Saturday, April 30, 2005

A Small, Level Voice

Johann Hari:

There was a small, perfect moment a few months ago that symbolised this refusal to listen. Tony Blair was being interviewed by June Sarpong before a hostile studio audience, and the Prime Minister was talking flatly about Saddam Hussein's Weapons of Mass Destruction. The studio was filled - rightly - with jeering. They knew there were no WMD, and they demanded to know: wasn't this war about oil, or Israel, or a raw assertion of US power post-9/11?

The row continued for five fruitless minutes, with Blair begging the audience not to question his integrity, and the audience in turn begging to know the real reasons why he went to war.

And then a small, level voice came from the front row. "I am an Iraqi," a young woman said, "and I have just come back from my country. I know this war was not about Weapons of Mass Destruction, and I know the Americans did not do this because they care about us. But all of my family in Iraq supported this war, and so did I. We did it because we knew there was no other way to get rid of Saddam Hussein. Why can't you all understand that? Why can't you side with us?"

There was a long pause. The audience looked nonplussed. Nobody spoke. And then the row about WMD burst out again, furious and fiery. Everybody carried on as if the Iraqi had not spoken. Blair tried to gesture at one point towards the Iraqi woman when his WMD argument was manifestly flagging, but nobody wanted to hear.