“Britain Should Never Have Fought this Shaming War”

October 29th, 2010 - by admin

Stephen Glover / The Daily Mail – 2010-10-29 01:21:18


Murder, Rape and the Final Proof that Britain Should Never Have Fought this Shaming War

LONDON (October 25, 2010) — The Iraq war was fought in the name of civilized values and common decency. The British and Americans presented themselves as the good guys, bringing democracy and the rule of law and humanity to a dysfunctional country ruled by a lunatic genocidal tyrant.

Saddam Hussein’s many crimes against humanity, including his brutal persecution of the Shia population and his murder of tens of thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, were repeatedly emphasized by the US and British governments before the invasion, though perhaps sometimes exaggerated.

If this neat contrast between good and evil has already worn pretty thin in the seven-and-a-half years since the invasion of Iraq, it has now finally been blown apart by a massive leak of nearly 400,000 official American military “field reports” by WikiLeaks.

Of course, no one can dispute that Saddam was a very bad man who murdered very many people. But the documents show that the “liberation” of Iraq brought torture, rape, summary executions and war crimes on a scale which even critics of the war and occupation had hitherto not imagined.

We all know that terrible things happen in the confusion of war. Until the age of the internet, they may have been set down on pieces of paper that were sometimes later filed away — or not.

Now the full horror of events is amassed in an indestructible electronic archive which, at the touch of a key, can be leaked to the world’s media by an obscure dissident US military analyst. War may never be the same again.

Let me make clear that I am not an uncritical admirer of WikiLeaks, or its somewhat bizarre-looking founder, Julian Assange. When a few months ago the organization leaked disturbing details of NATO’s behavior in Afghanistan, it failed to blank out information about Afghans who had co-operated with NATO troops, thus potentially making them vulnerable to reprisals by the Taliban.

WikiLeaks claims to have deleted all the names from these Iraqi reports that could otherwise result in reprisals and it is very difficult to accept the Pentagon’s argument that American and Iraqi troops will be put at risk.

No one has challenged the authenticity of these documents and, in view of the terrible acts of brutality they reveal, it is surely a good thing that they should have been put in the public domain.

What they show is nothing less than mayhem and ¬murder. They also reveal a reluctance by American forces to hold their Iraqi allies to account. US authorities systematically failed to investigate hundreds of reports of abuse, torture, rape and murder by Iraqi police and soldiers.

Beatings and assaults on prisoners were repeatedly ignored. As recently as last December, American forces disregarded a video that had been passed to them which apparently showed Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner.

So much for Western “civilised” values. American troops are themselves implicated in many disquieting incidents. In February 2007, a US Apache helicopter killed two Iraqis, suspected of firing mortars, as they tried to surrender. Other Apaches strafed and killed at least 14 unarmed civilians in eastern Iraq in July 2007.

An estimated 681 civilians, including 30 children, were killed at checkpoints by Iraqi and US troops, whereas only 120 insurgents were shot in such incidents.

One can understand that fear rather than calculated savagery may have sometimes led jittery troops to fire at suspicious-looking civilians, but the large number of innocent deaths is nonetheless appalling.

These are not the allegations of anti-war journalists, which can be easily dismissed and swept aside by the authorities as biased or ill-informed.

They are the painstaking records of US forces on the spot, who obviously had no interest in exaggerating their own or Iraqi abuses. These are the cold, shocking, shaming facts.

No doubt because the reports concern the parts of Iraq controlled by American forces, the only significant references to British abuses are two reports from June 2008 describing two Iraqis being punched and kicked by unidentified British soldiers. Whether through the good fortune that their activities were not recorded by US reports, or because their behaviour was generally better, British troops appear in a less shameful light than Iraqi and American forces.

But I am afraid that does not exculpate the British Government from the part it played throughout these years. It was, after all, an Anglo-American operation. The torture, killing and general chaos that emerge in these reports followed from the joint invasion that took place in March 2003.

They confirm what even Tony Blair acknowledges in his recently published memoirs — that there was virtually no plan for running Iraq after Saddam Hussein had been toppled.

Can either Britain or America really have gone to war on such weak pretexts in modern times? Tony Blair tried to justify Britain’s involvement on the false grounds that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed within 45 minutes.

President George W. Bush implied, equally falsely, that Saddam had been connected to the attack on the World Trade Centre in September 2001 and that Al-Qaeda had a strong presence in Iraq. It didn’t.

To what extent these two leaders knowingly misled us is, in a sense, a barren debate. It will never be proved beyond any doubt. All we really need to know is that both of them were tragically wrong, and that both of them were determined to invade Iraq come what may, pulling out the UN weapons inspectors before their job was complete.

What followed, after a relatively easy military victory, was confusion and the killing fields revealed in these documents released by WikiLeaks. They suggest that the number of civilian deaths was greater than has been assumed. A respected group called Iraq Body Count has increased its estimate of the number of civilians killed after the invasion by 15,000 to 122,000. That is an awful lot of innocent people.

That number may be revised again and, of course, more Iraqis may die. The Americans and British have left behind a country as disunited as ever, which cannot even boast a properly functioning government.

Yet even if the allies had installed a working democracy, it would hardly be possible to justify the deaths of 122,000 innocent people. Nothing can ever excuse the brutality and wanton disregard for human life minutely set down in these reports.

Nick Clegg, who to his credit has always opposed the Iraq war, struck a very different note yesterday to the Ministry of Defence, which condemned the leaks. The Deputy Prime Minister seemed to suggest that some sort of inquiry might be justifiable.

But what would an inquiry tell us that we do not already know? I revere the British troops who served our country, and sometimes died, in this futile war. They did their duty.

I fear, though, that these leaks confirm what most of us already recognise. This war was not merely futile. It was wrong and Britain should never have fought it.

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