and SADDAM HUSSEIN
UPDDATE February 7th 2003
February 6th 2003 (plus
to May 29th)
advisable when considering the current debate on the United Nations
Security Council's position to avoid getting caught up with
discussions about good and evil. There is no doubt that the
authoritarian control of society practised by Saddam Hussein's regime
is based on unlimited levels of brutality, which are used to deter and
control dissidence or resistance. Should collective resistance raise
its head, the possession by a small military elite of chemical and
biological weapons renders even a rebellion by the Iraqi military
impossible. There is no doubt that the regime would like to
develop a nuclear capability as well and has been trying to do so, not
to threaten countries outside the Middle East, but to secure its own
position and to play a major role in Middle East politics, waiting for
the chance to take over any state it manages to destabilise.
Due to the enmity between the regime and the United States and its
allies, there is no reason to suppose it would object to terrorists
operating from Iraq acting as an additional deterrent against any
external intervention to remove them from power. It would be likely to
assist them. However it is unlikely that there would be friendly
relations between Muslim fundamentalist Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein.
They would each like to be seen as the defenders of the Palestinians,
but even that would not make them allies. On the other hand it would
not mean that there would not be elements within each that colluded in
measures against the US and its allies. The fact that the threat of
such terrorism acts as a deterrent against enforcing the latest UN
resolution has been proved by polls of public opinion in the UK.
There are rational causes for a majority of the Iraqi people to believe
that the United States has been an abusive consumer of Middle East oil.
The fact that their oil would have little value if they [Iraq]
only consumer, and that the economies of the west developed
the society, education, science, technology and finally machinery that
uses it as energy source, does not assuage their feeling that the power
of the United States exceeds its wisdom and its appreciation of other
civilisations. The fact that technology pioneered by the US will
probably be central to future post-oil, eco-friendly energy systems
does not warm their hearts either. Though they may fear and
detest Saddam, it must be understood that their experience of the
States has not left a good impression. George Bush Senior and
Junior have each, in their own way, managed to undermine the
of the US in Iraqi eyes very, very seriously.
The current UK government policy on Iraq is based the clear proposition
that a choice has to be made now between three courses of action. These
1. To continue with the policy of containment and sanctions
until the regime controlled by Saddam Hussein implements the conditions
the cease fire signed at the end of the Gulf War and abides by all the
UN resolutions concerning Iraq passed during the last 12 years.
Implicit in this choice is to continue the patrolling of the no-fly
zones or abandon these areas to the military dominance of Saddam with
probably severe consequences for the inhabitants.
This has been the reluctant choice for the last 12 years, as the option
of overthrowing Saddam was quite rightly rejected at the end of the
Gulf War operation Desert Storm. Quite rightly because that war
was fought on behalf of the United Nations by the United States and a
coalition of forces with a mandate to expel Saddam Hussein's forces
from Kuwait and so doing restore its status as a member of the UN.
Subsequent to the Gulf War, there was an attempt by a significant
movement in Iraq to overthrow Saddam. There was no chance of
doing this by free and fair elections, but they believed that the
encouragement for a popular rebellion by the then US President George
Bush implied that they would get military support from the US and UN if
they initiated the uprising. They were gravely misled in this and
the uprising was crushed, with the further consequence of making any
further change of regime by the people of Iraq unthinkable.
The adverse consequences of choice number one so far are
known. They are:
The adverse consequences if
this choice were to continue are considered by all
authorities likely to get worse.
- Sanctions, while
rendering containment adequate up to a point, have hurt the Iraqi
and the country while making it ever more dependent on Saddam's
regime. In spite of UN efforts to make the sanctions 'smart', he has
managed to control the oil income and bypass the controls on oil
- The establishment of
the no-fly zones and their enforcement has been costly and dangerous.
- It is making Iraq a
breeding ground for future terrorism.
The effectiveness of the containment is diminishing and destined to
For this reason choice number 1 is considered to be unsustainable by
all members of the UN security Council without exception. They have
held this view for some years, but now they have come to the conclusion
that an alternative approach must be implemented without delay.
Since the consequences of a change in policy will also involve
risks, the democratic nations that make up the Security Council should
encourage public discussion and seek parliamentary approval.
2. Choice number 2 is to lift the sanctions. This would
presumably require an increase in surveillance and patrolling the
zones until the UN was satisfied that there was no military build up.
It might be thought that using inspectors on the ground and
aerial surveillance would enable this choice to be a viable option.
To understand why it is not, it is necessary to have an
understanding of the limitations of both means of monitoring.
Even if we imagine hypothetically infinite resolution all-weather
aerial reconnaissance and 100 skilled inspectors on the ground, it is
not possible to prevent the Iraqi regime from purchasing, developing
concealing WMD if it has developed carefully planned methods of
non-cooperation and deception. To appreciate why, one needs to
have some mathematical understanding of areas and volumes and the time
and methodology involved in evaluating data. Inspectors can only ensure
compliance with the UN resolutions if Iraq cooperates fully. If it did,
sanctions could be lifted.
Since Iraqi officials have been seriously dishonest in previous
declarations, they have unfortunately lost the right to prevent access
by the UN inspectors to areas, materials and documents on the grounds
that these are legitimate defence secrets. It has to be 'Access All
Choice number 2 has been ruled out so far by Saddam, presumably because
once he has no WMD in the hands of his personal supporters, he would be
vulnerable to a coup d'etat in the event of outside military
intervention. It may also be true that he does not want to
reveal defence systems and plans that are not WMD but are relevant to
his own personal survival. Ironically, the continuing situation
of attempted containment and sanctions (choice number 1 above) suits
him perfectly. That is why he will try to keep it going as long as
3. Choice number 3 is to enforce the latest UN resolution.
That is the only choice that has been suggested by anyone in the
event that the first 2 choices are ruled out, which they have been.
It has therefore been adopted as the current policy of the US
and the UK.
In order to enforce the resolution, military intervention on behalf of
the UN is required in the last resort. Because the threat of military
intervention cannot be a bluff, and because carrying it out may result
in casualties and even a risk of increased terrorist retaliation in the
short term, the UK Government will seek not only parliamentary approval
but support from a majority of the British public.
It is likely that parliamentary approval will be forthcoming in the
event that a majority of the UN security council are in favour of
enforcement. However, the British public appear to be seriously
by the threat of terrorist action should the resolution be enforced.
A substantial majority will only approve if there is a further UN
Security Council resolution calling for enforcement. This is in
part because they understand the desperation of the Palestinians.
Although Israel is not a threat to its neighbouring states, it
has occupied territory to which it is not entitled to which
Palestinians have a reasonable claim. If military action can be
taken to enforce a UN resolution without specific approval of the
Security Council, why are the Palestinians not entitled to take
International Law into their own hands and use whatever weapons they
have, including suicide bombers, to remove illegal settlements?
There may be an answer to that question, but many UK citizens do not
know what it is. On the other hand, if there is a UN resolution
approving military intervention, the British public will support it,
in the case of Iraq or in the case of Israel.
The difficult case would come in the event that a majority of the
Security Council approve intervention in Iraq but not all are in
or one permanent member casts a veto (that last is unlikely but not
In the event a majority of the British public are against enforcing the
UN resolution by military means, the UK could still take part in
enforcement unless the British Parliament is also against it. In
the event that both parliament and a majority of the public are
against it, then the government would have to back down, even if the
consequences are more appalling than those attributable to war now to
disarm Saddam Hussein.
This war is still not inevitable. The UK and the US are going to
great lengths to avoid it. The anti-war protesters are many and
Sadly they probably make it more likely.
The important thing is they have the freedom to assemble peacefully and
put their views. They are listened to.
In Iraq you can only assemble to praise Saddam.
* * *
The presentation by Colin Powell on this day to the UN Security Council
did not add anything significant. It was unlikely to, since the public
revelation of intelligence and sources would be a mistake if war is
likely to ensue, and an even bigger mistake if a judgement is made to
hold off in the unlikely event that Saddam cooperates fully and
manages to remain in power.
It is strange that the British government has been criticised for not
revealing the name of an Iraqi student in California responsible for
collecting some historical evidence on Iraqi Intelligence Services. In
view of the exposure and risk it would have subjected him to and the
litigious nature of American society, I would have thought he could
have sued them for millions if they had done so at this time. As for
the charge of plagiarism, I think the views of the Great Lobachevsky
are applicable. In any event, it would seem to me to be an excellent
independent source in the circumstances.
UPDATE February 11th
Members of the NATO Alliance are not impressed, and the Americans are
angered, by the refusal of France and Germany to approve the
implementation of NATO defence plans for Turkey necessitated by the
possibility of military action to enforce UN Resolution 1441.
Since both France and Germany had voted for 1441 and then
committed NATO to enforcing it at their last meeting, it seems on the
face of it as if the French and German governments have lost their
marbles. So what is the explanation? Many slants, some of them
most derogatory, have been put on these actions, but the fundamental
truth that lies behind them is this:
The United States has enjoyed popularity amongst the majority of the
citizens of France and Germany for many years. The French have fought
hard against US 'cultural imperialism' and against quite a lot of the
global free market and commercial principles championed by America.
Nothing wrong with that, intelligent and challenging opposition is
necessary and good for both parties. Much American culture has been
adopted, but much French culture has been fortunately been preserved.
France initially opted out of NATO under de Gaulle but slipped back in
Germany has on the whole felt less vulnerable and has had exceptional
trading and defence alliance with the US. It has been at the heart of
NATO by housing major elements of the US and UK military units at
NATO's disposal in Europe in addition to their own forces. US
citizens have, with a few exceptional terrorist incidents, enjoyed
popularity and security in both countries as residents and tourists.
But whatever Americans think of George W. Bush, whatever the truth is
about George W. Bush, the majority of French and German citizens think
he is an ignorant and dangerous cowboy who has confirmed their worst
suspicions about America. As a matter of fact, half of the UK
public think the same, and the other half, although they suspect from
his actions that he is not dangerous and that he is learning fast about
a world he was abysmally ignorant of, and that there are many other US
politicians who are experienced, wise and knowledgeable in world
affairs, realise that G.W.B. had 'blown it' with most of Europe's
citizens long before 9/11, to such an extent that they were very sorry
but not all that surprised when the twin towers were attacked.
The result is that now, at the very moment when the governments of
Europe and the NATO alliance need to act with a united foreign policy
alongside the United States in very difficult circumstances, these
governments find themselves unable to count on the support of their
domestic electorates for any policy that depends on following America's
lead unless they can see beyond a doubt that it is in their own
interest as well. That is what has put Chirac and Schroeder in a
position where, having signed up to resolution 1441, they are now
trying to put off approving the US enforcing it by military means until
they have convinced their electorates at home that all other options
have been exhausted.
They realise that it will be absurd if the next UN resolution is to
the effect that the one before (1441) is not to be enforced.
Yet they think that if they join in the NATO preparations their
electorates will see this as committing to war before the case has been
made. If Bush had not lost the trust of so much of the French and
public, this would not be the case.
For this reason, although the actions of Chirac and Schroeder are
absurd in logic and in truth so ridiculous that the risk of their
damaging the NATO alliance is actually less than if they had some basis
in reality rather than perception, the Bush administration has only
itself, and principally G.W.B. himself, to blame.
The above, to the best of my knowledge is fact, not opinion. The
following paragraphs will include my opinion.
It seems to me that world affairs are proceeding correctly in every
respect - errors are exposed in the course of facing up to
unfolding reality, and however painful it may be we will move on.
There is much discussion, argument and passions are aroused.
Opposing views are put out loud, feelings are getting hurt.
At some point unless there is a miracle people are going to get
hurt. But anyone who watched the programmes presented by John Simpson
and Ben Anderson on BBC2 this evening (Tue Feb 11) can hardly
to see that it is the duty of the UN, not just the US, to disarm Iraq
and to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
UPDATE 13th Feb - BRITAIN DECIDES? IT'S A JOKE!
When Charles Kennedy was told during the debate on Wednesday, BBC1,
that his position on Iraq was contradictory, illogical and hypocritical
he made only the defence that it was nevertheless the position held by
the majority of the British Public.
That is not a defence of the position - it is a comment on the
British public today. To defend the British public from this
conclusion he would need to defend the coherence, logic and sincerity
of his position.
By his own admission he could not.
As a Liberal Democrat supporter on many issues, I am more than
Nor was I impressed by Rubens' arguments on behalf of America, but if
that is why he supports enforcing 1441, then so be it.
The situation is that this whole mess, caused in a large part by the
United States, has now got to be cleared up starting with the removal
of Saddam Hussein at the expense of the US taxpayer, frightened by 9/11
into footing the bill in dollars and lives if it comes to war. British
lives are at risk as usual.
As a francophile, a committed European, in favour of the Euro, a common
defence policy and rapid reaction force and the EU as a balance to the
United States, and as a critic of George Bush since the day he took
power, I find it hard to admit that right now I say thank God for
It is up to parliament if the UK is going to side with France, Germany
and Belgium in the event that the inspectors report that Iraq is in
material breach of 1441. The UN has to enforce its resolutions. The
that the missiles Iraq has been testing have a range a bit longer than
that agreed by the UN is not, of course not, a reason for declaring
war. It is other material breaches and the consequence of allowing
Saddam to carry on and sanctions to continue which will decide.
As soon as 1441 is enforced, by war or diplomacy, Israel has to get out
of the settlements and the Palestinians have a recognisable state of
their own in the very near future.
There may well be terrorist attacks which are made on the UK and the US
but that in no way alters the realities above.
War is the last option, but we would never have got to the point where
there is the ghost of a chance of avoiding it if the US and the UK had
not got the agenda moved on to where it is now, by the policies they
have followed over the past few months. Policies which the anti-war
protesters have derided. Of course Bush is just a disaster area in his
own right, but there is nothing we can do about that. After all,
nobody else wants the job. You don't see Senator Sam Nunn running for
As for Blair, he may have been naive concerning quite a lot of domestic
policy, but I think his advice from the people he had to advise him
including the established civil service was faulty. In the case of Foot
and Mouth, it was absurd from day one right to the end, on every aspect
of the problem and the action to take. He has been badly
served. He has not publicly blamed his advisers but taken the
blame himself. Quite right, but because of that he has been
branded an non-delivering spin doctor, a liar and worse. The British
Public will blame anyone but their confused selves. For example, no
national Health service could deal with what we throw at it. The fact
that a large number of us think that the military presence at Heathrow
was a PR exercise to promote war in Iraq reveals that we are so out of
touch that we are not really not worth consulting on anything from
Saddam Hussein to the Euro. I am a committed European and in
favour of adopting the common currency as soon as possible, but I
doubt if we will now.
Britain decides? It's a joke.
I have just heard Rosie Boycott say on Any Questions that if ONE PERSON
risks losing their life at Heathrow it should be shut down. If
she really thinks that, she should retire to an asylum as soon as
possible. If one person a day died at Heathrow due to terrorism, or
aircraft noise, or agoraphobia, or a heart attack or all of the above
and more every day, it would still be no reason to close the
airport. On Rosie's thinking we should close all roads,
immediately. Pity, I like Rosie, but she has definitely lost it.
UPDATE 14th Feb
Hans Blix and Mohammed al-Baradei have submitted their latest report to
the UN. There has been no movement of substance at all, but a
predictable increase in process designed to appear friendly and
co-operative. In other words no progress at all. Hans Blix
was certainly fair, in that he pointed out that some of the
intelligence photos presented by Colin Powell were not on their own
proof of the movement of material before inspectors arrived. The
vehicles could have been moved as a matter of routine. Er..... yes,
they could have.... He also said that the Iraqis did not know that the
Inspectors were coming. Perhaps. But if they had something to hide,
could have guessed. Personally I did not think the intelligence
presented by Powell added up to much, but I did not expect it to.
Much more important, Blix appeared to say that it looked as if Iraq
COULD be peacefully disarmed by inspection. Hurrah! If that is the
all we have to do is put a deadline on the START of this process.
Another year? Another decade? Another 12 years? All we have to do
is decide, and then the UN can pass another resolution. The wording is
simple: "We refer you to the last resolution 1441, which refers to the
ceasefire agreement resolution. We really meant it the first time, but
now we really, really mean it". If Iraq does not comply by [fill
in as appropriate] we will have to have another meeting of the
Security Council and decide to make Iraq disarm.
Meanwhile the sanctions and Saddam Hussein between them wreak their
deadly effect on the country and the people.
There is of course one threat which would make Saddam disclose all, and
that is rubbing out all his palaces, for he believes in his own myth
and his legacy and fame in the future. So he will pack all the human
shields, voluntary or not, in these, claiming they are non-military
targets, air raid shelters or whatever. The Americans will
probably play it by the book and not take them out. That is presumably
why they have not said they are a target. How marvellous it would
be just once to be surprised - by anything.
But there is still a chance of avoiding this war!!! Of course the
peace protesters think George W. wants war. That's because George W.
needs to make Saddam Hussein damned sure he means war, and a war which
will mean the end of Saddam and his role as a hero in history.
Some peace protesters are sincere, many are just plain scared,
most are very confused as well. But this is how history is made.
All must play their part, for what it is worth. I forget who it
was who said it, but the quote is: "People are what they are, they will
do what they will do, and the results will be what they will be". Quite
so. I really enjoyed the French Foreign Minister's speech today
at the UN. I could have written it in advance for him. All good
stuff - as was Jack Straw's reply! It is good to see all these people
their feet and talking with real feeling.
One thing I know - if any of these peace protesters knew what was
really going on in Iraq and what it is like for Iraqis, even if Saddam
Hussein has NO WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AT ALL, they would know it
was their duty as human beings to liberate Iraqis from this tyranny. To
those who say "Why there, why now, where do you stop?" the reply is
"Where do you start?" and the answer is "Iraq, now, before it is too
It needs a bit of bottle to do it, and there are risks, but the excuse
that there is not an international law that obliges us to do it is an
excuse that will not wash. Laws, international and other, are
always made to deal with situations that have already occurred. As
history progresses, new laws are agreed to cover new cases after hard
lessons are learned. I trust there will be a new UN Statute in
the future that OBLIGES the UN to step in and remove a leader like
Saddam Hussein from power before he can take millions with him if
attacked, because the alternative is a containment process that is
destructive to all. Meanwhile the UN must authorise the
action or accept the fact it is not up to the job of enforcing its own
resolutions in critical situations. In view of the inevitable global
evolution of technology and life on this planet, the absence of
enforceable international law would mean international anarchy with
predictably painful results.
UPDATE FEB 15TH
Today we had the 'anti-war' rally in Hyde Park. No surprises there.
The Prime Minister at the Labour Party meeting in Scotland at the
opening of the campaign leading up to the May election put the moral
case for action. A brave Iraqi citizen in Hyde Park put the same
case. I should point out here it was after all Britain that
created Iraq as a country after World War One, out of a desert area
occupied by various warring groups and tribes, and worked hard to bring
stability. Of course there was oil interest as well as the proper
political desire to bring peace after a horrendous war. So what? Only
relatively prosperous organised countries can give a lead in bringing
law and order and peace with freedom. The new monarchy eventually fell
and military dictators took over. The fact that Donald Rumsfeld later
helped Saddam when he was fighting a (losing at the time) war against
what America (whether right or wrong) perceived as a threat
to stability in the whole area from Iran lead by Ayatollahs does not
absolve us from standing by the Iraqi people now. If anything it
obliges us even more strongly. The more we are responsible for Saddam
being there, the more we are responsible for getting him off their
The peace protesters have now made it very, very much more difficult
for this can be done by diplomacy, even though Blix is doing a
magnificent job. They know that, and the fact is they don't care.
They hate George Bush so much that the Iraqi people can be
ignored as far as they are concerned. Also ignored is the fact that it
is Bush who got Blix into Iraq. The tabloids claim Bush has been
Blixed. Without Bush, Blix is blocked - he would never be allowed in
Iraq in a thousand years. But hatred of America and fear of reprisals
and bodybags has merged to give the protesters a powerful emotional
drive. The usual demagogues are on screen to take full advantage.
With luck this exposure will do just that - expose the demagogues
for what they are, in all their appalling self-glorification.
On the other side of the coin, I seem to have missed a Texan on the
Today programme yesterday who appears single-handed to have converted
more listeners to the Anti-War persuasion than George Bush. Among his
theories was that the French have no culture. Some listeners
thought he was a spoof character from Dead Ringers. It seems to
me there is a growing likelihood that derision of some Americans
thought to be typical is going to be the factor that undermines their
ability to lead the International Community. Perhaps our
football hooligans disqualify the UK from claiming we are a
nation. This does still not absolve the United nations from
up to Saddam Hussein.
UPDATE FEB 16th
Today on the World at One, Margaret Beckett addressed the complaints of
those who claim that the Prime Minister keeps changing his reasons for
preparing for military action in Iraq; those who claim that now he is
talking 'regime change' when before he was talking Al Qaida and before
that weapons, and on other occasions just the requirement to implement
a crease-fire agreement that was forced on him. She rose to the
occasion, with one of the clearest and most logical expositions to
date of the Prime Minister's position - a position he has indeed held
throughout. His statements on particular aspects of the Iraqi
situation, Saddam's role in it, weapons of mass destruction and the
action of terrorists have been made from time to time in answer to
questions posed by the public and their representatives in parliament
and outside parliament. There is not a single one of these different
elements which do not in there own right make the removal of Saddam
Hussein from power desirable along with the disarmament. Some make it
necessary. But the combination makes it essential and imminent
barring his voluntary and personal action to comply with 1441.
John Prescott has added his forthright views in no uncertain matter.
Prescott has been poorly served by Whitehall in the past. His
so-called mangled syntax has been as much due to trying to explain the
impossible as to any muddle on his own part. I personally found him to
be quite clear, though working sometimes to a flawed plan with regard
to transport. In this case, the clarity of his speech reflects
the clarity of the subject matter. Above all, people should
respect his defence of Tony Blair as an honest man. It takes one
to know one and dare to stand up for one under fire.
UPDATE 21 Feb
I will pass over the NATO dispute and the Chirac theatre. Not worthy of
comment except to say George Robertson seems to be able to keep a cool
head. The Archbishop has given his view on the morality of taking
military action and so he should, but he did not make a very credible
creditable job of it. Clearly he was in the right ballpark.
If he had said: "Go for it Tony, the Church is right behind you"
it would have been unhelpful to all concerned. If we go to remove
Saddam from power it will not be with the enthusiastic blessing of the
Church, as this confrontation can cause conflict between Moslems and
Christians even though the tyrant that is the target is nothing to do
with any church or any religion. He is right to say that resort to
of arms is to be avoided if at all possible. But he is wrong in
his diagnosis and his judgement of the issue.
The Archbishop asks if this is a 'Just War' and says: no, since
pre-emptive action is not self defense. This may be a moot point, but
is no relevant in the first place. This is not a war of one
country against another. It is not a war against Iraq at
all. If it comes, it will be an armed invasion on behalf of the
UN to remove a regime and its leader because for over 12 years they
have refused to acknowledge the legitimacy of the UN and its
resolutions with terrible results for its own citizens. The Iraqi
people will not be asked to surrender at the end of this action. It is
not a war [in that sense]. Just because George Bush has confused
the issue by declaring 'war' on terrorists and a 'crusade' against
terrorism, there is no excuse for an archbishop who has acquiesced in
the label of an intellectual to follow his lead, thereby showing us
clearly he is not one.
As for being justified, one of the most profound passages in the
Anglican prayer book acknowledges that in the sight of God, no man
living is justified. Methinks the PM is a theological level above
his primate. It is the latter's job, if he is a spokesman for the moral
case against resorting to military force, to put that case as
forcefully and clearly as possible. That is what the PM, who has to
take the decisions, is entitled to expect. What he got was a
beside-the-point comment yesterday followed by a load of waffle today.
I thought the Bishop of Oxford would have been up for a clearer
view, but no. Gentlemen, you disappoint me. The politicians are
all working for peace. They deserve better from you in terms of
moral clarity and support in times of doubt and trouble, as does the
Today we have had more people (Mo Mowlam amongst) proclaiming that no
country has ever been bombed into democracy. Where have they been
living? The sad thing about the anti-war protesters is that they are so
useless. Every time they choose a slogan, it is self-evident bollocks.
In my lifetime I have seen bombing as the only way countries have been
moved from tyranny or autocracy to democracy, or democracy saved from
destruction. No need to quote the obvious examples of Germany and
Japan. Perhaps there have been one or two where jungle-warfare
the prevalent means, and civil wars where bombing was not in evidence;
but one thing is certain, it took war to bring democracy. This
true in earlier times too. The French Revolution was a civil war,
the American Revolution was international. These days the media has
brought the horror of war to our comfortable living rooms so quite
rightly we try to make the threat of war so effective that it need not
be used. But as we have seen, the threat cannot work in the case of
since this is not a war. The Iraqis will mostly rise against Saddam if
the UN resolution 1441 is enforced by military means.
This is not to say that the immense dangers of instability in the
Middle East and elsewhere, fired by the desperate situation of so many
of the worlds poor and the breakdown of economies that are responsible
for law and order, are not every bit as great as the Archbishop and
others point out. They are. We have to face this squarely and
overcome it, as there is no possible future that the terrorists and
their supporters can offer the world. It is the so-called
developed world which has to learn a great lesson from all of this, to
defeat terrorism over perhaps a long time, sustaining loss and bearing
the cost, and over the same period build a better world that reduces
cause of this scourge. When the poor and dispossessed turn to men
of violence as their protectors it is a wakeup call to the more
fortunate and successful nations to warn them that if they have a
justification for their domestic and foreign policy they had better
spell it out loud and clear. In a globalised economy, if domestic
policy is pursued for electoral reason without thought for its
consequences in the wider world, that wider world may be damaged and
turn like a malignancy on the overindulgent parts of humanity. It
is the electorate that has to be educated as much as those who seek
UPDATE Feb 24th
So what did the Pope and Tony Blair say to each other? Answer:
The Pope said war must be avoided at all costs. Other means must be
employed until every path has been tried and failed. Blair agreed.
That much is obvious, whatever else was discussed.
What is the wording of the next UN resolution tabled by the UK? You
can refer back to what I said on Feb 14th: The wording is simple:
"We refer you to the last resolution 1441, which refers to the
ceasefire agreement resolution. We really meant it the first time, but
now we really, really mean it". Now we have the new text,
and that is what it says (in diplospeak of course) but there is a
which I should have foreseen. The text includes the definite
proposition that Iraq has failed to comply with 1441. For this
reason France, Germany and maybe others will attempt to stop this
resolution from ever coming to a vote, because it will leave them only
You will understand, dear
reader, how hard they will try to avoid this resolution ever coming to
vote, seeing that they all voted for 1441. Choice (i) makes them
look irresponsible. Choice (ii) makes them look seriously confused
unless Hans Blix reports that there has been a change of heart by
Saddam's regime. Choice (iii) looks like surrendering to terrorists,
though they will say that they do not wish to share the hostility the
US has brought upon itself through clumsy wielding of its global
economic and military power and its support of Israel, regardless of
Israeli policies, on the grounds that Sharon is an elected leader.
I must say I have sympathy with that last position. The
'innocent civilians' is used as if to be a civilian makes you innocent,
a soldier guilty. This is just not the case. As Richard Ingrams pointed
out in the Observer some months ago, civilians who vote a genocidal
criminal to power to protect them rather than comply with a UN
resolution that demands they hand back territory that the International
Community, in this case the legitimate inheritors of the authority that
defined the borders in the first place, has determined is not their
property, are not innocent. They must take responsibility for the
violent results. Palestinians use the only weapons they have.
(ii) To vote against (implicit in this is declaring publicly that
Saddam Hussein has complied with 1441, game over).
(iii) To cast a veto (this would say the Security Council will not
actually make a judgement on 1441 compliance. It was just a bluff).
If the UN enforces 1441, it will have a powerful case for enforcing
those regarding Israel and demanding that the US take the lead.
do this, George Bush has no need to call on the army, he only has to
put away his cheque book when time comes for Israel's annual
multi-billion dollar hand out. With a US guarantee of territorial
integrity, Israel has nothing to fear from the Palestinians and never
did have, apart from the suicide bombers who are only active because of
Israel's failure to withdraw from the occupied territories and
a Palestinian state. So although sorting out Israel/Palestine should
have come first, it may prove ironically that toppling Saddam will be
what forces the US to deal with Israel.
The case is being made that it is unreasonable to ask Saddam Hussein to
disarm while at the same time telling him we are going to attack if he
does not. The fact that 'regime change' has been discussed means,
say those who argue this case, he cannot disarm, as he would be
attacked then for a certainty, with no risk to the attackers. I
have to disabuse the advocates of this theory. The US would have
to choke on it, but put up with Saddam for a little longer, until the
people of Iraq, no longer in fear of being annihilated by chemical
weapons, rose up and chucked the bum out. That is why Colin
Powell actually made the point that, seeing there was no way out for
Saddam in his own country, he could find asylum as a certified maniac
(homicidal by inclination) in some part of the world where he would be
ignored if he stayed there out of the way.
The case is being made that Afghanistan is not a success, that the War
Lords are fighting for regional protection rackets, that the Taliban
regrouping, that Al Qaida is operating out of neighbouring Pakistan.
How then can anyone be so dumb as to think the US can establish
the rule of law in Iraq after removing Saddam Hussein? In fact
there are few parallels. There are no war lords, no neighbours
harbouring Taliban who once ruled Iraq. If there are Al Qaida in
Iraq now, there may well be some who hang on under cover, but that's
life. There is more chance of getting the different ethnic groups
to live in harmony (as they once did under the earlier monarchical
regimes) in an interim regime set up by an outside agency cooperating
with internal political movements than there is by any other
means of moving to a stable constitution. There are historical
precedents. I don't have to quote them, do I? The biggest
problem will be getting a solution that suits the Turks and the Kurds
in the north.
An interesting development is the extent to which the terrorists are
winning, whether or not they are connected in any way with Saddam
Hussein or with Iraq. The US public is joining the UK in
shrinking from regime change through fear of stirring up terrorist
reaction from those who claim that an attack on any Muslim is an attack
on all, regardless of nationality. Like if the FBI took out an
American homicidal maniac who happened to claim he was a Christian, it
would be an attack on all Christians world wide, not singling him out
because of his anti-social behaviour. On this basis, no Muslim could be
subject any law at all other than some Islamic tribunal or
self-appointed Cleric. In the UK, it seems some Muslims do not accept
the authority of UK law at all. This is just absurd. They should
not live here unless they do. Religion has nothing to do with it.
Saddam Hussein himself, being a terrorist who came to power by
terrorism, has so spooked John Major that he's talking about
the unleashing of all his WMD if he faces defeat. maybe. But unless we
are going to spend the future appeasing these deluded paranoids we
will have to make a stand somewhere.
UPDATE 25 February
As suggested in the last update, there is a move to put off the vote on
the latest resolution for a week or two and the UK has gone along with
this. The best and clearest short exposition of the UK government
position was put today by Dr John Reid to Jeremy Paxman on the
programme. Paxman put it to Reid that the Labour Party was in
that the government had shifted its arguments, that the policy was
based on unproven suppositions of Saddam's guilt. When Paxo
finally agreed to shut up, Dr Reid demolished his attack so completely
that the anchorman could not wait to bring the entire exchange to an
end. I could imagine his earpiece relaying instructions from a
producer behind the scenes advising him to move on to another
interviewee. John Reid's mastery of the subject and plain verbal
integrity had made Paxman's simplistic arguments look unworthy even of
a broadcaster trying helpfully, if patronisingly, to put the questions
that an uninformed member of the public would like to hear answered.
When a man of such understanding and clarity of thought speaks on
a subject, the public would be well advised to listen.
Earlier in the evening we had George Michael, a singer, clearly worried
about his record sales in the Muslim world. "How could the US be
so stupid as to attack Saddam at the very moment Sharon is being a
terrorist in Palestine?" There is no doubt this is the poison at
the heart of the purest motives. Guaranteeing Israel's security
is one thing. Funding it and arming it so it can carry out its
own mistaken policies is quite another. George Michael may know
little of the considerations that oblige the UK to support the
authority of the UN in the case of Iraq, but he can see the strangeness
of backing Israel just because it is a democracy. I believe, I
hope, that this crisis will force the US to bring Israel to realise it
must withdraw from all settlements that are not UN approved and
recognise a Palestinian state.
UPDATE Feb 26th
Today there was a debate and a vote in Parliament on the Government's
Iraq policy. It was a debate of a high standard. The results were
as I expected, though the number of Labour members voting against the
government motion was higher than pundits had foreseen. I thought 200
'rebels' was about right, though why they are called rebels mystifies
me. They were right to vote as they thought. This is Parliament
functioning as it should do and might encourage the public to see that
it is an authentic institution. The fact that the so-called
rebels were perhaps slightly 'off the point' in their voting did not
diminish the quality of the debate. They are off the point because the
government itself has not yet come to the conclusion that the case for
war is irrevocable. The motion has simply pointed out that UN
1441 has not been complied with and that Government policy is to
it, hopefully without recourse to military action. The claim that the
case for war is NOT PROVEN is actually absurd. It could never beprovedunless
failure to take action actually resulted in events that justified it
with hindsight. The fact that Saddam Hussein has not complied
1441 so far is not even disputed, and Hans Blix's next report will
almost certainly not be disputed, so there is no proof involved.
Stop Press: George W. has publicly announced the policy regarding
Israel I advocated yesterday,
UPDATE Feb 27th
The news is now turning to the world economy, the cost of the war, the
possibility of continuing recession. The evident overcapacity of
industry would indicate little likelihood of investment and a rise in
employment. The only essentials of life are food, clothing, shelter and
security (an enforced social contract, law and order) to match
vulnerabilities. There is no world shortage of available essential
clothing, shelter is overinvested in though still in shortage only in
areas of demand, associated with employment opportunities, some of
which may well collapse. Food can go into surplus if the hungry have no
money. My prediction: coordinated action by the G7 will be
required to implement a Keynsian recovery. The Pound will collapse
because our balance of payments is absurd and industry uncompetitive
because of inefficiencies caused by failures in the national
infrastructure. An export led recovery could, in fact, only come
about after a devaluation of 20% relative to the Euro which would bring
the Pound to its correct trading value. The price of oil will
rise and then fall as demand subsides. When the Pound reaches its
proper value, no longer kept at a value boosted by its use for purposes
other than its function as the trading unit for UK plc, it will be seen
that the French economy is now, and has been for some time, larger than
that of the UK.
Meanwhile Saddam thinks he can stall 1441 by saying he will destroy
some missiles, and some people will think this is progress, whereas it
is actually trivial.
UPDATE MARCH 1st
It looks to me that Saddam is quite near to getting a breather. The
reasons for this are as follows:
1. Enforcing UN Resolution 1441 on a matter of principle is a sound
policy. Regime change as a by-product would be excellent for all
concerned - the argument that what follows Saddam could be as bad or
worse under these circumstances is not strong at all. But because so
many of the 1/5th of the world who are Muslims prefer to keep Saddam to
having America decide and not the UN, because they see America as being
on a crusade against Islam, and because the UN Security Council
a number of members who fear that this perception could cause the
reality in reverse (a Muslim war against what they call the infidel)
Council will not vote for war just because American and UK
and men find summer in the desert too hot. Saddam's calculated
response to getting rid of missiles that the inspectors have managed to
find (he could have produced them months ago) will fool millions into
thinking 1441 plus a threat of war is succeeding.
2. It follows that the next resolution will have difficulty. Any
majority will be small. That is just not good enough. Of course the US
and the UK and others in a coalition of the willing could go ahead in
mid March regardless. But it is just not a good idea. This in no way
means that regime change is cancelled. It will test the American
and British people and the world economic community as never before, as
the uncertainty is killing any recovery from the recession. It in no
way alters the fact that the disarmament of Iraq has to continue
a stop until the sanctions can be lifted and the no-fly zones rendered
unnecessary. But it may well mean that enforcement of 1441 cannot
be carried out in weather conditions that suit the enforcers. If
that is the case, Blair and Bush will be blamed, of course, for putting
their own troops at risk. Just remember that this will be par for
the course. Public opinion can never be satisfied as it is by
definition the cause of its own problems.
3. The difficulty of postponing action may be such that the US finds it
unacceptable and goes ahead without the UN. In that case, Saddam will
have succeeded in causing the chaos he needs to justify his belief in
his own methods. He will be able to claim that all power comes out of
the barrel of a gun as per Mao tse Tung, and that the only way to rule
is his way. Some people think that holding back from launching an
would mean a loss of face for the US. This is not the case at all if it
meant the threat of force had worked. The problem is quite simply
how to disarm Saddam's regime. Sitting in the desert with an army
waiting, indefinitely, is not a solution to this problem. It creates
another. Saddam is a very clever man, and he knows he can count
millions of very confused Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus,
Zoroastrians and Humanists to react in the way he thinks they will.
IS UP TO THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY NOW TO ACHIEVE DISARMAMENT AND THE
REMOVAL OF SADDAM BY OTHER MEANS. ANTI-WAR PROTESTS WILL NOT HELP
THIS. WE REQUIRE EFFECTIVE ALTERNATIVES. THIS COULD MEAN A
COMPLETELY NEW DEPARTURE FOR THE UN: A RESOLUTION ON REGIME CHANGE JUST
FOR STARTERS, WHEN IT IS EVIDENT THAT THE HEAD OF STATE IS AN ARBITRARY
MURDERER WHO IGNORES ANY RULE OF LAW, DOMESTIC OR INTERNATIONAL, WITH
WMD IN HIS ARSENAL.
Provision for regime change under the UN Charter has been avoided in
the past on the grounds that there is no internationally agreed formula
for non-tyrannical standards of government. With the coming of age of
the technological revolution, it has been pointed out that certain
minimum standards must now be set, for the security of the planet. it
is however more likely that these will be set as a result of the
crisis than established in time to deal with it. Failing that,
failing any other way to achieve regime change and disarmament, the US
and the UK will have proved their case that it is up to them to lead a
coalition of the willing.
A disillusioned and cynical UK commentator, by name A.N. Wilson, rules
out action by such a coalition on the grounds that the motives of the
willing are flawed. I could not agree more that they are flawed,
but Wilson does not understand how Nature works. Nature calls on
the self-interest of its plural elements to achieve its end.
Biological evolution is not an accident, political evolution is not an
accident. The unification of Germany and the rise of that country from
despair was necessary. Hitler was called upon because all others had
failed. The country was then almost bound to go through the 'manifest
destiny' syndrome that every civilisation and every leader falls for.
But nature makes sure that there are forces to control the
Those forces are supplied by other parts of humanity, if by then
in existence, acting in their own as well as the wider global
Saddam Hussein will teach America a lesson, America will remove
Saddam Hussein. The experience can then be incorporated into human
history and form the basis of future UN constitutional provisions to
deal with future Saddam Husseins before they can spend 30 years digging
Tony Blair has just admitted, yesterday, that the motivation that
actually keeps his courage to the sticking post is FEAR. Fear of not
doing his historical duty, fear of not being up to the job, fear of
the judgement of history. A flawed motive if ever there was one - but
not the only motive and hugely mitigated by the fact that he is
quite prepared to be outvoted and have to resign. This is what
makes it more than vanity and worthy of respect. It does not make
him RIGHT or WRONG in his judgement, it makes him right in his
behaviour, and that is all that is required of any of us.
There will now be short pause in this diary. It is still
impossible to predict if or when military action may be initiated but,
in my book, good use is being made of all national and international
institutions and communication media. No honest participants in this
debate need fear discussion. Dishonest arguments (like "war
lead to democracy" when it is indisputable fact that democracy has
rarely been brought about by any other means) will be exposed by
As will statements such as the one made in all seriousness on the
Panorama debate this evening: "The US will not install democracy. What
would happen if the new Iraqi government nationalised the oil industry
and refused to sell oil to the United States?". It is this level
of ignorance which makes referenda such a useless political tool.
A new Iraqi regime can sell their oil to whoever they choose. It
is a world market, based on supply and demand. They can be a member of
Opec or not, as they wish, and no country can prevent them from
what to do once UN sanctions are removed, nor would they have anything
to gain or lose by so doing. Iraqi oilfields are national property
anyway, they do not have to be nationalised. If there are foreign
by way of wells and refineries etc., they are subject to the usual
political risks of appropriation with or without compensation, within
without international or domestic law. Personally, I am still of
the opinion war may be avoided, but in that case I am not sure how long
it will take Iraq to reach democracy via benevolent dictatorship.
The contention that the Kurds, Sunnis and Shiites all hate each
other so much that this is impossible is not one that impresses me.
There is so much to gain - Iraq will not need financial aid from the
developed world to raise the standard of living of its inhabitants. All
they need to do is have the sanctions lifted and sell their oil, and
spend the income on something more sensible than Saddam Hussein and his
UPDATE MARCH 07
David Dimbleby's interview of Donald Rumsfeld was very well handled -
by both parties. But only on two points did David shake the US
Defense Secretary, right at the very end. Rumsfeld was sensitive
and defensive when charged with being fundamentally pro-Israel in his
thinking, betrayed by his use of the phrase "the so-called occupied
territories". He was technically right, to the extent that while
some are undisputedly occupied, some are less clearly defined. But his
claim that they are subject to negotiation was clumsy, as the
negotiation status as recognised by the International Community refers
to security issues more than ownership. He had to take the point that
use of the phrase made him appear biased.
A more deadly shaft by Dimbleby was aimed at Rumsfeld's faith in
America's basic view of its proclaimed values as being self-evidently
admirable and imposable on the world. Indeed we might take issue
even with the statement "We hold these truths to be self evident...."
- personally I always have thought that to be rubbish. Not only are
people not created equal, no two people are created equal in any
respect except identical twins who are equal in quite a few but not
all. What the man meant to say was that all people should be treated
fairly, and with respect unless they have been shown to be unworthy of
it by obviously unworthy behaviour. Handsome is as Handsome does is the
true cry of the true revolutionary. But Rumsfeld came over as less
defensive on this point, powerfully though Dimbleby made it. On the
whole, if we look at the values proclaimed and enforced by other
societies, particularly those who denounce America, his lack of
embarrassment is understandable
Today we have Hans Blix's report. It was quite clear. Some serious
disarmament of short range missiles has taken place, though these
missiles are not particularly relevant to compliance with resolution
1441. They are being destroyed because they have been offered up as a
sacrificial delaying tactic, and are illegal in the context of UN
accords signed by Iraq. If continual and further cooperation were to
continue covering the list of chemical and biological weapons, their
whereabouts or the details of their destruction, over a period of
the inspectors could verify compliance or non-compliance.
Unfortunately there is no sign of even a START to discussing the
subject. There is still denial that any such list is available.
Though Hans Blix's report is clear, the reporting of his report by the
BBC was far from clear. In its PM programme and the 6pm news, it
was reported that Blix had asked for more time to for the inspectors
to do their job. He most certainly did not. He stated that at the current rate
of progress, if Iraqi cooperation shown over the missiles were to
continue [and therefore be extended to other weapons and weapons
production programmes], it would take some months to complete the job.
We all know that. It is blindingly obvious. He can have all the time he
wants to do that.
The BBC then reported that Colin Powell had rejected Hans Blix's
request. He did not. There was no request. There was a report, and
Powell accepted it. It described the position, and Powell made it
clear that this position did not show compliance with 1441 or even
the acceptance of 1441.
Those of us who have been hoping from the beginning that a united stand
by the Security Council would enable us to disarm Saddam without
actually intervening militarily are increasingly disgusted by the lies
that infest the arguments of those who call themselves 'anti-war'.
Looking back over the slogans, the arguments and the excuses, if one
excludes the rare moments of honesty when the 'anti-war' lobby admit
they are motivated by dislike of Bush-America and/or fear of revenge by
Muslims who would rather defend a genocidal maniac than have him
by unbelievers, one is left with a collection of so called arguments
which are lies based on ignorance or ignorance based on lies. As an
anti-Bush Francophile, EU and Euro enthusiast I find that as this saga
unwinds it is the straight choice between honest people and dishonest
people that I hope decides the outcome. If just one anti-war
argument (apart from the two just mentioned) could stand up and be
defended by an honest protagonist I would fasten on it. But so
not only are there none, the anti-war protesters have revealed
themselves as liars to themselves at best, bent as corkscrews at worst.
Regardless of the outcome, I do not want a future based on lies,
governed by those who will swallow anything rather than risk the
consequences of speaking the truth as best they can. I do not hate
Saddam Hussein. He is at least courageous. He is a product of
circumstances and will follow his violent and brutal methods, modelled
on Stalin. He is not a hypocrite. But he should acknowledge the
authority of the UN and the UN should enforce its authority. The idea
that he will comply given time is now even more unlikely than it was
before, as to increase the pressure on him without actually starting
invasion is difficult, and only pressure achieves results. The French
contention that the pressure is working and should just be maintained
an interesting point of view. Perhaps France would like to finance the
presence of the US and British troops hanging around at battle
for the next 5 months. In that case they should say so.
modified draft resolution to follow 1441 now gives Saddam till March
14th to comply. That means to produce a list of the WMD that has been
destroyed and the location where this took place and the personnel who
carried it out. Alternatively he can say where it is now. It is unclear
if any nations will veto this resolution, and unclear who will abstain
or vote against it.
UPDATE March 10th
It had always seemed to me that once a few British and American
commentators had said that the French would come on side at the last
minute and repeated this ad nauseam that the chances of this happening
would be effectively nil. There is a limit to how many insults any
nation can publicly swallow, even if justified. In addition, the French
have a different approach to counter-terrorism to the UK and the US,
which involves a rather more subtle approach and use of velvet gloves
and iron fists. They can't afford to upset Muslims who are not breaking
French law in France, and they need to play their own diplomatic game.
The 'Old Europe' line has really got up their nose, and there is no way
they will support any resolution now that has a deadline of military
action against Iraq on behalf of the UN. There is more chance of
Russia backing a new resolution if it can be framed in language that
does not put a date for hostilities, but the chances of Russia now
signing up to a March 14 deadline are now gone.
Clare Short is looking to her future. She has been a truly excellent
Overseas Development Minister, but her future lies in her public
support, and Clare's public is not interested in supporting George
Bush. We will now see just how principled or otherwise the players on
the world stage are. Those who are prepared to trim their sails will
start to weaken, and Saddam has been counting on this all the way.
Clare Short is not a trimmer, but her charge of recklessness will give
trimmers more excuses. Then we have the lawyers, pretending that
enforcing 1441 is illegal without a further resolution. Kofi Annan was
very careful not to say that. He asked the Security Council to get
behind any further resolution to give it legitimacy, without which it
would obviously lack legitimacy progressively in proportion to the
number of permanent members and others who did not support it.
When I started this diary, it was in the hope of adding to the
understanding of how war could be avoided if the UN was resolute and
united. There would be a chance of removing/disarming Saddam without
war. Now, having listened to the drivel talked by those who have
divided the UN, I see war as actually desirable as soon as possible.
[That was an intemperate remark - I withdraw it - I am all for these
matters being up for discussion].
UPDATE 12th March am
I may be out of reach of this web site for a few days so will say a few
words on the current argument on legality and war crimes. If fear
of terrorists prevents the collected elected authorities of the
Western World from taking action against terrorists then we
as well surrender the world to Islamic fundamentalism that holds that
believers are immune to criticism of their behaviour by secular law. If
of our secular law as expected to be implemented by the
International Court in the Hague is such as to prevent our armed forces
from implementing the law in the first place when those responsible for
leadership have been stopped in their tracks by fear of causing more
terrorism, then we will really have shot ourselves in the foot.
must stop agonising and cease the pretentious stance that if there is
one chance in a million that we could avoid war that we should go on
looking for it. The validity of the secular state goes back to a
powerful debate that took place 2000 years ago and was dealt with in a
single sentence: "Render to Caesar....". As for the threat of being
charged with war crimes if there is not a majority in the Security
Council, when members of that Council are hostage to pressures from
electorates who don't like the chief of police (I don't fancy him
but he is not on his own in thinking that containment cannot be
sustained, and cannot be abandoned unless Saddam is removed), it is
time to trot out in full the oldest reply: pull the other leg - it has
UPDATE March 18th
There is really no need to update this file today. Everything that has
occurred has been expected. Robin Cook's resignation speech was a fine
one - but then he has been the best speaker in the house for a very
long time. He was in addition a good Foreign Secretary who knew when
to step forward and do for the UN what the UN could not do for itself.
How ironic that he, of all people, should be unable to stand up for an
ethical foreign policy, just because some UN Security Council members
appear to think its Charter confers on it the duty to stop war at all
costs. It has higher ethical aspirations than that I hope. If not, it
should be scrapped. Clare Short is made of sterner stuff. She knows
a job has to be done. She disapproves of it but is aware of the lack of
To sum up, there is only one point to be made in summing up. Tony Benn
claims today's vote in the House of Commons is a charade because the
decision to go to war has already been taken in the Azores. Wrong. A
decision was taken some months back when the major deployment of US
and UK troops started. The decision was not one to go to war, but that
by the end of April Saddam Hussein would be either have resigned, or
been verifiably disarmed, or removed. Since the first two have not
been achieved by mid March, implementation of the last must now be put
in hand. To delay would put our troops at more risk, and the operation
more difficult to achieve. The individuals entrusted by the UK
electorate with approving this action, the members of the House of
Commons, are today asked to approve it. They could stop it in its
tracks. They will not, because they know it is right. If the reader
cares to look back through this diary they will see where it was made
clear that the approval of parliament and public opinion would be
sought, and that the opinion of parliament would be important in the
event that the Security Council was not unanimously in favour. This
message timed at 18.00.
UPDATE MARCH 23
When Saddam appeared on TV after the attempt to target him, it seemed
obvious to me that it was not Saddam. It did not look like Saddam, move
like Saddam or sound like Saddam. I was quickly contradicted by experts
who said the voice print was Saddam - so I am puzzled. I am not
puzzled, however, that all Iraqi troops are not surrendering (though
many are), as to do this is not so easy when you have been trained,
brainwashed and even paid to defend Saddam for your entire military
life. The danger of betraying Saddam is not to be ignored and, as I
wrote at the start, America is held accountable by many who do not
realise how Saddam has manipulated the sanctions for much misery in
Iraq. Nor is it surprising that there is not dancing in the streets of
Basra. Relief would be the best emotion that could be expected just
If all goes well, there may be a time for dancing later.
For the moment, I would like to reprint here an
extract from the speech by the British commander, Lt-Colonel Tim
Collins, to the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish at Fort Blair Mayne,
near the Iraqi border on March 20th.
"It is my foremost
intention to bring every single one of you out alive, but there may be
people among us who will not see the end of this campaign. We will put
them in their sleeping bags and send them back. There will be no time
"The enemy should be in no doubt that we are his
Nemesis, and that we are bringing about his rightful destruction. There
are many regional commanders who have stains on their souls, and they
are stoking the fires of hell for Saddam. He and his forces will be
destroyed by this coalition for what they have done. As they die they
will know their deeds have brought them to this place. Show them no
"It is a big step to take another human life. It is
not to be done lightly. I know of men who have taken life needlessly in
other conflicts. I can assure you they live with the mark of Cain upon
them. If someone surrenders to you, remember they have that right in
international law, and ensure that one day they go home to their
families. The ones who wish to fight, well, we aim to please.
"If you harm the regiment or its history by
over-enthusiasm in killing or by cowardice, it is your family who
will suffer. You will be shunned unless your conduct is of the highest,
for your deeds will follow you down through history. We will bring
shame on neither our uniform or our nation.
"Iraq is steeped in history. It is the site of the
Garden of Eden, of the Great Flood, and the birthplace of Abraham.
lightly there. You will have to go a long way to find a more decent,
generous and upright people than the Iraqis. You will be embarrassed by
their hospitality even though they have nothing.. Don't treat them as
refugees, for they are in their own country.
"As for ourselves, let's bring everyone home and
leave Iraq a better place for us having been there. Our business now is
[reprinted from The Independent, Friday March 21st]
March 23 - 21.00 - It is clear that Saddam Hussein has spread
supporters out to all the cities he does not want to surrender, and
his terror machine is still powerful. Surrender is not coming easy, and
distrust of America following the failure of Bush senior to back an
uprising in 1991 means they cannot risk throwing in their lot (see
earlier paragraphs of this diary where this problem was foreseen). More
serious, though, has been the report of a surrender that was used as a
trick, after which the Iraqis opened fire with loss of US lives. This
will make future surrenders suspect. We can look forward to difficult
days. Saddam will surely try to suck the allies into Baghdad at the end
and try to force the Americans to use their own (supposedly non-lethal)
chemical weapons, so as to prove the hypocrisy of their position. These
may well cause some fatalities and give Saddam the excuse to reply with
chemical and biological weapons. All these terrible difficulties can be
dealt with, though maybe at some cost. The only deadly enemy is the
of the outside world that denies the need for this action and refuses
the legitimacy of the enforcement of 1441. That is what made Robin Cook
give up. If the British and American and Australian public and that of
the other 35+ nations that are giving moral support are not up to the
battle, it will be a lonely job at the top and at the front.
A social contract, be it domestic national or global, has no
validity if not enforced by the sovereign power (Ref. Thomas Hobbes,
challenged as a theory for a few hundred years now). In this case 1441
spells out a condition of the global social contract, and the sovereign
power is the UN. However guilty the enforcement agency (the US being a
chief player) of past actions that may have contributed to the current
ill, If 1441 is not enforced by this coalition the global social
contract will fail. That means a stalinist tyranny that takes hold can
never be stopped, anywhere, by outside intervention.
It would follow that blocks such as North America and Europe would have
to revert to a fortress, protectionist mentality. Political Asylum as a
right would be finished for ever, as would freedom of travel and trade.
Maybe that is what people want, but they will have to make up their
mind, and the UK would have to decide to be part of Europe or part of
the US. If public opinion does not back the coalition to the end, Bush
and Blair may be brought down and Saddam remain. That would be a
disaster. On the other hand if Saddam is brought down and Bush is
humbled, that would be the sort of symmetry that Nature is probably
called on to achieve from time to time if evolution is to avoid
extremes and proceed on a sustainable path.
UPDATE MARCH 25th
This evening we hear on the one hand of an uprising in Basra, and on
the other hand a British woman with family there who told us earlier
that for the new generation of Iraqi youth, Saddam is their hero. They
have been brought up to recite his praises every day. They have been
brought up to believe that the cause of all Iraq's troubles are Britain
and America. They have been brought up to repeat the creed that will
ensure their survival in Saddam's Iraq, and that they now believe it.
We hear that troops who stopped fighting 2 days ago have returned to
Basra to join the fight against the 'invaders'. Attacks against British
forces outside have been carried out by Saddam's supporters using
civilians as shields to prevent them being fired on. Food and medicine
is due to arrive now for the injured and hungry in Basra, so the
of the next 48 hours there will be critical. The situation is about as
complex as it can get. There is no safe haven within the town, and it
will be almost impossible for British soldiers to enter before first
light as a night assault would cause yet more confusion. If
Saddam's 'gestapo' are also able to call on an indoctrinated equivalent
of 'Hitler youth', it will be harder still to make any city safe until
the regime in Baghdad is deposed. If the uprising in Basra has been
badly timed, and there are reprisals before the British can go in, they
will be blamed again for letting the civilians down. Meanwhile a
sandstorm has delayed the advance on Baghdad.
This entry timed at 19:10 March 25
UPDATE MARCH 26th - There was no uprising (thank goodness, the timing
was not good). It was just a protest - probably because of food or
restrictions. But are we doing what innocent, decent Iraqis want?
A peace protester who went out as a human shield has changed his mind
and thinks we are.
- try this, from Johann
Hari in the Independent:
UPDATE MARCH 27th
Yesterday's explosion in a market in Baghdad will put to the test the
resolve of the allies. There is, inevitably, a huge part of the Baghdad
population whose knowledge of America is only that they have witnessed
through the media. The idea that dropping leaflets will convince those
with little real knowledge of the world that they should welcome people
who bomb them as liberators is a non-starter. Remember too that nobody
who knows that this is true can discuss this without fear of betrayal
to the security services and immediate execution. This means that the
action now undertaken to remove Saddam must be carried out in the face
of hostile world opinion and in the teeth of Iraqi opposition right to
It is also true, despite the facts put so clearly in Johann Hari's
article referred to above, that many Iraqis in Baghdad who have just
been trying to survive and loath all outside intervention since it was
outsiders that helped Saddam to power, will not even care if the
explosion in the market was caused by the Americans, the British, or
Saddam Hussein himself. They consider them all the enemy, and the war
to have been caused by all of them.
Make no mistake, this will be the ultimate test of resolve. The
temptation will be, at some stage, to back off. The temperature
will rise, in deserts and in hot heads. There will be cries of blame
and recrimination. The motives of the liberators will be
questioned by all those who impute their own motives and mentality to
their opponents. It is a tale as old as time, retold age by age, with
the level of complexity and consequence for humanity and its future
notching up every time.
Do not get seduced into the idea that there is right or wrong on one
side or the other. There is some on each. But on one side we can work
openly together to search for the best for all, in a world for all. It
is sufficient that everyone does what they believe to be right,
informing themselves as best they can. Handsome is who handsome does.
It will remain to be seen how handsome anyone can be when fighting
Saddam Hussein, a master terrorist who knows the mentality of his
as well as a stage hypnotist.
The best case scenario: In 50 years, we will not be using oil in the
way we do now. Other engines, power systems, heating processes will
been developed by the societies that will have used the oil age to
create the technology to follow it. If we reach the best possible
scenario, a country such as Iraq will invest its oil revenue in ways
which will give value to its desert, returning it to a Garden of Eden,
irrigated by systems using solar power, wind power and other systems of
generation and storage. The Global Warming threat will retreat as we
cease to burn hydrocarbon fuels. Water wars will be avoided. All this
possible. We should not worry too much about America's waste of energy
in transport or air conditioning, or Russia's in heating, if the best
the world's brains work together through our new communications media
move on to the next stage. The worst case scenario is the destruction
through anarchism or tyranny and obscurantist wars.
UPDATE MARCH 28
More civilian casualties in Baghdad. It seems clear now that the
combination of the patriotic reflex and the unpopularity of America
the utter failure of the UN to present a united front now means this
operation to remove Saddam with the cooperation of much of the
people has been seriously prejudiced. It will now have to proceed
with no hope of any support until it has succeeded at least in a
significant area and in a main town. It will be an enforcement plain
and simple. The logic is inescapable. From the very beginning there
only these possiblities:
Let us not think for a moment
that there was ever, ever a peaceful way of removing Saddam or an
ethical, moral way of the International Community carrying on with its
business while he remained in power.
- 1. A majority
Security Council vote with no veto to approve enforcement of 1441 -
result: acceptance by
the majority of Iraqis of world support for the removal of Saddam. It
would not have been seen as an occupation by an enemy force.
- 2. Failure to get
such a resolution - result, the UN retiring from the responsibility to
remove Saddam Hussein and his supporters from power.
That left the UK and the US and allies to enforce the resolution that
the UN Security Council had voted unanimously, and to take the risk.
British and Americans have in the past fought for the liberty of other
nations. They have a track record. After the Second World War, America
did not remain as an occupying power. It funded the rebuilding of
Europe. The building of empires was an activity of the era before.
The Iraqi exiles are now saying they want the UN to be involved. They
are right. It should have been all the time. It failed them. The
UN must now get back together to take over progressively immediately
Saddam has gone.
I want to say just a few words about the American 'hawks' and Donald
Rumsfeld. It might be said that the failure of Bush and Rumsfeld to
arouse any emotion in much of the world but contempt was part of the
reason for the diplomatic failure which led to the impotence of the
UN. But the reason for their unhelpful performance rests, I believe,
on a relatively simple error in their thinking. They thought they
could frighten Saddam Hussein or at least his henchmen. They failed
totally in this, as there is no way you can frighten anyone with the
mentality of Saddam Hussein, and those of his supporters who are
sensible to fear are far more frightened of him than anything America
can do to them. But in the process of trying to scare Saddam, they
scared the rest of the Arab world and much of public opinion.
But let us be fair, the majority of the world's population has little
or no idea why it is essential that the UN enforces 1441. There are
fundamental reasons for this, established by centuries of
history, but they are never discussed. In the UK, schoolchildren are
given airtime on the BBC to give their views on the rights and wrongs
of what is now a war. But not one of their teachers, or the BBC
interviewers, appears to have studied enough history or philosophy or
biology or general science to explain to them why it is happening. The
public level of debate is still not on the first rung of the ladder in
UPDATE MARCH 29th
We hear complaints that Iraqi soldiers dress as civilians to attack the
allies. Saddam's regime says these are civilians defending their
country. For once, here I agree with them.
Saddam has been preparing the population with non-stop propaganda for
12 years for this moment. Iraqis have been told day and night
that the Americans will come, pretending to be friends, and will bomb
them, drop leaflets, broadcast lies and then taken over their country
and make them work as slaves, and take away their best women.
Now, the trigger sown by brainwashing has been pulled. Imagine if just
half the population are affect by this. There are genuine nationalist
feelings aroused as well
For instance, take the example of the news that a contract to operate
the port through which Iraqi oil exports will leave is going to an
American firm, to which Iraq will have to pay fees. This can be seen as
proof that Saddam is right. It should be the UN that operates the port
until the Iraqis take over, right?
OK, then it should be the UN that pays for the operation Free Iraq.
But the UN has no money, right?
Yes, but that's because the US does not pay its subscription up to
date, isn't it?
But if the US was to send the UN a bill for services rendered over the
past two decades, it would be the UN that owes the US, not the other
around. Rather a lot.
So , it's a Catch 22, only solvable by a fudge, which will be gone
along with by all until someone under pressure to justify their
political existence can profit by exposing it.
But all this is academic at this stage as Iraqis will act on
conditioned reflex and will not be going into any such thinking. There
is no point in blaming Iraqi civilians for doing what they believe to
There will soon be calls for the allies to call a ceasefire, on the
basis that although the job has not been done it can now be
done by negotiation. This would actually be true if Saddam Hussein did
not believe in himself as the great leader, the saviour of the Arab
world etc. etc. Unfortunately the evidence is he does, and all his
supporters depend on him.
However, we will see what transpires. One thing is for sure. At the
start of this diary, the point was made that the status quo in Iraq was
unacceptable and was not sustainable. We now have movement. There is
pain and tragedy, but there is movement, and this had to come. To go
through these agonising developments, and learn from them, is what the
surface of this planet is for.
UPDATE MARCH 30th
This diary aims to bring the FACTS. Not about the events of war, we
have to rely upon the reports from correspondents on the spot for that,
but the facts about the arguments and dilemmas that make up the basis
of decisions. Not just the decisions for the politicians, but the
decsions for ordinary individuals inside and outside Iraq, of any
One of the tools of logic is the Reductio ad Absurdum - this
means you take an extreme case of a variable situation to see if the
variation of factors in a particular direction leads to a particular
direction in outcome. Today, as seemed likely in view of the public
reaction to civilian and military casualties, we have calls from Robin
Cook to cease operations and pull out. he later denied this to say
that he just wanted the war to go faster. More significant are
reports that many Iraqi civilians inside and outside Iraq who detest
Saddam Hussein would rather live with him than have their country
'invaded' by America/Britain.
So let us take a hypothetical example wherein we assume that 100% of
all Iraqis are now, because of the combination of new circumstances,
unwilling to accept Saddam's removal by the only external powers
of doing the job without indiscriminate slaughter, i.e. the current
coalition. Is there a PLAN B which could
applied to satisfy them?
The answer is YES. The allies do not have to continue this war. They
could return all Iraqi refugees in their countries who are of this
opinion to Iraq, to join Saddam, and they could pull out the troops,
and construct a defensive position against Iraq as a whole. We
could go back, in effect, to the status of the period before the
military buildup was started. But there would be a difference: having
accepted that the Iraqis do not want to be liberated, the refugees who
voted for that would all have to leave coalition countries and go home
to Iraq and sanctions would have to be maintained. Why? Because
otherwise Saddam's tyranny would create endless, ENDLESS streams of
refugees coming out, and with oil money he could bribe Iraqi
scientists to work on his WMD and become many times more dangerous to
remove than he is today. The belief that his regime could become
benign if allowed to flourish is not founded in reality.
The anti-war movement is still basing its argument on a single
proposition: that Saddam Hussein, his heirs and his system could be
removed later, without this American action, at this time. This
proposition is false. It is only now that America can take this
action, an action of extreme danger. It is as dangerous as all
the anti-war protesters think, and this was known from the start.
However, since the aim was to get Saddam and/or his WMD out of Iraq
without a war, it would hardly have made sense to say in advance how
black the alternative of war was going to be for those enforcing it and
for innocent civilians. To avoid war, the threat had to be credible.
Saddam and his ilk bank on the belief that the 'soft' western public
cannot face an assault on him. Even now, he aims to terrifiy our troops
with threats of what will happen to them in the desert, in the summer,
or in the streets of Baghdad.
There is one more thing to remember: If Saddam Hussein is not removed,
there is not a chance in hell of getting a state for the Palestinians.
For myself, speaking personally, that is the single greatest
justification for this campaign. I believe that with Saddam Hussein
and his ilk removed from Iraq, there is a chance to force Israel,
through financial pressure, to withdraw from the occupied territories.
The US will have the support from their domestic electorate to do this.
For the above reasons, even if every Iraqi in the world were to want
this war stopped now, it would be an act of the utmost cruelty,
and danger to so do. Plan B has been considered,
it was considered before the military builup started, it is considered
all the time, and rejected with reason. There is no Plan C.
UPDATE MARCH 31
This 'friendly fire business is getting me down. It appears American
troops are badly trained. They cannot recognise British tanks and they
are unable to stop a car full of women and children without killing
half the occupants. With all their small-arms are they not capable of
shooting out the tyres?
Rumsfeld is a worse diplomat than Bush, and that is saying something.
He makes this unpleasant task a hundred times more difficult than it
need be. However, if people are really so incapable of independent
thought that they back Saddam Hussein against the coalition regardless
of his behaviour, then they must make their choice. They will not
change the mind of those who believe that behaviour, not membership of
a particular race, is what makes a human being a member of civilised
society. The Syrian foreign minister claimed this evening that everyone
knew that America would never liberate, only occupy, because it always
occupies. I instantly brought to mind Occupied France, Occupied
Japan, Occupied Germany, Occupied Italy and how they suffer from this
UPDATE APRIL 02
Considerable advance has been made by the Americans as they approach
Baghdad, and it is reported that they have eliminated a further
significant part of the Republican Guard as an effective fighting
force. This has been denied by Saddam. If Saddam is right, then what
has been destroyed is not as significant as the Americans suppose. The
possibility is that these formations were calculated to be disposed of
and have been used simply to use up Americam fuel, time and ammunition.
The real confrontation was not ever meant by Saddam to be there, or to
The order has gone out to the holders of satellite mobile phones in
Iraq to hand them in to the authorities. If some operators of these
ever thought by the allies to be potentially on their side they must
realise by now that they may have been fooled. This would be a
ridiculous assumption were it not for the fact that we hear that US
intelligence has already admitted it had been misinformed about the
feelings of most Iraqis about the Bush family and the betrayal of 1991.
Zbigniew Brezinski is talking great sense this evening on BBC 2 to
Jeremy Paxman. After this operation, peace must be established between
Israel and the Palestinians. That means Israel withdrawing from
illegal settlements Zbig is sceptical about the willingness of
the Bush administration to really push this process. I have got news
for him and for George W. Bush and the US administration. Willingness
will be forthcoming, and the American electorate, who have been
supporting this operation in Iraq for reasons which they will discover
are not the real ones (worthy though the real ones are)
will concentrate their minds wonderfully on that task. I stick with the
opinion of Winston Churchill: America will always do the right thing,
after exploring all other possibilities.
For now, we still
have this awful campaign to finish, and the worst is yet to come.
I think I have figured out the coalition strategy. If I am right, I
have to admit it is brilliant. I shall therefore cease this diary until
something occurs that leads me to believe their strategy differs from
what I have arrived at.
UPDATE APRIL 09
The strategy is as I thought, but the tactics differed slightly to what
I expected. They were bolder. Four terrible days have passed, but much
has been achieved. In Basra things have gone very much better. Due to
the careful work over the past weeks and the initiative and good
judgement of the commanders in the field, the coalition is now in
military control of Basra. At last, the terror is lifted there and more
and more people feel able to speak openly and welcome the British
soldiers. I did not realise that the military would not act to
prevent looting. I appreciate that there can be good reasons for them
not getting involved in domestic police operations, but locals robbing
bank is not helpful to the community at this stage. The robbers may
as likely been working for Saddam before the relief of Basra as not. I
am pleased to hear that troops did not stand by on that one. Now they
need to get local community leaders in place as soon as possible. There
will be a period during which they will have to ensure security for the
new Iraqi authorities. The return of exiles, badly needed, will be a
delicate matter. The difficulties will be considerable and continual,
but to quote a famous American (Thoreau was it?) on his death bed: "I
know that the enterprise is worthy, I see that things worlk well, I
hear no bad news". That should not be misunderstood. Seriously injured
children are not 'good news' as we understand it. The sentiment being
expressed is that the suffering of humanity is neither meaningless nor
In Baghdad, the tactics have been bolder than I imagined. But they have
been the best possible and carried out with great bravery. The priority
was to get Baghdad freed as soon as possible, balancing casualties over
time, risk and security of outcome; and when special forces and
intelligence spotted chances they had to be taken. Very, very
courageous work. Regrettable civilian casualties, but unavoidable. We
can at least hope that the Iraqi tank crews who abandoned their
vehicles will live to be part of the new Iraq, not to fight on in the
Iraq is a big country. The overall strategy will now be tested. The hot
weather is coming.
As for the UN involvement, much careful diplomacy will be required. The
French, Russians and Germans will have to decide whether or not they
will vote for resolutions which accept the validity of the forcible
removal of the Baath party regime, based on its refusal to accept UN
authority (let alone abide by it), its criminal nature and its
psychopathic leaders. If they do, it will make UN involvement much
easier at the higher levels, and UN authorisation and recognition will
confer legitimacy from the start. If they do not (and it is their
choice) then the UN can be involved in a different way through its
agencies in rebuilding the nation. Iraq's UN status will then await the
installation of an elected government some time in the future. I see no
logical, moral or legal difficulty for the Security Council as a whole
to accept the fact that 1441 has been enforced, even though they did
vote for it. Accepting a fact is always a good starting point. Not
accepting a fact (as we have seen from some performances on Iraqi TV)
not helpful to progress of any sort, whatever one's opinion or aims.
However, the military operations are not yet over. Public UN
involvement will greatly assist in the shortening of hostilities and
futher casualties. It is up to France, Germany and Russia to decide if
they will assist in this process. If they do, the UN will be greatly
strengthened. Civil authority must be restored in Baghdad and Basra and
elswhere urgently. This entry time at midday UK time.
This evening it is clear that the removal from effective control of the
regime has left nobody in civil charge of the populations of Basra or
Baghdad. Here we have evidence of a serious miscalculation by the
coalition. The troops are still fully occupied with securing their own
position throughout the country. Because there has been so much
opposition from the regime, although there are many professionals left
to maintain services if they are given international help there is no
police force. The looting will cause fear and loss amongst law
abiding citizens. The coalition must ensure they get generous
from the International Community as soon as the situation is
For the moment, the military threats are far from over and the
remains volatile. Clean water is badly needed in Basra, but the
situation is not yet secure enough for full technical and humanitarian
aid to commence. The most sickening news of all is of the complaints
from those Arabs outside Iraq who preferred that Saddam should remain
power rather than have the US remove him. They are disappointed that
there was not a greater fight for Baghdad, resulting in greater
bloodshed. It may take some time before the liberators of Iraq
will be seen in a good light, in spite of the cheering crowds we saw
today on TV. In the 21st century the British military do not go into
action for glory or for thanks. When they go in, it is to do a job that
has to be done.
UPDATE APRIL 10th
Air Marshall Burridge and his men appear to have addressed the looting
problem in Basra, but Baghdad is in chaos. Hospitals have had equipment
removed by looters. But the cry from the UN that America is in breach
the Geneva Convention which demands that an 'occupying power' protects
the civil institutions from damage is frankly a load of unparalled
! For starters, neither the coalition as a whole or its
constituent members is yet an occupying power. It has its hands full
just trying to defeat the hardline resistance coming from the fanatical
beligerents (some who have actually come from other countries to defend
the Iraqi regime) who have been encouraged, by the failure of the
Security Council to support the operation, to believe that the the
position of the allies is illegal. The hypocrisy of those responsible
for this failure is beyond words. Edward Mortimer is waffling on TV as
write, speaking for the UN, and backing down under tough cross
questioning by the BBC interviewer (Mishal Hussein - a breath of fresh
In due course, history will record, regardless of what happens in
the year to come, for good or ill, that the failure of the Security
Council to approve the military enforcement of resolution 1441 was a
disgrace, a shameful dereliction of duty. The failure of the BBC to
faith in the credibility of the British Prime Minister and his cabinet,
and to portray them as dubious players in an operation of dubious
legality was also a shameful performance and has cost many lives, for
which they will be called to account. They are making a bit more sense
now. They made the same mistake over Yugoslavia.
I wrote yesterday "The return
of exiles, badly needed, will be a delicate matter. ..." Today we
learn that a very significant returnee was assassinated. His death will
deter other badly needed exiles from returning. Police could not have
stopped that assassination; a united UN, however, would have created a
world view that would have deterred such action. The lesson to be
learned form all of this is that we have FACE UP TO OUR
and not give in to the threats of deluded fanatics, or of tyrants.
The UN has said that the weapons inspectors should go back in. Oh
bravo, bravo. In you go lads. But just accept you may find it a bit
dangerous if you want to look round Tikrit in the next few days.
Personally I don't think a search for WMD has any significance. We need
to interview the key personnel, if they or their families are not being
held by Saddam and hardliners in inaccesible places.
The taking of Kirkuk by the Kurds has been excellent. It need not cause
any problems at all. It is good news that only 2 or 3 oil wells there
have been fired by Saddam's men.
In spite of all the bad news I am optimistic. The difficulties caused
by the sudden release of a people with no self control, due to being
repressed for years are considerable. The youths have no sense of right
or wrong as they have been shown nothing but the law of force. They
steal and loot without shame. But Iraq will be reborn. Religious
differences will as ever cause endless disputes, but society can be
and the torture chambers will be gone.
I am more interested in the practical difficulties in restoring
electricity to Baghdad. Saddam's men may have made that very difficult
indeed. Miles of undergroud tunnels which they alone are familiar with
present a nightmare for the American army.
UPDATE APRIL 11th
Baghdad is now slipping into total anarchy. This will be a lesson that
the world will never forget. Of course the anti-war chatterers will
claim it as another reason for justifying their original stance, not
realising that civilisation all over the world hangs by a thread
That is why, as we moved towards a globalised social structure, a
tyrannical regime that is not based on a rule of law is so incredibly
dangerous. Let there be no mistake: what we are seeing could happen
anywhere in the world if a regime bases its survival on repression
without law and the artificial support of its suppressed population
through a system of aid, unconnected with the individual responsibility
for supporting the community. If Saddam had been left to continue, to
overthrown in a later, inevitable civil war, the carnage would have
worse, the weapons used worse.
To understand why this appalling moment in history has to be gone
through, the reader should re-read this diary from the beginning. The
status quo was unsustainable. The poison was building. The only
There is no doubt that in Baghdad, the coalition is now in deep
trouble. This fabric of life, the supply of food, depends on controlled
and protected internal trade. Agricultural produce is required to feed
urban populations. The millions of inhabitants dependent on
international aid will have seen the structure collapse. They have no
means of support, so the law of the jungle will replace the imposed
tyranny. Bringing peace to Baghdad is not possible if people cannot
- To let Saddam right off
the hook, remove the sanctions, and trust to his regime's good nature
bring Iraq into the family of nations within International Law
- To insist on Saddam
demonstrating his acceptance of UN authority or remove him by force.
As proposed earlier (see MARCH 1st in this diary), Saddam Hussein will teach America
a lesson but America will remove Saddam Hussein. As a true student of
Stalin, Saddam is destroying Baghdad to deny it to the coalition. The
wretched people caught in the middle, who wanted the International
Community to act as one to remove Saddam and his regime, will be the
ones to suffer most in Baghdad. American troops will be unable to
control the situation because they cannot run the urban systems and the
economy. They tried desperately in the early stages to preserve the
structure, but Saddam's regime in their final acts have denied them
in Baghdad. The results will be truly appalling unless the entire
International Community acts as one, now, to support a coalitionhumanitarian
effort. Aid must go in with military support, whether the aid
agencies agree with this or not, airlifted in through Baghdad Airport
and others. This was ALWAYS the case from the very beginning. A
bigger lesson to be learned now is by certain urban chattering classes
in the BBC who, it has become evident, have no idea of the realities of
life. They have tried, through their own vanity, to stand above what
they considered to be political power play. As a result they have
the military up the wall, occupying them with trying to justify their
actions instead of being free to do the job.
There are huge realities of life which will now be exposed. With luck
these will teach us how dependent urban populations are on agricultural
produce, monetary and transport systems and the rule of law. Unless
these things are understood by the British public, one day what is
happening in Baghdad could happen here in London.
On the other hand the
media are absolutely right to point out the fact that life has become
much more dangerous for people in Iraq now that Saddam has been
removed, just as it did in Moscow when the totalitarian regime there
fell [even though a fullly functional regime remained in power and the
systems were undamaged]. In the circumstances in Iraq, the dangers are
hundred times worse. The Prime Minister is being ridiculous when he
denies this. There is bound to be an appalling period to go through
because those who were not an official part of Saddams regime but
dependent on it will have no employement. Even if they hated Saddam
group will include thugs who will rob banks and businesses and even
hospitals to survive. In Baghdad as in London, the professional middle
classes have no idea of working realities of life for the really
underprivileged. The 'honest citizens' were protected by Saddams
terrible regime. They now expect protection from the invading armies
until a new regime is in place. Honest our PM may be, but
his naivety never ceases to astonish me.
As for the appalling Mr Rumsfeld's remarks on the looting this evening,
this arrogant man will get his come-uppance in due course, of that one
can be assured. The generals on the spot will have to take on the task
of stopping the chaos whether they like it or not. Those in the UK and
US military who have had to put up with Rumsfeld before and during this
war will I am sure make sure that he is not allowed to take credit for
the success or avoid blame for what is going on now.
The media has been a bloody nuisance up till now, though many of their
correspondents have been as brave as the soldiers, but today they are
getting it right. Looting was inevitable, but Rumsfeld's response is
disgusting and his description of what is going on as absurd as was the
daily briefing of Saddam's Minister of Information.
UPDATE 12th APRIL
A senior Iraqi general familiar with the country's defense strategy and
weapons programmes has surrendered today. He was one of those who
negotiated with the UN weapons inspectors and maintains that he told
truth, and that Iraq has no WMD. Perhaps he can also explain why in
case they refused to say where the WMD they had previously had has been
disposed of. That was, after all, what the WMD argument was about.
My personal support for the removal of Saddam Hussein did not
depend on the possession of WMD by the Iraqis as a nation. It depended
on the possession of WMD by a nation controlled by Saddam Hussein, a
criminal regime, a totalitarian regime with a messianic message and
goal, a regime with enough oil money to buy materials and scientists
from anywhere in the world, a regime with no foreseeable possibiity of
removal by its own suffering people.
Peter Tatchell has been telling us on BBC 'Any Questions' what we
should have done. We should have armed the Iraqi opposition parties, he
says, and they would have overthrown Saddam. Rumour has it that Peter
Tachell is human and lives on this planet, but this must now be
seriously questioned. I think he may be an actor paid by the media to
put points of view that nobody else will in order to demonstrate how
daft they are. In the same programme he claimed the British were
foisting new local government leaders on the Basra area, after hearing
reports that a potential leader had put himself forward to the British
military commander whose first action was to call a meeting of local
people to see if they would support him or not. It seems Mr
Tatchell is a man who likes to take a view and then try to invent facts
to fit it rather than the other way round.
The diehard opponents of war though always fall back on the one mantra:
"It's all about oil". In one sense they are correct - we are at the
of the graph in the 'oil window'. That is a very brief moment of
human existence when we must use the limited amount of accessible,
usable oil on this planet to achieve a global economy that can develop
and then use and share the next phase of energy technology. This phase
will enable us to work together globally without the need for an ever
increasing level of physical tourism or of commuting to work. It will
also enable us to carry out the travelling that is still necessary
without dangerously polluting or heating our atmosphere. Just as in an
era of atomic weapon technology and chemical and biological weapons we
have to make sure that these are not in the hands of people like Saddam
and his psychopath family and followers, we also need to make sure that
the same sort of people do not misuse the precious oil reserves. These
reserves will be used up in the next few decades, leaving a residual
amount that can be used for more specialist uses than just burning for
transport or heating. If the US heavy consumption was just used for
building palaces and maintaining supremacy, it would be just as big a
misuse and any other. But in an open society where the worlds best
can work without fear, the US and the G7+ nations will develop the
technologies of transport, heating and electricity generation and
storage for the post-oil era. Iraqis in a free Iraq can play an
important role in this. So yes, it is all about oil, because we are in
the oil phase of human development and Iraq has an important part to
UPDATE APRIL 13th
It is now time to make a judgement on on the liberation process so far.
The efficiency and bravery of the coalition troops has been remarkable.
Those who claim that this has been easy have no idea of the training
that the soldiers have undegone or the rigours of the development and
production of their arms and munitions. It has taken the efforts over
many years of some of the worlds greatest economies, educational
establishments, industries and political and military institutions. It
has been a terrible task, and one of the worst things about it is that
it has had to be done under the overall dominating control of Mr
Rumsfeld. We have to admire any man who will take responsibility for
driving forward such appalling tasks, but such a personality is bound
contain obstinacies, blockages and insensitivities that may be very
damaging to the actual process. While I have no doubt that the
electricity supply in Baghdad was probably disabled by Saddam's men
before they left the capital, the failure to protect the hospitals, the
buildings containing records and the museums can now be seen as a
result of Rumsfeld's view that the management of the whole operation
based on looking after the US troops, the US economy, and US interests
whenever there was the slightest conflict with the interests of Iraq or
obligations to the Geneva convention. In the early period it was clear
that some looting would take place and protection of premises would be
limited. But there was no attempt at all. This will be seen now to
have been strategically counterproductive and Rumsfeld will be called
account by the US congress.
The BBC has been quite correct to report the results of the failure in
Baghdad to attempt any kind of control of the civil population. It is
probably quite true that a certain amount of looting has to be
until the military is able to turn its attention seriously to that
since attempting to stop it and failing would bring troops in conflict
with civilians and could lead to very harmful perceptions in the minds
of both the coalition soldiers and the civil population. But this has
nothing to do with the failure to protect certain priority sites.
That is the minimalist approach. A more effective approach would
have been to have policing forces based in Kuwait or other sites ready
to move in as soon as Baghdad arport was operational and under allied
However, the BBC will also be called to account for partiality in its
reporting during the entire operation. Richard Sambrook, the
corporation's head of news, said "It is not the BBC's role to second
guess what the impact of its reports might be on anyone involved in the
conflict. What is important is that reporters report what they see." Mr
Sambrook has completely missed the point.
It is indeed important the reporters report what they see [ though
there are limitations on this if they have a privileged view provided
the allied military which may not be available to others and which is
tactically or strategically sensitive to the war. There will be time
later to report on such details]. The complaint is not about people
reporting what they see. It is about giving a voice on the BBC World
Service radio and television, after the military action had started, to
those who maintain that the war was unnecessary, illegal, immoral,
anti-islamic, about oil, run by idiots or criminals, carelessly caried
out, deliberately targetting civilians. These views may be held, but
freedom of speech does not include giving a platform to such people on
the UK's international broadcasting system, in wartime, after the UK
government has voted by an overall majority and a majority in all
parties to commit its troops and its country to a military and
course with great risks, for what has been judged good reasons.
Not only were such people given a platform, they were give star
billing, since those with the responsibility for pursuing the policy
embarked on had no wish to propagandise unnecessarily on an argument
already won in open political debate over many months. Furthermore,
BBC commentators have been avowedly anti-war and against UK government
policy. "Freedom of speech" has never meant the BBC is obliged to give
equal time to anarchists, racists pacifists or criminals with respect
the airtime given to those who represent the values that have built and
sustain the culture and institutions that have created and now sustain.
Freedom of speech means that you can say what you like providing it is
not an incitement to violence or racial or religious hatred. Other
restrictions could be put on on it too, such as restricting the right
encourage actions that would instruct disaffected individuals in how
damage the public health. A recent discussion on BBC Radio 4 on
of speech' chaired by Laurie Taylor revealed a remarkable immaturity of
thinking on the whole subject.
These precious freedoms, of speech, travel, association and religious
belief depend, for their survival, on not being abused. With every
freedom comes an associated responsibility. The BBC has a great
responsibilty because it has great power and great freedom. Mr
Sambrook's staff may not be the ones who have abused it, but the BBC
certainly has in its selection of opinions and airtime given to them.
Martin Bell and Charles Wheeler were lauded on a recent Radio 4
programme as people whose experience and judgement were almost beyond
question. I have listened to practically every world each of these
individuals have said on the subject of war, politics and America over
the years. I am a perpetual critic of America. But I do not respect
either Martin Bell or Charles Wheeler's judgement on everything. I
there is a lot missing in their understanding of the world. I
have no doubt that time and events will show up all the errors in
thinking and in action of all politicians, but I do not see these two
gentlemen as repositories of wisdom, however hard they attempt to play
"It is not the
BBC's role to second guess what the impact of its reports might be on
anyone involved in the conflict. What is important is that reporters
report what they see." However, it is the BBC's role
second guess the impact of the privileged platform it gives to
individuals and movements, in time of peace and in time of war, because
the huge audience that it commands makes the speaker more powerful than
a head of state addressing his country's legislative body. Unless the
BBC wishes to usurp the role of parliament, it should take on the
responsibility that is appropriate for the incredible freedom and
financial support it is given by parliament, freedom and finance which
exists in combination nowhere else on this planet.
UPDATE APRIL 15TH
It is now becoming clear that the US administration has grossly
neglected the plans and provision for stabilising Baghdad after the
Baath regime was removed. Saddam has left behind a sabotaged
electricity network and emptied the worst elements from gaols to run
riot. This was an easily predictable act of a regime with no real
culturall values. It was a criminal regime. How is it possible that the
American planners did not anticipate this? They have no people in
Baghdad even now who have the slightest idea of what should have been
done, or the means of doing it. How are we to interpret this? As
stupidity, or of deliberate negligence? For the first time I am now
deeply pessimistic about the chances that the the United States can
any popular role in rebuilding Iraq. They have failed on every single
count so far, and have alienated every section of the community. If
had been not for want of trying, they would be forgiven. But there is
evidence that the slightest intention of dealing with this easily
predictable situation was even contemplated. It is a public relations
disaster of incredible proportions, and it will reflect very badly on
the UK as well. Even if the situation is recovered now by a massive
improvement in security and humanitarian aid, the US will never be
On the other hand there is much nonsense being talked about the
impossibilty of a democratic Iraqi government. As we know, and I assume
even Americans know, administration is one thing, politics another. The
only requirements for a democratic government is a justice system,
police and armed forces that uphold a constitution that provides for
free and fair elections every 5 years, while keeping civil order in
between. Free speech and a free media, restricted only by an
interdiction on incitement to crime, violence and racial hatred, is
another required ingredient. The government can be of any complexion,
providing it abides by such a constitution. It must enforce the social
contract by constitutional means while in office, and allow opposition
parties to challenge it at general elections.
The first task now is not to arrive at a democratic government but to
put in place an administration with a provisional constitution, to
ensure that Iraqi people are employed in the tasks that keep the
running, and the young people are trained in the skills required for
future. A democratic government comes when there is sufficient law and
order and preparations to hold a free and fair election, when the
can choose between political parties on the basis of their manifestos
including, if they wish, the personally expressed values of the
individuals leading those parties. Providing there is no intimidation
the time of the election, there is no way that an undemocratic
government can be foisted on a free people. Even if they choose a
that bcomes despotic, it is the sworn duty of the armed forces to
protect the constitution against abuses that would allow that regime to
deny the chance of the electorate to throw it out.
Iraq has, in its oil reserves, a national asset to finance its social
aspirations and to equip its people and country for the post-oil era as
well. The suffering of Europe in the first half of the 20th century is
not unrelated to the advance of Europe in the latter half of that
century. The suffering of Iraq and others in the Middle East may not be
wasted if it leads to a brighter future for the whole region and Iraq
particular. But this war is not over. There are huge amounts of arms
over the country, and a great many people who may use them very
unpredictably now. There are obviously movements that are still
by the old regime. To stop them sabotaging the next stages the
needs to set society and the economy back on a viable footing, with
salaries and wages. But the banks have been looted and the records
so they will have virtually re-start the currency. It is a massive
Maybe the coalition and the UN have thought this through and have the
means to deal with it. If so they are remarkable at hiding the idea
they have the smallest clue.
The UN should have backed this operation from the start, and controlled
such operations as the protection of museums from the start by
what provisions were in hand in the first stages of occupation. That
coalition was left to do this necessary job on its own is, as I have
never ceased to say, a disgrace. What I wrote on April 11th still
stands. It looks to me like the coalition is in deep trouble.
UPDATE APRIL 16TH
President Bush's report on the state of affairs in Iraq today is
about as realistic as the briefings of Comical Ali during the advance
Baghdad of the Americans. According to Bush, water food and
medical supplies are being delivered right now. According to reporters
on the ground, the only supplies reaching hospitals in Baghdad are
they already have and do not need more of. They need electricity, water
and above all security so that the staff can return to work. They do
have this. It would seem that Saddam's strategy so far is superior to
Rumsfeld's. Baghdad is being destroyed all around the US Army. A
Now perhaps we can appreciate more clearly the charge of recklessness
that Clare Short levelled at the UK government on March 10th. The
recklessness she referred to was not in standing up to Saddam but
trusting the Rumsfeld plan. The moment we started to hear him
talking in public about 'shock and awe' it was clear Rumsfeld knew
nothing about the Arab mind. Only Americans are shocked and awed by
American displays designed to shock and awe. What a pillock that guy is.
There is still hope that this exercise will achieve what this
commentator most desired, the fall of Saddam and the fall of Bush, but
if we are also to get the Israelis out of where they do not belong, the
Palestinians are going to have to play a serious hand and get serious
support from the UK and Europe and the UN Security Council. If they
it by thinking now is the time to increase the suicide attacks they
lose a unique opportunity. The price paid so far by Iraq is so great
that this opportunity must not be wasted.
It is fascinating to see how Clare Short is now being attacked by
everybody, from the left, from the right, by pro-war and anti-war. That
is because she has been clear headed all along, a Stateswoman who has
risen above her own career interests and accepted the responsibility of
living in the world as it is. She is now accused, because she is
criticising the lack of preparation for this phase of the campaign, of
playing a part for the benefit of the Prime Minister. Yes, the part she
plays is Clare Short. It usually benefits all those who trust in her.
That will include the innocent people on whose behalf she works [not
excluding the PM she reproved for recklessness].
Meanwhile, the war in Iraq is far from over.
UPDATE APRIL 22
Jay Garner and Tim Cross are now on the job, with specialist teams
coming in. Reparing the damage done by criminal looters is one thing, sabotage and theft done by
Saddam's supporters will be another and probably far more difficult
unless they get inside help, particularly if it is continuing. We can
only wish the coalition well now in its endeavours and hope that the
International Community will support the humanitarian aid effort.
It is very interesting to observe the exactly choreographed chants and
body movements of the organised spontaneous crowds representing
religious or political viewpoints. We were told people were never able
to congregate and demonstrate over the past 20 years to express
other than support for Saddam. The people we see these days are
synchronised in their present chants and movements better than a team
trained dancers. I think they could come on and perform for anyone's
script after a half hour's rehearsal.
And then we have the documents purporting to prove that George
Galloway, the man dedicated to ending sanctions over the past decade,
was being financed by getting a percentage on oil sales and deals he
helped to arrange for the regime. Charles Moore, editor of the Daily
Telegraph stands by the story that his reporter found these documents
under circumstances that make their finding as a plant impossible, and therefore
their forgery implausible. George Galloway stands by his contention
he never in his life met an Iraqi security service official. What is
truth? The truth is that fooling both Charles Moore and George Galloway
is like taking candy from a baby. Charles Moore probably never
knows that half of what appears in his paper is planted, sometimes by
his own staff, sometimes by others, for a variety of motives good, bad
or ugly. George Galloway is probably a very nice guy who does not
realise that half of what goes on in his head is planted, again by a
variety of people for a variety of motives. But one has to admit that
Galloway stands alone and independent and can at least talk straight,
unlike the tribal upper-class bumbling mumble of Moore.
If the documents are a plant (which is likely considering the
unidentifiable signature and the timing and circumstances) it is
unlikely that they were planted by anyone trying to discredit Galloway.
Much more probably by someone trying to discredit the DT and anyone
gullible enough to believe this story, and to make the public believe
that this is the type of dirty tricks the British government uses on
opponents. Whether Galloway has ever been given money by the Iraqi
regime is something else again.
If the documents are not a plant but genuine, it could be that an
associate of Galloway was taking his name in vain to get more money out
of Saddam. But in that case Galloway will have a lot of work to do to
convince any court of law that it was not just a cover, and that the
associate was not acting on his behalf.
UPDATE MAY 14th
I have left almost a month before adding anything here, mainly because
it has been so depressing to realise that Bush and his team had
absolutely nothing up their sleeve in the way of sensible ideas or
to deal with the counter-forces loosed in Iraq, probably financed by
Saddam, and the hostile and humiliated Iraqi nationalists. It is hard
credit how ill prepared the American administration has been for
anything other than the military push to overthrow the regime. One
begins to understand why Clare Short used the term reckless. It is not
impossible that Iraq can be pulled together under a reasonable
leadership, but given the utter cluelessness of George Bush and the
strange naivety of Blair, the odds get worse by the day.
The suicide bombings in Saudi and elswhere are hardly unexpected. I am
putting this diary on the back burner now, as the key decisions have
already been taken. Now its just a long slog with unfortunately a lot
unpleasant obstacles and happenings along the way. The war is not over
in Iraq, even if Bush thinks it is. On the other hand the people
bleating about not finding weapons of mass destruction are a complete
waste of time, theirs and everybody else's. A serious effort will
continue to find them, but whether they are found will have no bearing
at all on the legality, legitimacy or advisability of moving to remove
Saddam and his regime.
BETTER! A unanimous UN Security Council containing all the right
measures and above all THE REMOVAL OF SANCTIONS. This was the aim of
exercise. It is understandable that the Syrians were not there for the
vote - they would have had to consult with all the Arab nations before
they could cast a vote, it would have taken a considerable time for
to have formulated a position, and
there is no time to spare, as things in Iraq are really bad - a
good deal worse than when Saddam was in power. But now that the
sanctions are lifted and the coalition countries are able to at least
start preparing the oil wells and processing plants for future exports,
with the UN in a monitoring role and progressively coming in on the
immense requirement for humanitarian aid and rebuilding of the nation,
it might be possible to rescue the situation.
But it is
going to need a massive effort. So much harm has been done during the
last 12 years by the effect of sanctions, made worse by Saddam, and
finally by what one can now see as the US administration's inability to
imagine even approximately the realities of life in the middle east and
quite definitely not in Iraq. George Bush based his arguments for
change (which was of course essential if the sanctions were to be
lifted) on a simple premise: "We cannot allow the worlds most lethal
weapons to be in the hands of the worlds most evil leaders". To which
one might reply "We cannot allow the worl'd most powerful nation to be
run by the world's most ignorant leaders".
As has been pointed out, George Bush is certainly not evil, and what he
actually does at the end of the day is not so much the problem. It is
just that every time he opens his mouth he makes most of the world
despise hm, and the rest of them wish Osama bin Laden would at least
manage to take him out in the next Al Qaida extravaganza. The troops he
sent out there were totally unprepared for the job, and far too few to
keep order after they had smashed the china and removed the existing
civil authority. Those who like me thought that at least he had some
competent advisors have been proved wrong so far, though people like
Richard Haas are in theory of very high calibre indeed. Additional
trouble is caused by his speech writers, one of whom was chatting to us
on BBC Radio 4 recently and came over as naive beyond all imagining.
we hear that the 'Axis of Evil' was changed from 'Axis of Hate' by
another speech writer. The world is being screwed up by speech-writers
who do not have a boss who understands English or History or anything
utside Texas. Imagine what Roosevelt would have done if he had been
served up with a script like that.
UPDATE MAY 29th
discussion fuelled or fanned by the media on whether or not Saddam had
WMD at the start of the war and whether the danger of him using them
exaggerated is utterly pointless. A complete waste of time. There were
only ever two possibilities: the sanctions remained in place and were
tightened, or Saddam Hussein had to go. There were no other conceivable
futures. Any idea that the terms of the original Gulf War ceasefire
could have been waived and sanctions removed with Saddam in power are
just ridiculous. Keeping or tightening the sanctions was a seriously
idea, so that left only one other possibilty. In retrospect, the peace
marches were just rubbish. Furthermore the mess that has been made of
the postwar situation is as much the fault of Clair Short as anyone.
With the advantage of hindsight, certainly not the British military. It
can now be seen quite clearly that what was suggested here politely in
February, that the peace protesters and all those who did not
up and fly right would make things worse for all, before during and
after, is all too true. Even the motives of Bush and his supporters are
in the final anlysis irrelevant. The sanctions had to stop, and that
the only way.