The real legacy of the war in Iraq has been exposed this week. This, together with the appearance of Tony Blair in front of the Chilcot inquiry, has reignited anger over the Iraq war. Many people are rightly sceptical about the outcome of Blair’s hearing—it will not be the grilling the majority wants. But the lies and horror of the war continue to seep out. An official Iraqi study found more than 40 sites across the country were contaminated with high levels of radiation and toxins. These are the result of the use of depleted uranium shells by US and British forces in Iraq. Iraq’s energy resources continue to be sold off. The Iraqi government has signed a deal with oil giants Exxon Mobil and Royal Dutch Shell PLC to develop a major oil field in the south of the country. This gives ownership of the oil fields to the companies for 20 years. There are an estimated 8.6 billion barrels of oil in West Qurna.The oil giants will pay the Iraqi government $1.90 for each barrel of oil they extract. But when this is refined and sold on the world market it will fetch $78 a barrel at present prices.
George Bush and Blair’s war has left a trail of destruction. There are 4.5 million Iraqi refugees inside and outside the country. Electricity supplies have dropped dramatically in Baghdad.In 2008, 61 percent of Iraqis said that they believed that the US military presence made the security situation worse. Many want the occupiers out of their country as soon as possible.The price for the Iraq war has been paid by the one million killed - the estimate of the most credible surveys. Blair is responsible for this - and Gordon Brown signed the cheques. On Monday at least 36 people died in coordinated suicide bomb attacks in Baghdad and in shoot-outs between security forces. The police threat to impose a ring of steel around the Chilcot inquiry on Friday when Blair appears is another attempt to protect the guilty. Undaunted the Stop the War Coalition organised a whole day of events outside the inquiry. They include a protest in the morning, then speeches, performances and music throughout the day. A naming of some of the many war dead was also to be held. Those reading the names included members of Military Families Against the War, who have lost loved ones in Blair’s wars. The Iraqi people deserve a voice in this inquiry, to tell their side of the story. As they have been deprived of this right, it is the role of the anti-war movement to make Blair’s appearance a nightmare.
Tony Blair should be tried for his crimes against Iraq—and the legacy the war has left there. million Iraqis have died, leaving millions orphaned and widowed. The war and occupation have made as many as four million people into refugees. The whole infrastructure of Iraq has been devastated by the occupation. Our heritage has been looted and destroyed, the environment has been poisoned and vital water sources have been lost. Iraq used to be the breadbasket of the region—now once fertile lands are in danger of being transformed into a desert. Children are growing up suffering from disease and deformities. Sectarianism has been elevated to all state institutions and the country is dangerously fragmented. Corruption is rife; government officials have been caught taking bribes of millions of dollars from foreign companies. Iraq’s precious oil resources have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the profits of private security companies have soared. Ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most from the illegal war and occupation are left to cope with living under the threat of violence. Unemployment now stands at 50 percent in a country where infrastructure has been shattered. Yet despite everything the Iraqi people will continue with their determined struggle to reject the occupation and build a democratic, free Iraq.'
Protesters were to make their opposition to the war in Afghanistan clear at a meeting of world leaders in London this week. Top government officials planned to come together to restabilise the Nato occupation of Afghanistan. It is going so badly that key figures are proposing negotiations with sections of the Taliban. Gordon Brown is hosting the event which will include European leaders, US secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Hamid Karzai, the president of Afghanistan. Kai Eide, the United Nations special representative in Afghanistan, explained the Taliban U-turn, saying, “If you want relevant results, then you have to talk to the relevant person in authority. I think the time has come to do it.” Eide wants the US to drop certain leading Taliban members from its list of terrorists in order to open up negotiations. Stanley McChrystal, the US commander in Afghanistan, has also joined the call for talks saying there has been “enough fighting”. He believes Obama’s 30,000 strong troop surge will aid this process, weakening the Taliban and making them “look desperate”. He believes that this could lead to them looking to make peace. It is highly unlikely that this will be the result of the surge. The resistance to the occupation is growing in confidence. Last week the Taliban launched attacks in the centre of Kabul. Plans by the British military to launch a new offensive in the Helmand province will see the deaths of countless Afghans and British soldiers.
But US pressure on other countries to send more troops is having some effect. It was leaked this week that the German government plans to send a further 500 soldiers. This is despite their pledge to reduce troop numbers because of public opposition to the war. The conference is designed to apply more of this pressure, seeing more troops sent to kill and be killed. The war has wrecked the lives of Afghan people and will continue to do so while the occupation continues. The conference will also discuss Yemen—set to become a new front in the “war on terror”. The anti-war movement cannot allow this to happen. We must step up the pressure to bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. Only this can end the ongoing devastation. The Chilcot inquiry was set up to whitewash the Labour government’s lies over the 2003 Iraq war. But it isn’t all going to plan. The inquiry team is the embodiment of what the establishment refer to as a “safe pair of hands”. The chair is a former adviser for the intelligence services. Another member wrote a speech for Tony Blair justifying “humanitarian” war. Nobody in the inquiry cares to ask the Iraqis what they think, and no politicians will be prosecuted at the end of it. Nonetheless, the contradictions and contortions of the government over the invasion of Iraq are seeping out.
Two approaches have emerged from various politicians, spin doctors and lawyers. The first is to brazen it out with the “we did nothing wrong” line. The other is to blame somebody else. In the brazen camp sit Blair’s spin doctors, Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell. Campbell is a teller of stories; contradictory and mutually incompatible. He told one version of events in his rather long diaries, another to the Hutton inquiry, and now a third at the Chilcot inquiry. This leads to absurdities. Campbell stands by the dodgy dossier, including the nonsense about Iraq being able to attack Britain at 45 minutes notice. Even chief spook John Scarlett, who “wrote” the dossier, admits it’s flawed. But not Campbell. He says no one sexed up the dossier in its countless rewrites. Campbell claims never to have been in the room when the rewrites he knew nothing about weren’t happening. Powell said that he joked with Campbell about how the Evening Standard newspaper would react to the dossier. The Standard reacted as it was meant to, putting the 45 minutes claim on its front page. Cabinet ministers have led the “not me, guv” school.
Former defence minister Geoff "Buff" Hoon has frequently been portrayed as a bit of an idiot. He used his appearance at the inquiry to reinforce that perception, presenting himself as being vaguely aware of what was going on, but not expecting anyone to actually tell him anything. This had the advantage of distancing him from all the key decisions about the war. His advisers no doubt told him, “Better a fool than a knave.” In contrast, Jack Straw said he was at the centre of everything - “If I had refused support, the UK’s participation in the military action would not in practice have been possible.” Straw had a plan, lots of plans. Though after hearing him it’s not clear if anyone other than Straw understood them. Especially when he says things like, “You’d think you’d got a kind of a deal, and then it would go back into this sort of extraordinary sort of beehive of the American system and you would have to wait until some of them, the bees, sniffed an odour from the great hive.” Straw stressed how hard it was for him to support the war. He hinted that anything difficult should be directed at someone else. He even suggested that the inquiry should ask a question to Robin Cook, who has been dead for five years.
But former cabinet secretary Lord Turnbull suggested that Straw had kept his doubts deeply hidden. He said, “This didn’t look like a man who was privately thinking, ‘This whole thing is flawed. I just don’t think this adds up’.” Underlying all this is the chaos of the last days of the Labour government. Blair is fighting a rearguard action to defend his reputation. Brown’s people will say that it was all very difficult, but everything bad that happened was because of Blair. The government’s lawyers will reveal that they thought the war was illegal, but could not stop it. Most witnesses will say that they wrestled with their consciences and their consciences lost. The inquiry gives us an insight into the world of lies and hypocrisy at the heart of the government. Decisions are made on sofas, not in parliament or the cabinet. Those in the loop make up lies to get the result they want and the outcome is the death of hundreds of thousands. The Chilcot inquiry will not hold the guilty to account for that. So whilst they all point the finger at one another, they have also pulled a trigger killing millions of innocent Iraqi civilians. And ultimately they've also shot the hopes of an election win in May. But as they bicker amongst the bodies we know this for sure. Each Labour member who either supported the unjust war or said nothing about it have blood on their hands. And no matter how much they attempt to scrub it off, that blood will remain an eternal legacy blemishing Labour eternally.
A blog for the socially and politically conscious, written by a young, gay activist who strongly believes in equality and justice.