Friday, May 01, 2009

Robert Fisk: A historic day for Iraq – but not in the way the British want to believe.

I really like Robert Fisk. I don't always agree with him, but I love the fact that he writes from his heart and isn't frightened to demand that we see the present through the prism of the past. "Those who ignore history are destined to repeat it" and all that stuff.

So, as the British finally leave Iraq, it's well worth looking at what Fisk has to say on this day of all days.

One hundred and seventy-nine dead soldiers. For what? 179,000 dead Iraqis? Or is the real figure closer to a million? We don't know. And we don't care. We never cared about the Iraqis. That's why we don't know the figure. That's why we left Basra yesterday.

I remember going to the famous Basra air base to ask how a poor Iraqi boy, a hotel receptionist called Bahr Moussa, had died. He was kicked to death in British military custody. His father was an Iraqi policeman. I talked to him in the company of a young Muslim woman. The British public relations man at the airport was laughing. "I don't believe this," my Muslim companion said. "He doesn't care." She did. So did I. I had reported from Northern Ireland. I had heard this laughter before. Which is why yesterday's departure should have been called the Day of Bahr Moussa. Yesterday, his country was set free from his murderer. At last.

History is a hard taskmaster. In my library, I have an original copy of General Angus Maude's statement to the people of Baghdad – $2,000, it cost me, at a telephone auction a few days before we invaded Iraq in 2003, but it is worth every cent. "Our military operations have as their object," Maude announced, "the defeat of the enemy... our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators." And so it goes on. Maude, I should add, expired shortly afterwards because he declined to boil his milk in Baghdad and died of cholera.

One of the things which used to gall me the most in the days after the invasion was the right wing claim that we were "liberators" and the pretence that they gave a shit about the Iraqi people.

In truth these people were not the ones who complained about the sanctions which killed over half a million Iraqi babies, that was us old lefties; so it was hard to listen to right wing blowhards pretending that they had the best wishes of the Iraqi people in their hearts, especially as they adamantly refused to count how many of them they had to kill in order to bring about this "liberation".

And one only had to look at how much effort George W Bush was putting in to passing the Iraq Oil laws to suspect that this was, perhaps, much more important to the Bush administration than any "liberation" of the Iraqi people. He failed, of course, in his endeavor to guarantee US oil companies a 25 year contract to develop Iraqi oil, which only makes the entire invasion more pointless than ever. They didn't even manage to steal the bloody oil and yet still millions are displaced, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis are dead, as are 179 of our own troops.

But all of this could have been foreseen. Fisk reminds us of another invasion of Iraq in another time:

There followed a familiar story. The British occupation force was opposed by an Iraqi resistance – "terrorists", of course – and the British destroyed a town called Fallujah and demanded the surrender of a Shiite cleric and British intelligence in Baghdad claimed that "terrorists" were crossing the border from Syria, and Lloyd George – the Blair-Brown of his age – then stood up in the House of Commons and said that there would be "anarchy" in Iraq if British troops left. Oh dear.

So let us turn at last to T E Lawrence. Yes, Lawrence of Arabia. In The Sunday Times on 22 August 1920, he wrote of Iraq that the people of England "had been led in Mesopotamia into a trap from which it will be hard to escape with dignity and honour. They have been tricked into it by a steady withholding of information... Things have been far worse than we have been told, our administration more bloody and inefficient than the public knows."
We were lied into this war for no greater reason than Tony Blair feared allowing the Tories to form as close a relationship to Bush as he had enjoyed with Clinton. To prevent this he glued himself to Bush's side, leaving no room for the Tories and identifying himself - and our country - as the Yin to Bush's Yang.

As we finally take leave of this place perhaps now we can, at last, have the inquiry into the rational behind this conflict and we can finally put people under oath and ask them what they were thinking of.

Blair and others have always insisted that they acted "in good faith", with Blair insisting that, if we saw what was passing across his desk, we would all reach a similar conclusion.

I have to admit that I have always had great difficulty with that claim. I never believed that Blair saw evidence and then decided to go to war. I have always thought the opposite; that Blair decided to go to war and then set out to find the evidence which would justify that war.

That was what led to the dodgy dossier, and that was what led him to ignore every piece of evidence which did not back his assertion that war was necessary.

Only an inquiry - in which witnesses are required to speak under oath - will ever give us the answers to the myriad of questions which we have.

Did the Attorney General change his mind on the legality of the war? When did Blair give his word to Bush that we would be by his side no matter what? Was the evidence justifying the war "cherry-picked" as many of us believe?

And, of course, we will hear cries that, "it was all a long time ago" and that people, "were panicked in the wake of 9-11" and all other kinds of justifications, but we are not to blame for the fact that it is six years after the invasion before any investigation can take place. We must never forget that this situation exists because two Labour PM's insisted that this must be the case.

Blair and the others must now be held to account for what they did. It is time for answers.

Click title for Fisk's article.


crazyeddie34 said...

I think this answers alot of questions and certainly the implications would suggest an investigation is a necessity.

Kel said...

"The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

That phrase alone should demand that we have an inquiry into why we went to war and whether or not we were misled into doing so.