The August Riots

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Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Iraq Inquiry – will we ever find out the truth?

The long-promised and equally long-anticipated public inquiry into the Iraq War began last month, on the 24th November. Whilst many British citizens will be hoping to discover the true motivations behind the decision of Tony Blair’s administration to invade Iraq, the inquiry will most likely constitute another ‘cover-up’ designed to protect those who made the fateful decision back in 2003. The fact that Gordon Brown initially announced his intention to hold the inquiry in public shows the extent to which the government is aware of the lack of justification for the war, and the potential backlash if compromising information were leaked into the public domain. First of all I feel it’s essential to give some background on the invasion, the way in which it was justified to the British public and the international community and why I believe Iraq was the target. In the aftermath of September 11th, in which 2,976 people were killed, the United States launched an invasion of Afghanistan, enacted the USA PATRIOT act, and inaugurated its ‘War on Terror’ which was spearheaded by the invasion of Iraq. In 2003 Iraq was an undemocratic nation ruled by Saddam Hussein, a de-facto dictator ruling in the name of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party. Following his seizure of power in 1979 Hussein created a cult of personality around himself, erecting statues in major towns and cities, and tried to enable Iraq to play a major role in Middle Eastern affairs. Following the overthrow of the Shah of Iran by Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979 Hussein invaded the new Islamic Republic a year later, beginning the eight year long Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988). Chemical weapons were used by Iraqi forces throughout the war, most notably on the Kurdish town of Halabja on March 16th 1988, where 5,000 citizens were killed. The war left Iraq in desperate need of reconstruction and dependent on foreign loans to maintain its economy, yet following a number of disputes with neighbouring Kuwait, Iraq invaded and annexed the small, oil-rich Gulf State. These actions triggered huge international condemnation as well as a counter-invasion by the Coalition of the Gulf War, which included troops from the United States, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom and Egypt amongst others. The Iraqi invasion was halted and turned back by Coalition Forces, and the war itself ended by a cease-fire. Hussein continued to rule the now destitute Iraq, whose dire economic situation was exacerbated by a continuation of the economic sanctions placed upon the country by the United Nations at the outset of its invasion of Kuwait. During the late 1990s the United States continued to suspect Iraq of developing the now infamous 'weapons of mass destruction' which had allegedly begun in the early 1980s. Throughout the decade there was only limited and intermittent Iraqi co-operation with UN weapons inspection teams, at the same time as Saddam and his sons became increasingly powerful and carried out a private reign of terror and repression.

This was the background to George Bush's identification of Iraq as part of the 'Axis of Evil' following the September 11th attacks, the other two nations being Iran and North Korea. Bush claimed in his 2002 State of the Union Address that "the Iraqi regime has plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade", whilst suggesting that he may take action to topple Hussein's government because of the alleged threat of its 'weapons of mass destruction'. British Prime Minister Tony Blair closely followed, nay shadowed the United States policy towards Iraq, and was a willing accomplice in the 2003 invasion. Iraq's failure to comply fully with the United Nations Security Council's Resolution 1441, designed to prove whether or not it was in possession of 'weapons of mass destruction' fuelled suspicion amongst the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom. Although no evidence of 'WMD's' was ever found, indeed the United States-led Iraq Survey Group concluded that Iraq had ended its nuclear, chemical and biological programmes in 1991, Bush and Blair were so committed to punitive action that not even vehement French, German, Russian and Arab League opposition could prevent an invasion. Thus the so-called 'Coalition of the Willing' invaded Iraq on March 20th 2003, captured Saddam Hussein nine months later and established the 'democratic' government of Nouri-al-Maliki three years later.

The British government under Tony Blair took the decision to invade Iraq in March 2003 allegedly because of the threat posed to the United Kingdom by Saddam Hussein's regime because of its possession of 'weapons of mass destruction'. The invasion was 'illegal' in the sense that it wasn't backed by a United Nations Resolution, unlike the First Gulf War, but also in the eyes of many British citizens. This is because even before the war began there was no firm evidence of the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the main justification for the war. Had the British and American governments chosen a different justification the war would have been even less credible amongst the international community. The deposition of Saddam Hussein was almost certainly morally right and correct, and I'm sure many within the United Nations wouldn't have thought twice to remove him from power by legitimate and legal means. However, George Bush and Tony Blair arguing that the invasion was justified on the grounds that it 'liberated' the Iraqi people is completely incorrect and morally repugnant, for why is an Iraq suffering from sectarian violence and political instability any more 'appropriate' than the regime of Saddam Hussein?

There are many answers to this question, the foremost being that courtesy of the invasion Iraq is now a ‘democratic’ nation. Obviously we all define ‘democracy’ differently, but the crucial fact for the United States is that Iraq is led by a ‘democratically-elected’ government friendly to US interests and receptive to its demands. For the United States a government representative of the views of a majority of the population hasn’t, since the warm, fuzzy rhetoric and foreign policy of Franklin D. Roosevelt disappeared, been a necessity. Indeed the United States spent an astronomical amount to prevent the emergence of a democratic and representative government led by Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam by supporting the hugely unpopular administration of Ngo Dinh Diem. The fact is that for the most part of a century America has seen itself as a bastion of ‘democracy’, ‘freedom’ and ‘liberty’, and since the end of the Second World War has supported corrupt, inefficient, undemocratic, unrepresentative regimes mostly in order to prevent the spread of Communism but also ensure ‘stability’. For the most part the latter has been valued far higher than any of the aforementioned values the United States has supposedly been so committed to upholding. The Bush administration would never have been willing to see anyone but Nouri al-Maliki, a Shia dissident during Saddam Hussein's period of rule, elected to lead Iraq. The United States’ commitment to democracy extends solely to democracy on its terms, meaning that only governments in favour of capitalism, free markets, US bases on their territory, exploitation of indigenous natural resources, and opposed to Communism, Socialism, Terrorism, Al Qaeda (what the United States sees as a monolithic terrorist organisation encompassing all those throughout the world opposed to the West), and nuclear proliferation. For only the United States and nations such as Russia, France and Great Britain it was unable to prevent developing nuclear weapons ought to have them, as other countries cannot be trusted to. Not only is this an immensely patronising and hypocritical view, it is also hugely ironic, as the only country since the completion of the Manhattan Project to use nuclear weapons against another sovereign state is America, on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. When one takes this fact into account it becomes very different for any American to accuse North Korea and Iran of being ‘dangerous’ and a ‘liability’ if they were to develop nuclear weapons, but I’m sure many will manage to.

Tony Blair’s claim that he “would still have led the country to war in Iraq even if he had known that it had no weapons of mass destruction”, which has been so shocking for some and yet so surprising for many, reveals a number of things. Firstly it shows the extent of his arrogance, as he clearly believed he had the right to depose Saddam Hussein as part of the American ‘crusade’, if you’ll pardon the expression, to enforce democracy upon the Middle East. The resoluteness of the above statement also illustrates his sheer disregard for public opinion; Blair is not alone in this, as the governments of Italy and Spain, the latter until the election of PSOE in 2004, supported the invasion politically and militarily despite nearly 90% of citizens in each country being opposed to it. For those who always believed Blair to have been innocent, and merely a pawn in George Bush’s evil master-plan to gain control of Iraq’s oil, his assertion will prove a huge revelation. The now-infamous ‘weapons of mass destruction’ file on which the Blair administration based its justification for Iraq has been shown for what it was; a bright shining lie, and the perfect cover-up. By playing on the issue of national security Blair was able to give the war a legitimacy it would never have otherwise had, and he was well aware of this.

As for the Inquiry it will reveal little more of interest, be a painfully long and drawn-out process and come to the already-obvious conclusion that Britain and America had no right to invade Iraq, conveniently after the forthcoming General Election so as not to harm the Labour Party’s chances. I very much doubt that any charges will be brought against the high-profile figures involved in the war, least of all Tony Blair. Whilst some continue to call for Mr. Blair to be tried as a War Criminal, an accusation I find slightly exaggerated, he must forever be known as a Prime Minister who fundamentally disregarded popular opinion, acted unilaterally without the backing of the other main political parties and deliberately misled the British public in order to institute a policy change in a foreign nation which he had no right to do. The disgraceful attempts by his successor Gordon Brown to hold the Inquiry into the Iraq War in private illustrate the lengths to which politicians in this country will go in order to protect themselves and deflect the blame onto others. Will we ever know the truth about the Iraq War? I’d have to say no, but for me, Tony Blair’s revelation is all we need to know that our views will forever be fundamentally unimportant to and disregarded by those who represent us in Parliament.

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