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John Rentoul: Anti-war bias exposed by anti-war campaigner

Posted by Eagle Eye
  • Thursday, 26 November 2009 at 02:22 pm
One advantage of being a true hardcore anti-war obsessive - I mean "doughty and dogged" - is that you do know a lot. Chris Ames realises that the reporting of the Iraq Inquiry is, as I suggested here, here and here, highly selective and biased:

I’m not sure I agree that the “revelation” that Britain received intelligence that Iraq may have disassembled its chemical/biological weapons and have no means of delivering them is as significant or new as is being made out.

But then I should acknowledge that Ames's Iraq Inquiry Digest, which I called a conspiracist website, is open-minded enough to carry a range of contributions, including one headed "Don't call Blair a liar", one that defended Blair and one that was originally headed "22 reasons why it was right to invade Iraq", although the Digest did change it to "22 things for the Inquiry to consider".

In the small hope that they might lean against the vast weight of biased reporting of the Chilcot inquiry, here are Stan Rosenthal's 22 reasons:

1. The second Gulf war of 2003 followed the first Gulf war of 1991 which resulted directly from Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. It was a direct result of a breach of the cease-fire conditions relating to that invasion.

2. Instead of over-throwing Saddam at that time, the allies gave way to the prevailing liberal sentiment and left him in power on the basis that he would never be in a position to threaten neighbouring countries again.

3. The terms of the 1991 cease-fire (not a peace settlement, by the way) expressly forbade Iraq from developing WMD.

4. To that end a UN inspection regime was imposed by resolution 687 and several related resolutions, non-compliance with which would represent a breach of the cease-fire.

5. Several years passed during which UN inspections were continually being thwarted.

6. In 1998 Iraq ceased all cooperation with the United Nations and economic sanctions and no-fly zones were imposed.

7. Then came 9/11 which underlined the world-wide terrorist threat and highlighted how failing anti-West states could be used as sanctuaries and attack bases for jihadists.

8. 9/11 also pointed up the dangers of UNDER-reacting to intelligence information.

9. The intelligence was showing that Saddam still possessed WMD and was continuing with his WMD programme, despite the terms of the cease-fire and related UN resolutions.

10. The UN inspectors, most governments, every intelligence agency in the world, and even Saddam’s own generals were convinced that these weapons still existed and represented a threat, either directly through Saddam or indirectly if they were to fall into the hands of Al-qaeda. In a post-war interview with the Iraq Survey Group Saddam himself admitted that he was trying to give the impression that he had WMD for deterrent purposes.

11. If there were any doubts about the intelligence the feeling after 9/11 was probably that it was safer not to take any chances and that anyway why should a tyrant like Saddam be given the benefit of that doubt, particularly if it provided a legitimate reason for removing him from power?

12. After being given every opportunity to comply with the UN resolutions (over a considerable period) Saddam rejected the final demand under resolution 1441 (passed unanimously in November 2002) which called for “an accurate, full and final disclosure of Iraq’s WMD’s and of all aspects of its WMD programme”, and which encompassed presenting evidence that WMD stocks had been destroyed. Hans Blix the UN’s Chief weapons inspector confirmed that Iraq had not fully accepted its obligation to disarm. At this point whether WMD existed or not was immaterial since this could only be determined by proper inspection and disclosure which Saddam had set his face against.

13. Opinions differed on whether a second resolution was needed for military action. Such differences are quite common in international law since very little is clear-cut in this fairly new and arcane area of the law (which has been described as little more than a rag-bag of theories based on the writings of saints, 17th Century treaties and dysfunctional academic lawyers) .

14. To argue that the war was DEFINITELY illegal is not therefore defensible, whereas the Prime Minister’s [the attorney general's] parliamentary answer (March 17, 2003) putting the legal case for the war IS legally defensible (whatever academic reservations there might be about it).

15. The ensuing invasion presented an opportunity for (a) finally dealing with the WMD threat perceived at that time (toppling Saddam was now the only way of making sure that he did not have these weapons) (b) removing a tyrannical dictator (c) neutralising Iraq as a potential base for world-wide terrorism (d) demonstrating that the international community could not be defied on such vital issues (e) allowing US troops to be withdrawn from Saudi Arabia and its holy places (which up to that point was one of AL-qaeda’s main recruiting causes) and (f) facilitating progress to be made towards a Middle East settlement (Saddam at the very least was offering 50,000 dollars for the families of Palestinian suicide bombers!).

16. Tony Blair’s dilemma was, therefore, this. To go into Iraq meant war with all its terrible consequences. But not going into Iraq meant Saddam defying the international community and literally getting away with murder thus setting an example to other dictators and enemies of democracy. It also meant Saddam proceeding with his WMD programme to a point where he might become invulnerable, possibly passing WMD on to the jihadists, continuing his repression of his (Muslim) population, and continuing to undermine a Middle East peace settlement. Finally the need to keep US troops in Saudi Arabia would continue to give AL-qaeda a cause-celebre regarding the holy places. In other words Tony Blair was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t.

17. In coming down in favour of the war Blair no doubt saw this as the lesser of the evils and as the chance to act as a restraining influence on Bush in a way that those opposing the war were not able to do..

18. Far from the invasion being anti-Islamic, the (Islamic) Kurds, anti-Saddam Sunnis and the Shias rejoiced at being liberated from Saddam’s tyranny (even now despite the post-war mayhem a recent polls have shown that over 60% of the population believe that overthrowing Saddam was worth the hardship entailed, 75% of the Shias and 81% of the Kurds).

19. Yes, terrible mistakes were made in the post-war period (as in any war). Amongst these was underestimating the sheer depravity of an enemy which seems to be prepared to destroy the country and slaughter its people rather than to see it progress under a democratically elected government.

20. Iraq is NOT under occupation. The occupation was ended in 2004 under UN Security Council Resolution 1546 when the interim Iraqi government took power. Coalition troops have been mandated by the UN to keep the peace. The US government is pledged to comply with a UN resolution requiring them to leave if requested by the Iraqi government. Of course the presence of coalition troops will attract fire in certain areas in the way that any peace-keeping force will be resisted by those who oppose peace but such actions are very much in the minority at the present time (the insurgents preferring to direct their murderous activities at much softer targets).

21. Millions of Iraqis risked death to elect their government. Their government therefore has a greater legitimacy than almost any other government in the world. That government wants coalition troops to stay as long as it takes to do the job.

22. In the final analysis the coalition can argue that they gave the Iraqis the chance to govern themselves in a free and democratic manner. If they do not or cannot take that chance the responsibility lies primarily with those who seek to destroy that chance, not with those who gave them the chance in the first place

The over-all case emerging from this analysis is that a legally defensible war was fought to uphold UN resolutions designed to rein in an evil dictator. The resulting post-war mayhem is largely due to the determination of Iraq’s insurgents (both from within and without) to thwart the efforts of the democratically elected government of Iraq (supported by UN -mandated peace- keeping forces) to rebuild the country.
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