After the dust from the US invasion of Iraq has settled, questions mount over having to raise it in the first place. As the US and British governments fail to provide the answers, public confidence in both governments has sunk to the lowest in years.
QUESTIONS continue to dog US and British leaders on their rush to war in Iraq, after they had sidelined the UN arms inspection team and the UN Security Council in doing so. One of the results is that people on all sides continue to be killed and injured, with no end in sight.
Much of the controversy over the war decision comes from the war’s chief pretext: that Iraq possessed banned weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and, further, that these weapons constituted an imminent danger. The British version even claimed Iraq’s WMDs were deployable “within 45 minutes.”
Now months after UN arms inspectors under Hans Blix had been accused of unproductive work, US and UK forces in their thousands – assisted by specialists, one or two freelancing UN inspectors and several “turned” Iraqi scientists – have found nothing either. There is nothing compelling by way of the alleged WMDs or even WMD plants and installations, with the only firm “evidence” being forgeries and lies.
Against this background of disappointment, US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz argued that Iraqi WMDs are now irrelevant because Washington no longer needs them to justify the war.
As previously argued in these pages, finding any WMDs now is irrelevant – but only because they are now incidental since their discovery would be accidental, as nobody had any grounds to believe they existed when the war started.
The problem with Wolfowitz’s cynical attitude is that it corrupts democratic governance, public accountability, obligations under international law and responsible action by a hyper-armed superpower – all in an act supposed to serve Iraq’s democracy.
This is why George W. Bush’s Republican government is under attack by Democrats and democrats, which goes beyond party interests in next year’s presidential election.
There is similar pressure in Britain on Tony Blair’s gung-ho war-mongering, which continues to insist – if less confidently now – that the war was justified. In also losing something of the democratic plot in this “mother of democracies,” Blair continues to reject calls for a parliamentary inquiry into the government’s shaky case for war.
Questions abound, despite frequent official promises of WMD evidence that produce only more questions than answers.
Vice-Chairman of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen Jay Rockefeller, warned Bush officials on Thursday that evidence of Iraq’s “WMD programme” is not the same as supposedly lethal WMDs as an imminent threat and justification for war.
In May, a US House Select Committee on Intelligence sent a letter to CIA Director George Tenet questioning the basis for alleging Iraq’s WMDs and al-Qaeda link. As no satisfactory answers were forthcoming, the questions multiplied.
In June, British commentator Richard Norton-Taylor posed 10 questions to Tony Blair. These covered the alarmist wording the British government exploited to justify war, the outdated and plagiarised student work it used, the failure to protect Iraqi civilians and the apparent ill will between the British and US governments.
Days later, a British Parliamentary Select Committee on foreign affairs completed investigating the issues and had more questions for Blair.
These spanned the veracity of London’s assessment of Iraqi WMDs and “unaccounted for” missiles, forged documents against Iraq, and the dubious claim that Iraq could launch its WMDs within 45 minutes.
Then two weeks ago, three US Congressional leaders posed another 10 questions for Vice-President Dick Cheney. These again concerned questionable conduct by Bush officials, including undue White House pressure on the CIA to compromise its professionalism and misleading public statements on Iraq.
There are many more questions that deserve proper answers, answers which would be available freely without compromising intelligence operations – if the US and British governments were honest rather than deceitful.
A random selection of a dozen of these questions are as follows:
If Blair thinks that citing exclusive intelligence not made available to the US is a solution to his present problems, it might yet become a further problem.
It would question the strength of the “special relationship” between both governments, especially after US officials have made callous statements making Blair’s position even more precarious.
The longer Blair keeps the claimed intelligence information to himself, the more his own credibility suffers. An increasing number of British government officials themselves no longer believe Blair’s story.
In May, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld admitted that Iraq might have destroyed its WMDs before the war began. In the same month, but in comments published later, Wolfowitz went further to admit that WMDs were just an excuse to attack Iraq.
This eliminated any justification for the war, as more US officials in the CIA, DIA, Marine Corps and elsewhere in government rejected the official view. It plunged Bush’s popularity to its lowest level since Sept 11, 2001, and made Blair the least popular British public figure of the day.