Washington and London unleashed the war against Iraq together. Today they have to justify this move, as public opinion is demanding an answer to one and the same essential question. Where are these terrible weapons of mass destruction (WMD) with which Saddam Hussein allegedly threatened the entirety of peace-loving humanity?
Virtually simultaneously, two senate committees in the US and two British parliamentary committees have opened investigations into claims that intelligence reports on Iraqi WMDs were falsified, overstated or deliberately misrepresented.
The war is now in the past. Iraq has been defeated and the occupying forces have found nothing that even resembles a weapon of mass destruction apart from two destroyed trailers that look more like ordinary workshops, rather than biological laboratories. Moreover, many intelligence reports from the USA and Britain have been exposed as fakes.
The scandal will become the subject of public scrutiny at the end of this month, as the hearings of both Senate committees on the armed forces and the intelligence service will be covered by television channels. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Defence Minister Donald Rumsfeld are expected to be called to give evidence. The latter is already preparing his stance. In recent speeches he has let it be understood that, even without WMDs, the Baghdad regime was guilty of such a huge number of mass graves that it deserved to be the subject of a punitive attack.
An even bigger scandal around the weapons of mass destruction is brewing in the UK. More than 70 MPs of the ruling Labour Party have signed a motion demanding that the Government publish all the information on Iraq's armaments in its possession.
The question as whether or not Saddam's regime had these weapons has to be answered, if only for two reasons. Firstly, the fact that Baghdad had WMDs and that they could be used in 45 minutes, according to Tony Blair, was the main argument for going to war.
Accordingly, the threat that Iraq posed was deliberately and contemptuously over-exaggerated. Iraqi, American and British citizens were killed for an inflated idea.
Secondly, it is finally time to find out how honest the West's secret services were with regard to the public.
The intelligence services play an essential role today in the fight against international terrorism and as part of the international community's efforts to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons. One would not like to think that they are staffed by James Bonds tailoring their work to the requirements of bellicose bureaucrats in the entourages of presidents and premiers.
Vladimir Simonov, RIAN
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