An Alternative History

In the London Times, Gerard Baker offers an alternative vision of how the last three years might have unfolded with no war in Iraq. He begins:

IN MARCH 2003 Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, of the UN, secured a remarkable, last-minute deal that averted war and seemed to guarantee the disarmament of Iraq. “Saddam Hussein has finally consented to eliminate all his weapons of mass destruction,” they said, in a signing ceremony with the Iraqi leader.

Saddam, flanked by his two sons, Uday and Qusay, accepted the plaudits of the UN with pomp and grace. Beaming as he smiled at a hastily assembled crowd of French, German and Russian children, he said he had saved the world from the bloodlust of George Bush and Tony Blair with a magnanimous gesture of international friendship. There were approving murmurs of support in many Western capitals. In Oslo there was talk of a Nobel Peace prize.

Please do read what follows; it isn’t pretty, but it’s plausible. Baker acknowledges that the scenario he sketches is only one of several possible alternative narratives. But, he concludes:

The war in Iraq goes on, three years later, to the unfolding judgment of history. But that judgment should encompass not just the consequences of what was done but the consequences of what might have happened had it not been done.

The consequences of what was done in Iraq are easy to see and hard to look at. The consequences of what might have been are by their nature unrecordable. But we know that history’s greatest tragedies could and should have been avoided, but never were.

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