Norman Geras, one of the most articulate pro-war leftists in the blogosphere (among other spheres) wrote recently of exchanges with anti-war leftists whose responses to him frequently have been crass and insulting, but have rarely engaged his views directly. The whole thing (TWT, hereinafter) seems to have left him somewhat at a loss, for clearly, from any rationally identifiable "left" point of view, removing the Baathist regime has to be a good thing in itself, and could well have been seized by internationalists as their own cause.
Actually, the motivations and underlying position of his comrades may be quite simple, if rarely stated explicitly.
It appears to me that the implicit, usually unstated difference between Geras and his comrades is that they hold their "anti-imperialist" project, which they conceive to be crucially an anti-American project, to be of greater importance than the fate of the Iraqi people. Geras would appear, on the other hand, either not to share their commitments or definitions regarding said project, or not to consider opposing US war policy to be of high relevance to it.
If the issues are not often described in this way, it may be because most anti-war leftists remain unwilling to admit - at least in public discourse, perhaps even to themselves - that they hold the fates of almost any number of Iraqi or other victims to be secondary in importance, at best. Many seem to have convinced themselves that their intellectual or emotional opposition to Saddam, or the occasional wishful fantasies of some alternative to war for having removed his regime, somehow means they have not acted as his objective allies, and the emotionalism of their reactions to the charge tends to support the idea that mechanisms of denial and displacement are at work. Some seem to be acting mainly out of parochial hostility to the parties in power in Washington and London. Some lack the maturity or ability to consider larger contexts, strategic concerns, or matters of any complexity at all. Many of the rest, representing the committed and politically self-conscious left, avoid stating their positions clearly, mainly because doing so would put their political alliances and public profiles at risk.
Though I am no longer a Marxist socialist, haven't been in years, and don't even consider myself on the left anymore, I very much appreciate the views of pro-war leftists such as Geras and Hitchens. I remain curious, however: If they could be persuaded that weakening the US was critical to bringing about socialism or some other great advance for their cause (revolution, if they are revolutionaries), and that, specifically, frustrating US policy in Iraq might hasten the adoption of socialism worldwide by a generation at least, would they then find themselves able to set aside the plight of the Iraqis and whatever immediate harms and uncertainties a US failure would imply?
My guess is that many of Geras' opponents within the left have accepted some calculus along these lines, and clearly have answered affirmatively. In short, Iraq is and was simply a pretext and a side-issue for them. It appears that, in their view, defeating America/ capitalism/ globalization/ militarism/ whatever was and remains more important than deposing some individual despot could be under almost any circumstances. Among other things, this approach is at least as "strategic" as any advanced by American neoconservatives, and, understood as such, would at least be rationally debatable.