By Dan Katz
In some wars there are substantial reasons for the fighting. In the Falklands/Malvinas war in 1982 for instance the Argentinian military did invade the islands and the British people living there did not like foreign military rule.
In the 1999 Balkans war NATO did not invent the ethnic cleansing of the ethnic-Albanian Kosovars. Milosevic's barbarity was all too real.
Nevertheless, even in these "clear cut" cases, other reasons hide underneath the "good reasons". Not every invasion of a small country by a bigger country is met with big-power intervention. China has occupied Tibet since 1959 with scarcely any protest from the west. Not every genocide is ended by NATO bombing (Rwanda, 1994). The big powers need other reasons, beyond the "good reasons", to risk war.
In 1982 Thatcher went to war with Argentina to maintain Britain's place in the world pecking order. In 1999 Clinton and the European states wanted to see capitalist stability in Europe, and were alarmed enough by Milosevic's primitive aggression to move against him.
Nevertheless, sometimes bourgeois leaders need to use excuses to start a war.
The assassination of Archduke Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, sparked World War One, but the underlying cause was the struggle of European capitalist classes for world dominance, together with a host of secondary reasons which had little to do with the death of the Archduke.
And if the bourgeoisie can't find a "good reason", or a convenient excuse or catalyst? Well, there's always lying. In 1870 Bismarck falsified a document - the "Ems dispatch" - to justify war with France. The truth was that Bismarck wanted to weaken France and draw together the divided German states.
In the recent war against Iraq distortions and outright lying played a big part in the coalition's propaganda campaign. Reasons for war were tailored to suit the audience, and the propaganda emphasis differed from country to country.
In the US the alleged links between al-Qaeda and Saddam were stressed to provoke an emotional response in a population traumatised by the 9/11 attacks. The flimsy "intelligence reports" of supposed Ba'thist-fundamentalist relationship was open to doubt - given the hatred that existed between the Islamists and the "secular"-nationalist Ba'thist regime.
In the UK Blair & co talked-up the immediate threat posed by Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Given the clear lack of Iraqi nuclear weapons, they focussed on the possibility of chemical and biological weapons. Blair went as far as suggesting - in an attempt to pressure Labour backbenchers to back his war - that these weapons of mass destruction were an immediate threat to Britain.
Blair was contradicted by other world leaders, and by people like the former arms inspector, Scott Ritter. Robin Cook, who had presumably read the same secret briefing papers as Blair, resigned before the war began, stating that he did not believe weapons of mass destruction existed in Iraq.
The justifications for this war were seen to be weak - and, as a consequence, Blair was disbelieved by millions in Britain, and actively opposed by many hundreds of thousands.
But it is only recently that it has become apparent how shoddy the coalition case was, and the extent to which the US and British leaders were willing to deliberately mislead. The utter lack of weapons of mass destruction has surprised us all - at the office of Solidarity (where we have no weapons experts or satellite technology capable of giving us evidence to directly challenge Blair) we believed it perfectly possible that Saddam had some heavy duty ordnance.
But the absence of weapons of mass destruction is now creating serious political problems for Blair, whose fraud has been exposed.
Paul Wolfowitz - a leading US hawk and a man who headed a special team which politically planned and justified the war - has told Vanity Fair magazine that the focus on weapons of mass destruction as the key reason for invading Iraq was taken for "bureaucratic reasons".
In Britain, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, backtracking furiously, announced that the question of weapons of mass destruction is now "not crucially important" (14 May), contrasting sharply with his urgent warning of three months ago, that the "weapons are deployable within 45 minutes" (21 February).
Labour MPs who voted with Blair because they believed (or half-believed) his nonsense have belatedly expressed their annoyance. Secret service chiefs have leaked their disapproval of how their reports were spun by Blair and his sidekick, Alistair Campbell. Blair may even face some scrutiny from parliamentary committees which he is unable to completely control.
More to the point, he has been discredited further in the minds of millions of workers and youth who have discovered the extent of the Labour leaders' cynicism and contempt for the British public. Millions will now be more sceptical about Blair's pronouncements on the NHS, pensions and education policy. If he can lie once, he can do it again.
And if weapons of mass destruction were not the real reason for war, thousands must now be asking themselves - what were the real reasons? Perhaps it all was just about the guaranteed supply of oil?