“Wait until Charlie gets back with the final report,” George Bush said confidently in June in reply to reporters fishing after a confession of the president that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Last week, on October 6, Charles Duelfer, chief US weapons inspector, finally presented his report on the question. The outcome of the report comes as no surprise but nevertheless caused a stir, not least in the ruling circles in the United States and Britain. Despite some small reservations, the report is indeed no less than a devastating blow to Bush and Blair.
The boomerang effect
When the US and British troops invaded, Saddam had no chemical weapons, let alone nuclear or biological weapons. That is very roughly speaking the synopsis of the 1,000-page report the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) came up with. The ISG, ironically, had been set up by George Bush himself to prove the existence of the much-feared “weapons of mass destruction” threatening the whole of humanity. Twelve hundred inspectors scoured Iraq for more than one year after the start of the war. The results, however, backfire on the president as they prove exactly the opposite. What everybody already knew is now official: Iraq had no nuclear weapons program and neither did it have the technological capacity to build an arsenal. It took an army of hundreds of UN weapons inspectors and a “splendid little war” to establish this truth. Saddam had no weapons factories or top-secret chemical laboratories. So what was all the fuss about then?
First we were told that Iraq was able to produce biological agents like anthrax and that Saddam had existing and active military hardware for the use of chemical and biological weapons which could be activated within 45 minutes. After the first cracks in the wall appeared, Blair was forced to express his first reservations about his earlier bold claims. “I have to accept we haven’t found them [WMD] and we may never find them. We don’t know what has happened to them. They could have been removed. They could have been hidden. They could have been destroyed.” (6 July 2004) After that we had the sad spectacle of the British prime minister having to make a mild confession: “I have to accept, as the months have passed, it seems increasingly clear that at the time of the invasion, Saddam did not have stockpiles of chemical or biological weapons ready to deploy.” (14 July 2004) And now there is an official report demolishing their assertions.
Confronted with this unfortunate outcome, Bush and Blair are in a tight corner now. But no worries, Bush and Blair seem to think. No matter the report, there is still enough justification for a war that drags on relentlessly. In an astonishing frank declaration, Bush told the press that he would have gone to war anyway as even without the WMD there was a clear case for war. Saddam may not have had any stockpiles, but he still had a weapons programme and thus was a threat to world peace. Also Blair, though carefully weighing his words, refused to apologise for his pack of lies. “I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam.” One can only scratch one’s head in bewilderment. Thousands of innocent Iraqis have died in a brutal and illegal war, two leaders of two big nations have blatantly lied about the motives for the war, and the only thing they can come up with is that “the world is a safer place now” and that “it was a matter of time before he was going to begin pursuing those weapons of mass destruction.” The comment that Saddam was capable of developing chemical weapons is irrelevant anyway, as every industrialised country in the world can come up with this weaponry provided sufficient investments in this area – and the biggest countries of course already have plenty of these weapons themselves!
A not so pleasant lesson in history
Of course, Saddam in the past did have a good amount of “weapons of mass destruction”. So much is sure. But we also know who provided them. It is an open secret that he got those weapons from his then American friends in the White House. Chemical weapons were particularly useful in the 1980-88 war between Iran and Iraq.
The eighties were the years in which US imperialism more and more started to interfere in the Middle East. In 1980 president Jimmy Carter announced the “Carter doctrine”. In response to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that had just taken place, he stated: “An attempt by an outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” This actually meant that the US would intervene in the Persian Gulf region to secure its oil resources. What followed was a cynical game of “divide and rule”. Fearing the revolutionary consequences of the 1979 Iranian revolution, the United States urged Saddam to attack Iran. The dictator was no more than a US agent at the time, challenging the Islamic fundamentalist regime that had overthrown the Shah, the major US ally in the region. A positive side effect was that the US had access to the Iraqi market now and could make a nice profit. That Saddam used these weapons against his own people and to suppress the Kurds did not interest them at all.
The whole commotion about weapons of mass destruction is no more than a coup de théâtre and has always reeked of hypocrisy. In the 1980s, Iraq was dropped from the list of countries supporting terrorism. The Americans stepped up diplomatic relations with the country, even after the proven use of chemical weapons against Iranian troops. None other than Donald Rumsfeld, the present Defence Secretary, was sent as a special envoy to Iraq in 1983-84 and shook the hand of Saddam. Through the CIA they gave significant financial and logistic support to the Iraqi regime.
As a result of the support of Western imperialism and some Arabic states, Iraq was winning the war in 1988. The victory, however, was a Pyrrhic victory. Both countries were exhausted after eight years of war. The imperialists had skilfully managed to play off Iran and Iraq against each other, once supporting Iraq, then propping up Iran, as this was the best way to serve their own interests. No wonder Saddam felt betrayed because his American allies did not want to go too far in their support. We know how the story ends. Just as Osama bin Laden turned his back on his former American allies, Saddam also was the proverbial dog that turned around and bit his master. It is only since then that he became a “persona non grata” and that the hue and cry over his weapons of mass destruction started.
Weapons of mass deception
The whole WMD saga has a logic of its own – it is the story about the master and his rebellious slave. You don’t obey me anymore? Then I’ll punish you! Although in the beginning of the 1990s Saddam accepted a very strict regime issued by the United Nations and in effect dismantled his chemical weapons facilities, the powers-that-be decided this abandonment would never be enough. That is why for more than a decade, US imperialism has always been harping on the same subject: the weapons of mass destruction. This hypocritical policy of double standards started with George W. Bush’s father. However, let us not forget that the Clinton administration has also been singing the same tune for eight years. It was under the Clinton government that Iraq was paralysed by a vicious economic blockade that resulted in anything between half a million and a million dead. Both the Republicans and Democrats were involved in this crime up to their ears.
US imperialism and British imperialism should not even try to teach moral lessons. It simply does not make sense, and they know it. History knows enough examples of the crimes they have committed in the name of “peace and democracy”. However, since any stick will do to beat a dog, the so-called “weapons of mass destruction” are a convenient tool serving as an excuse for something they would have done anyway (a fact which, ironically, they now are forced to admit). What is more effective than to talk in the void about these horrible weapons the United States have no lack of themselves? The public has to be scared so that the leaders can do what they want, even initiating a “pre-emptive” war against a country that had already been brought to its knees through the scandalous UN sanctions.
If the truth is to be said, weapons of mass destruction never really were a concern. They were merely used to create a smoke-screen with which to fool the world’s “public opinion”. How else to explain that Bush and Blair have not invaded North Korea? This country most certainly possesses weapons of mass destruction – in fact, quite a nuclear armoury. One wonders where the consistency is as far as the “benign interventionism” of these moral crusaders is concerned. Of course, political, economic and geostrategic interests determine the agenda of the world powers. We have explained many times that the war in Iraq was not merely a manoeuvre to get hold of the oil, but was also motivated by the broader desire of US imperialism to get a strategic advantage over its European and Asian competitors. Where there’s muck there’s brass, as the British say. Muck and money go together, or as Lenin was fond of saying: “war is terrible, yes! Terribly profitable.” Bush and Blair most certainly never had a genuine concern about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction. In fact, they would never have gone to war if they had feared Saddam could launch some nuclear missiles on their troops. They just calculated that Iraq was effectively powerless to defend itself. In other words, the loot was there, they only had to grab it.
Problems not resolved
Yes, some people will say, that is all well and good, but the fact is that the world has been freed from a ruthless dictator. That is true, but it misses the point. The question we have to ask ourselves is: is Iraq a safer place now? Are the Iraqis better off now than when Saddam was in power? Let the facts speak for themselves: more than one year after the official end of the war, there is no peace and prosperity at all. On the contrary, the country is in total chaos and disarray. Even American Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld has been forced to admit the war is far from over. Ordinary Iraqis are afraid to go out on the streets and have long ceased to see this dirty war as a “liberation”. There is not much point in being happy to see Saddam Hussein removed, only to then see that your country is being occupied by several foreign powers that show no intent of leaving.
Similarly, the claim that the war in Iraq is part of a fight against international terrorism is also sounding more and more hollow. Everybody with eyes to see is able to notice that the terrorism in Iraq has not decreased but increased. The link between Al Qaeda and Saddam has always been a flawed one, but it is very clear that Al Qaeda does have a base in Iraq now. It was peanuts for them to slip into the country after the havoc created by US and British imperialism. Since then, one suicide attack after another has paralysed the country. And Rumsfeld? The poor man himself is now casting doubt on whether there was ever a relationship between Saddam and Al Qaeda. “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two,” he said, though a few hours later he stated he was “regrettably misunderstood”. This somersault was Rumsfeld’s second in as many days. Last week he also admitted U.S. intelligence on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction was faulty. The man seems to have lost his bearings.
Credibility is also a quality that could come in handy for Bush and Blair. But what can Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush do? They are trapped in a vicious quagmire in Iraq, they can no longer seriously maintain their lies so in effect they are desperately clutching at straws. If it were not so tragic, it would be comical to see how these two world leaders try to justify their actions. Apparently, even from their point of view the war is not going according to plan. The war is costing billions of dollars instead of being profitable. A once flourishing culture is now trapped in a vicious spiral of violence and Iraq may be on the brink of civil war. This cannot be separated from the interference of the imperialist forces that see Iraq as a colony. The arrogant intervention has solved nothing and only heralds a new period of bloodshed, misery and instability. And the masses, as usual, are the losers in this game.