Sunday, January 31, 2010

Iraq - the hardest question remains.

The dominating issue of the last few days has been the appearance of Witness 69 before the Chilcot Inquiry. A lot of hoohah over nothing much at all in my view. It told us nothing that we didn't know already. We knew that Tony Blair is a highly skilled operator, accomplished in the art of verbal gymnastics. He used every conceivable form of rhetorical flourish, deflecting any ball threatening his stumps down the leg side with Gavaskar like precision. The former Prime Minister wiped the floor with them - as anyone who's watched Blair in action over the years would have expected.

So what do we know now (at least as I see it). We know that Tony Blair decided to join George Bush in an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. We know that the concept of 'cabinet government' had been much weakened under the Blair Government, and most of them were not told the truthful reasons for going to war. Instead, the Cabinet, all other MPs and the people of Britain were told that Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction, which could be activated against Britain within 45 minutes. It was on that basis that our Parliament supported Tony Blair's decision to launch the invasion. Many people (including me) are angry that we were mislead. I still find it difficult to believe that a British Prime Minister would deliberately mislead the British people in order to secure support for war. We know that Tony Blair was convinced it was the right action to take, still believes it was, and has told us that if he could 'rewind the clock' he would do it again.

Though my opinion was of no consequence, at the time I supported the decision to go to war. Later on, I was much angered that this support had been secured on the basis of untruths. But sitting in my office as I type these words, I cannot write that I would not have supported the war if the Prime Minister had told us the truth about why he considered it vital to British interests - if he had said that he wanted Britain to stand beside the US, and invade Iraq to achieve regime change. In the climate after the attack on the Twin Towers, I may well have supported Blair. I'm sure many other British people who supported the war, and are angry about being mislead, would share my uncertainty if they were to ask themselves the same question.

The issue that has most confused the position is the way 'International Law' is being spoken of as inviolable. Personally, I've always thought 'International Law' as riven with uncertainty and contradiction. In the end, its often a question of who carries the biggest stick. The evidence given to Chilcot so far, leaves most of us believing that the war was 'illegal' - but it seems to me that as long as the Attorney General said it was 'legal' (even if his arm was up behind his back at the time) it was legal. And the final question must be whether, in hindsight, it was the right decision. I usually say "its too early to say". Its clear that the post-war strategy failed. But no-one can say what the situation in the Middle East would be today, if Saddam Hussein was still in power. All Chilcot does (and will do) is raise more questions, and I'll be surprised if it delivers any certainty in its answers.


sughotsy said...

"Attorney General said it was 'legal'"

Precisely Glyn.

Everyones Favourite Comrade said...

I don't think that the rest of cabinet were kept in the dark or many MPs for that matter the truth was always obvious.

I don't understand why you make a link between 9/11 and the need for regime change in Iraq particularly since the world is more unstable now than it was in 2003. Especially so because there was never a link between the Secular regime of Saddam and the religious fundementalists of Al-Qaida

upeavi said...

Al-Qaeda is a predominantly Sunni Muslim extremist group. Iraq at the time of 9-11 was run predominantly by the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein which while regarded as secular was nevertheless predominantly Sunni. It was an extremist Sunni group (Al-Qaeda) that flew airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon building. So there was a basis for making a connection between one extremist Sunni group with the Sunni group running Iraq. Al-Qaeda took sides following the Iraq invasion grouping up with Sunni groups in Iraq. Saddam was already a sponsor of Hamas terror attacks, so it’s not a big leap to make such a connection in the immediate aftermath of 911.

The UK doesn’t exactly have a stellar historical record in the Middle East. For example, the UK government was fighting in Yemen long before the current upheavals at the hands of Al-Qaeda. It didn’t take a 911 for the UK government to use fighter jets to bomb targets in Yemen – we did it anyway based on some theory or other. The UK previously killed over 100,000 Iraqi citizens based on some theory or other.

Saddam Hussein at one time had chemical weapons of mass destruction at his disposal - he previously used them against the Kurds (with help from “Chemical Ali” (Ali Kimyawi) who coincidentally was hanged in Iraq a few days ago for, inter alia, using chemical WMDs against the Kurds – it is my understanding that the Kurds knick-named him “Ali Kimyawi” (“Chemical Ali”). Saddam continued to say he had WMDs. But the expected stocks of nerve agent (and its precursors) were not found after the invasion of Iraq.

So it seems Saddam and/or his generals were telling porkpies - that the UN in fact had previously destroyed the stock pile of precursors before the Iraq invasion.

This is all wonderful with 20:20 hindsight.

The Iraq under Saddam Hussein still possessed experienced chemical warfare specialists and manufacturing know-how so could at some point restart production of chemical WMDs.

The invasion of Iraq did do one thing: put a final stop to Saddam Hussein's ambitions of making more chemical WMDs - he was clearly intent on making more and might have believed his generals who apparently told him he in fact had chemical WMDs when there were none.

Welsh Left said...

I'm not buying that. Baathism wasn't/isn't an exclusively Sunni tenet, seeing as one of the founders of that movement was Christian, and indeed Saddam's Cabinet and legislature contained some Christians also. There was no intelligence that indicated a link between Saddam and Al-Qaeda, it was a lie. To make a leap from Hamas to Al-Qaeda is also nuts. Hamas is a component of the Palestinian national resistance, rather than a global Jihadist network. Saying "they're terrorists" and linking them to Al-Qaeda is just wrong. Hamas might well use terrorist tactics but they are not an international trend like Al-Qaeda allegedly is. Sorry but it certainly is/was a 'big leap'.

Saddam did have chemical weapons, as has been widely documented, when the US and associated countries sold them to him. After the Gulf War, the UN weapons inspectorate routinely monitored Iraq's ability to obtain any WMDs for the future, and found no evidence. The UN did destroy them all and didn't need upeavi's hindsight, Scott Ritter clearly argued before the disastrous invasion that there was no way Saddam could have obtained WMDs without them knowing. That didn't stop the US doctoring the evidence did it.

"The invasion of Iraq did do one thing: put a final stop to Saddam Hussein's ambitions of making more chemical WMDs - he was clearly intent on making more and might have believed his generals who apparently told him he in fact had chemical WMDs when there were none."

What a ridiculous paragraph. The world is now a more dangerous place. Muslims have been enraged and radicalised. Iran has been made stronger. One of the least fundamentalist societies in the Middle-East is now a no go country for Christians, Al-Qaeda's propaganda has been proven right and over a million Iraqis killed. Reactionary Islam is now ruling alot of Iraq, in complete concert with US troops, whose mission was supposed to be to eradicate it. Islamic clerics now wield power in Iraq where secular bureaucrats used to wield power.

American actions in the Middle-East are creating precisely the conditions they allegedly want to avoid.

sughotsy said...

Yes, there were Christiams in Saddam Hussein's cabinet, but his regime was predominantly Sunni - Al-Qaeda is predominantly Sunni - Bin Laden is a Sunni, and Saddam was a Sunni - so there was a basis for arguing the two groups were linked.

As to your view that things are worst now - actually, had Saddam not been stopped he would still be seeking to restart chemical WMDs manufacture and would probably be in a nuclear arms race with Iran.

As it is, Iran is now alone in seeking nuclear bomb making capability.