We played by the UN’s rules in the first Gulf War. The mandate was to remove Saddam from Kuwait and nothing more (i.e. not regime change). If it had been down to the US and UK, we would have deposed him at that point and we would not be in this damn mess in the first place. Instead, we had a cease fire, the terms of which Saddam continued to break over the ensuing years.
Ultimately, the United Nations failed to enforce 15 resolutions against Saddam. Those who supported action against a rogue nation which had already used weapons of mass destruction on its own people were happy to go for an additional resolution, but the Russians, French, and Chinese pre-empted the possibility of that by saying in advance that they would veto any such resolution, thereby ruling out any diplomatic solution. Thank you France, Russia, and China.
Interestingly, in spite of the public perception that the US and UK armed Iraq, have a guess who actually did. That’s right, our friends in Moscow, Paris, and Beijing, and by a long way (a combined 91% to our combined 0.008% over the period in which Saddam ruled Iraq). See http://armstrade.sipri.org/armstrade/page/values.php (the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) for the figures. So the next time you hear someone spouting the same old tired nonsense about us arming Iraq, give them a slap. For the record, it was China, Russia, and France who also had their oily fingers in Iraq, so you really have to question their motives in threatening to veto a further resolution in the UN.
Now, if the UN can’t do its job (and let’s face it, its track record isn’t exactly great – they’ve certainly been let off the hook over the Srebrenica massacre against Muslim civilians), then as Bush said, the UN either has to enforce its resolutions or become irrelevant. The UN chose the latter, so guess who had to pick up the pieces… again, and do the UN’s dirty work.
Re the legality of the war, there is as yet no world statute book. As an independent nation (for now anyway), we retain to the right to declare war at any time and for any reason. Even if there were such a thing and intervention in Iraq were illegal, so was intervention in Kosovo, Bosnia, and Sierra Leone, so I look forward to Bush and Blair appearing in the Hague for those interventions too.
The intelligence was clearly flawed and was spun to try to justify a war that has turned out to be ill-conceived and ill-executed, but, it was not an ‘illegal war’. Unpopular, yes – illegal, no. It was still the right thing to do, or do we forget the lessons of recent history (Hitler reoccupying the Rheinland… nothing happens, annexes part of Czechoslovakia… nothing happens, invades Poland…)? It gives me no pleasure to say that the UN is already dead in the water as far as I’m concerned. It has gone the way of the League Of Nations, only worse, because at least the League Of Nations was not exploited politically by some pretty bad regimes with some pretty dodgy agendas.
The ’45 minute claim’ was trumped up by the press to something it wasn’t. Your ‘man in the street’ was under the impression that Iraq was capable of launching ICBMs at the UK, even though the claim in any case related to tactical battlefield WMDs (as used previously by Saddam) and the press exploited this. The fact that the man in the street may have believed that Iraq already had ICBMs, which it could launch at the UK was more down to his own stupid ignorance and merely helped Tony Blair’s case in selling the war to the public. Sure, it is true that he did nothing to ‘put the story right’, or if he did, it certainly wasn’t reported in any great way.
Now here’s something else that may surprise you. These tactical WMDs (or materials therefor) DID exist in Iraq at some point – thousands of tons of weapons grade materials were reported by UN inspection teams. The UN reported them, the Clinton and Bush administrations, and Saddam himself acknowledged their existence. Where have they gone? They haven’t been found but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. Surely Saddam wouldn’t have been cunning enough to hide them or ship them across the border, or sell them on to some others willing to have a go at the evil West. How very unsporting of him! Saddam claimed that they had all been destroyed, but offered no evidence of any kind, nor any witnesses. Many believe they were shipped to Syria under the guise of a ‘humanitarian programme’ when things got a little too hot for Saddam.
Military intervention certainly did have support in the UK at a political (cross party) and popular level, albeit without big street demonstrations demanding it – that doesn’t tend to happen. Remember, our ‘hated, war-mongering’ government won the subsequent General Election at a time when public opinion was supposedly massively against the action in Iraq! No matter how angry and vocal the anti-war mob was, clearly they weren’t in the majority. Or perhaps they didn’t bother to vote. Moreover, more nations within Europe supported military action than opposed it. Unfortunately, cynical press and bad news sells well, and so that kind of story makes up the bulk of the press’ reporting of events. Over time, we’ve read much about the failures in Iraq and little about the successes, and yet when you ask an Iraqi who didn’t profit under Saddam’s regime what they think, you generally get a more positive view of the situation. We’ve also read a lot of incorrect ‘facts’ repeated ad infinitum and peddled by the likes of Michael Moore and prefer to believe these over our reviled politicians.
The most commonly quoted ones (I guarantee that someone in the audience of BBC’s Question Time will mention one of these every week) that are seldom challenged…
“Illegal war” – see above.
“We armed Iraq” – see above.
“There were no WMDs” – see above.
“We’re there for the oil” – partly true, but that is not the sole motivation, and more accurately it should be “We’re there to do business”. The US intervened in Germany, Japan, Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, etc. with not a whiff of oil (unless they were after a couple of cans of Castrol GTX). Remember also that we rely on the provision of cheap oil for our daily lives, whether we like it or not. Remember what happened in the last fuel crisis? Well, things would be a whole lot worse for us if it weren’t for our leaders ensuring that we have access to the unfortunately necessary evil black stuff.
Sure, it’s self-interest. Wars are always fought out of self-interest. The interests of the US happen to be the promotion and establishment of free-trading democracies across the world, which is why they poured money into the Marshall Plan and rebuilt Germany and Japan after WW2, rather than abandon them, as the Soviets had wanted. The US wishes to establish democratic regimes with which it can trade, and yes, benefit. Its track record speaks for itself. All modern wars in which the US has intervened have been to stop the spread of dictatorships (usually communist). And anyone who says that communism wasn’t a threat to the free world a) can tell that to former nations of the Eastern Bloc, where the Soviet Union calmly marched in and suppressed formerly free democracies and b) is completely ignorant of post WW2 history. We can laugh about McCarthyism now (and it was pretty laughable in hindsight), but that’s with the benefit of a few years having passed since the fall of the Berlin Wall. At the time (in the 1950s), the threat felt real, and it was real – Moscow was still marching troops into Eastern Bloc countries. Things seem so different now, following the collapse of the Soviet Union (and we have none other than the widely ridiculed Ronald Reagan to thank for that. Don’t believe me? Ask a bloke called Mikhail Gorbachev what he thought of Reagan and you may be surprised that he wasn’t the foam-headed Spitting Image caricature that we thought (myself included)).
Please ensure that you question anyone who utters any of the above widely-held ‘truths’ again. By all means, do your own research into the whole subject area, which is what I’ve had to do in the face of a cynical British press. Check the sources, because both sides of an argument will manipulate things for their own purposes.
I am apolitical when it comes to this topic. I am no great supporter of Blair or Bush in domestic terms, but I believe they were brave enough to take unpopular decisions that needed to be made – they certainly didn’t win any votes in doing so. Think about that last point carefully and see if you still believe they took such a supposedly unpopular decision for cynical purposes.
Finally, the Chilcot enquiry is an enquiry (yet another one – clearly we haven’t had the right answer yet), and not a court. There won’t be any book throwing, unless of course it’s done by a shoeless journalist.