The inquiry into New Labour’s involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq opens just as unrest is growing over the rising rate of casualties amongst British and American troops in Afghanistan. On both sides of the Atlantic, the fall-out from the “war against terror” is growing.
Yesterday morning, a serving British soldier, Lance Corporal Joe Glenton, handed in a letter to 10 Downing Street in which he said that his fellow soldiers had “become a tool of American foreign policy”. Glenton, the first British soldier to speak out publicly against the Afghan war, is due to return to duty but has refused and has been court-martialled for desertion in proceedings due to start on Monday. He could face two years in prison.
In his letter he said: "I have seen qualities in the Afghan people which have also been for so long apparent and admired in the British soldier. Qualities of robustness, humour, utter determination and unwillingness to take a step backwards. However it is these qualities, on both sides, which I fear will continue to cause a state of attrition. These will only lead to more heartbreak within both our societies." Glenton said he gradually became aware that justifications for occupying Afghanistan rang hollow. "The Afghan people were attacking us, even though our politicians said we were going in to help them. It came as a real shock."
On the other side of the Atlantic, Americans are intrigued by Time magazine’s account of the internecine conflicts between former president George W.Bush and his mentor and vice-president Dick Cheney, who masterminded the “war on terror” in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks. and developed plans that neutralised rights enshrined in the US constitution itself.
The Obama administration and Democratic lawmakers are looking into why Cheney insisted that covert CIA policies and actions were kept from Congress and how Cheney protected Scooter Libby, his top aide. In March 2007, Libby was convicted of obstructing an investigation into the leak of a CIA officer’s identity in revenge for her husband’s criticism of the Iraq war. Libby was sentenced to 30 months in prison, plus a $250,000 fine. Although the sentence was commuted on appeal, the affair marked a turning point in the Bush presidency, in which Cheney ally Donald Rumsfeld was also sidelined. Cheney hoped to get Libby pardoned but Bush, who had the power to grant a pardon as he left office, refused.
Despite his loss of power in the White House, Cheney pushed ahead with sinister plans to “bolster security” by having 20,000 uniformed troops within the United States by 2011. Supposedly trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, the use of troops for “homeland security”, has come under strong criticism from within the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians. They say that the new domestic emphasis could be in breach of the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military's role in domestic law enforcement.
Earlier this week, Jason Leopold of Truth Out, revealed revealed that Cheney pressurised Bush to deploy US soldiers against suspected terrorists in Buffalo, New York in October 2008. A Justice Department legal opinion asserted that the president had unlimited powers to prosecute the “war on terror” on American soil and could ignore constitutional rights, including First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press and Fourth Amendment requirements for search warrants. This has since been rejected by the Obama administration.
Meanwhile, while Bush has gone quietly into retirement, Cheney is leading the right-wing counter-attack on Obama, openly questioning the president’s legitimacy as well as patriotism. Undoubtedly we have not heard the last of Cheney or the sinister groups within the American state that he fronts for. He is only just in the shadows.
A World to Win secretary