Friday, November 1, 2002

Esquire: War in Iraq

News in Brief: Notebook tells you all you need to know about Saddam Hussein and 'Gulf War 2: Son of a Bush', by Keith Laidlaw.

Didn't we already invade Iraq after Kuwait in 1991?

Not exactly. Once the Allies had Saddam's army on the run and Iraq at their mercy, they put the tanks in reverse.

Why did they stop?

The Americans said it was because they had achieved their "war aims" of getting the Iraqis out of Kuwait. However, another one of their aims was "to stabilise the region", which many took to mean they wanted Saddam's head on a stick. However, they didn't have Arab support to invade Iraqi territory.

That seems reasonable…

I hadn't finished. The Allies had a turkey shoot at the expense of Iraqi conscripts leaving Kuwait, and CNN was there to film the horror. Ratings are king in a TV war, so George Bush Sr stopped the show before his ski-high approval ratings were hit.

So what has changed since then?

Duh! Does the name Osama bin Laden ring any bells?

But he's a Saudi who was living in Afghanistan and is now thought to be in or near Pakistan - ie, nowhere near Iraq.

Details, mere details. Besides those darned towel-head varmints probably all look the same to George Bush Jr.

C'mon, there's got to be more to it than that.

Well, Iraq is connected in a way: the Allies have kept troops in Saudi Arabia ever since the 1991 war, which is one of Osama's biggest beefs with the US – he doesn't like them being so close to Islam's most holy place, Mecca.

Still, this doesn't explain Bush's problem with Saddam.

Cynics may suggest that Dubya's domestic political problems and oil have something to do with it, but not fully paid-up members of the coalition against terror like us here in the UK.

But all the rest of the Allies are up for it too, aren't they?

Nope, this time it seems it's just us and, er, the US.

Are you sure us Brits are ready for a desert ruck?

Ah, you must be thinking about those manoeuvres in Oman when our tanks broke, guns jammed and boots melted. But don't worry: things are supposed to go wtong in exercises, silly.

And what about Saddam's lethal nuclear arsenal?

Well, he hasn't actually got one yet – we're invading to stop him from getting the one he may or may not be making.

But couldn't you invade just about any country for the same reason: such as Iran, Syria, Cuba and so on?

Hmmm, that's not a bad idea. Where did I put the number for the White House?

This article originally appeared in Esquire UK, November 2002.