 1660. 

Labour Party action in the affair was duplicitous—and thirteen years later it is desperate to free itself from the honest man who opposed the War but has now been elected to lead the party. 

The de-Nazification of Germany was much invoked in 2003 as the model for Iraq. It was inappropriate to the point of absurdity. 

German society was the society of a national state which had constructed itself. The society retained, to a considerable extent, a way of life that was independent of the State. It had for centuries existed in the form of a hundred separate states, all of which were aware of themselves as German and contributed to the achievements of German culture. 

The United States had, in 1944-5, a plan to destroy Germany as a national society—to break up its economy and culture and "pastoralise" it into simple local peasant communities, so that the world could be freed for centuries to come from the danger alleged to be inherent in the existence of a German state. 

Thirty years later a US General said he would bomb Cambodia back into a state of nature. 

The USA, as a consequence of the way it had established itself through multiple genocide, has a natural liking for that kind of drastic action. 

But there was no prospect whatever in 1945 that Germany, when its regime was removed, would undergo internal fragmentation and revert of its own accord to a state of nature. 

But that is what happened in Iraq. And it is what Britain should have expected to happen. 

When Britain set out to conquer the Ottoman Empire in 1914, it began to govern Mesopotamia as an extension of the Indian Empire. Then, around 1916, in a perverse application of the right of national self-determination for which it purported to be fighting the Great War, it decided to re-arrange Mesopotamia into a system of nation-states. While refusing to concede national government to Ireland, which was demanding it, it set about artificially forming its Middle Eastern conquests into subordinate 'nation-states': even though there was no nationalism in those populations. 

Arbitrary lines were drawn on the map of the Middle East and the arbitrariness was increased by the necessity of sharing the region with France. And the various peoples who lived within each arbitrary boundary were told that they were this nationality or that: Iraqi, Syrian, Lebanese etc. 

The Ottoman culture, like the Byzantine culture that preceded it, had not organised society by nationalism or ethnicity. This may be inconceivable from the viewpoint of the nationalism that became the social form of the Western Roman Empire in its disintegration, but that is how it was in the Middle East. 

The miscellaneous peoples of what was made into Iraq by Britain had lived their own communal lives within the Ottoman Empire. They could live harmoniously alongside each other because Iraqi nationalism was unknown to them until it was imposed on them by Britain. 

Britain ruled its Iraqi construction by force and fraud between the World Wars. It accorded it nominal independence, but when the Bagdad Government declared neutrality in the 2nd World War, and was judged not to be sufficiently supportive of Britain's invasion of Iran in 1941, it was declared to be in rebellion. It was overthrown and replaced by a British puppet.


It was only when the Iraqi state gained substantive political independence that its internal national development began. That internal national develop was necessary to independence. It was made obligatory in the structure imposed on the world by the United Nations. States which failed to achieve it were vulnerable to disruption by other states— and not least by those which claimed to be the guardians of the UN system. 

A sense of Iraqi national sentiment, over-riding religious and other particularisms, was developed by the Baath regime. It held firm under the stress of the War against Iran (supported by the West at the time and later listed among Saddam's crimes), with the Shia population playing their part in the War against the Shia state. 

During the Cold War, the independence of the Baath regime was an asset to the West. The Cold War ended in 1990. The USA gave the green light to Iraq to act against the puppet state of Kuwait, which had been stealing its oil while Iraq was protecting it by war from the expansion of the Iranian Revolution. But the moment Iraq acted against Kuwait, the West declared that another Hitler had arisen and must be dealt with. The Soviet Union, having been brought to collapse by Gorbachov, allowed the war on Iraq to take the form of a United Nations War. 

The Iraqi Army was easily defeated. The defeat, in large part, took the form of a slaughter of he retreating Iraqi Army which had no power of retaliation. But the regime did not fall. Its core remained sound. 

The British Prime Minister called on the Kurds to rise. Many Governments have called on the Kurds to rise and they have usually responded. They responded again. But the regime did no fall, and it punished them for rising—in the way that Governments do. Premier Major was asked why he did not go to their aid since he had called on them to rise. He said he could not remember calling on them to rise. 

The regime held firm, demonstrating that a substantial force of Iraqi national will had developed. The United Nations warriors did not press on to Bagdad and break up the system of State. It was said that Bush senior was anxious about what would be unleashed if the country was occupied and the State broken up. 

What was done instead was that Iraq was put under UN sanctions. The sanctions were applied in such a way that the only intelligible purpose of them was to destroy the public infrastructure in Iraq of what we call civilised life—the kind of life that had developed under the regime. 

The sanctions were supplemented, under Clinton, by bombing. The Iraqi Air Force was banned from the skies. Its only act of defiance was to keep track of the United Nations planes covering its skies. When it was noticed doing this, there was punishment by bombing which shredded what remained of public utilities. 

The UN knew very well what it was doing to civilised life in Iraq. It had Inspectors on the ground supervising things. 

Systematic UN destruction by sanctions and bombing went on for twelve years. Various attempts were made to stimulate an internal coup within the regime. But still the regime held firm. 

Is that a fact that can be explained as the effect of the action of State terrrorism against a hostile populace? 

It can hardly be doubted that those twelve years of torment inflicted by the UN on the populace brought about an increase in the resentment against the regime of traditional elements that had not been incorporated into the national system and redirected them towards 'fundamentalist' forms of hostility towards it.