August 1, 2002

Let’s take him out : The threat to the world posed by Saddam Hussein’s rule of terror is too great to ignore any longer. There is only one solution military action (William Shawcross, August 1, 2002, Guardian)

The new archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, has said that it would be immoral and illegal for the British to support an American war against Iraq without UN authority. King Abdullah of Jordan has warned against an attack on Iraq, saying it would open a “Pandora’s box” in the Middle East. The prospect of war against Iraq has provided a field day to anti-Americanism. I would argue that, on the contrary, the illegality is all on the side of Saddam Hussein. The real immorality and the greatest danger is to allow this evil man to remain indefinitely in power, scorning the UN and posing a growing threat to the world. Tony Blair is both brave and right to support American demands for a “regime change” in Iraq.

What’s shocking about this column is not the sentiment, but the sayer. William Shawcross after all is most famous as a left wing author of Sideshow : Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia, which essentially argued that pre-emptive strikes into Cambodia were war crimes. Even in his last book, Deliver Us From Evil, he was making the case for using humanitarian assistance to solve global conflicts, rather than force and, at one point in the Salman Rushdie affair, he implied that he thought paperback publication should be delayed because the book had upset people. For him to be arguing now for a pre-emptive war against Saddam is fairly remarkable.