David Twiston Davies
It is time for a few home truths. If Tony Blair is having difficulty persuading the British public to set aside the liberal sentiments he has delighted in fanning since 1997, he must bear much of the blame. He elevated so many trifling matters
into "moral crusades" in the past that his rhetoric was bound to fail when there was a really important issue. The opponents of the war are waxing with the same kind of heated indignation which he employed against "the forces of conservatism" and other elements of our society which he disliked.
They are so vehement about the iniquity of Tony Blair and George Bush that they blithely dismiss Saddam Hussein as a misunderstood man whose crimes do not require investigation.
All the parties involved in this pre-combat skirmishing are so concerned to be seen acting with selfless altruism that one longs for somebody to say "self-interest". This is not a dirty word. We are
required to love our neighbour as ourselves; but not, as some non-Christians seem to feel, instead of ourselves. One result of this self-denial is that others are less squeamish. All over the country people are confiding, with knowing nods, that the conflict is really about "America's oil supplies".
Although the United States only gets about 12 per cent of its oil from the Middle East, it has dismally failed to convince others that it considers regional stability more important; Mr Bush, however, has hardly helped his cause by putting so many oilmen in his cabinet.
The key fact is that the British and American governments are deeply worried about the array of chemical weapons which Saddam is building up for likely use against us or our allies. His unwillingness to be open with the UN weapons inspectors informs our instincts even if it fails to satisfy President Chirac of France.
We are also in danger of assuming that producing a moral line to satisfy the UN is all that matters. The Pope was only stating the truth when he told Mr Blair last weekend that a war would be immoral. All war is immoral. Innocent people as well as combatants are killed, and all of us bear some responsibility for war in a sinful world, But although Mr Blair will no doubt succeed in going to war, the region's problems will not be swept away for ever once the allies are wel
corned by dancing in the streets, The Holy Father knows much better than Mr Blair, since he saw the Nazis evicted from his beloved Poland to be replaced by a Soviet regime for the next 45 years, that bad can come out of good.
Popes have particular responsibility for the Christians of the Middle East, and John Paul II is keenly aware that that if the Church were seen to be fully supporting the allies, it could evoke an Islamic backlash; he must also realise that when Saddam's deputy, the Chaldean Catholic Tariq Aziz, is arraigned for war crimes, as he will be, there will be criticism of Iraqi Catholics for keeping their heads down under Saddam and a backlash from the Church's opponents in the West.
More than that, the Pope knows that although the Americans will install a western-style democracy in Iraq this may fare no better in the long run than other attempts to establish Middle East democracies; if Iraq should break up into three states, at least one of these might well end up with a fundamentalist regime.
George Weigel, the Pope's biographer, has pointed out that the Holy Father acknowledges that political leaders have a right to decide on war. But that does not mean that he does not fear the consequences of an allied victory.
David 71viston Davies works for The Daily Telegraph