The lynch mob, pariahs in a world which was ready to embrace the new millennium with a more enlightened attitude, ask if they can be allowed back inside
That George Bush and Tony Blair got it wrong, there is no doubt. What is lamentable is that there were those of us who were telling them so months before they went ahead and blindly broke each and every rule and law in the book, claiming they knew that Iraq was an immediate threat, claiming that they knew where the secret weaponry was and then saying that even if it did not exist, the world was better off without Saddam Hussein.
In the event, it could be argued that Saddam Hussein had not attacked any of his neighbours since the first Gulf War, that Iraq did not have the capacity to provide even an eventual threat, let alone an immediate one and therefore the world would be a better place without Bush and Blair.
These two leaders now claim that mistakes were made, that the situation became far more complex than they had first imagined, and the US President admitted his country had been suffering for a long time over the horrendous practices of torture at Abu Ghraib.
Given that these two leaders want to come clean and move on, and given that nobody in their right senses supports the Iraqi insurgency, whose acts only make the lives of the civilians worse, the only policy that makes any sense now is to face the truth, tell the whole story of what really happened, and then face the future with the international community united around the new Iraqi government, which is after all in the best interests of the people.
Bush and Blair make confessions
What did President Bush and Prime Minister Blair really say and what is the whole truth behind this sordid war? George Bush used the word “setbacks” to describe the utter chaos into which Iraq has slid, while Tony Blair used the more colourful expressions “a daunting challenge” which is “inspiring” and which “we should rise to”.
In plain English, both men now realise that the whole campaign was a gross misjudgement which resulted in acts of wanton and criminal negligence leading to a shocking act of mass murder, state terrorism and the wholesale purposeful destruction of the civilian infrastructures of a country using military hardware.
In the case of Tony Blair, it is difficult to believe that he intentionally sent a quarter of his armed forces to invade Iraq on a whim, knowing that Iraq did not possess WMD and that he did not seriously believe that what he was doing was right. It is easier to believe that he would do anything within his power to avoid a chasm being created which would act like a wedge between Europe and the USA, understanding that Britain stands somewhere between the two and having laid down a principle when he took over the Premiership that Britain’s foreign policy is linked to sound ethical practice and the respect for democracy in countries where Britain does business.
In the case of George Bush, or his regime, it is difficult not to believe that they knew precisely what they were doing, that they had first-hand evidence that Iraq did not possess any WMD but they decided to remove Saddam Hussein because President Bush had a personal vendetta against him and because Vice-President Cheney wanted the rebuilding contracts, which were passed to cronies of his even without tender, something that nobody anywhere has been able to defend to date.
In either case, what is done, is done. True, they were warned – warned in this column six months before the invasion that removing the State in Iraq would send the country back fifty years (in the event Iraqi society was sent back one century) and warned elsewhere by far more noteworthy sources than the author of this op-ed piece.
While both leaders were anxious not to leave clear soundbites as to how long it would take to totally stabilise the country, Nuri al-Maliki, the new Iraqi Prime Minister, stated earlier in the week that the Iraqi security services should be ready to assume total control at the end of 2007, almost five years after the invasion which was supposed to be welcomed with open arms.
At what cost? At a cost of 800 billion USD to the US taxpayer over the forthcoming years, for a start. At a cost of countless families who lost loved ones unnecessarily. However, the longer the international community remains divided over what happened, lamentable as it was, and the longer it does not pull together with goodwill to help Iraq out of the quagmire of chaos it has descended into, the longer the people of Iraq are going to suffer.
It is time for Iraq’s children to be able to play in the streets without fear of stray bullets or bombs, it is time for young men to decide whether they want to enlist in the police force as of free choice without fear of reprisals, it is time for Iraq’s women to once again walk around without a veil if they choose without fear of being lynched or decapitated.
Certainly it is possible, because the people of Iraq have proved that their hearts are enormous, their resilience is heroic. Once again, ethnicity and religion can become a matter of pride and private choice and not some sort of a badge to wear in public as a provocation or an affirmation of superiority, but only if all the members of the international community pull together as one.
As a last point, now that the USA and UK have admitted their mistake, it would only be right for these countries’ armed forces to be substituted as soon as possible by a UN force and for these countries to forfeit whatever interests they had gained in this ill-conceived act of slaughter, with all current contracts being annulled and new tenders launched by the new Iraqi Cabinet under the supervision of the UNO, on condition that companies from the league of nations which derided international law by attacking Iraq be immediately excluded.
Only then can we move on, only then can Britons and North Americans walk with their heads held high and only then can the world once again come together in a group hug as a community of brothers.