James Delingpole

Cursed are the peaceniks

James Delingpole gives both barrels to the ‘pea-brained’ isolationists who fill the papers — even The Spectator — with their defeatist snivelling

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James Delingpole gives both barrels to the ‘pea-brained’ isolationists who fill the papers — even The Spectator — with their defeatist snivelling

Anyone who has ever smoked will be familiar with that awful sinking feeling you get when, one by one, your fellow nicotine-addict friends start to quit. United you feel strong, happy, immune to the finger-wagging of health fascists and probably even to lung cancer, secure in the knowledge that for all their minor defects, tabs are basically great and possibly better than sex. But as the number of smokers in your circle dwindles, so too does your morale. You feel depressed, insecure, let down. You start wondering whether maybe it’s not time that you too did the cowardly thing and went over to the other side....

At the moment I’m feeling much the same way about the Iraq war. The analogy isn’t quite perfect, because whereas I recognise that stopping smoking makes very good sense, no one is ever going to persuade me that the Iraq war was a mistake. But I’ve definitely experienced a similar sense of hurt, confusion and betrayal at that growing number of hacks who once understood, like me, why the war was a right and noble cause, but who have now been panicked by events such as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal into snivelling, breast-beating recantation.

One day the U-turner is Vanity Fair’s David Rose in the Evening Standard; the next it’s Martin Wolf in the Financial Times and Johann Hari in the Independent; then Mary Ann Sieghart and Anatole Kaletsky in the Times. And let’s not even mention the embarrassing bout of craven peacenik-ery which has broken out not just in the Mail, but also in our very own Speccie.

For me, the final straw came when — as I so often do at difficult geopolitical times — I turned for consolation to the weblog of Andrew Sullivan and found that even this wise, articulate, principled defender of the war had suddenly come over a touch wobbly. The next day, admittedly, his resolve had been stiffened by all the ‘Et tu, Sully?’ emails he’d had from his readers. But by then the damage had been done. ‘Bloody hell,’ I thought. ‘Whatever next? Michael Gove says, “Sod Israel and give it back to the peace-loving Palestinians?” Mark Steyn, writing after his fortnight’s Cuban jaunt with Noam Chomsky and Susan Sontag, says, “Michael Moore for President!”?’

Of course, I appreciate as much as the next struggling hack the need to be flexible with one’s opinions. The Abu Ghraib scandal definitely helped create a seller’s market for stories on the lines of ‘How terribly, terribly guilty I am for having supported the war, now that I realise we’re just as bad as them.’ More recently, the vile beheading of Nick Berg has created an equally strong market for ones going, ‘Oh no, hang on. They are worse than us after all.’ Maybe — money-grubbing whores as most of us are — it’s too much to expect any journalist to demonstrate virtues like consistency, responsibility or maturity. But I do think in the case of Iraq we ought to struggle to make an exception. It is, after all, the issue on which our security and stability for the next 50 odd years most depend.

Instead, though, we all seem increasingly determined to follow the hysterical narrative dictated to us largely by the hand-wringing liberal Left. Its primary thesis goes something like, ‘Sure global terrorism is a bit of a worry. But hey, what do we expect when a neo-imperialist bully boy like America is throwing its weight around, winding up the “Arab Street”? This isn’t really about fundamentalist Islam. It’s about American hegemony, about oil, about Dubya’s dad’s unfinished business, the Jewish lobby, Palestine, etc., etc., etc.’

Now, clearly, if you want to view Iraq through that prism, as so much of the Western media do, you’re going to find no shortage of examples to support your case. Just dispatch your reporters to where the action is — Fallujah, say, or Najaf; make sure they steer well clear of the hundreds of similar-sized towns in the vastness of Iraq where life post-Saddam is proving pretty peaceful and hunky-dory; seek out for interview anyone who’s been beaten in prison or had their child killed by US gunships; go big on the body bag and blown-up Humvee pictures. Et voilà: quagmire.

Every now and then, there’ll come along a story which has the anti-war lobby punching the air with glee and which gives even pro-war people like me pause for thought. First was the one about the looting of Baghdad Museum’s greatest treasures (until it was inconveniently discovered to be tosh); more recently we’ve had the great Shia rebellion (that never was, because most Shiites think al-Sadr’s a prat); followed by Abu Ghraib, which I concede has a stronger foundation than most, is a spectacular own goal, a violation of human rights and so on, but which I still think is blinding rather too many journalists to the bigger picture, so busy as they are trying to explain why it is that being photographed naked with a female prison guard is every bit as appalling an ordeal as, say, being decapitated with a knife or blown to pieces by a suicide bomber.

Here’s a thing that puzzles me. Before the Iraq war started, I remember trawling through dozens and dozens of learned articles which all pointed out that however difficult the invasion might prove, the post-war settlement in a country with so many different tribal and religious factions and no recent tradition of democracy would be trickier. Yet now we’re at that tricky post-war settlement stage, everyone’s suddenly acting as though Iraq’s more like Tunbridge Wells and our failure to create instant harmony among such a pliant, peaceable population is an international disgrace.

I believe the Iraq invasion was the right thing to do for the same reasons I always did. The discovery of WMDs would have been a bonus, but they were never the real issue. Nor — being grotesquely realpolitik-ish about this — was the freedom of the Iraqis, absolutely delighted though I am that they’ve been rescued from decades of suffering and torture far worse than anything the Americans have ever inflicted.

Rather, the Iraqi invasion happened and ought to have happened because it is part of a long, ambitious but very necessary campaign to tip a wavering Islamic world towards stable, capitalist, peaceful, liberal democracy. If there’s one thing the West ought to have learnt from the escalation of terrorist atrocities in the last decade — from the tourist massacre in Luxor through to 9/11 and Madrid — it’s that its policy of appeasement towards Islamic terrorists and the regimes which fund or harbour them hasn’t worked. The growth of Islamofascism needs to be acknowledged for the global menace it is and confronted at any and every opportunity. To pull out of Iraq now at its greatest hour of need would not only make a nonsense of the invasion’s supposed humanitarian claims, but also act as a spur to terrorists who are never stronger than when the West is divided and weak.

The pacification of the Middle East is not going to be quick, easy or pretty. No one ever said it would be. But to those pea-brained, isolationist chicken-lickens of the media who ask what it all has to do with us, here’s a very simple explanation. It’s to lessen ever so slightly the chance that the next time you or I get on to a bus, a train or an aeroplane, the very last words we ever hear are a bearded but otherwise ritually shaved man in a headband yelling, ‘Allahu akbar.’