Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A decade of weapons of mass disinformation about Iraq

News that the BBC is preparing a special programme to mark the 10th anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq doesn’t feel you with joy, even though it might contain new material about the Blair government’s use – or, rather, misuse – of intelligence.

The BBC’s record on a war that led to the disintegration of a country that continues to this day, is not a pretty one. Did the BBC challenge any of the lies during the run-up to the war? For example, the lie supplied by British intelligence that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from Niger? Or the false claim that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction? 

In company with virtually all the mainstream media, the BBC went along with the Blair government’s falsehoods. Former UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter told anyone who wanted to listen what the real position was: “All this talk about Iraq having chemical weapons is no longer valid. Most of it is based on speculation that Iraq could have hidden some of these weapons from UN inspectors.”  

When Andrew Gilligan suggested on the May 29, 2003 Today programme on Radio 4 that a government dossier on Iraq had been “sexed up”, all hell broke out. Gilligan was compelled to quit in January 2004, along with director-general Greg Dyke and chairman Gavin Davies, after the publication of the whitewash Hutton report.

When the Butler report on the use of pre-war intelligence was published later in 2004, Dyke said it proved that Gilligan was right. It was too late for government scientist David Kelly, who helped Gilligan with the original story. He had died in somewhat suspicious circumstances 12 months earlier after being hounded by Labour MPs.

From a decade of sanctions to the invasion and its consequences, the people of Iraq have been subject of a ghastly experiment that rivals anything in previous history. A decade of sanctions prior to 2003 led to the deaths of 500,000 children from malnutrition, lack of medicine and disease from polluted water supplies.

At least a 100,000 Iraqi civilians have lost their lives in the ensuring chaos. Other sources, including the Lancet magazine, suggest the death toll is over 600,000. The death toll climbs on a daily basis. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country as refugees and up to a million have been displaced. A third of the country’s physicians have left Iraq since 2003. Thousands of occupying troops were killed and 35,000 US soldiers injured.

The cost to the US taxpayer to date is $1,000 billion. And for what? Halliburton and other corporations made piles of money initially. But the neo-cons’ dream of a “New American Century”, where America would build “free-market democracies” at will is in tatters. The Chinese control most of Iraq’s oil contracts.

As the US foreign policy think-tank CSIS notes: “The US invasion now seems to be a de facto grand strategic failure in terms of its cost in dollars and blood, its post-conflict strategic outcome, and the value the US could have obtained from different uses of its political, military, and economic resources. The US went to war for the wrong reasons – focusing on threats from weapons of mass destruction and Iraqi-government sponsored terrorism that did not exist.”

There is more than just a failure of US policy here, however. If we actually lived in a half-just world, then Bush and Blair and everyone in their regimes who endorsed the invasion would be behind bars for war crimes. Millions marched in Britain and around the world in an heroic but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to prevent the invasion. This time around we need to mobilise to create a real democracy that can put an end to wars for profit.

Paul Feldman
Communications editor

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