Bill's Archived Comments
for the week beginning: Monday, 5th August 2002
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- UK manufacturing output posts biggest fall since 1979 (5 Aug 2002)
- Can Saddam be ousted, and should we try? (5 Aug 2002)
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|UK manufacturing output posts biggest
fall since 1979 (5 Aug 2002)
It was announced today that UK manufacturing output has shown its greatest fall 'in over 20 years' - this was the first tentative announcement on the BBC earlier today. Later announcements clarified that it was in fact the biggest fall since 1979 - the significance being that this was when a Labour government was last in power.
Explanations given for the fall now were that the World Cup (football competition) and Jubilee celebrations had disrupted production. No doubt these events had some effect, but frankly I seriously doubt that they are the major factors - unless this really is just a one-quarter 'blip' - watch this space in three months time.
A more plausible explanation is that the worldwide recession, which has taken hold since the events of last September, is now beginning to affect us seriously, too. So far the UK had seemed to be able to defy gravity - whilst welcome, I found it difficult to believe. A more obvious explanation may also include the fact that the massive increase in bureaucratic requirements introduced since this Labour government came to power in 1997, the first since 1979, is now beginning to show up in the figures. 'New' Labour has prided itself on being a competent manager of the economy, unlike earllier Labour administrations. Again, watch this space - we'll see how this government copes with a recession, not nearly so easy as managing a buoyany economy such as the one they inherited in 1997.
Can Saddam be ousted, and should we try? (5 Aug 2002)
Over the past couple of weeks, there has been increasing talk that an attack is planned on Iraq, by the U.S. and its allies to oust the existing leader, President Saddam Hussein. It seems that the strongest proponents of this proposed action are certain parts of the U.S. Administration, notably President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld. According to some reports I have read, though, the U.S. military is somewhat more cautious - and it is after all they and certain allies' military forces (most likely our own amongst them) who will be charged with the practical execution of the civilian political will.
After the Gulf War a team of U.N. Inspectors tried to carry out inspections of Iraq's weapons development programme to ensure that weapons of 'mass destruction' (nuclear, chemical and biological) were not being stored or developed. They had some limited success until the restrictions placed on their activities by the Iraqi authorities forced their withdrawal from the country in 1998, in the face of the near-impossibility of carrying out their duties with any semblance of effectiveness.
Part of the negotiations conducted after Iraq withdrew from Koweit in 1991, following the successful execution of 'Desert Storm' included allowing Iraq to sell a certain amount of oil abroad, provided the proceeds were earmarked for imports of food and medical supplies, other oil exports falling under U.N. sanctions. It seems that the Iraqi authorities have consistently flouted the terms imposed upon them with parts of the proceeds of permitted oil exports being diverted to military purposes and food and medical supplies being denied to parts of the country, and groups of Iraqis, who do not support the existing regime of Saddam Hussein. Naturally the resulting food shortages and decline in health care standards (which have traditionally been quite high in Iraq) have resulted in unrest, which the Iraqi authorities have exploited with great skill as a propaganda weapon against western countries and as a means of exercising moral pressure on some of the more moderate Arab regimes, including those which have autocratic [although generally benign] systems of government.
Within the last week, Iraq has been conducting a propaganda offensive, part of which includes a renewed offer to allow U.N. weapons inspectors back into the country. Part of the reason seems to be to act as a delaying tactic in perceived U.S./allied plans to invade.
Is Iraq sincere when it suggests that U.N. weapons inspectors return to the country? Well, stranger things have happened, but I strongly doubt it. Various apologists have come forward to oppose military action to oust Saddam Hussein, in the U.S. and in the U.K., and amongst these in this country is the redoubtable Labour MP George Galloway, seemingly a willing participant in Iraqi propaganda over many years.
To answer my own questions in the title of this article, I am convinced we should try to effect the removal of Saddam Hussein, a cruel and despotic tyrant, from power. The decision not to try to do this in 1991, after Koweit had been recovered, was regrettable, although I think for various reasons (which I have discussed in earlier articles) it was the correct decision at the time. However, in the eleven or so years since the end of the Gulf War it has become increasingly clear that Saddam's sole aim is to remain in power, whatever the suffering caused to the Iraqi people - and this is considerable - and the dangers posed to others in the region, which I am sure are very real.
Of course, it will not be easy to carry out this task, and the apparent worries of the U.S. military and perhaps our own (there has been much information recently aboout the inadequacy of some of the equipment our forces must use) are not to be dismissed lightly. It will also no doubt be a major preoccupation of our invading forces to ensure civil order in the period following any invasion, and hopefully removal of Saddam Hussein and those loyal to him from power. Undoubtedly it will be necessary for allied forces to remain in Iraq for some time following the [successful] conclusion of their mission and I daresay this is another factor that will be exercising the U.S. military and those of its allies including our own. None of this will be easy and it is possible that the repercussions of this whole series of operations will impact not just the military, but perhaps the civilian populations of allied countries too, at the very least at the economic level - we all need to be prepared for this.
For me, in summary, the basic issue of ridding Iraq,and the world, of Saddam Hussein's tyrannical rule is not in question.
Copyright © 2002 William Cameron