Special Reports



George Orwell would have been surprised at how the scenario he set in "1984" should be working out, not in the totalitarian states that had terrified Europe in his lifetime, fascist Germany or communist Russia, but in the democratic USA in the new millennium.

We have witnessed an unnecessary and highly destructive war of choice engaged upon with a false prospectus, in pursuit of unachievable or irrelevant objectives *. It was based upon mistaken or skewed analyses of self-evidently inadequate intelligence. Virtually all the players had convinced themselves and each other, that Saddam had stockpiles of WMD - lethal chemical and bacteriological weapons, or as with nuclear, the capability of quickly getting there. All this as it turned out with masses of assumptions, but no empirical evidence at all.

The two principal nations involved, the USA and UK, honoured the heads of their responsible intelligence services: George (Slam Dunk) Tenet of the CIA with the highest civilian award, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. John (45 minutes to WMD/ African yellowcake) Scarlett, of the UK's Joint Intelligence Committee, received a promotion to be 'top spook' the head of MI6, Britain's Secret Intelligence Service in May 2004, and on 1st January 2007 became a Knight Commander of the Order of St George - he is now Sir John Scarlett. Whatever other services they had earlier rendered their respective countries, the timing of these awards inevitably appear linked to the Iraqi Invasion.
Both, for whatever complicated reasons, allowed their political bosses to believe and state publicly - bottom line, that Saddam Hussein had WMD - chemical and bacteriological, with nuclear weapons either developed, or getting close. He had, we were told, aluminium rods, yellowcake and mobile icecream vans (or laboratories) but as we only discovered after the invasion, he didn't have any WMDs.

Perhaps a seance could now be convened, so that right after Bush / Cheney / Blair have apologized to Jacques Chirac for being right to want more UN inspections before the invasion, they could seek to contact the late Iraqi dictator to say sorry for picking on his particular tyrannical dictatorship, when there were perhaps ten to twenty other global candidates of equivalent evil stature (Condi knows them all). They could explain that so soon after 9/11 it was the 'towel-head' similarities, as the grunts would have it, that misled them. The stuff about "hating freedom" would depend on whose - Saddam probably enjoyed his freedom to be a self-made tyrant. As to "threatening American cities," well that was flat wrong and if they had known that the weedy Swede, Hans Blix (you know these neutrals) - they could apologise to him as well - could be believed that there actually were no WMDs, and indeed only short-range rockets, then it is hard to see, since Saddam had no airforce or navy, how American cities could have entered into any equation. Yet even now in 2007, Bush is publicly claiming that his taking out Saddam, safeguarded America

It is not credible that Vice-president Cheney who had earlier served under George Bush I in the Rumsfeld job as Secretary of Defence, and who we are told cherry-picked the CIA's information on Iraq, really believed that Saddam Hussein posed 'a threat to American cities' - as was the jargon. He must have known that there was no connection between al Qaeda and Iraq, since he had himself been peddling some discredited stories of a Prague venue for a meet between Saddam's Intelligence people with the 9/11 bombers, which his own CIA had dismissed as they had found no evidence (and had to intervene via GWB to stop Cheney making a speech proclaiming it). Any such connection would by now have been established beyond dispute with all the water-boarding and investigations in post-war Iraq, and triumphantly headlined all over the world. On WMD: Cheney may have been sold a bill of goods by Israel's Mossad, or by his favourite, later-discredited Iraqi exile, Ahmed Chalabi, who each had their own reasons to see the USA committed to removing Saddam Hussein. But at no time did he qualify his assertions that Iraq was fully armed with chemical, bacteriological and even nuclear weapons. On August 26th 2002 Cheney made a speech that said, "Simply stated, Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, our allies and us." He accused the UN inspectorate of Hans Blix of being weak and soft and useless, because they could only report that they had, despite rigorous inspections, turned up no traces of WMD.

Cheney was supposed to be the elder-statesman / political expert who would guide the ill-equipped George W Bush through foreign policy minefields, of which, as was painfully obvious, he knew next to nothing. The current president had from the beginning always been upfront that his interest in seeking election, was to cut taxes. He knew about that and what he wanted to achieve domestically. As he was putting his 2000 government team together, he was quite candid with them that he knew little of foreign affairs. This was obvious to any one watching the three highly-structured televised presidential debates against Al Gore in 1999. GWB was deeply uneasy at the foreign policy questions. Clearly he had been exhaustively rehearsed, he knew his script - but little more. Follow-up questions which would surely have killed him, were not allowed, so all he needed was a rehearsed sound- bite, and when he ran out of words - his trademark cheery grin. Once in the White House, Cheney was to have guided him - and he did, but it was on a Cheney agenda and it is obvious that Cheney wanted this war. His story was that Saddam had the ultimate weapons and al-Qaeda had the organisation and global reach to deliver them. QED: They would work together and America was under threat. North Korea actually did have the weapons and a history of selling nuclear technology to whoever could pay, but curiously they were not in the Cheney cross-hairs. No oil to 'secure' for the world perhaps?

Iraq must for several years have been the most scrutinized nation on earth, with every kind of electronic surveillance deployed. After the 1991 Gulf war, the UN inspectors were indeed surprised at the advanced stage of Iraq's preparation to acquire WMD, and as a result destroyed a lot of what they uncovered. In the intervening years the USAF and the RAF had been consistently flying patrols sometimes daily, over a large part of the country and routinely engaging and destroying ground-to-air missile batteries and likely WMD targets. Of course they were photographing at the same time, but the US had their ultra-high tech satellite monitors carefully scrutinizing everything remotely suspicious. Before the invasion the UN inspectors who we can see were doing an excellent job, were pulled out to make way for the killing to start. Arrogance? Certainly. Hubris - without a doubt! There was never any question that the most militarily powerful nation in history could brush aside this ill equipped third-world army, with no airforce or navy.

Chirac, Putin and Schroeder were right. The case for Iraq having cheated on these weapons had not been made and they argued for the Hans Blix inspectorate to be given more time to establish guilt - in which event they said they would support intervention.
It is incontestable that Saddam only took real note of UN demands when the threat of military intervention suddenly looked imminent. He was on the ropes and the very effective UN inspectors could have continued their work with the military threat in place. His bluff had been called, but almost certainly Cheney and his cohorts would not have accepted a UN, as distinct from a US inspectorate, and this former Secretary of Defence who had never served in uniform, would have rubbished their findings, as he always did with Blix's people. Blair, who had made the most coherent case thus far for intervention, was not prepared to go with the further UN inspections route, and how he must now regret that. Instead, he identified with the war party in the White House. The neo-con desk-borne warriors in Washington, perhaps as a post 9/11 thing, were itching to show that the USA would 'kick ass' to achieve its perceived interests. Saddam was well placed to receive the boot.

There seems to be a solid case that it was because the bulk of the US forces had already been moved out there and the full summer heat was imminent, that they had to go in whilst desert campaigning weather allowed. Rather as in WWI, when it is said that once mobilisation had started, at that point the European railway timetables determined that the rush to war was unstoppable. Staying put, or returning to the USA would have been represented as a retreat by the right-wing media, who also wanted this war. The president would have had to face the taunts of his hardline supporters for backing down. “Bring ‘em on” Bush, above all else appeared to relish the image of a macho Texan hard man, his real fear was of being judged irresolute.

Observing the scene, Henry Kissinger told Condaleezza Rice, " You can't cock the gun, as you have - and not pull the trigger

This presidency may be judged as having achieved something many would have previously have thought of as impossible. The USA, which despite its less than full respect for human life, and uneven record on domineering foreign policy - Central and Latin America in particular come to mind - had managed to hold to an image as a model of what democracy could be, a beacon of light for an oppressed world. Because this coincided with being the militarily most powerful nation on earth, the leader of the winning side in the cold war, America could be and was represented as being the national equivalent of the moral high ground. There was always an ugly side, but by straight comparison with that half of the world led by the USSR, given the balance of good versus evil in the rival systems, the US was then undoubtedly a long way ahead. But Bush/Cheney have radically altered this perception of America.

The differences could have been characterized in those days by what America could rightfully boast: the law of habeas corpus, the right to jury trials, torture being illegal and a fully transparent justice system. Elections were designed to be inclusive, open and fair, excluding bribery and any administrative obstruction to the exercise of the universal franchise. Every significant political office had to be elected - thus the jokes about dog-catchers. Sounds good? Comparatively it was. Of course there were always the Mayor Daleys, the political 'machines' and bundles of money changing hands. But on the whole, it was infinitely better than the communists, with nominated placemen moving up to positions of power through the pyramid of the only legal party; a criminal code where defence lawyers did not always bother to attend court because their clients, by virtue of being charged with a crime, must therefore be guilty. Then there were the prisons. The infamous gulags where conditions were so severe that prisoners were as likely to die there as to ever be released. They were for criminals certainly, but also for 'enemies of the state,' political prisoners who had no appeal. Even now we shudder at the fate of so many victims, that had managed to give offence to someone powerful enough to put them away in such unbelievable hell-holes.

But fifteen years after the end of the cold war and six years into Bush/ Cheney, how does the American system now compare with what is described above? The criminal justice system is a major casualty. There is no longer impartial habeas corpus - the US (unlike Russia), has now got a Soviet-style gulag system of remote prisons where the administration decides who are enemies of the state, who may then be imprisoned without trial, incarcerated and tortured, without offending US law. There is a semantic question here about torture. Cheney refers to water-boarding as a little 'dunking' (like dipping a donut in coffee). The CIA protest that they 'do not do torture', but do admit via their own inspector's report, to water-boarding. The Gestapo used this technique in WWII on French Resistance prisoners, and Pol Pot employed it in his death camps in Cambodia. In medieval times the Holy Inquisition, licenced by the church to torture, were forbidden to draw blood or to smash bones. So they played 'pain games,' raising and dropping a prisoner on a rope attached to his arms bound behind his back; they used the rack to stretch limbs out of their joints; and they put a prisoner's basted feet to roast over a slow fire, whilst they 'put the question'. But this could not be torture, because it did not breach the Pope's rules. There are obvious parallels.

There is a familiar argument that any method of interrogation is justified to acquire important knowledge, or by a further short step, to get evidence of a crime. But if that is accepted as legitimate, then we turn the clock back by centuries. The achievement of an international standard on the treatment of prisoners like the Geneva Conventions, goes out of the window. Thereafter, your own people when captured in conflict, or even civilians arrested on the street in some unfriendly country, may be treated diabolically without any recourse to protest or to international law. You have to set the standard and for the democracies, Geneva was it.

In the field of US elections, on recent form it appears to the outside world that in order to get the presidential nomination of one of the two parties of power, it comes down very largely, not as one might expect to a declared policy program, but to the campaigning money that a candidate can deliver. That is either because he or his family are personally ultra-rich, or because his name is dynastic, or otherwise has a resonance with the voters (the new cult of celebrity is relevant here), who as a result will contribute the money. The reason for the big money is that the key to success with an electorate is TV advertising, so it is possible that one candidate could have zero hours of political advertising, whilst his opponent could have mega-hours. Yeltsin in Russia, with US campaign managers, won his second term that way. Advertising exists because it works, but it is a free market product and in the US, political slots have to be paid for. An interesting revelation recently was that Donald Rumsfeld intended to run for president back in '86/'87, but had to give up that aspiration because he couldn't raise the money!

The UK system is that the candidates must have equal time for their free TV and radio commercials. The broadcasters are bound by law to provide this (and are carefully monitored). This, more or less is the norm in European democracies, precisely to avoid the critical criterion in election for high office, to be favouring the candidate with the most money. [The present US presidency is the best example of what you get if the qualification is a famous (family) name backed by mega- bucks and a highly (paid) professional team to manage the campaign].

Because the elections are conducted on a collegiate basis, the presidential candidate favoured by the popular vote does not necessarily win. Leaving aside the shady business in Florida, it is not disputed that Al Gore had nation-wide, totaled hundreds of thousands more votes than Bush in the 2000 election, but to no avail. The Electoral College takes representatives from all of the states, each mandated to vote according to the results in their own state. The nature of self-interest being what it is, the opposing political parties have gerrymandered electoral boundaries to the point where the great majority of constituencies are likely to remain entirely predictable, so apart from the ballyhoo, the actual contest is fought out in just a handful of states and there, in just a small number of constituencies. The skills of the professional election managers and the unlimited resources available for such swing-states, means that the winner of the most powerful office in the world may then be determined by the clever manipulations of the election hucksters, of whom Karl Rove is the apotheosis.

The USA with 300 million citizens, with a pre-eminent military, the leading economy and seemingly imperial pretensions, is never going to be insulated from problems. Surely the President as Chief Executive for at least four years, probably eight, no matter from which party, should come from the ranks of the brightest and the best; a first class mind - a man or woman who has already 'achieved', in a competitive world? There is in the US an abundance of such tried and talented individuals available (all presidential cabinets are put together this way). Proven judgement and executive ability in the president including the choice of his team, are the most important factors, but as long as the candidate is chosen by the criteria of raising the TV campaigning war-chest, then the system has indeed lost its way.

The US has led the world for half a century but as detailed in our recent report WANTED A WORLD LEADER, has signally failed to provide leadership in several critical areas since Bush-Cheney came to power. Until the end of the Clinton presidency, many US allies and friends to large extent, like it or not, saw the leader of America as also 'their' president, their leader when it came right down to crunch world issues. Exercising the kind of authority that for example took hold of the Bosnia horror and dealt with it, whilst the Europeans were not acquitting themselves very well! Similarly, the tough decisions of taking-on Serbia direct, to liberate Kosovo. That was leadership! Republican or Democrat, since the collapse of communism at any rate, the world had come to expect, in a crisis, something admirable from US presidents - but no more!

Clearly Bush / Cheney are not the only presidential team that have failed, but it had not previously been US practice to go to war with a nation which did not attack or threaten them, or their vital interests, nor (unlike Afghanistan), have any connection with the international terrorists that had so grievously assaulted the US homeland. Saddam certainly terrified his own people,and regionally he was a menace, but as to international terrorism, there is no evidence that he was engaged, apart from supporting the Palestinians in their dispute with Israel - as do most Arab states.

Iraq was not involved with al Qaeda nor indeed with any islamic militant movement, who were certainly then not permitted in secular Iraq. Once Saddam had gone, as we can see, the foreign islamists from many nations poured in, suicide bombers and all, for their jihad. It was they who became the most destructive of the insurrectionists, since they had no political objectives other than to turn Sunni against Shia, and vice-versa, and to train a new generation of terrorists in war conditions.


To be sure it was a thoroughly despicable regime but not actually posing any threat to America. It has turned out badly, whatever the spin, and by reference to the objectives listed, it can be seen how far short the US administration are of their own set goals.

Just occasionally GWB departs from his prepared positions and ad libs. Visiting Vietnam, answering reporters questions he spoke of Iraq thuswise: " … sometimes you have to stay for the long haul - we saw that in Vietnam, we'll succeed unless we quit ". What, one wonders was in his head? Does he not know that the US had to leave Vietnam because they had lost! They left ignominiously at the end - the last out leaving the only way possible by helicopter from the roof of the barricaded embassy, from a city already fallen to the successful Vietcong. Did GWB imply that the US should not have left, but stayed even longer with even more 'surges' of new troops to be placed in harms way? Or does he simply know little of his own nation's recent history?

When President George W Bush talks about achieving victory in Iraq, it should be
measured against:

These were the objectives presented to the president and the National Security Council just prior to the invasion.

  • Iraq's territorial integrity is maintained and the quality of life is improved visibly.

  • Iraq is seen to be moving towards democratic institutions and serves as a model for the region.

  • The US and coalition maintain freedom of action to carry out the global war on terrorism and WMD capture and destruction activities.

  • Obtain international participation in the reconstruction effort.


  • Obtain the support of the Iraqi people.

  • Obtain the political support of the international community including regional states, preferably through a UN Security Council resolution.


  • Place as many Iraqi faces in positions of physical authority as quickly as possible.


  • Accomplish the above urgently.

As a commentary on the above, apart from the lack of success after four years, it is significant that in speaking of the 'Iraqi people' or 'Iraqi faces,' there was no concern about the lethal divisions between Shia and Sunni suppressed in Saddam's Iraq yet waiting to explode; and of the distinctly separate Kurds. They do not see themselves primarily as 'Iraqi people' (Iraq, formerly three Ottoman provinces only came into being after WWI), but in their age-old identities of Sunni, Shia and Kurd.

The US State Department has no shortage of outstanding 'arabists,' and has an ambassador in most of the surrounding countries, many of whom are career professionals, but probably few are neocons. Surely if their counsel had been given its due weight, knowing as they must have done what might be expected to happen in post-combat defeated Iraq - with some 200,000 unpaid trained fighting men demobilized, but still holding weapons suddenly on the streets; with the state breaking down and people reverting to family, clan and religion, much human misery and a great loss of life might have been avoided. But in the final analysis, it is now clear that nothing was going to stop the neocons from having their war.

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Publisher - Clive Lindley