Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Real Questions for Chilcot

As the Chilcot Enquiry enters its ninth week and star-witnesses, Blair and Brown, approach their impending interrogations, there are still a wealth of important witnesses who have not yet been called to give testimony.

Sadly, it seems highly unlikely that they ever will be. 

I am not talking about any more key members of government, nor am I talking about MPs, civil servants, the security services or the army.  I am talking about the million-plus people who marched on London, February 15th, 2003, in clear opposition to this war.  I am talking about the unwavering majority of British citizens polled repeatedly before the March 20th invasion who were consistently opposed to the war.  I am talking about people like me, a university student at the time, who had no access to secret government documents or high-clearance intelligence briefs and yet still knew enough – from just a couple of visits to the library and a little online searching – to know that the reasons for invasion were bogus.

The fact of the matter is, an enquiry into whatever government officials claim they did, or did not, know at the time of the Iraq invasion is far too short-sighted an endeavour to yield any meaningful results, especially when it is limited solely within the self-serving bubble of Westminster spin.  Regardless of what Tony Blair thought he knew in his heart of hearts, what convinced Gordon Brown to write the cheques, or what regrets and reservations Jack Straw might have had, the real question about Iraq is not how individual politicians happened to clear their already ambidextrous consciences on the matter, it is how so many people like me – people who marched in opposition to the war; people who signed the petitions and knew all along that we were being lied to – managed so easily to find out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, just from reading readily available books and reports on the area, and yet our government and media apparently remained so utterly in the dark?

If the Chilcot Enquiry were to interview someone like me, I would tell them how I read the reports of UN weapons inspectors, Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, who both said that there was no sign of Iraqi WMDs.  I would tell them how even Colin Powell was on record as saying there were no WMDs in Iraq, and how about seven different books on the subject all said the same thing.  I would tell them how the only evidence we had of Saddam posing a “threat” in March of 2003, was the invasion of Kuwait in 1990 (for which America arguably gave Iraq the green light, in an effort to teach them a lesson through a manufactured conflict) and the gassing of Kurds with chemical weapons in 1988 (gas which was sold to Iraq by the USA in the first place).  I would remind Sir Chilcot that, though it was nice to see how upset Blair and Bush suddenly were about attacks that had happened back in 1988, it would have been much more useful for our governments to have been upset about them in ‘88, when they actually happened, instead of doing what we really did at the time, which was continue selling chemical weapons to Saddam Hussein.

There are a lot of things I could tell him, and I’m sure that any number of the millions of UK citizens opposed to the war long before the invasion – and aware that the WMD claims were a lie – would have much to say if they took the stand at the Iraq Inquiry.  If people like us could find out the truth about Iraq just from looking at books in our spare-time, the idea that the Prime Minister, the Chancellor, and the Foreign Secretary – whose sole job at the time was to know about this sort of stuff – were unable to acquire that same information with all the resources of state at their disposal, is even more hard to swallow than the absurdist fantasy that there were WMDs hidden under the Iraqi sand.

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