Iraq Again Or
By now, I don’t think anyone is surpised that the Iraq Survey Group has announced there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. Infact the worst they can say is that there is “framentary” and “circumstantial” evidence that Saddam wanted to restart a programme once the UN sanctions were removed. Was this really a good enough reason to go to war in the name of WMD.
I don’t think so. The reaction from our politicians has been risible. George Bush says Iraqi scientists still had the knowledge under Saddam to create CBRN weapons which could be passed onto terrorists; but presumably scientists with such knowledge, in Iraq or elsewhere, are able to do so if they want to, whoever is in charge of Iraq. Jack Straw says we now know the threat “in terms of intentions” was “even starker than we have seen before”; but surely not as stark as having WMD ready to fire in 45 minutes. Tony Blair has started talking about Saddam doing his best to subvert UN Sanctions, as if we went to war 18 months ago because of something the ISG has only just announced. It all seems a long way from a clear and present danger, a war we had to wage there and then as a last resort. But by now we are used to the justifications for war having changed. Jack Straw always talks of Iraq’s broken UN resolutions as if that is why we went to war, despite the fact there was no UN resolution authorising force; and anyway, surely the resolutions were about WMD, they were the mechanism and WMD still the stated reason we went to war. Tony Blair talks of not apologising for removing Saddam, and that history will forgive him, but do you remember anyone asking him to apologise for toppling the Baath party? And anyway, he specifically ruled out regime change in the run up to war.
So if the politicians think they have done nothing wrong, what about the intelligence services? According to David Kay, the former leader of the Iraq Survey Group, speaking on Channel Four News, this is the real issue, and this is where the blame ought to lie. But hold on. I remember reading plenty of newspaper articles prior to the war casting doubt on the claims of WMD in Iraq, from the likes of former UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter. Did the Prime Minister not read them? Did he not listen to Robin Cook’s resignation speech in the Commons, when he stated Iraq probably didn’t have WMD? Or did he just not want to believe.
Before the war, I didn’t know if there were WMD in Iraq or not. I thought that Hans Blix was in a better position than me to tell, and should have been given the time he felt he needed to find out. But I also felt that George Bush was bent on regime change, whatever the cost, for whatever reason, be it oil, unfinished business, strategic interests, or all three, and that Tony Blair had already decided to support him, come what may. Nothing I have heard since has changed my mind. I think Blair probably thought there were WMD in Iraq, but in the end it didn’t really matter what the intelligence said. When your mind is made up, you will believe what you want to believe. I don’t buy the idea that Blair decided on war on a cold examination of the intelligence. That looks to me like putting the cart before the horse.
In the end Hans Blix couldn’t have put it better in one of his last speeches to the UN Security Council before the war. He said if you asked him if whether Iraq was in breach of UN resolutions then it was, but if you asked him if UNMOVIC could conclude its inspections within months then it could. Put another way, if you want an excuse for war, then you have it, but if you wanted the WMD issue settled peacefully, that could be done. We had the excuse for war, and so we went to war. That is the politicians responsibility, not the intelligence services, as Blair more or less stated, inadvertently, when he rejected a request for the Butler Enquiry to look into the use of intelligence material, on the grounds that it is up to Government to decide on the basis of information.
I don’t want Blair to apologise for the war; that is expecting too much, and anyway, I wouldn’t believe him. But surely the time has come when he should stop grasping onto any new nugget of information about how Saddam may have, if he could, once every Preston Guild, have quite liked to get some WMD, and that this vindicates a war based in an immediate threat from unconventional weapons. Surely the time is long overdue when he tells us how he can justify the war because it removed Saddam, yet still not talk of regime change. In fact the time is long overdue when someone directly asks him explain that contradiction; does he now believes in regime change, and if not, then how can he rely on it to justify the invasion. You never know, he may come clean, and explain why regime change was justified, and where and when it should be permitted in the future. I would have more respect for him if he did, and you never know; he might just convince me.
PostScript: I am sick of writing and thinking about the Iraq War now, and so hopefully this will be my last post on the subject. But I wouldn’t bet on it!