I was listening to Tony Blair today (February 25, 2003) as he was trying to justify the unjustifiable in Parliament. His arguments, like those of the Bush Administration, are based on a series of myths, half-truths and distortions about Iraq and its recent history:

Myth #1: Iraq is a threat to its neighbors. This myth is based on the fact that Iraq has attacked two of its neighbors, Iran and Kuwait. What is conveniently neglected is the fact that Iraq did so in both cases with what they thought was approval from the United States; in the case of Iran, the approval was indeed there, while in the second case, the noncommittal position of America's ambassador, April Glaspie (she informed Hussein that the United States has "no position" on the matter) led the Iraqis to believe that they had tacit approval. In other words, in both cases Hussein "played by the rules", or so he thought. Also in both cases, Hussein had legitimate concerns (none that'd justify a war, of course, but the point is that his actions were not the completely unprovoked violence of a mad dictator.) In the case of Kuwait, it was the disagreement over debts related to the war with Iran, and disagreement over Kuwaiti drilling practices near the border; in the case of Iran, it was their fear (shared by many Arab nations) that Iran's Islamic revolution will spread. In fact, in a twist of historical irony, one of Iraq's excuses for attacking Iran was that it was a pre-emptive war against a terrorist nation!

Myth #2: Iraq will wantonly use weapons of mass destruction, particularly chemical weapons. In reality, Iraq used chemical weapons in two cases: against Iranian troops, and against the Kurdish uprising. The last use of chemical weapons occurred some 15 years ago. Precursors for Iraq's chemical weapons were supplied by many countries, including the United States. The present Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was in fact in Iraq, and as we now know, was in full knowledge of the facts concerning Hussein's use of poison gas, yet did not find it objectionable at the time. Most importantly, Iraq refrained from using chemical weapons during the Gulf War, when there was a real threat of retaliation. In other words, Iraq can be effectively contained.

Myth #3: Iraq's irrational hatred of Israel means that Hussein will attack the Jewish State at his earliest opportunity. Hussein indeed launched a few SCUDs at Israel during the Gulf War, but it was not exactly unprovoked; after all, a few years earlier, it was the Israelis who destroyed an Iraqi nuclear research facility by an air strike that, perhaps justifiable, was nevertheless a blatant violation of international law. In any case, Iraq's attack on Israel was very ineffective (the SCUDs caused only limited damage) and had that not been the case, Israel is perfectly capable of defending itself.

Myth #4: Iraq is a growing menace. That just doesn't seem to be the case. On the contrary, what has been said is that Iraq's army is a shadow of its former self, and much of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction research and production capability has been wiped out throughout the nineties. If anything, Iraq is a shrinking menace.

Myth #5: Since the inspectors left, Iraq has been free to rebuild its weapons of mass destruction. On the contrary, although the inspectors left, the UN-imposed (porous, but not ineffective) import-export control regime remains in place, and Iraq also continues to be monitored by Western intelligence services. While it is possible that some weapons of mass destruction capability is being rebuilt, it is highly unlikely to be anywhere near what it used to be like before the Gulf War.

Myth #6: The inspectors were kicked out by Iraq. This, of course, is patently untrue. Although the relationship between UN inspectors and Hussein's regime continued to deteroriate, the decision to pull out the inspectors was made by Butler, at least in part in response to a threat of air strikes by the US and the UK, which indeed took place a few days later.

Myth #7: The sanctions remain in place because Hussein refuses to fully comply with UN resolutions. While Hussein's compliance is indeed questionable, it has been made clear on numerous occasions by various American administrations that the sanctions will remain in place as long as Hussein stays in power. Since Hussein's regime then has nothing to gain through compliance as the sanctions will not be lifted, it is little wonder that they're less than enthusiastic about disarmament. In fact, one might argue that it would be treasonous for them to do so, disarm a country that lies in an uncertain region, surrounded by hostile neighbors!

Myth #8: Saddam's regime is an intolerable dictatorship. One occasionally hears the propagandized accounts of Iraqi exiles speaking about torture, killing of entire families, and other atrocities. But those who know the region paint a different picture, supported by the reports from unbiased organizations such as Amnesty International, or reports by independent journalists. To be sure, Iraq is a dictatorship, but it is not significantly more repressive than other regimes in the region, and a great deal less repressive than some: for instance, America's client state Saudi Arabia. As for those exiles, I'm sure they are sincere: sincere in their belief that Hussein's regime must go. But are they truthful? I cannot help but be reminded of the account of that "Kuwaiti nurse" about Iraqi atrocities committed in Kuwaiti hospitals; the "nurse", of course, later turned out to be the daughter of a Kuwaiti embassy official in Washington.

Myth #9: Saddam is in cahoots with Al-Qaeda. When this assertion first surfaced (reports about an alleged meeting that took place in Prague between an Iraqi agent and an Al-Qaeda operative shortly before 9/11) it was dismissed even by American authorities as ludicrous. It also makes precious little sense: Iraq's secular dictatorship is the ideological antithesis of Al-Qaeda's religious fundamentalism. The "proof" that has been offered by the US Administration more recently is highly questionable (in fact, according to US media reports, unnamed FBI and CIA officials themselves questioned this unjustified politicization of their work.) An Al-Qaeda training camp in Kurdish-controlled Northern Iraq? If it proves anything, it is that it is the US and the UK who protect Al-Qaeda (through the imposition of no-fly-zones) from Hussein's forces! A hospital visit by an Al-Qaeda leader in Baghdad? Does this mean that the United States is also in alliance with all the questionable organizations in the world whose members may have received medical treatment in US hospitals? An audiotape allegedly of bin Laden (which I don't believe; if bin Laden were alive, we'd see him on video) that calls for Muslim resistance against the "crusaders", while denouncing Hussein?

Myth #10: Just like in Afghanistan, the people of Iraq will be better off after an invasion. Iraq is not like Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, there was no functioning society: what 20 years of war left intact was destroyed by the Taliban. In Iraq, society functions. People have jobs. There are working hospitals. There is police on the streets, who'll help victims of crime. There are banks, shops, working telephones, theatres, movie houses, television and radio. There is running water and electricity (sometimes only for a few hours a day of course.) There is no mass starvation. You can hail down a cab in downtown Baghdad, and go to enjoy a drink in a nightclub after a dinner at a fine restaurant. To be sure, life is miserable in Iraq, but that is largely due to the economic sanctions. A bombing campaign, even a "humane" bombing campaign, will destroy Iraq's remaining infrastructure: its electricity grid (consequently disabling facilities that supply safe drinking water), its telephone network, roadways, railways, bridges, television and radio broadcast stations, and more. Those who believe that the Iraqi people will then receive with open arms the "liberators" offering a few sacks of flour as "humaniarian aid"; those who suggest that the Iraqis will genuinely believe that they are "better off" than before the war are suffering from delusions.

Of course probably none of this matters anymore. Remember: War Is Peace. Freedom Is Slavery. Ignorance Is Strength. Saddam Evil. Bomb Iraq.