At Socialist Unity and Stop the War, they are nostalgically celebrating the 10th anniversary of the high point of the British antiwar movement– the huge London antiwar demonstration against the pending invasion of Iraq. (The invasion went ahead anyway.)
I’m reminded of a passage from Ian McEwan’s novel “Saturday,” which is set in London on the day of the march:
All this happiness on display is suspect. Everyone is thrilled to be together out on the streets—people are hugging themselves, it seems, as well as each other. If they think— and they could be right— that continued torture and summary executions, ethnic cleansing and occasional genocide are preferable to an invasion, they should be somber in their view.
Indeed. Just as those of us who supported the invasion should have been somber. There were good arguments for and against the invasion. Whether you supported it or opposed it, it should not have been an easy decision; Iraqis were going to suffer and die regardless of what the US and the UK did or didn’t do.
I’d like to believe that many of the invasion’s opponents went through the same soul-searching as the Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman:
As a Chilean who fought against [Pinochet's] pervasive terror for 17 years, I can understand the needs, the anguish, the urgency, of those Iraqis inside and outside their homeland who cannot wait, cannot accept any further delay, silently howl for deliverance. I have seen how Chile still suffers from Pinochet’s legacy, 13 years after he left power, and can therefore comprehend how every week that passes with the despot in power poisons your collective fate.
Such sympathy for your cause does not exempt me, however, from asking a crucial question: Is that suffering sufficient to justify intervention from an outside power, a suffering that has been cited as a secondary but compelling reason for an invasion?
I admire Dorfman in a way that I cannot admire opponents or supporters of the Iraq invasion for whom the decision was simple and reflexive.