Iraq-naphobia: just don’t mention the war

by Stephen Tall on June 23, 2005

It is strange and uncomfortable sometimes to observe the modulating rhythms of international politics. For over two years, between January 2003 and May 2005, the Iraq war dominated the British news agenda, crowding out almost every other issue of urgency or import. Yet, perversely, by the time of the election it had almost blown itself out: opinions had been formed, positions staked, minds made up. Frankly, there was nothing else to be said. You either believed Mr Tony Blair and his government had told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; or else you lived on this planet.

A collective sigh of relief was exhaled by the media commentariat when the Labour majority was reduced: Mr Blair had been taught a lesson, but not so severe a lesson that it risked letting back in Mr Michael Howard, and his band of swivel-eyed, right-wing nut-jobs. The consensus – unspoken, unannounced, but unmistakable – was that this nation had achieved closure. Iraq, and all its vicissitudes, had been put to bed. Back to politics as normal.

But still the argument rages. Just not in this country. Ironically, it is in the USA – which led the invasion, and whose citizens mostly supported it – that the shameful lies and deceits of the Bush ‘n’ Blair administrations are being laid bare thanks to the so-called ‘Downing Street Memo’. This purports to be the ‘Secret and Strictly Personal’ minutes of a meeting held in Number 10 on 23rd July, 2002, eight months prior to the illegal invasion of Iraq by American and British troops:

“C [Sir Richard Dearlove, head of MI6] reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The [National Security Council] had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”
(You can read the document in full at www.downingstreetmemo.com.)

If true, this document is devastating, lending the weight of primary evidence to the charge which (to date) has seemed compelling, but unproveable, that Messrs Bush ‘n’ Blair made the decision to invade Iraq in 2002, and then calculated how they might justify this course of action.

It would go without saying that this is shocking stuff, if it were not for the fact that it has, in fact, gone without being said. The memo was first published here, in Britain, on 1st May, 2005, in The Sunday Times. Since then, congressional Democrats in the USA have attempted, in the teeth of Republican opposition, to open an inquiry into the document’s verisimilitude. Last week, a 550,000-strong petition was presented to the White House by Michigan congressman, Mr John Conyers, with the support of 120 of his Congress colleagues. Yet, in Britain, there has been scarcely a peep.

This Trappist silence would be easier to explain if the Bush ‘n’ Blair invasion of Iraq had – in spite of the chicanery, duplicity and dishonesty exhibited in the lead-up to war – achieved its goals; if the mission really had been accomplished. But let’s cast our eyes over three news headlines from the last 48 hours:

  • Iraq Is Now a Terrorist Training Ground, CIA Says (New York Times, 22nd June, 2005)
  • “The CIA believes the Iraq insurgency poses an international threat and may produce better-trained Islamic terrorists than the 1980s Afghanistan war that gave rise to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, a U.S. counterterrorism official said on Wednesday.”

  • Baghdad reels from multiple bombs (BBC News Online, 23rd June, 2005)
  • “More than 30 people have been killed in a series of car bombings in Baghdad within 12 hours.”

  • Insurgents develop deadly new bombs (The Guardian, 23rd June, 2005)
  • “Insurgents in Iraq have reached a new level of military sophistication by developing a bomb which penetrates heavily armoured vehicles, US commanders have admitted.”

Yet this country sleeps easy, while chaos reins in a faraway country of which we no little (except how to take out its infrastructure through smart-bombs); while those who prepared faulty intelligence and dodgy dossiers at their political masters’ behest continue to run our security services; while the Prime Minister, and his supine Cabinet (all of whom voted for this war), ignore the clamour to discover the real truth; and while the public and media collude in this spiral of silence which dismisses Iraq as just so last year.

Like it, or not; bored with it, or not; angry about it, or not: the war in Iraq is not over. Back in 2003, many of us carried placards which declared, “Not in my name”. That was then, this is now. The awful truth is Iraq was invaded in all our names: we cannot, should not, must not wash our hands of it now just because it hurts our heads too much to think about it.