July 11, 2005
To Leave or not to Leave, that is the Question
by Martin Varsavsky
At our summit on global terrorism, Safe-Democracy.org attended by Kofi Annan and 34 heads of state there were two main schools of thought on the future of Al Qaida. The optimists who thought that Al Qaida had been dealt a lethal blow and that it was unlikely that it would strike again in Europe or America and the pessimists who thought that more attacks were only around the corner. Now we know: the pessimists won. Today we have a carnage in London, dozens dead, hundreds wounded, families and hearts broken. I write this, only after a few hours after the attack with a lot of the evidence not out yet but I assume that this was another "friends of Al Qaida" attack a la Madrid and that probably terrorists will soon demand that the UK leave Iraq. The question is then, should the UK follow Spain and leave Iraq or not?
The obvious answer would be to say that the UK should not leave. Leaving Iraq, the argument goes, would be rewarding terrorists and that is a mistake. While rewarding terrorists is a mistake in my view there is, however, a greater mistake, that of not leaving. The present war and occupation in Iraq is wrong, and continuation of this policy is wrong. President Zapatero realized this dilemma, and left Iraq after terrorists so requested. For doing that he was greatly criticized. Still, since the Spanish withdrawal there´s been peace in Spain.
I am horrified at the hundreds of innocent victims of London today, but I am also appalled at the 100,000 estimated civilian deaths that have occured in Iraq as a result of the US led Iraqi invasion. Placing bombs is mass murder, probably a crime against humanity, but in my view so is bombing civilian populations such as the failed search for Zarqawi in Fallujah that resulted in thousands of innocents dead. Why should placing bombs be illegal and bombing civilians from the air not be? If terrorism is the killing of civilians in order to attain political objectives, isn´t the US led invasion of Iraq insofar as it has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths also "terrorist". Saddam Hussein was a genocidal dictator now in jail, soon on trial. In that sense the US invasion was a success. There have been elections, there´s a new government in place. Why not leave Iraq instead of carrying on paramilitary operations ? Why continue waging an impossible to win war frequently violating human rights ? Can we really continue to make the case that there would be more death in Iraq if the US and the UK left? Wasn´t inevitable that the enemy would choose to fight in Western territory as they did today? Why give Al Qaida and other terrorist networks reason to do so? "Terrorists have no logic" commentators argue. Personally I would agree that they don´t if tomorrow there is another March 11th type of attack in Madrid after the withdrawal from Iraq. But since March 11th 2004 there hasn´t been one. And we do know that if there hasn´t been an attack is not because our security forces are efficient. Ground transportation is and will always be vulnerable to terrorism. Unde r ground passengers, bus passengers can´t be searched as airplane passengers, the y are easy targets. If there hasn´t been an attack in Spain since March 11th is only because of the uncomfortable decision President Zapatero made of withdrawing from Iraq, and I think that in a few monhts, and discreetly, Tony Blair should make the same choice.
I think this is the question (to leave or not to leave) should be answered by governments by their own means, but not in response to received attacks.
US, UK or Spain should leave Irak (better, should have stay at home) for their own reasons, but not on Al Qaida's attacks. When they lead their troops to war, (¡yes, we were on war!), they should know the "enemy" should respond. If you are afraid of enemy's responses, you should not ever go to war.
And yes, our comfortable and wealthy society is very afraid of war: we can inflict thousands of victims to other less favored countries, but can't accept a few hundreds. That's a fact.
And that is why we should always avoid wars:we don't like wars, why should we take them to other countries?
Hope we learn to teach children war is not a solution for anything, but an additional problem.
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