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Time to nail the Iraq lie


Friday, December 18, 2009 05:12:46 PM, Aijaz Zaka Syed

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How right Edward Gibbon was when he said history is little more than the register of crimes, follies and misfortunes of mankind. But perhaps no register is enough to chronicle the crimes double-speaking and double-dealing politicians routinely commit against humanity.


Look at Tony Blair. You would think two years out of power would have narrowed down the gap between the former British prime minister and what is commonly known as common sense. But then there’s no antidote to hubris.


In the countdown to the Iraq invasion and long since, Blair insisted ad nauseam that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. Speaking in the world’s oldest Parliament, a grim-faced Blair solemnly warned the British public — and the world — that Saddam had the capability and the intent to launch a WMD attack against Britain “within 40 minutes.”


In fact, with his gift of the gab, the man once known as Britain’s most successful politician played a crucial role in building the case for Iraq war, and gifting the much-needed legitimacy to with-us-or-against-us Bush and his cowboy coalition.


Without Britain’s support, it’s just inconceivable how Bush would have put together his “Coalition of the Willing” and gone to war against Iraq. As Ken Macdonald, one of Blair’s senior public servants and Britain’s former chief public prosecutor, wrote in the Times this week, the British leader used “alarming subterfuge with his partner George W. Bush” to take the world to war. A sham war that has totally destroyed Iraq, unleashing chaos that continue to rock the Arab country and the Middle East from one end to another!


Blair and Bush told us this war had been absolutely critical to the security and stability of the “civilized world.” Just like the morally bankrupt politicians before them did, they told us the war was necessary for peace! Even when the whole world stood up against the war, from Americas to Asia, the coalition stuck to its guns, insisting the war on Iraq — already on the brink after two major wars and years of devastating Western sanctions — was essential to rid the world of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction!


And now Blair turns around to tell us WMD or no WMD, the Coalition of the Willing would have invaded Iraq anyway. Ironically though, in doing so, the man who has turned the old-fashioned deceit and lying into a refined art, may be telling the truth for a change! In a now infamous interview with BBC’s Fern Britton, Blair gloated: “I would still have thought it right to remove him (Saddam). I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.”


CAN this get any more disingenuous? No wonder Blair’s claim has reignited the Iraq war debate with some familiar names associated with the circus that preceded the invasion joining the fray. While individuals like Ken Macdonald, whose conscience hasn’t gone to sleep, have blasted the former premier for his lies, deception and sucking up to Bush, there are more revelations from those close to the former prime minister that the Atlantic allies were indeed determined to attack Iraq, WMD or no WMD.


This is what anti-war groups, human rights activists and majority of peace-loving people around the world have been saying all along. This war never had anything to do with Saddam’s mythical weapons or his alleged links to Al-Qaeda. The West just wanted to invade Iraq and was looking for an excuse to hit it. In fact, it didn’t even need an excuse to do so.


According to fresh testimony before Britain’s new Iraq inquiry, Blair had signed on to America’s Iraq-war mission during his visit to Bush’s Texas ranch in June 2002. That was a year before the invasion — and long before Secretary of State Colin Powell swore before the United Nations that Iraq was a “clear and present danger” to world peace. Remember Powell’s claim about Saddam moving around his ‘weapons of mass destruction’ on trucks?


Sir Christopher Meyer, UK’s envoy in Washington during that critical year, told the Iraq inquiry this week that Bush and Blair had “signed in blood” their Iraq pact during that meeting. The oil, the Israeli lobby, Bush’s Oedipal complexes or old-fashioned hegemonic ambitions, whatever drove the coalition, clearly Iraq had been in its sights right from the day one. This was a war based on and driven by lies and treachery right from the word go.


AND Blair’s BBC interview has nailed this monumental lie on which this sham war was built. What more do we need? Is that not enough to put him and other leading lights of the coalition in the dock for crimes against Iraqi people and for crimes against humanity? Blair is supposed to appear before the Iraq inquiry later next year. But he has already confessed to his crimes, hasn’t he? Blair and Bush are not just guilty of war crimes against Iraqi people but are also guilty of misleading the international community. It was their WMD claim that persuaded the United Nations and the world community to give that fig leaf of “international mandate” to Iraq invasion.


Would the United Nations, ineffective and toothless as it is, have given its blessings to the invasion, if its august members had known Saddam didn’t have all those frightening weapons that Bush and Blair claimed he had?


The UN Resolution 678 approved the use of force against Iraq, only if it failed to “disarm” itself of its weapons of mass destruction. The coalition used this Security Council resolution, passed in the 1990s during the first Gulf War, to justify the war.


Denuded of that legal and moral cover, the Iraq invasion is nothing but war crimes against a helpless, defenseless people. International law doesn’t allow any country to force a regime change in other countries even on humanitarian grounds. As former UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix, who desperately pleaded with the UN and Western powers to give more time to Iraq for disarming itself and a diplomatic solution, writes in the Guardian this week, “The responsibility for launching the war must be judged against the knowledge (about Iraq’s nonexistent weapons) that the allies had when they actually started it.”


This was a “criminal enterprise,” as Ken Macdonald puts it. And there exists a strong war crimes case against all those who planned and visited this calamitous war on a country that posed no threat to anyone, let alone the powerful, nuclear-armed Western countries or even Israel. It’s time to hold them to account.


Otherwise, another toothless British inquiry is not going to bring any succor or hope to Iraqi people. After all, this is the fourth inquiry that is looking into the legality and morality of the war. Another round of harmless testimonies and pointless brainstorming by retired civil servants and diplomats is hardly going to make Blair and his old friends and allies lose their sleep. What we need is a Yugoslavia-style tribunal. The International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia has been trying political leaders who plotted “large-scale violence” against civilians for collaborating in a “joint criminal enterprise”.


What has happened in Iraq in the name of democracy, freedom and human rights is far worse than what the Balkans went through more than a decade ago.


More innocents have died — and continue to die — in Iraq than in Kosovo or Bosnia-Herzegovina. In fact, there’s no comparison between what happened in the Balkans and what’s still going on in Iraq. One was a scene from the Hell — Dante’s Inferno, if you will.

And the other is a living hell itself. It still is.


- Aijaz Zaka Syed is a Dubai-based commentator. Write to him at


(Courtesy: Arab News)







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