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The US and UK government fabricated information to justify their military strike on Iraq. US congressional and UK parliamentary investigations look into the false information circulated by the Bush and Blair governments, especially concerning weapons of mass destruction.
This section covers the controversies and changing reasons put forward in Washington and London to justify the war.
Carne Ross, a former British diplomat and founder of Independent Diplomat, the world's first private diplomatic organization, testified before the Chilcot Inquiry in London on July 12th. He emphasized that the UK government's assessments about the threat from Iraq were "intentionally and substantially exaggerated" for the public, to the point that the statements made were essentially lies. He also stated that the UK government did not consider, let alone pursue non-violent alternatives prior to the Iraq invasion in 2003 in contravention of just war theory and international law. Ross called for measures to ensure greater accountability of individuals in government and made it clear that a "learning process" like the Chilcot inquiry did not provide for any kind of legal accountability.
On January 28, 2004, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair faces the most dangerous day of his political life as Lord Hutton issues his long-awaited report on the David Kelly case. The report will further expose the falsification and spin-doctoring of Downing Street in the run-up to the Iraq War. Tony Blair, an advocate of morality and responsibility in government, should take his own words seriously and tender his resignation as Prime Minister.
This secret memo details the UK government's support of the US administration's "inevitable" invasion of Iraq, almost a year before the war started. The memo sheds light on the decision-making process in Washington, where "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy [of military action]," according to the head of MI6, Britain's foreign intelligence service. The MI6 chief also presciently noted that "there was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action."
Appearing before the Chilcot Inquiry comission on July 27, 2010, former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix testified that there was no justification for the Iraq war since the inspectors found no evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This is yet another in a series of damning testimonies from former officials testifying at the inquiry. However it is important to remember that Blix's statement in the Security Council in 2003 prior to the invasion was far weaker and diluted and that it essentially provided the UK and US with enough ambiguity to go ahead with invasion. (Guardian)
One week after his testimony to the Chilcot inquiry, Carne Ross exposes the British "deep state," which he says has covered up its mistakes and denied access to critical documents that might aid the inquiry process. Ministry officials in Whitehall did not allow Ross to review key documents, including ones that he had compiled or even written during his years of service as Iraq expert at the UK Mission in New York. Several civil servants tried to persuade him to remove references to certain documents from his testimony. Ross suggests that the problem can be easily solved by releasing all relevant documents to the public. (Guardian)
Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, former head of MI5 testified before the Chilcot inquiry on July 20, 2010 regarding the UK role in the War on Iraq. She completely debunked the spurious argument linking UK's involvement in the war to greater domestic security and instead suggested that the Iraq conflict had "substantially" exacerbated the threat of terrorism to the UK. She also stated that there was "no credible intelligence" to suggest a link between Sadaam Hussain and al-Qaeda and that the invasion of Iraq had in fact led to the birth of an Iraqi jihad. (Guardian)
The UK Iraq Inquiry (December 11, 2009)
After years of pressure from opposition in Parliament, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown acquiesced to a broad inquiry into the Iraq war. The Iraq Inquiry opened on July 30, 2009 and hearings began on November 24, 2009. Brown handpicked a committee of five Privy Counselors (unelected senior political figures), to investigate the UK's role in the conflict during 2001-2009. Initially, Brown had declared that the hearings would be held behind closed doors, but pressure from backbenchers and the opposition forced him to reverse this decision. The committee will now be holding the hearings in public, unless it decides to close the doors for reasons of "national security." The Government has asked the Inquiry to determine - amongst other issues - what assurances PM Tony Blair gave US President George W. Bush concerning Britain's involvement in Iraq and what plans - if any - they made for Iraq after the invasion. Politicians and journalists have criticized the Inquiry on several fronts. The panel does not include a single lawyer or judge, thereby lacking the expertise to give a verdict on the legality of the war. Cross-examination has been very poor, with questioning so tame the Inquiry begins to resemble a conversation in a gentleman's club rather than a serious investigation. The Committee cannot realistically make anyone legally accountable. But for all its weaknesses, the Inquiry goes beyond a simple "whitewash." Some interesting information has been emerging - such as details of the clash between US and UK military leaders.
To follow the proceedings, the Guardian has a comprehensive coverage of the Inquiry which includes reports, witness transcripts and analysis. Another site to visit is the Iraq Inquiry Digest, a (non-governmental) website which monitors and comments on the investigation. To view the official (government) Iraq Inquiry website, click here.
In September 2002, British PM Tony Blair published a dossier claiming that UK intelligence had "established beyond doubt" that Iraq possessed Weapons of Mass Destruction. The dossier included the alarmist claim that Iraq could deploy unspecified weapons within 45 minutes. During the Chilcot inquiry it has emerged that the "source" for the now discredited claim was an Iraqi taxi driver, recollecting a two year old conversation he had overheard in the back of his cab.
Throughout 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair repeatedly stated that Britain was seeking "disarmament, not regime change" for Iraq, when he had ordered the military to prepare for war since the beginning of the year. The need to keep this a secret from Parliament and all but a handful of officials inhibited the planning process. As a result the operation was rushed, with British troops entering the conflict poorly equipped, while lack of planning contributed decisively to the post-war crisis. To view the leaked documents in full, click here.
The so-called "war on terror" is more about oil than about fighting al-Qaeda and spreading democracy in the Middle East. This is revealed in interviews with important CEOs and lobbyists - like Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve. At the same time a large number of Western companies like Exxon Mobil, Shell and Total gain direct access to Iraq's oil reserves, proving the theory about US interest in Iraqi oil right. This article suggests that the invasion of Iraq was even planned long before the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. (al-Jazeera)
The US military insists that Iran trains and sells weapons to anti-US militias in Iraq. However, out of the estimated 700 mortars and rockets seized in Iraq from January 2007 to April 2008, only four rockets were identified as being of Iranian origin. US officials have failed to provide evidence in support of the Iranian claim, and a long-delayed US military report is unlikely to identify what proportion of weapons possessed by the Mahdi Army come from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or the international market.(Inter Press Service)
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki rebuffs US claims that Iran supplies arms to the opposition Mahdi Army in Iraq, says Inter Press Service. President Bush and General David Petraeus planned to use an endorsement from al-Maliki as part of a media strategy to "frame Iran as the culprit in Iraq." However, al-Maliki refused to accept the US plan, by creating an independent government investigation of the US allegations. The author claims that rather than receiving weapons from Iran, the Mahdi Army produces arms such as anti-tank bombs domestically in Iraq to fight the US occupation.
According to this Agence France Presse article, the Bush administration's justifications for the US occupation of Iraq now feature the supposed risk Iran poses to Iraq's security. President Bush, General David Petraeus and US Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker have all stressed the threat of Iran-funded extremism as a rationale for maintaining US troop levels in Iraq. Ambassador Crocker even deemed "Iranian activities in Iraq as a â€˜proxy war' with the Americans."
This Pentagon-supported study analyzed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi documents and still found no ties between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda.The Bush administration, however, has continuously used this fabricated link as a justification for the US war and occupation of Iraq. The report concludes that Saddam Hussein, "whose regime was relentlessly secular, was wary of Islamic extremist groups and turned down a request for assistance by bin Laden in 1995." (McClatchy Newspapers)
The Bush administration and some Democrat presidential candidates justify continued US presence in Iraq in order to secure vital national security interests and to fight terrorism. According to Michael Schwartz this vague reasoning cannot hide the reality that since the Second World War the US has viewed oil in the Middle East as "one of the greatest material prizes in world history." He argues that the rise of OPEC, the US alliance with Saudi Arabia, the formation of foreign policy by neoconservatives including Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney provide the historical background for the invasion of Iraq. (TomDispatch)
In this TomDispatch article, Dilip Hiro presents evidence detailing US ambitions for Iraq's oil industry prior to the 2003 invasion. According to Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury Secretary under President Bush, and Falah Al Jibury an Iraqi-American oil consultant, Iraq and its vast oil reserves were discussed "within weeks" of President George Bush being elected in January 2001. The author sheds light on the falsity of assertions by Washington that the war was not about oil and suggests reasons why the Bush administration has failed to fulfill its dreams of a privatized oil sector in Iraq.
In this Huffington Post article, Robert Weissman analyzes statements by Alan Greenspan and Henry Kissinger that the Iraq war is about oil. Greenspan says that it is "politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows," the the war was largely about oil. Further, Henry Kissinger argues that oil control will be the determining factor in the US decision to undertake military action against Iran. These comments are in stark contrast to the justifications given by the US and UK governments, which have strenuously denied the oil motivation.
Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan argues that the removal of Saddam Hussein from Iraq was essential to secure world oil supplies. In this Washington Post article, Greenspan confirms that he supported the ouster of Saddam Hussein and did not foresee a "Plan B - an alternative to war." He suggests that without the oil reserves, the US response to Saddam Hussein would not have been as strong as it was in both the first and now the second gulf war.
In this Salon article, the author explores information which has come to light since the occupation of Iraq suggesting the US knew Iraq did not have WMDs. Two former CIA officers say a week before the October 2002 vote when the US House of Representatives and the Senate authorized military force against Iraq, CIA director George Tenet briefed President George Bush with documents stating Iraq did not possess WMDs. According to the former officers, Tenet did not pass on this intelligence to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell, or senior military planners. The author speculates whether wider dissemination of the assessment would have stopped the US march to war.
In this article, Middle East history scholar Juan Cole draws parallels between US President George Bush's occupation of Iraq and Napoleon Bonaparte's conquest of Egypt two hundred years ago. Both leaders used the rhetoric of "liberty, security and democracy" to justify invasion and occupation of a Middle Eastern country, with dire consequences for its people. Cole argues that unlike Napoleon, Bush's "neocolonialism â€¦ swam against the tide of history, and its failure is all the more criminal for having been so predictable." (The Nation)
This article discusses the US government's "fear-mongering" propaganda that led to the "War on Terror." The author shows that, during the Gulf War in 1992, some of the members of the current Bush administration already talked openly about how to turn the US into a "benevolent global hegemony" and discussed an intervention in Iraq to secure US oil interests. After 9/11, this group succeeded in using the "War on Terrorism" as a pretext for intervening in Iraq. (Atlantic Free Press)
Australian Prime Minister and staunch US ally John Howard supported the invasion of Iraq, purportedly to "give the people of Iraq a possibility of embracing democracy." But Defense Minister Brendan Nelson invalidates such justifications for the war, conceding that oil interests hugely motivated Australia's involvement in Iraq. (BBC)
The United States and Britain launched their pre-emptive strike in 2003 based on flawed intelligence about the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. In a veiled attack against Washington and London, the final UNMOVIC report asserts that "in-country verification, especially on-site inspections, generate more timely and accurate information than other outside sources such as national assessments." The Iraq arms inspection team, which never found any evidence of WMDs, will end its mandate at the behest of the US and the UK. (Reuters)
"At no time did [the British government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK," reveals a former diplomat at the British Mission to the United Nations. London has repeatedly warned the US government that "regime change" would lead Iraq into chaos, he adds. Carne Ross, who was involved in negotiations in the run-up to the war, resigned from the Foreign Office in opposition to his government handling of the Iraq crisis. (Guardian)
According to Carne Ross, a former Iraq expert at the UK Mission to the United Nations, "at no time did the British government assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests." Ross also declared that several UN officials told him that Iraq had no significant nuclear material and its ability to launch any attack was limited. Discontent with the UK's manipulation of intelligence to justify the Iraq War, Ross decided to resign, saying no new evidence had arisen to change the initial assessments. (Independent)
This Other News article argues that a new "Washington Consensus" has emerged among US lawmakers following the overwhelming rejection of the US-led war in Iraq by voters during the November 2006 US elections. The new consensus blames Iraqis and not US forces for the massive death and destruction in Iraq and will ultimately help lawmakers justify keeping US troops in the country. The author concludes that, although the Democratic party will control the US Congress starting in January 2007, little chance exists that the US troops will be withdrawn from Iraq in the near future as its "imperial agenda" in the Middle East is not yet completed.
The Bush administration has further distanced itself from accountability in Iraq in the wake of the National Intelligence Estimate report which concludes that the Iraq war has fueled the spread of global jihadism. As the author of this TomPaine piece points out, the Bush administration bears the responsibility for turning Iraq "into a land of bedlam and blood." Yet the US government continues to manipulate public opinion by confusing issues relating to al Qaeda, the "war on terror" and the Iraq war in an attempt to push its unpopular war agenda.
A US Senate Intelligence Committee report
confirms what many others have claimed: Saddam Hussein had no ties with Al Qaeda or Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The report also reveals Iraq abandoned its nuclear program in 1991, and "its ability to reconstitute it progressively declined after that date," undermining US President George W. Bush's pre-war justification that Saddam had the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction. (Agence France Presse
President George W. Bush has emphasized that US forces will not leave Iraq "before the job is done." The Administration has put forward numerous rationales for remaining in Iraq, including building a democratic society, providing transitional security and preventing terrorism. In tying together several US objectives in one vital "job," this Los Angeles Times opinion piece argues Bush aims to make it harder for critics of an "open-ended US commitment" to question any particular goal.
The author of this TomPaine article questions whether Iraqis are in fact better off under the US-led occupation than they were under Saddam Hussein. The author acknowledges that the former dictator presided over "brutal and horrific acts of mass murder" and violated people's human rights political freedoms. However, since the 2003 invasion, which the US claimed would save the Iraqi people, "tens of thousands" of Iraqis have died and the country remains on the brink of collapse. As the author concludes, "given what has taken its place, it would not be an irrational choice for many Iraqis to prefer the Iraq of 2002 rather than the Iraq of 2006."
According to a leaked memo, US President George Bush and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair reached a final agreement to invade Iraq at a White House meeting in January 2003, before seeking a second resolution on Iraq from the UN Security Council and regardless of the outcome of UN inspections. Bush and Blair planned to begin bombing on March 10, 2003, the memo states, and arranged their "diplomatic strategyâ€¦around the military planning." The two leaders discussed ways to trigger a confrontation with Iraq, including an assassination attempt on Saddam Hussein and the possibility of painting a reconnaissance plane in UN colors in the hopes of drawing Iraqi fire. Evidently, Bush and Blair did not discuss any WMD threat to their troops during the invasion, suggesting that they knew he had none, though they were insisting in public more stridently than ever that Iraq's weapons posed a threat to the entire international community. (New York Times)
29 percent US troops stationed in Iraq say the US should withdraw immediately and 72 percent the US should leave by the end of 2006. Though 93 percent believe that the US military did not invade Iraq to remove weapons of mass destruction, 85 percent believe the US invaded "to retaliate for Saddam's role in the 9/11 attacks." 42 percent of troops believe the US role in Iraq is "hazy." (Zogby International)
Leaked White House documents reveal that UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George Bush planned to invade Iraq regardless of whether or not they won UN approval. Though Blair has asserted that the final decision to invade was made only twenty-four hours before the war began, the leaked documents from a high-level meeting between Bush and Blair indicate that the decision was made before the Security Council discussed - but never adopted - a second resolution authorizing war against Iraq. (Mail on Sunday)