Noot 8 (bij artikel “Nederland is anders”)


September 13 2011

From Mr Peter van Walsum

Sir, In your editorial of September 10 (“A decade on from September 11”) you describe the war in Iraq as “a war of choice: as it turned out, a bad one”. If you base this judgment on the reasons you mention, “the 9/11 link was specious, the cost was appalling and the political legacy is toxic”, most of your readers will undoubtedly agree, but you also mention in passing that without the war Saddam Hussein “might by now have been nuclear-armed”.

That is no small matter. By the end of my two-year tenure with the UN Iraq sanctions committee (1999-2000), well before the election of President George W. Bush, my sympathies had already begun to shift from the school of “containment” to that of “regime change”. I was more and more convinced that the sanctions regime had become so unpopular and ineffectual that it could not be maintained much longer. If it collapsed, Saddam would regain access to Iraq’s huge oil revenue and be free to use that for the purchase of all the highly enriched uranium he needed to reactivate his dormant nuclear weapons programme.

Nuclear weapons were the sanctions committee’s major concern when I served on it, not the threat of immediately deployable biological and chemical weapons, which popped up in the second half of 2002. I believed that the mere possession of a nuclear weapon by Iraq would trigger a disastrous chain reaction of nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Weighing that danger against the three reasons mentioned in your editorial, we may still come to the conclusion that the war was a bad choice, but it becomes far less obvious.


Peter van Walsum
The Hague, Netherlands


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