The British Labour party voted down a motion seeking to hold former UK prime minister Tony Blair accountable for misleading parliament during the run up to the 2003 Iraq War by 439 votes to 70 earlier this week. Many would have shared the disappointment expressed by Alex Salmond, former leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), who put the motion forward.
Commenting on the overwhelming defeat, he said: “This vote demonstrates that those who voted against this cross-party motion have failed to learn any lessons from history and from the Chilcot report. It is like deja vu, it was the Tory and Labour front-benches that took us into the illegal war and it is the Tory and Labour front-benches again who have failed to hold the former prime minister to account.”
It has become clear, if it wasn’t already, that parliament is very unlikely to vote for any measure that would hold Blair and the British government to account for the Iraq invasion. Newly released documents revealing that the Chilcot inquiry itself was designed to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk to individuals and the government facing legal proceedings, is further proof that the British state is more interested in burying mistakes in layers of bureaucracy, and is not very troubled by accusations of war crimes.
The fact that the campaign to hold Blair to account has been fruitless, thus far, should not surprise anyone. It’s simply another reflection of powerful institutions, including nation states, avoiding scrutiny. Institutions and individuals of great power, despite commonly held notions of rule of law and transparency, operate in spaces that are beyond the rule of law. Though there is much to be said about the impunity gap that exists in the way powerful states operate, this is yet another example of a colonial hangover.
At play also is the misplaced belief that the office of the British prime minister, a standard bearer of democracy, freedom and human rights, is incorruptible. Blair may have been economical with the truth – he may have even misled parliament – but there is no way the former prime minister behaved in a manner warranting impeachment, or so the logic of the powerful goes.
Tyrants behave this way – it is a characteristic of third world countries and illiberal democracies. However, be that as it may, the Prime Minster of Great Britain has to be safeguarded from such opprobrium. Few would have failed to recognise the Orientalist undertone, whereby third world and developing economies are lectured on principles that are not applied in the liberal, democratic West.
The reality of course is that the case against Tony Blair is far more compelling than Mr Blair’s case was for bombing Iraq. Going to war, we are told, is the toughest decision an MP makes. Their decision is made on conviction not doubt, and least of all lies and plagiarised reports presented as facts. Or so we are led to believe.
And yet, when presented with facts that leave no doubt and no ambiguity that Mr Blair had indeed misled government in making his case for war, the same MPs are unmoved. One has to say they are unconcerned about righting the grave mistake which they helped bring about and the British parliament has learnt little if anything from Iraq.
MPs that voted down this motion were likely of the opinion, mentioned repeatedly during the parliamentary debate, that the Chilcot report is sufficient as an exercise in government accountability. They believe that setting new processes and tweaking institutions of government and setting up new checks and balances through the creation of a national security council will add a layer of protection and steer parliament’s decision-making to better effect.
These steps, however, will not ensure that Iraq does not happen again. Putting aside the fact that Britain also foolishly bombed Libya and ousted Colonel Gaddafi, there is a lot that could be said about this false hope, not least that it does not address the fact that another charismatic and ambitious prime minister who is hell-bent on going to war will still be able to create the conditions that could persuade MPs to vote for an illegal war. During the debate, Salmond challenged the Cabinet Secretary as to whether any of the changes that were implemented to protect against another Iraq scenario would have made a difference had they existed in the build-up to the Iraq War, his response was an emphatic “no”.
To the millions that have died as a direct result of the decision to go to war and the millions more that continue to be gravely impacted, tweaking decision-making process to avoid future injustice is less of a concern than seeking justice. They would not have failed to notice that a parliament that was so easily convinced over the most serious of all decisions – to wage war – was so readily willing to close the door to accountability. I suspect that unlike most of the MPs who voted in line with their party, they read the report by the Cambridge academic Dr Glen Rangwala.
Titled fittingly “The deliberate deception of parliament”, the report was the basis of many of the charges levelled at Mr Blair. In it, Dr Rangwala unequivocally shows that the former prime minster made statements that were untrue and deliberately misled parliament.
The academic contrasted Blair’s parliamentary statements with promises and statements he made to former US president George Bush and senior members of his cabinet. Citing numerous email exchanges between Blair and neoconservative figures in Washington, Dr Rangwala makes a robust case against Mr Blair, which one assumes even the late Robin Cook would have found more convincing than Blair’s case for war. MPs that obligingly voted for the war have a moral duty, surely, to ask what Mr Cook knew at the time to cause him to vote against the war; were they just gullible and naïve, or did Mr Cook just possess more humanity?
In any case, the evidence cited by Dr Rangwala is, to say the least, incriminating. He writes that, from late 2001 to March 2003, Mr Blair made three interrelated statements repeatedly to the House of Commons: Firstly, that no decision had been taken to use military force against Iraq; secondly, that military action could be avoided by Iraq’s disarmament of its nuclear, chemical and biological weapons (that did not exist in the first place for it to be disarmed) and; thirdly, that regime change was not the goal of UK government policy.
Citing evidence presented in the Chilcot report, he goes on to add that Mr Blair was deliberately misleading the House of Commons. Mr Blair backed up his claims about the need for Iraq’s disarmament by asserting that there was conclusive evidence of Iraq’s possession of “weapons of mass destruction,” and that these weapons were a threat to the UK’s national security. All these crucial points, the Cambridge lecturer states, contradicted the intelligence assessments that had been put to Mr Blair.
The report then goes on to debunk Mr Blair’s infamous line that “no decision has been taken” about action against Iraq when, in fact, the Chilcot report reveals that from December 2001, Mr Blair had been proposing an invasion of Iraq to the US administration and had been offering UK military support for that invasion.
The most incriminating of all the revelations is that there was a clear contradiction between what Mr Blair told parliament and what his real intentions were. Having already decided to support the neoconservative agenda for the Middle East and go to war with Iraq in order to change the regime, Mr Blair spent nearly two years manufacturing the case for war; massaging intelligence data, developing the “evidence” and argument to win over the UN, major allies and to bring the British parliament on board.
A year before the war, Mr Blair emphasised to then-President Bush and senior members in his office that “we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time… I think we need a roadmap to getting rid of Saddam… Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do.”
He said this while being conscious of the fact that regime change was illegal and could not be sold to the public, and so the former prime minister devised tactics of propaganda, commenting: “We must look reluctant to use force… show that we have made every effort to avoid war,” all while he fixed the evidence in pursuit of a policy that was agreed on years before the invasion in March 2003.
The fact that Mr Blair has been allowed to get away with causing mayhem and destruction on a genocidal scale should not surprise anyone. Gaps of impunity are carefully created and managed in the international system for the likes of Mr Blair to pursue agendas that would normally be blocked by a properly functioning democratic system.
What in another context is morally corrupt and criminal behaviour deserving of the highest reprimand is reduced to nothing more than a technical problem that requires fixing. For Mr Blair to truly face justice in this world, it was always going to require more than a token parliamentary vote in the UK. The evidence against Blair is marked in history, and now it is only a matter of time to see whether he will ever be held to account in his lifetime.
The injury into UK’s involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq was designed by the government to avoid allocating blame to individuals and departments, memos obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have reportedly revealed.
The papers were made public thanks to Chris Lamb, an FOI campaigner from Bristol, who had won a two-year court battle for the right to access classified memos by government officials relating to the creation of the Chilcot Inquiry. The memos were penned in the four-week period in May and June 2009, the Observer reported.
The documents revealed that high-level politicians in Britain sought to ensure that the probe would not result in branches of the government or individuals being held legally liable for the Iraq war. Some officials opposed a public inquiry due to the amount of daily publicity, cost and, ironically, long time such a procedure would take.
The Chilcot Report, released in July, was the culmination of seven years of investigation, started by Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009, and chaired by Sir John Chilcot. Although the investigation had found that Saddam Hussein had not posed any credible threat to the West – nor were there any WMD in his possession – it stopped short of assigning any blame to Tony Blair, who was UK prime minister at the time of the invasion, or any officials in his government.
Now it has been reportedly revealed that officials at the highest levels were involved in driving the inquiry to that outcome.
“The inquiry was hobbled before it even started, with tight restrictions on what it could do that were not fully made public,” Lamb told the newspaper.
The Observer reports that according to the memos, former cabinet secretary under Brown, Sir (now Lord) Gus O’Donnell ignored Whitehall protocol when he made Margaret Aldred the secretary on the inquiry – one of the most senior roles with the investigation.
Aldred had chaired the Iraq senior officials group during the period Chilcot was investigating and her appointment ran against the advice by Cabinet Office official Ben Lyon, who said in one memo that the secretariat should not draw from civil servants, and specifically that they “should not have been involved in Iraq policy since 2002.”
Other people involved in the 2003 war helped set up the inquiry, including Sir Jeremy Heywood, who served as Blair’s parliamentary private secretary until 2003, and former spy chief Sir John Scarlett, who was the central figure in trumpeting up the so-called Iraq dossier on Saddam Hussein’s non-existant arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.
In another memo, O’Donnell advised to avoid a legal focus, and recommended that the investigation be structured so as to prevent “any conclusion on questions of law or fact, which create circumstances which expose organizations, departments and/or individuals to criminal or civil proceedings or judicial review.” Part of this approach was not to have any judges or lawyers among the inquiry appointees.
Another big point for the investigation was to keep it secret rather than public. Lyon warned that a public inquiry would “attract a daily running commentary,” like the 2003 Hutton inquiry into the death of Iraq weapons inspector David Kelly. O’Donnell used the same reasoning and warned that a public inquiry would “threaten legal liability for individuals” and “take a long time.”
Brown initially wanted the injury to be carried by the Privy Council and announced this procedure in June 2009. But after a public outcry he agreed to make some of the hearing public.
Robbie Martin of AVeryHeavyAgenda.com joins us to talk about his research into the anthrax attacks of 2001. We discuss how false information claiming an Iraqi link to the attacks was sowed via the mainstream media and how the story largely disappeared when the anthrax traced back to the US government’s own bioweapons labs. We also update the case and talk about some of the legitimate suspects in the attacks.
“What did he say?” not merely “When did he say it?”
What was the purpose of this whole thing (the war on Iraq)? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing. (Emphasis, JW)
Obviously I have thought about that a lot in the months since (her October 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution). No, I don’t regret giving the President authority.
— Hillary Clinton on Iraq War, April, 2004.
As election day approaches, it is time to ignore the noise of the moment and think clearly about the crucial issues facing us, none of which is more important than war or peace. The War on Iraq has been a touchstone for these issues over the last 14 years.
On Iraq, Clinton and her operatives have sought to avoid at all costs an accurate comparison of her position over the last 14 years to Trump’s. “What did Trump say?” has been buried by the Clintonites and company. “When did he say it?” has been slyly substituted for it. The time line has been used to equate the positions of Hillary the most notorious of hawks with that of Trump.1
Let us have a look at Trump’s words as well as the dates they were uttered. And compare them to Hillary’s:
Trump utters four words of wavering assent in September but no animated support.
Hillary votes for war “with conviction” in long speech in October.
First come Trump’s famous four words “Yeah, I guess so.” These are the four words that Trump uttered on September 11, 2002, a month before the Senate vote on the War, when Howard Stern asked out of the blue whether Trump favored invading Iraq2 These four words can be regarded as a half-hearted, off the cuff assent to the war, but they hardly amount to a well-considered position let alone a policy statement.3
The next month in October, 2002, then Senator Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the War on Iraq “with conviction” and emerged as an enthusiastic proponent of the war. She retained that “conviction” without wavering until January, 2008, at least, when Obama threatened her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination by presenting himself, falsely, as a peace candidate.4
Trump makes a passionate, humane denunciation of the war, now unchanged for 12 years.
Clinton sticks to her vote for war.
Now we come to 2004 and Trump’s first clearly articulated position on the war to appear in print. This was the inspiring statement and it has been buried in the timeline. It was published in Esquire in August of 2004, and, though not long, it is rarely quoted in full. Here it is:
Look at the war in Iraq and the mess that we’re in. I would never have handled it that way. Does anybody really believe that Iraq is going to be a wonderful democracy where people are going to run down to the voting box and gently put in their ballot and the winner is happily going to step up to lead the country? C’mon. Two minutes after we leave, there’s going to be a revolution, and the meanest, toughest, smartest, most vicious guy will take over. And he’ll have weapons of mass destruction, which Saddam didn’t have.
What was the purpose of this whole thing? Hundreds and hundreds of young people killed. And what about the people coming back with no arms and legs? Not to mention the other side. All those Iraqi kids who’ve been blown to pieces. And it turns out that all of the reasons for the war were blatantly wrong. All this for nothing.(Emphasis, JW)
Trump calls attention to the death and injuries inflicted on Americans, as have other politicians who have criticized the war. But then he goes on to lament the deaths of innocent Iraqis as well. No other major political figure, so far as this writer knows, has expressed such sentiments. They stand in stark contrast, for example, to those of Madeleine Albright, who famously declared that the deaths of 500,000 children, due to Clinton era sanctions of the 1990s, were “worth it.”
Thus, from a humanitarian standpoint, the content of Trump’s condemnation of the war is outstanding. In fact, to grieve over the lives of Americans but not the people of Iraq is a form of racism. Trump is virtually unique among major politicians in taking this stand on the lives of innocents the US has attacked. He should be praised for it.
Let us now look at one example of how this statement of Trump’s has been handled in the “progressive” media, in an article in Mother Jones by Tim Murphy entitled, “What did Donald Trump Say on the Iraq War and When Did He Say it,” by Tim Murphy. When Murphy gets to the Esquire article above, he quotes only the first of the two paragraphs and leaves out the second, which refers to the needless loss of life. And therefore it leaves out the impressive section, which I have italicized above, bemoaning the loss of Iraqi lives! Do you think that is honest, dear reader? Or would you call it a lie of omission?
What about Trump’s consistency? The statement above remains Trump’s position; he quoted every word of it, word for word, in his foreign policy address of August, 2016. Thus he has stood by his position for 12 years.5
In 2004, Clinton stuck to her vote on the Iraq war. She said to Larry King on April 20: “Obviously I have thought about that a lot in the months since (her October 2002 vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution). No, I don’t regret giving the President authority.”
Trump adds one new feature to his critique: The war was not a mistake but based on lies by Bush.
Clinton remains solidly committed to her Iraq War vote.
In 2007 Trump added one more component in an interview with Wolf Blitzer. The added component is that the war was based on lies – not mistakes, not faulty intelligence but lies. Again no major political figure has said this, certainly not Hillary Clinton.
In the interview Trump says: “Look, everything in Washington has been a lie. Weapons of mass destruction was a total lie. It was a way of attacking Iraq, which he (George W. Bush) thought was going to be easy and it turned out to be the exact opposite of easy. … Everything is a lie. It’s all a big lie.” Here again Trump has remained consistent. In one primary debate he confronted Jeb Bush with the fact that his brother lied us into Iraq.
What was Hillary’s position in 2007? She remained committed to her 2002 vote, despite the call of many antiwar Democrats to apologize and admit it was a mistake. To an audience in Dover, New Hampshire, in February, she said defiantly: “If the most important thing to any of you is choosing someone who did not cast that vote or has said his vote was a mistake, then there are others to choose from.” She could afford to be defiant. She was the front runner for the Democratic nomination at that point. Little did she know that Obama would be a serious contender.
Trump’s position is unchanged.
Hillary lies about the reason for her Iraq War vote.
By 2008 Obama was endangering Hillary’s bid for the presidency by presenting himself in the Democratic primary as the antiwar candidate – falsely as we can now see. In the second Democratic presidential debate, Hillary claimed she voted for the war with the understanding that Bush would wait for UN inspectors to finish their job of searching for weapons of mass destruction. But as Carl Bernstein and others have pointed out, she voted against the Levin amendment, which would have imposed precisely that restriction on Bush. In other words, she lied.
We could go on and try to pierce the fog of words in the present election to wriggle out of her strong advocacy for the criminal adventure in Iraq. But her deeds as Secretary of State speak much louder than any words she and her advisors might engineer.
More than anyone else she was responsible for the illegal bombing and regime change operation that overthrew Gaddafi and plunged Libya into a failed state riddled with Islamic extremists. She is still pursuing the same policy of regime change or destruction in countries of the Middle East and North Africa that have defied the US. Her advocacy of a no-fly zone in Syria right now is more of the same – and it assures war with Russia according to General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and possibly nuclear war. She remains virulently hawkish – irredeemably so one might say.
Is the impression conveyed by Clinton and her apologists that there is no difference between Trump and Clinton on the Iraq War correct? It is not. And it tells us that there will be an enormous difference between a Trump and a Clinton presidency. Since that difference involves the very question of human survival, what does that say about our responsibility come November 8?
- For example, a fund raising appeal from Code Pink recently popped into my inbox with this line: “Both candidates supported the Iraq War at its inception, though both have now walked back that support.” Clearly the implication is that the two candidates have the same stance on Iraq. A vague timeline is trotted out but not a word about the content of what the candidates said.
- To be complete there were actually thirteen words, “Yeah, I guess so. I wish the first time it was done correctly.”
- Trump also claims that he had frequent verbal fights with his friend Sean Hannity over the period leading up to the war with Hannity pro and Trump con. Hannity backs him up on that, but in fairness that is not evidence because it is not in the public domain. Memory can be tricky in these situations especially when a friend seeks support. So we simply cannot make a judgment about that.
- To be complete, there was another Trump statement in 2003, although it is quite ambiguous and directed more at tactics than policy. In January, 2003, Trump in an interview with Neil Cavuto, before the commencement of “Shock and Awe” in March, made some comments on the War. This time there was no endorsement of the War – not even an off the cuff endorsement. Instead there was confusion, and the discussion revolved around tactics of war. Trump said, “Well, he (Bush) has either got to do something or not do something, perhaps, because perhaps (he) shouldn’t be doing it yet and perhaps we should be waiting for the United Nations, you know.” No endorsement, no outspoken opposition. (The brief interview can be found here and Trump’s summary of it in his August, 2016, foreign policy address).
- Was Trump’s stand on Iraq opportunist? Trump took his position on Iraq long before he was in politics. He entered the presidential race as a candidate for the Republican nomination, not the Democratic one. At the time he entered the race, the GOP was the reliable party of war, dominated by the neocons. His position on Iraq could hardly have helped him with that crowd. So let us not call Trump’s position opportunist, designed to get votes. As he became a more serious contender, the neocons left the GOP to join the Democrats and support Hillary.
John V. Walsh can be reached at email@example.com.
“We can’t have it both ways. We can’t be both the world’s leading champion of peace and the world’s leading supplier of arms.” – Former US President Jimmy Carter, presidential campaign, 1976 [Source]
No clearer demonstration of the mass psychosis afflicting much of humanity can be seen than in the ongoing outrage and horror evoked by the photographs of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi’s body. While it goes without saying that any empathetic being would react with utter revulsion and helpless fury at the fate of this poor little boy, one cannot ignore the vast indifference evident toward the thousands of other needless child deaths that occur daily around the world. For this silent slaughter, we hear: ‘Shit happens’ or ‘What am I supposed to do about it?’
Aylan’s death even touched the stony hearts of corporate media editors:
From Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal :
His name was Aylan. He was 3 years old, from war-torn Syria.
His final journey was supposed to end in sanctuary in Europe; instead it claimed his life and highlighted the plight of desperate people caught in the gravest refugee crisis since World War II.
Readers can be forgiven for missing similarly recounted tragedies concerning other young children. From an earlier 99.99998271% article [Note: see original for sources]:
Ask yourself if you have heard the name of Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi, a 14-year-old Iraqi girl who was gang-raped and murdered by US marines after her family (34-year-old mother Fakhriyah Taha Muhsin, 45-year-old father Qasim Hamza Raheem, and six-year-old sister Hadeel Qasim Hamza) were killed.
How about Safa Younis Salim, a 13-year old girl who amazingly survived the Haditha Massacre, in which 24 unarmed Iraqi civilians were killed including seven children, a 1-year-old girl staying with the family and a 76-year-old man in a wheelchair?
How did she survive?
“I pretended that I was dead when my brother’s body fell on me and he was bleeding like a faucet.”
A six-year US military prosecution ended with none of the eight Marines sentenced to jail, despite one of the men – Sgt. Sanick De La Cruz – testifying (in return for immunity) that he had urinated on the skull of one of the dead Iraqis. This outcome outraged the Iraqi people (as the attack on Malala [Yousafzai] outraged the West) but the name of Safa Younis Salim remains practically unknown.
Informing the world about these children would run counter to the crucial narrative that the US and its NATO allies are an altruistic force for good in the world – bringers of peace, freedom and democracy. Aylan Kurdi, on the other hand, may prove very useful in furthering the true aims of the Western-aligned powers, and so – like Malala – he will be making the front pages for as long as is necessary.
Mainstream press outlets have overwhelmingly called for decisive action, with tabloids like The Sun and The Daily Mail plumbing new depths of hypocrisy. The UK’s ‘liberal-left’ Guardian newspaper joined the ‘humanitarian intervention’ ranks in a recent editorial:
To begin restoring that hope will inevitably mean international intervention of some kind. The establishment of credible safe havens and the implementation of a no-fly zone must be on the table for serious consideration.
Where were the editorials calling for the establishment of no-fly zones in order to overthrow the Israeli regime when last summer, in an orgy of indiscriminate slaughter and destruction, the inhabitants of Gaza (average age 17), described accurately by David Cameron as a prison camp, were subjected to a barrage of modern, US-supplied weaponry:
The United Nations Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza conflict has gathered substantial information pointing to the possible commission of war crimes by both Israel and Palestinian armed groups.
The 2014 hostilities saw a huge increase in firepower used in Gaza, with more than 6,000 airstrikes by Israel and approximately 50,000 tank and artillery shells fired. In the 51 day operation, 1,462 Palestinian civilians were killed, a third of them children. Palestinian armed groups fired 4,881 rockets and 1,753 mortars towards Israel in July and August 2014, killing 6 civilians and injuring at least 1,600.
Hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed in their own homes, especially women and children. Survivors gave graphic testimony describing air strikes that reduced buildings to piles of dust and rubble in seconds. “I woke up… in the hospital, and I later learned that my sister, mother and my children had all died,” said a member of the Al Najjar family after an attack in Khan Younis on 26 July that killed 19 of his relatives, “We all died that day even those who survived”.
The commission is concerned about Israel’s extensive use of weapons with a wide kill and injury radius; though not illegal, their use in densely populated areas is highly likely to kill combatants and civilians indiscriminately. There appears also to be a pattern whereby the IDF issued warnings to people to leave a neighbourhood and then automatically considered anyone remaining to be a fighter. This practice makes attacks on civilians highly likely. During the Israeli ground incursion into Gaza that began in mid-July 2014, hundreds of people were killed and thousands of homes destroyed or damaged.
Where is the global anguish and soul searching about the CIA drone campaign, which is now responsible, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, for the deaths of thousands of people, of whom many are civilians and hundreds children, including babies? Where is the mass public/media outrage against Obama’s strikes on weddings and funerals?
A population of billions that reacts so dramatically to one outrage yet indifference to another of equal horror can only be described as emotionally and empathically dysfunctional to a profound degree.
These oddities require no psychological explanation with regard to the media. Indeed, if there were any lingering doubts about the agenda of the corporate press, they can be safely dispensed with for all time. Despite this fact, confronting mainstream journalists about this agenda on social media invariably leads to ‘conspiracy’ smears, derision (often with peers piling into the fray), and sometimes blocking.
It is not even necessary (although it is highly recommended) to read Herman/Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent to see the systemic bias towards corporate/state-power-friendly narratives; common sense is adequate, and the current push to war on Syria is an apt example of the standard methods employed.
How do we know there is an agenda?
The Syria story is being universally framed as ‘We have to go in there and do something’ but a crucial element is missing, namely that US-aligned forces have long been covertly operating in Syria. An internal email dated 7th December 2011 of the Stratfor ‘global intelligence’ company published by WikiLeaks makes this very clear. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that – among many other things – agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.
While the content of the email is unambiguously damning – a clear smoking gun of a plan for regime change in Syria – equally striking is the casual tone of the writer. It is that of an employee who is extremely comfortable, not only in the knowledge that the US will eventually force regime change, but also that a way will be found to make it look good in the media, presumably understanding that another department in the Pentagon or the CIA will handle that side of things. The employee assumes the humdrum tone of a person simply doing what they are expected to do – passing on useful information to his superiors – without any consideration or fear that such actions may be illegal.
This casual approach speaks volumes about the attitude from the very top down of US officials and their employees in the public and private sectors toward the nation’s obligations to international law; namely that any ‘problems’ with such obligations can be worked around to everyone’s satisfaction (at least far enough to get the job done), as demonstrated with the invasion ten years ago of Iraq by the US and its ‘Coalition of the Willing’ without a UN resolution.
Some highlights from the email [Original typos uncorrected. Emphasis mine in bold]:
I kept pressing on the question of what these SOF teams would be working toward, and whether this would lead to an eventual air camapign to give a Syrian rebel group cover. They pretty quickly distanced themselves from that idea, saying that the idea ‘hypothetically’ is to commit guerrilla attacks, assassination campaigns, try to break the back of the Alawite forces, elicit collapse from within.
They emphasized how the air campaign in Syria makes Libya look like a piece of cake.
There still seems to be a lot of confusion over what a military intervention involving an air campaign would be designed to achieve. It isn’t clear cut for them geographically like in Libya, and you can’t just create an NFZ over Homs, Hama region. This would entail a countrywide SEAD campaign lasting the duration of the war. They dont believe air intervention would happen unless there was enough media attention on a massacre, like the Ghadafi move against Benghazi. They think the US would have a high tolerance for killings as long as it doesn’t reach that very public stage.
The French representative was of hte opinion that Syria won’t be a libya-type situation in that France would be gung-ho about going in. Not in an election year. The UK rep also emphasized UK reluctance but said that the renegotiation of the EU treaty undermines the UK role and that UK would be looking for ways to reassert itself on the continent ( i dont really think a syria campaign is the way to do that.) UK guy mentioned as an aside that the air force base commander at Cyprus got switched out from a maintenance guy to a guy that flew Raptors, ie someone that understands what it means to start dropping bombs. He joked that it was probably a coincidence.
Absent from corporate media reporting is the Pentagon report demonstrating ‘that the growth and expansion of ISIS was a direct result of arms being sent by the US to anti-Assad Islamists, with the strategic [US] intention of toppling the Assad regime in Syria’. [Note: original reporting by Nafeez Ahmed here]
3: Moral relativism
Media reporting on ‘murderous dictators’ and ‘strongmen’ is selective. By a staggering coincidence, dictators that accede to US/NATO strategic demands are spared condemnation while leaders (often democratically elected) who do not are vilified relentlessly, as noted by Glenn Greenwald when Hillary Clinton warned of the dangers of Iran’s ’emerging dictatorship’ in 2010:
“.. Half a century of American foreign policy flatly contradicts this sentiment (which is why Clinton heard soft chuckles and a few muffled guffaws as she spoke). The US has adored military dictatorships in the Arab world, and has long supported states dominated by the shadowy world of intelligence services. This became even more obvious after the attacks of September 11, 2001, when Washington intensified cooperation with Arab intelligence services in the fight against Al-Qaeda and other terror groups.
Washington’s closest allies in the Middle East are military and police states where men with guns rule, and where citizens are confined to shopping, buying cellular telephones, and watching soap operas on satellite television. Countries like Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Libya, as well as the entire Gulf region and other states are devoted first and foremost to maintaining domestic order and regime incumbency through efficient, multiple security agencies, for which they earn American friendship and cooperation. When citizens in these and other countries agitate for more democratic and human rights, the US is peculiarly inactive and quiet…”
Rule of thumb: if a head of state is subjected to a concerted smear campaign throughout the world’s media, that leader has either been targeted for removal, is proving stubborn in allowing the US and its allies to achieve their goals, or is generally aligned against Western interests.
4: Historical Precedent
The intervention rhetoric from public officials published uncritically by the media is nothing new:
Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. Dick Cheney,
August 26, 2002
Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons. George W. Bush, September 12, 2002
If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world. Ari Fleischer, December 2, 2002
The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it. Ari Fleischer, December 6, 2002
We know for a fact that there are weapons there. Ari Fleischer, January 9, 2003
Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. George W. Bush January 28, 2003
We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.Colin Powell, February 5, 2003
The Pulizer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found in a study that ‘following 9/11, President Bush and seven top officials of his administration waged a carefully orchestrated campaign of misinformation about Saddam Hussein’s Iraq’ with ‘at least 935 false statements [from top government officials] in the two years following September 11, 2001, about the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. Nearly five years after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, an exhaustive examination of the record shows that the statements were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses’.
There’s an old saying in Tennessee — I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says, fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.” George W Bush<
5: The source
Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers have been particularly vociferous in demanding bombs in Syria. For him at least, we have means, opportunity and motive. Murdoch’s ownership of a large chunk of mainstream outlets gives him enormous reach (means) while opportunity knocks courtesy of poor little Aylan.
A US oil company is preparing to drill for oil in the Golan Heights. Granted the license in February 2013 by Israel, Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd, whose equity-holding board members include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch and financier Lord Jacob Rothschild.
[Note: article dated January 28th 2015. Murdoch remains on the board]
Aside from personal financial interest for Murdoch, a post-Assad, US-friendly Syrian government would mean one less major Russia-Iran-axis power in the Middle East to worry about, a turn of events also greatly desired by Israel, while economically Syria would be opened up to all manner of ‘opportunities’ for Western corporations.
6:The refugee crisis
This user-friendly graph (also available in table form for older data) provided by the World Bank shows large increases in numbers of refugees at key moments after US/allied interventions. [Note: you can add your own parameters] For instance, with the explosion of sectarian violence in Iraq in 2006 brought about by the Iraq War, the number of refugees increased from 262,299 in 2005 to 1,450,905 in 2006 and 2,309,245 in 2007.
7:War for profit
Investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at Chicago-based BMO Private Bank. President Barack Obama approved open-ended airstrikes this month while ruling out ground combat.
As we ramp up our military muscle in the Mideast, there’s a sense that demand for military equipment and weaponry will likely rise,” said Ablin, who oversees $66 billion including Northrop Grumman Corp. and Boeing Co. shares. “To the extent we can shift away from relying on troops and rely more heavily on equipment — that could present an opportunity.
There’s no doubt the world is getting to be a more and more dangerous place, and there are countries around the world that could look to buy aircraft and artillery,” Jeff Babione, deputy manager of Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II program, said in an interview in Oslo. “There’s a sense that there’s less stability in the world than there was before.
Clearly the world has become increasingly unstable. The question of whether that has a major impact on the defense budget is uncertain,” Finnegan said. “There may be an investor psychology that suggests that there’s going to be a large benefit to these companies. But the jury is still out.
The arms industry is big business.
To conclude, the corporate media has concealed covert activities within Syria going back several years; has blacked out a Pentagon report demonstrating US prediction, supply and use of ISIS as a strategic asset; is again reporting selectively regarding ‘good’ and ‘bad’ dictators; and has engaged in this precise kind of rhetoric in the past before every intervention. Rupert Murdoch is a board member of a company that is drilling for oil in the Golan Heights while his newspapers sound the clarion call that may open the way for a (hoped for) post-Assad Western puppet government. Meanwhile stocks in arms companies are at record levels and the refugee crisis is now a major humanitarian disaster at World War 2 levels, with refugee populations particularly high from nations where the US and its allies have acted (covertly or overtly).
It’s another set-up. Don’t get fooled again.
The release of the Chilcot Report into the circumstances under which the United Kingdom took part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 has raised fresh questions of how Australia came to join the unfortunately named “coalition of the willing.”
Initial reactions to the Chilcot Report came from John Howard, Australian Prime Minister at the time of the formal announcement of the decision to become part of that coalition. Howard essentially argued that it was the “right” decision, taken on the basis of the best available intelligence at that time.
The current Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has expressed similar views. Both Howard and Bishop are lawyers, although that is not immediately obvious from their expressed views. Neither seems to have even a basic grasp of the principles of international law, or indeed even the law of evidence.
Successive Australian governments of both major political persuasions have refused to conduct a formal inquiry into the circumstances under which Australia joined the Iraq invasion and occupation. This is probably because both major parties are culpable in ignoring both the law and the evidence.
It is therefore important to look at the origins of Australia’s involvement, not only because of the Chilcot Report, but because what we now know about the decision making process discredits the protestations about “faulty intelligence” and good faith claims about ridding the world of an “evil dictator”, all designed to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East.
The legal starting point is Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, a document that Australia was instrumental in formulating. Article 2(3) of the Charter provides:
“All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
Article 2(4) further provides:
“All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”
These two provisions are rarely cited in the context of Iraq and were completely ignored in the legal opinion provided to the Australian government.
The Charter does of course provide an exception to the general prohibition on the use of force, and that is in the self-defence provisions of Article 51. A nation may of course act in self-defence if attacked by another State. As is well settled law, there must be an actual or imminent threat of an armed attack; the use of force must be necessary; and the force used must be proportionate.
No sensible argument can be mounted that Australia was threatened by Iraq, either directly or indirectly. Claims to the contrary, made in early 2003 by the Australian government do not withstand scrutiny.
A decade of sanctions had enfeebled Iraq’s military capacity as well as exacting a devastating toll upon its civilian population. An estimated 500,000 Iraqis, mainly women, children and older persons, died as a direct result of the sanctions. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright callously described those deaths as “worth it” to dismember Iraqi society.
The post-invasion death toll is well in excess of a million people. Again, it is a measure of the callous indifference to the truth about the invasion’s consequences that the Australian media persistently refer to the death toll as “more than 100,000”. While literally true the effect is to dramatically understate the true human costs of the invasion.
The only operative provision of Article 51 therefore is that force may be used pursuant to a resolution of the Security Council authorizing the use of force. Circumventing that restriction was in fact one of the central preoccupations of the UK and Australian governments.
In November 2002 the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 and the key issue was whether or not that Resolution constituted such an authorization. Chilcot devoted considerable space to this legal question, devoting the whole of Part 5 of the Report to the legal maneuvering that went on.
Suffice to say at this point that the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion, including the whole of the UK Foreign Office legal team, considered that it was insufficient to justify the use of force.
Prime Minister Howard set out the political argument for Australia to join the coalition attack on Iraq in an address on 4 February 2003 to the Australian Parliament. This was on the eve of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s ill-fated address to the Security Council.
Howard assured the House that the government would not make a final decision to commit to military conflict (although troops had already been deployed to the Middle East) “unless and until it is satisfied that all achievable options for a peaceful resolution have been explored.”
This is to be contrasted with one of the central conclusions of the Chilcot Report that the diplomatic alternatives to war had not been pursued as far as was possible. The reasons for this will become obvious.
Howard further made the unequivocal statement that “the Australian government knows that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons.” The presumed evidential basis for this bold assertion was apparently British and US intelligence. Again, the Chilcot Report refers to the opposite conclusion. The views of the intelligence agencies were much less forthright than the political spin put on them by the British Prime Minister. The same was equally true of Howard’s claims.
Howard even went so far as to repeat the discredited claim that “uranium has been sought from Africa (sic) that has no civil application in Iraq.” This was essentially an echo of George Bush’s infamous 16 words in the State of the Union address in January 2003. In fact, the 2002 US National Intelligence Estimate described that “intelligence as “highly suspect.”
This followed an investigation on behalf of the US intelligence agencies by Ambassador Joseph Wilson in February 2002, a year before Howard’s statement to Parliament that concluded that reports of Saddam Hussein seeking uranium or Yellow cake were “unequivocally wrong.”
Undeterred by the real evidence, the Howard government introduced a resolution into the House on 18 March 2003 to seek authorization for Australian military action in Iraq. The resolution relied in part on assertions about Iraq’s continued possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in defiance of Security Council Resolutions. The resolution before the Australian parliament also claimed that resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 provided “clear authority for the use of force against Iraq.”
In support of this extraordinary claim, Howard tabled in the House the legal advice upon which the government purportedly relied. He said that the advice was consistent with that provided to the UK government by its Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith.
At best, that was a partial truth. In fact, the terms of Resolution 1441 provided that should Iraq be found to be in material breach of its obligations, then the matter was to be returned to the Security Council for its assessment and consideration. There was nothing in Resolution 1441 that expressly or impliedly authorized the resort to force without further consideration by the Security Council.
This was known to the UK Government because in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion, all 14 members of the Foreign Office legal team had advised the government that in their opinion Iraq could not be attacked without a specific further authorization from the Security Council.
This was also the view of the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. He provided Tony Blair, the then UK Prime Minister with a detailed analysis, which reached the same conclusion. As the Chilcot Report makes clear, Blair did not provide his Cabinet with a copy of Goldsmith’s opinion. To do so would have undermined the propaganda campaign then in full swing.
Blair was not prepared to seek a resolution from the Security Council authorizing force because he knew he could not command the necessary support from the Council, even discounting the likely French and Russian vetoes. It is logically contradictory to claim, as Howard did, that the Security Council resolutions authorized force, and refuse to test that as Goldsmith had advised was the prudent course because one knows that such authorization would not be forthcoming.
Instead of confirming what the legal opinions had advised, both Blair and Howard continued to make unequivocal statements that Saddam Hussein was defying Security Council resolutions, concealing weapons of mass destruction, and pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Chilcot again found that there was no proper basis for these statements, including the evidence of the two independent inspectors, Mohammed al-Baradi and Hans Blix that they could find no evidence of any weapons or weapons program, and that Saddam Hussein was co-operating with the inspection teams.
Goldsmith’s detailed opinion was finally provided to the Cabinet on 7 March 2003. It was clearly not what Blair and the others intent on war wanted to hear. Goldsmith was therefore sent to the United States where he conferred with Bush’s legal advisers.
Goldsmith duly returned to the UK and in a written answer to a question in the House of Lords in 337 words reversed the position he had carefully set out over 12 pages of legal argument only ten days earlier. Goldsmith’s answer said in effect that the alleged material breaches by Iraq of Resolution 678 (which dealt with the ceasefire after the first Gulf War in 1991) “revived” that resolution.
Professor Vaughn Lowe, professor of International Law at Oxford University has written, “there is no known doctrine of the revival of authorizations in SecurityCouncil resolutions” (2).
Apart from Professor Lowe, the overwhelming weight of legal opinion was that Goldsmith’s new position was untenable. A 551-page report from a Dutch Commission of Inquiry headed by a former President of the Dutch Supreme Court reported on 9 October 2010 that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “had no basis in international law.” That Dutch Report received very little coverage in the Australian media.
Sir Michael Wood used almost identical words in his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry. Sir Michael was the Senior Legal Adviser at the foreign Office at the time of the invasion. He told the Inquiry:
“I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law.” Sir Michael went on to say: “In my opinion, that use of force had not been authorized by the Security council, and had no other basis in international law.”
Whether John Howard knew about the unanimous opinion of the Foreign Office’s legal team, or Goldsmith’s detailed analysis of 7 March 2003 is not known. If he did, he did not mention it. Howard told the Australian parliament that the advice he had received was “consistent with” the UK advice. He could only be referring to Goldsmith’s 337-word parliamentary answer, because manifestly Howard’s legal advice, tabled at the same time, did not reflect either Goldsmith’s original advice, the Foreign Office legal advice, or the weight of world legal opinion.
Although the Chilcot Report did not state a specific legal view on the issue, it is clear from a reading of Part 5 of the Report where 169 pages are devoted to detailing the processes by which the legal positions were pursued, concealed from the Cabinet, modified and ultimately misrepresented, that 1441 could not operate as an authorization for the use of force, much less the “revival” of earlier resolutions.
Other critics have been less reticent. Professor Phillipe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London said in June 2010 that documents disclosed at the Chilcot Inquiry showed that Goldsmith had a 180 degree turn in his opinion between 7 March and 17 March 2003 “in the total absence of any new facts or legal considerations.” (3)
Lord Alexander, a former head of the Bar Council of England and Wales thought Goldsmith’s 17 March 2003 answer was “risible” and said so publicly on 14 October 2003. (4)
So where did John Howard obtain legal advice so against the weight of authority? Unlike in the UK where the government at least sought the advice of its most senior legal adviser, the Attorney General, the Howard government instead obtained an opinion from two middle level public servants.
Their opinion does not acknowledge that the weight of legal opinion differed from theirs. Their interpretation of the Security Council resolutions was plainly wrong, “risible” to borrow Alexander’s terminology. They provided no evidence for concluding that Iraq was in material breach of Security Council resolutions as Howard had asserted. They also accepted the doctrine of “reactivation” when such a notion, as noted above, is unknown in international law.
As former Commonwealth Solicitor-General Gavan Griffiths wrote:
“The Australian and UK legal advises are entirely untenable. They furnish no threads for military clothes. It is difficult to comprehend that the fanciful assertions (they are not arguments) of the two advices have been invoked by Australia and the UK to support the invasion of another State.” (5)
In both the UK and Australian cases, seeking legal opinions was in reality no more than window dressing, a fig leaf of attempted respectability. The decision to go to war against Iraq had been made early in 2002.
The Cheney Task Force, with its maps dividing up Iraq’s oil riches among western oil companies was one motive for waging an unjustified and illegal war of aggression. Meeting the wishes of the Israelis as set out in the 1982 Yinon Plan was another. Saddam Hussein’s decision to trade oil in other than US dollars was also a crucial factor.
At one time, Saddam Hussein had been a US ally. The British and Americans had supplied the weapons of mass destruction he used during the war with Iran in the 1980s. Once their objectives differed Saddam Hussein became expendable, and ‘regime change’, a much favoured and practiced American option became the policy.
Further confirmation of this, were it needed, comes from the report of the head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, following a visit to the US. What is now known as the Downing Street Memo was written on 23 July 2002, eight months before the invasion, and well before legal opinions, UN Inspector’s Reports, or parliamentary debates.
The Memo stated in part:
- Military action was now seen as inevitable.
- President Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action, justified by a conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
- Intelligence was being fixed around the policy.
The facts did not matter. A policy decision had been taken and nothing could be allowed to divert the policy objective of invading Iraq and stealing its resources.
It is a reasonable inference that the Australian government was fully aware of this. Precisely what they knew and when they knew it must await the establishment of a proper inquiry. We do know however, that the views of the two Ignoring the major foreign intelligence agencies, the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and the Office of National Assessments (ONA) were disclosed in a report of the parliamentary joint committee in December 2003.
The DIO and ONA had concluded:
- The threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier (1991)
- Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline.
- The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.
- Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US.
- There was no known chemical weapons production.
- There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.
- There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.
- There was no known Iraq offensive weapons research since 1991.
- Iraq does not have nuclear weapons.
- There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for missiles had been developed.
- No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.
Ignoring the evidence (not an honest belief as pleaded then and now) and an overt willingness to join US foreign policy misadventures has led to one of the greatest policy debacles in Australian foreign policy history. It has resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis and millions more displaced and their lives destroyed.
It has given rise to the threat of Islamic terrorism that plagues countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and as recent events have shown in France and other European nations.
The Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals following World War 2 called a war of aggression “the supreme international crime differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
That the principal perpetrators of the Iraq War, Bush, Blair and Howard, have thus far escaped accountability for waging a war of aggression is unconscionable. Australia must have a Chilcot type inquiry and judicial processes must follow their inevitable conclusions.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.
Denmark has decided to spare its former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen the embarrassment his British colleague Tony Blair experienced for involving his country in the war in Iraq by keeping vital documents away from the public eye.
Unlike the United Kingdom, which last week published the Chilcot Report, which unleashed strong criticism of Tony Blair’s Iraqi venture, Denmark decided to block a secret note regarding the 2003 Iraq War from public access, obviously with the intention of shielding its former Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from similar scrutiny.
Whereas a batch of documents, including communications between Blair and former US President George W. Bush, were made available for public download after the publication of the Chilcot Report, a similar 14-year old document written by Rasmussen amid preparations for the US-led invasion of Iraq will be kept under wraps, Jyllands-Posten reported.
According to Denmark’s parliamentary ombudsman, Danish law prohibits the publication of such material, which was described as “potentially damaging for other countries.” Therefore, the document will be kept classified in accordance with the controversial 2013 Freedom of Information Law.
The debated document relates to a meeting between Rasmussen and then-US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2002, which is widely believed to have pushed Denmark into the US-led campaign to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Remarkably, Copenhagen opposes the very idea of shedding light on Denmark’s involvement in the bloody war, which threw Iraq into chaos and left millions dead as the nation was turned into a battleground. In 2015, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen controversially cancelled a government inquiry into the Iraq War shortly after taking office.
A number of opposition politicians have been calling for the document to be made public, despite the perpetual blockade by the government. The background for Denmark’s military involvement in the wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan should be examined through an independent investigation, the Red-Green Alliance stated. According to party spokesperson Eva Flyvholm, Denmark should investigate this painful period to be able to learn from its mistakes and look forward, the Danish newspaper Extra Bladet reported.
Denmark has been a loyal NATO associate ever since it joined the alliance as a founding member. Over the past decades, Danish soldiers fought in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was Danish Prime Minister from 2001 to 2009, whereupon he went on to become NATO Secretary General and remained in office until October 2014.
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair cited dubious child mortality figures as part of his justification for invading Iraq when he was grilled by MPs, the Chilcot report has revealed.
In the run up to the Iraq War, Blair claimed Iraq’s child mortality rate was 130 deaths per 1,000, a figure he obtained from a long-discredited source, the Iraq Child and Maternal Mortality Survey (ICMMS).
This is despite the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) telling Downing Street there were no reliable figures for Iraq’s infant mortality rate.
The former PM repeated the claim when testifying before the Chilcot inquiry in 2010, after he was asked whether the invasion had been good for the Iraqi people.
“In 2000 and 2001 and 2002 they had a child mortality rate of 130 per 1,000 children under the age of five,” Blair told the Chilcot inquiry.
“The figure today is not 130, it is 40. That equates to about 50,000 young people, children, who, as a result of a different regime that cares about its people – that’s the result that getting rid of Saddam makes.”
According to economist Professor Michael Spagat, Blair was wrong about the figures and should have known better the first time he used them to justify war in 2003.
Writing for the Conversation, Spagat said the ICMMS data was flawed and hugely unreliable.
“As the Chilcot report notes, no fewer than four subsequent surveys plus the 1997 Iraqi census failed to confirm the ICMMS data, which found a massive and sustained spike in child mortality in the closing years of the 20th century,” Spagat wrote.
The former PM was also told by one of his own government department’s that the figures could not be trusted.
In February 2003, Downing Street asked the FCO for data on child mortality rates in Iraq in a bid to strengthen the argument for war.
The FCO replied, in now declassified correspondence, that there were “no truly reliable figures for child mortality rate” in Iraq. It went on to describe the ICMMS statistics as having “relied on some Iraqi figures” and been “proved questionable.”
According to Spagat, Blair’s private secretary then “iron[ed] out the nuances in the FCO’s spot-on analysis,” leaving the former PM to reference the discredited child mortality figures in his party speech in 2003.
Spagat said “there was no excuse” for Blair to repeat the incorrect claim in 2010, because the figures were already widely discredited.
“All in all, this affair is a remarkably good example of how complex information can end up being manipulated thanks to political imperatives and time limitations,” Spagat writes.
“But it still doesn’t explain why Blair held onto the discredited figure for so long.”
The Scottish National Party, under Alex Salmond, has long been associated with opposition to illegal and immoral wars. Salmond was one of the few MPs who opposed the bombing of Serbia, and campaigned actively against the invasion of Iraq, subsequently supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price in his attempt to impeach Tony Blair. Like Jeremy Corbyn he has been responding to the publication of the Chilcot report; like Jeremy Corbyn he is calling for Blair to be charged with war crimes.
What exactly is the position of the Scottish National Party with regard to global peace and justice?
The foremost objective of the Scottish National Party is Scottish independence. Beyond that, it has been obliged to position itself as the centre-left party of Scotland, there being scarcely room on the right along with Labour and the Tories, and espouses certain left-wing causes such as the question of upgrading Britain’s nuclear missile system, Trident. However a commitment to Scottish independence and opposition to nuclear weapons do not in themselves add up to an ethical view on global affairs.
Despite Salmond’s stance on Iraq, the SNP, with Salmond as party leader, voted with the Government and Labour Opposition to bomb Libya in 2011. It should be noted that both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell voted against the motion, along with 11 other MPs. The reasons given for their No vote are varied and convincing. That of Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, went : ’Given the West’s colonial past, its history of adventurism and support for dictatorship in the region, its failure to enforce UN resolutions in Palestine and the legacy of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I think its motives in Libya will always be in doubt.’ Quite so.
The SNP clearly did not see it that way. As Steve James puts it:
Since coming to power in Edinburgh in 2007, the [SNP] has repeatedly made clear it is willing to support British military actions, particularly if a UN flag is flying over the slaughter of the day—including in Libya. […] The SNP has repeatedly made clear that they support NATO, the European Union, a struggle against Russia, and increased spending on frigates, fast jets and long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
The SNP’s line on Syria could be seen as being consistent with its position on Iraq, in that it opposed the overt bombing of the country (ostensibly ISIS in Syria) in December, 2015. When talking to the press after the vote was passed Salmond made a lot of sense (as he usually does), pointing out the lack of a proper strategy to deal with Islamic State.
However the elephant present in the chamber when the bombing of Syria was debated was the UK government’s known support for the extremist militants fighting the legitimate government in Syria, see here and here. Neither Salmond’s statement on the ‘bomb Syria’ vote nor Nicola Sturgeon’s contain any proposal for the obvious moral alternative, to stop supporting armed extremists, mostly imported, and instead help the Syrian people fight these terrorists. There is nothing said by either politician to suggest that the SNP does not support in principle the proxy war on Syria and enforced regime change.
It is obvious to all and sundry that there is a gross contradiction between the West’s claims to see terrorism and the growth of ISIS as a major threat, while in real terms prioritising the overthrow of the Syrian government who is actually fighting them on the ground. By not pressing the UK government and the EU to actually help the Syrian people fight jihadi extremists, instead of providing those same extremists with moral and material support, the SNP has shown itself to be just as compromised as the Labor and Conservative parties.
The Yinon Plan
Many active users of social media who follow global events will be familiar with General Wesley Clark’s revelation in 2007 about the US plan, after having already invaded Afghanistan, to take out 7 further countries in 5 years. It was made known to Wesley Clark a couple of weeks after 9/11 that the US planned to invade Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran.
Likewise, many people will be familiar with Oded Yinon’s ‘Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties’, a proposal to further Israel’s interests by destabilising the whole of the Middle East. The plan operates on two essential premises. To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states.
The objectives of the proposal articulated by Wesley Clark clearly further those of the second premise of the Yinon Plan. Furthermore, leaked documents (such as Clinton’s emails) confirm that Israel’s interests are paramount for US foreign policy. The same documents show that the decision to take out Syria had been made at least by 2006, but probably much earlier.
Given the catastrophic progression of wars from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to Syria, all strongly promoted and either actively waged or heavily sponsored by the West, Israel and their ally Saudi Arabia, there is no moral or intellectual justification for seeing these wars as anything but a cold-blooded plan to destabilise the greater Middle East and fulfill the Yinon plan.
There is little in the actions of the SNP (and many of their supporters) to suggest that they do not support in principle this path of destruction. Nicola Sturgeon declared her unequivocal support for the Israel lobby by putting on a blue nose to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, which translates as something like ‘Destroy Palestine Day’.
Support for Israel, and for the Israel-backed programme of regime change in the Middle East, is a thread that runs through the Scottish independence movement.
The main Scottish ‘leftist’ pro-independence blogs, while they probably opposed the Iraq war, have abandoned any pretense at a moral perspective when it comes to global affairs. Rev. Stuart Campbell, the editor of Wings over Scotland and a strong supporter of the SNP, has wisely avoided commenting on issues such as the Syria conflict, focusing on what he knows best, i.e. Scottish affairs. However Campbell forms a mutual admiration society with one Stephen Daisley, a journalist with STV News who has been termed a ‘hate-filled and crazed right-winger’ by ex-UK ambassador Craig Murray. Daisley authored a quite extraordinary article attacking those who criticise Israel, which fully justifies Murray’s categorisation, offering such objective analysis as, ‘Why deny the Holocaust when you can throw it back in the Jews’ faces by fictionalising Gaza as a concentration camp? Why hurl rocks at a Jew in the street when you can hurl endless vexatious UN resolutions at Israel?’
Daisley’s article was published 24 August 2015. On the same day Wings over Scotland tweeted (not, I hasten to add, in reference to Daisley’s article, but also not for the first time)
Daisley promoted Wings over Scotland’s crowd fundraiser in February 2015, while until late last year his blog was listed among the suggested links on Wings over Scotland’s Home Page.
The other major pro-indy blog, Bella Caledonia, which has been praised by such notable Scots as Irvine Welsh, has come out strongly in support for enforced regime change in Syria, posting, for example, an article What is to be Done about Syria by determined propagandist for the ‘revolution’, Mohammed Idrees Ahmed. To be fair to Scotland, the article attracted a number of negative (or appalled) comments, but editor Mike Small responded to criticism by digging himself into an ever deeper hole, and disappointed readers were left in no doubt of his support for illicit regime change in Syria.
It is widely assumed that the next country in the sights of the NATO/Israel alliance will be Iran (although with all the recent sabre-rattling about Russia, one could be forgiven for thinking that country may be next in the firing line). It has also been widely assumed that the progression to war on Iran, either through direct military intervention or via a bogus revolution on the Syria model, is impeded by the failure so far to achieve a resolution in Syria that satisfies the NATO/Israel alliance, and that the ‘West’ will not move its attentions to Syria until the Syrian situation is resolved.
Quite how long Iran is safe from the predatory NATO/Israel alliance is hard to say. But those wanting to move against Iran sooner rather than later met in Paris on 9-10 July 2016, at a rally called Free Iran: Our Pledge Regime Change. This is an annual event convened by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), more commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or MEK, which was until 2012 on the US prescribed terrorist list. Daniel Larison in the hardly left-wing American Conservative described MEK in less than glowing terms.
… the MEK is probably best-known for its role fighting on the side of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war against their own country. That is one of the chief reasons why the group is still loathed by almost all Iranians in Iran and around the world. The idea that this group speaks for dissident Iranians is nonsensical and insulting to the latter, and the fantasy that such an abusive, totalitarian cult has any interest in the freedom of Iranians is laughable even by Washington’s low standards.
The touted 100,000 participants included a number of politicians and other dignitaries such Prince Turki al-Faisal, ex-intelligence chief from Saudi Arabia, who talked of the importance of overthrowing an oppressive regime, but obviously could not go too deeply into the question of human rights, and Newt Gingrich, a potential running mate for Donald Trump.
It is well known that the MEK has close ties with pro-Israel lobby groups, so perhaps it should not surprise that convenor Maryam Rajavi paid a special tribute to Elie Wiesel, who won a Nobel Prize for his book on his holocaust experience. Now Elie Wiesel is considered by all except the most hardened Zionists as a fraud and a hypocrite, and certainly nothing like the great messenger for humanity described by Rajavi. Again, it is difficult to see such concern for the priorities of the Israel lobby resonating with the people of Iran.
The sentiments of the conference are also supported by a number of Anglican bishops. This episcopal empathy with Iranian Christians might inspire more conviction if the same had been shown for Syrian Christians. However a Google search for such an outpouring of compassion found only an article in the very unlikely Spectator, asking that Cameron Should Listen to Syrian Bishops Not the Anglican Ones. My search for “UK Bishops grateful to Hezbollah for protecting Syrian Christians” was no more successful.
Very proud to be sharing a platform with such august company as Prince Turki al-Faisal and Newt Gingrich were three MPs from the Scottish National Party:
Despite all these years of bloody war in the greater Middle East, the implications of attending a conference dedicated to regime change were clearly lost on the SNP representatives.
The PMOI/MEK have an unsavoury reputation as terrorists and manipulators. The rally itself was a blatant display of hypocrisy of the highest order, with participants giving standing ovations to Turki al-Faisal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as he lectured on oppressive regimes. His hostess Maryam Rajavi, who aspired to ‘win the hearts and minds of the Iranian diaspora’, stood on the same platform as al-Faisal and spoke of Iran as the source of terrorism and extremism, completely disregarding the fact that Iran (unlike Saudi Arabia) support no terrorist groups, but the legitimate government of Syria. Participation in such an event does the organisations that the delegates represent no favours.
Anyone who puts too much trust in the integrity and consistency of politicians is headed for disappointment. But for the Scottish National Party to allow three of its MPS to be associated with an organisation and event of such ill repute is an exceptional display of poor judgement, quite apart from what this says about the party’s values.
It is likely that when the decision is made to go for Iran, the NATO/Israel alliance will go for the more deniable ‘revolution’ option, though they will be hoping for more credible partners than the MEK. The chances of such an organisation ever managing to acquire credibility as an Iranian opposition within Iran are minimal. However the case of Syria has shown that as long as their governments are not actually invading or bombing, the British and American publics are quite happy to put up with blatant hypocrisy and hardly less blatant support for murderous extremists.
Whatever method is chosen to wipe out Iran, we needn’t look to the Scottish National Party to stand in the way.
Sir John Chilcot’s report into the war in Iraq contains 2.6 million words and took seven years to complete yet there is one story which was untold in the dossier. It is the story of how two heroic GCHQ (Government Communications HQ) staff sacrificed their careers and ambitions in order to try and stop the most powerful country in the world from invading Iraq, and thereby preventing the slaughter of innocents.
One of the women, whom I called “Isobel”, came to see me after an anti-war gathering I addressed at Bristol University. It was towards the end of 2002 and I had recently returned from an investigative assignment in Iraq, convinced more than ever that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, as an anti-war journalist, very few of my colleagues in Fleet Street’s mainstream media wanted to run a story saying there were no WMD in Iraq, even though this was also the conclusion of the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and his team of experts.
“Isobel” gave me a top secret document which turned out to be the biggest and most damning intelligence leak since World War II. I wondered how I could get the story out to the wider world that America was so desperate to push for war in Iraq that it was prepared to use blackmail against individuals sitting on the UN Security Council to get its wish.
The document made it quite clear that Britain’s spy agencies would do the spade work to seek out and dig dirt on council members which could then be used against them to secure their votes for war. It was sensational.
All of the information was contained in an email from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) to Britain’s GCHQ. British spy agencies were “ordered” by their American counterparts to spy on all members of the Security Council to try to ascertain how they would vote in the event of Bush and Blair seeking UN approval for the war in Iraq.
When “Isobel” handed me the document I was working as a freelance journalist and automatically thought the best way to place it would be at the Daily Mirror which, under editor Piers Morgan, was one of the few Fleet Street titles to adopt an anti-war position. Intelligence stories are always difficult to prove and, without compromising my contacts at GCHQ, I was unable to supply the Mirror with anything other than the original email, although I had used an intelligence contact to verify its authenticity.
The war drums were beating ever louder when it was returned to me with disappointing news; it would not be used by the Mirror. In hindsight, the story was so massive that I should have gone straight to Morgan to try and persuade him to run it.
By this time it was early February and, realising that it had a limited shelf life, I contacted a former colleague at the Observer and told him what I had. I met with Martin Bright in a small cafe in London’s West End and knew straight away that he would give it his best shot as he realised the importance of the document.
It took a full three weeks for Bright, assisted by the Observer’s then defence correspondent Peter Beaumont and US editor Ed Vulliamy, to stand up the story and persuade the editor, Roger Alton, to run with it. It was years later before I discovered that political editor Kamal Ahmed did his best to persuade Alton to dump the exclusive.
There were even attempts to trash my personal reputation as a journalist and reminders bordering on hysteria about the Sunday Times’ embarrassing faux pas over the 1980s hoax “Hitler Diaries”; it was a desperate attempt to dissuade Alton not to use the story but it went ahead and the scoop soon travelled around the world. Sadly, days later, Iraq was invaded and the story was swamped by “Shock and Awe” headlines. Now it is virtually forgotten, but I often wonder if it would or could have altered the course of events had we been able to get the story published in early February 2003.
The woman who handed me the document – “Isobel” – and her colleague Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator who also worked at GCHQ in Cheltenham, were arrested. When their homes were raided and searched by police, “Isobel” got a message to me; I was in Bahrain at the time and sent Bright a text message saying simply, “Shit, hit & fan”.
Recalling events some five years later, Martin Bright wrote in the New Statesman : “The email was sent by a man with a name straight out of a Hollywood thriller, Frank Koza, who headed up the ‘regional targets’ section of the National Security Agency, the US equivalent of GCHQ. It named six nations to be targeted in the operation: Chile, Pakistan, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Bulgaria. These six so-called ‘swing nations’ were non-permanent members of the Security Council whose votes were crucial to getting the resolution through.”
According to Bright, “It later emerged that Mexico was also targeted because of its influence with Chile and other countries in Latin America, though it was not mentioned in the memo. But the operation went far wider – in fact, only Britain was specifically named as a country to be exempt from the ‘surge’.”
Verifying the document as genuine proved the most difficult task and Blairite journalists embedded in the Observer newsroom continued to whisper in the editor’s ear about conspiracy theories, Russian forgeries and even a double bluff scenario by GCHQ spy chiefs to flush out traitors.
In the end, Vulliamy simply telephoned the NSA’s Maryland HQ and asked to speak to the author of the email. Within seconds he was put through to Frank Koza’s office and the man himself answered the phone. Although he refused to comment on the story, the call proved that Koza did indeed exist and was not some invention of the Kremlin’s spooks.
The story was published on 2 March 2003 but it became clear that the US president was going to go to war come what may and that he wasn’t going to rely on UN support. Thanks to Chilcot, we now know that Blair had already given his unconditional support to Bush in September 2002.
Gun and “Isobel” were arrested for alleged offences under the Official Secrets Act, but the attorney general at the time, Lord Goldsmith, dropped the case at the 11th hour on 26 February 2004. Had the case gone ahead, it would have been both sensational and embarrassing for the US and Britain. Today I wonder if that is why Chilcot chose to ignore the story, which has been recounted in part by Bright. The shenanigans of what went on inside the Observer newsroom were provided in more detail by award-winning journalist Nick Davies. He decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, in order to expose how the mainstream media subverts the truth.
In his book “Flat Earth News”, Davies gave us a scathing critique of the media; not just some of it, but all of it. Davies’ most damaging dirt is reserved for Kamal Ahmed, the man who – with no prior experience – was appointed as political editor of the Observer after Patrick Wintour moved to the Guardian. The more obviously qualified Andy McSmith was overlooked by the new editor, Roger Alton, whose sympathies were generally right-wing. According to Davies, both Alton and Ahmed were open to endless manipulation by Downing Street, which resulted in uncritical stories about the “findings” of the now notorious “dodgy dossier”.
There were other blatant lies published about Saddam’s alleged connections to Al-Qaida and his arsenal of WMD. Journalists like myself who supported the anti-war movement and individuals like Blix and the US’ Scott Ritter were demonised and ridiculed for holding to a narrative which differed from that of the pro-war lobby.
The British and American media ware manipulated by people inside newsrooms who were under the influence of the Bush and Blair camps, manipulation the like of which we can see continuing today in the attacks against anti-war Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The pro-war lobby appears to be infecting all walks of life, including the media and government.
I don’t know if Chilcot was persuaded to ignore the story of the GCHQ leak or if he simply over-looked it, but as whistle-blower Kathryn Gun writes here, it was a missed opportunity. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale which serves as a warning about the kind of desperate measures that the US and British governments are prepared to take to get their own way, especially on matters relating to the Middle East. If that means blackmailing, eavesdropping and intercepting the private communications of UN Security Council members, there are those in Washington and London ready, willing and able to do it.
Seven years after it was commissioned and 13 years after the Iraq War began, the Iraq Inquiry’s report on Britain’s part in the invasion has been published – and the fallout has begun.
The headlines are already an excoriating verdict on Tony Blair’s actions before, during, and after the invasion: Crushing Verdict on Blair and the Iraq War, Iraq Invasion “Not Last Resort”. And yet, in a most British way, an upper limit has still been imposed on the criticism, first and foremost by Sir John Chilcot and his committee.
Faced with the politics as well as the evidence – dare anyone put Blair in a position to face war crimes charges, or even dare to accuse him of abusing his power? – Chilcot steered clear of the L-word.
In fact, the word “lie” does not appear once in the Executive Summary. The only time that “lying” is used refers not to Blair, but to Saddam Hussein: “When Iraq denied that it had retained any WMD capabilities, the UK Government accused it of lying.” Nowhere does the report invoke a more colourful, if politer, formulation of the conclusion: that the intelligence for the invasion was “sexed up” on the orders of the prime minister’s office.
As David Cameron said of the report after its release: “Deliberate deceit? I can’t find a reference to it.”
So how does Chilcot manage to pull off this balancing act, going just far enough in the criticism to chide Blair while not opening up the full extent of the former prime minister’s actions?
The “lessons” of the report’s Executive Summary are a demonstration of the inquiry’s agility and care. Here’s the opener:
The decision to join the US‑led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the product of a particular set of circumstances which are unlikely to be repeated. Unlike other instances in which military force has been used, the invasion was not prompted by the aggression of another country or an unfolding humanitarian disaster. The lessons drawn by the Inquiry on the pre‑conflict element of this Report are therefore largely context‑specific and embedded in its conclusions. Lessons on collective Ministerial decision‑making, where the principles identified are enduring ones, are an exception.
“Unlikely to be repeated”. Given that assurance, we do not need to draw out the specific consideration of the extent of the Blair Government’s manipulations – apparently because we will not face another situation in which a prime minister might dare to go so far.
Which, of course, pushes aside the essential point. The point of Blair’s accountability is that his conduct, which arguably could be held responsible for the deaths of 179 British personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, was exceptional.
Releasing itself from the unwelcome burden of judgement, the report is free to set out a series of general recommendations, all of which implicitly say “don’t lie” without actually using those words.
Here is the report’s cautious framing of the September 2002 order from Blair and his advisor Alastair Campbell:
It was a mistake not to see the risk of combining in the September dossier the JIC’s [Joint Intelligence Committee’s] assessment of intelligence and other evidence with the interpretation and presentation of the evidence in order to make the case for policy action.
As can be seen from the JIC Assessments quoted in, and published with, this report, they contain careful language intended to ensure that no more weight is put on the evidence than it can bear …
Organising the evidence in order to present an argument in the language of Ministerial statements produces a quite different type of document.
To be fair to Chilcot, the Lessons cite “a damaging legacy, including undermining trust and confidence in Government statements” from the episode. But the report’s Executive Summary declines to address the question of whether Blair is culpable, much less of what crime. It merely says that, because of the manipulation of the intelligence, “it may be more difficult [in the future] to secure support for the Government’s position and agreement to action”.
And so it goes throughout the lessons, with damning phrases appropriately reined in:
Constant use of the term “weapons of mass destruction” without further clarification obscured the differences between the potential impact of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the ability to deliver them effectively …
There may be evidence which is “authoritative” or which puts an issue “beyond doubt”; but there are unlikely to be many circumstances when those descriptions could properly be applied to inferential judgements relying on intelligence …
The need to be scrupulous in discriminating between facts and knowledge on the one hand and opinion, judgement or belief on the other …
The need for vigilance to avoid unwittingly crossing the line from supposition to certainty, including by constant repetition of received wisdom.
And so Tony Blair, free from a full reckoning for his words and actions, can posture, as he did within an hour of the report’s release, that there was “no falsification or improper use of intelligence”, “no deception of Cabinet”, and “no secret commitment to war”.
Let the Stop the War movement’s protesters wave their “Bliar” signs all they want; they have yet to be officially vindicated. A few minutes after his predecessor’s response to the report, David Cameron told parliament that “at no stage does [Chilcot] explicitly say that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead people”.
And that, after 13 years, is that.
In the wake of the Chilcot report’s release, which details the the U.K.’s role in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, current U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-war speech from 2003 has been making the internet rounds.
Speaking at a rally in Hyde Park in London on February 15, 2003, on a day where over 600 similar demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq were occurring worldwide, the then-British MP delivered a bold speech to a crowd of nearly 2 million people.
While Corbyn is currently embroiled in turmoil, with “Blairites” in his party turning on him since last week’s EU referendum results, where senior members of his Cabinet have resigned and 172 Labour MPs have signed a vote of no confidence in his leadership, he still maintains his anti-war convictions.
But sources say he won’t resign until former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is “crucified” for his imperial aggression against Iraq, details of which can be found in the Chilcot report.
Here are five of the most powerful quotes from Corbyn’s Hyde Park anti-imperial speech.
1. “I find it deeply distasteful that the British prime minister can use the medieval powers of the royal prerogative to send young men and women to die, to kill civilians and for Iraqis to die.”
Corbyn expressed his disgust that Blair could make the decision to go to war on his own and declared that he wanted a vote in British Parliament.
2. “8,000 deaths in Afghanistan brought back none of those who died in the World Trade Center.”
Addressing those who justified the war as it would bring more peace and security to the world, Corbyn listed the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, a country that was being pummeled with U.S. imperial might soon after 9/11 in the so-called war on terror.
3. “This will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery, of desperation, that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, the depression and the misery of future generations.”
Predicting early the cyclical nature of such offensives, Corbyn warned that going to war in Iraq will not only cause unnecessary destruction and grief, but would produce more of it in years to come.
4. “Those … George Bush, Tony Blair … who want war, they are the ones who are isolated and alone and desperately searching for friends.”
Looking among the nearly 2 million people that had gathered in London that day to voice their opposition against war, Corbyn cited it is they, the demonstrators, that are united and that the political leadership of those looking to incite more war are the ones left scrambling for supporters.
5. “British government stop now, or pay the political price.”
Signing off with this terse statement, the crowd roared with applause as Corbyn exited the stage.
Watch his full speech below: