A vision from hell

AS the dust settles on the military victory in Iraq, the question that needs answering urgently is: where are the weapons of mass destruction, which was the pretext for the invasion?Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, who has surrendered to coalition forces, claims there never were any.

AS the dust settles on the military victory in Iraq, the question that needs answering urgently is: where are the weapons of mass destruction, which was the pretext for the invasion?

Saddam Hussein's scientific adviser General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, who has surrendered to coalition forces, claims there never were any. Of course he is not the most detached of observers, but if no evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons is found, then many will think the war was just a false premise to get rid of Saddam.

There is no denying the joy that ordinary Iraqis feel at Saddam's downfall, but world order cannot be maintained if strong countries march into smaller ones, slaughter those defending it, remove the regime, and then try to impose their own version of democracy.

The breakdown of Saddam's implacable and brutally enforced law and order to be replaced by looting and near anarchy under the watchful eyes of US and UK troops was a vision from hell.


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Even hospitals were ransacked and precious supplies of drugs and plasma removed in an orgy of mindless destruction.

But to US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, it was perfectly understandable. It was the Iraqi people breaking free from the chains that had bound them for 30 years under Saddam and we should rejoice at their freedom.

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Now President George W. Bush seems to have Syria, and its Ba'ath Party leader Bashar Assad in his sights. Assad is 38-years-old and wields almost absolute power, and his vehement opposition to the war in Iraq has won him the support of Arab demonstrators across the region.

He is deeply annoyed about the recent barrage of accusations and warnings from Washington about harbouring fleeing Iraqi leaders or terrorists and suggestions that Syria might also have WMD.

If the Americans were to mount an attack on Syria, the consequences would be enormous. Without the massive help offered by friendly Arab nations – Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia – in recent weeks, the invasion and conquest of Iraq would not have been possible.

They, and other governments in the region, were happy to see Saddam fall from grace – but Syria is a different proposition. The Americans should concentrate their efforts on rebuilding Iraq and restoring the infrastructure – particularly water supplies and hospitals – rather than making threats against Bashar Assad.

Here in the UK, support for the Iraq war stands at 63%, its highest level since last August, according to an ICM poll for the Guardian this week, a seven point rise since the fall of Baghdad on Budget day.

The poll must be galling for the liberally inclined Guardian – only two months ago, there was majority – 52% – opposition to the war, while just 29% were in favour.

The massive swing in public opinion will delight Prime Minister Tony Blair, who ordered British troops into action in the face of widespread concern from voters about the war.

There is a clear majority for the first time among 18-24 year olds with 67% now approving of the military campaign. How long that support will last if no weapons of mass destruction is questionably.

I WATCHED the war unfold on CNN, the only English language television channel I could find on holiday last week. The British were hardly ever mentioned – it was the Yanks that won it, all on their own. I can't wait for the first Hollywood blockbuster.

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