Seamus Milne argues in the Guardian against military intervention on Iraq using a damn sight more intelligence and finesse than John Pilger (see below) and most of the other anti-war campaigners.

While that dubious figure of 500,000 child deaths from sanctions reappears again (see this for an investigation of this much quoted figure) and I don’t agree with all Milne’s points, I was refreshed to see someone get to the crux of the matter.

Forget all the does-he doesn’t-he? weapons inspection hide and seek, the whole war thing hinges on whether or not America (and whoever tags along with them) should liberate the country. Will it be done properly and more importantly do the Iraqi people want outside bombing of their capital city to liberate them?

Milne argues there is no indication that the Iraqi opposition do want war.

“Nor is there any evidence that most Iraqis, either inside or outside the country, want their country attacked and occupied by the US and Britain, however much they would like to see the back of the Iraqi dictator. Assessing the real state of opinion among Iraqis in exile is difficult enough, let alone in Iraq itself. But there are telling pointers that the licensed intellectuals and club-class politicians routinely quoted in the western media enthusing about US plans for their country are utterly unrepresentative of the Iraqi people as a whole.

Even the main US-sponsored organisations such as the Iraqi National Congress and Iraqi National Accord, which are being groomed to be part of a puppet administration, find it impossible directly to voice support for a US invasion, suggesting little enthusiasm among their potential constituency. Laith Hayali – an Iraqi opposition activist who helped found the British-based solidarity group Cardri in the late 1970s and later fought against Saddam Hussein’s forces in Kurdistan – is one of many independent voices who insist that a large majority of Iraqi exiles are opposed to war. Anecdotal evidence from those coming in and out of Iraq itself tell a similar story, which is perhaps hardly surprising given the expected scale of casualties and destruction. “

As Milne admits, none of us really know much about what the Iraqi opposition think about a proposed war and if I ever get time I will search through these opposition websites and see if there is anything there. These two articles from Open Democracy give a taste of the arguements that must be going on among Iraqis.

Whether Milne is right or not, what is really amazing is how little work the media have been doing to find out about Iraqi opinion, or at least exiled Iraqi opinion. Of course there is a consensus that Saddam should go but do Iraqis really want to see their new regime created by a foreign power? And will those foreign powers leave a post-Saddam Iraq to choose its own democratic path?

It is a vital question, especially given the shameful betrayal of the Iraqi opposition in 1991 – and ominously we are not hearing much on the post-Saddam game plan.

Will at least the US administration finally tell us what role Iraqis will be given in the liberation of their country? So far all we know is that a 1,000 opposition militants are being trained at US army base in Hungary.

One final point. Milne is absolutely right to scotch this piece of bull that keeps getting repeated by pro-war propagandists:

“Where was the “left movement against Saddam” 20 years ago? one critic demanded recently.

In fact, leftwingers were pretty well the only people in the west campaigning against the Iraqi regime two decades ago – left activists were being imprisoned and executed in their hundreds by Saddam Hussein at the time – while the US and British political establishments were busy arming Iraq in its war against Iran and turning a blind eye to his worst human rights abuses, including the gas attacks on the Kurds in the late 1980s.”

Well said.