Depending who is doing the counting, there were two or three Gulf Wars. To Iraq, the first Gulf War was with Iran. The second Gulf War which we in the West call the First Gulf War was following the invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The third Gulf War, which we in the West call the Second Gulf War, was the illegal war waged on Iraq based on a pack of lies, search for Weapons of Mass Destruction, regime change, seize and/or control Iraq's oil (all or none of these reasons which kept changing even at the time).
Between the last two Gulf Wars was a time of sanctions, enforced no fly zones.
Saddam Hussein was the West's man, a strong man to be relied on. The West was officially neutral during the Iran-Iraq War but in reality backing Iraq as Saddam was our man. A blind eye was turned when Iraq gassed the Kurds, those who raised the matter were dupes of Iranian propaganda. When Iraq invade Kuwait it was a step too far and our man was out of control, he had to be taught a lesson. Saddam could have been removed then, but the West was happy to leave him in place but sufficiently chastised. One day no fly was patrolled to protect the Kurds, the next war planes from the same Turkish airbase would bomb the Kurds. Such is the hypocrisy of the West. Children were dying, the country was covered with depleted uranium, but sanctions had to remain in place. A million children died, but according to Madeline Albright, then US Ambassador to the UN, it was a price worth paying.
During the Second World War Coventry was bombed. The Medieval Cathedral was destroyed. In the ruins was found two nails in the shape of a cross. The Cross of Nails was to be the symbol of hope for the future. In the ruins the Provost Dick Howard wrote two words God Forgive. He pledged that Coventry would become a place of peace and reconciliation, a brave statement to make in 1940 amidst the ruins of a bombed Cathedral. From his pledge rose the International Centre for Reconciliation and the Community of the Cross of Nails. Canon Andrew White was Co-Director (1998-2004) of the International Ministry at Coventry Cathedral and it was in this role he was to first visit Iraq at the height of the sanctions. He remained director until he took on the post of Vicar of St George's Church in Baghdad, an Anglican church founded in 1864.
With the subtitle of Searching for Hope, Iraq is just that, a search for hope in a war-ravaged country.
As director of International Centre for Reconciliation Canon Andrew White was sent to Iraq during the period of sanctions. At least that was the idea, but the Iraqi Authorities would not let him in, they said if you want to help get the sanctions lifted. After weeks of frustration he did what he always does, he prayed. Within a day his prayers were answered. He was introduced to a man who ran an organisation promoting Anglo-Iraqi friendship. Hours later, he had a call from Tariq Aziz, then deputy Prime Minister, a Christian.
This was one of many examples he gives of synchronicity. Once he was on a train and met a man who was in a position to help.
I met Canon Andrew White at a dinner and what struck me then and what struck me again reading Iraq, was how alike he was to Peggy Gish, both devout Christians, both of steely determination, both able to relate with ease to the spiritual and religious leaders they met in Iraq and to be accepted a friends by these people.
The contacts and friendships that Canon Andrew White built up during sanctions were to prove invaluable post-conflict. He was one of the few who welcomed the attack on Iraq. He saw the fear the people were living under, the need for regime change and that it was not going to happen from the people alone. But he also saw the very real possibility of the country descending into religious violence, and the rise of terrorism. He saw the need for religious reconstruction. His warning were not heeded, Iraq was seen as a secular country where religion played no part.
The joy at regime change was short lived. Iraq was to descend into hell.