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Wheaty’s Breakfast of War Champions

Now here's an interesting, if occluded, omission coming from a Tory intellectual of such eminence as Geoffrey Wheatcroft: Blair himself is now far beyond reason, but Benn and Blears should begin each day by saying 10 times: We did not … Read More

By / February 27, 2007

Now here's an interesting, if occluded, omission coming from a Tory intellectual of such eminence as Geoffrey Wheatcroft:

Blair himself is now far beyond reason, but Benn and Blears should begin each day by saying 10 times: We did not go to war to depose Saddam Hussein. That was indeed the object of those in Washington who dreamed up the war: destroying Saddam, or regime change for the sake of regime change.

Wheatcroft isn't doing any favors to his antiwar counterparts in the U.S. by averring that the casus belli was from the start the removal of a genocidal tyrant. This makes a hash of all the old excuses for either supporting regime change on the tenuous grounds of national self-interest, or for opposing it for the same reason. What were the old excuses? Iraq represented a clear and imminent threat; this was about a Halliburton oil plunder; Saddam was behind 9/11, or was at least a more gosh-wow scapegoat than the occupant of some undisclosed cave in Waziristan, etc.

Good to know some critics of the Bush-Blair Doctrine were never "deceived" for an instant. Then comes this:

Above all we have the evidence, as John Humphrys reminded Blair last Thursday, of the devastating "Downing Street memo" of July 23 2002. It was written in strictest secrecy for the eyes of Blair and a few close colleagues, summarising the latest meetings in Washington between the heads of British intelligence and their American counterparts.

"There was a perceptible shift in attitude," the memo says in completely unambiguous words. "Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy." When they read that last sentence, how on earth can these ministers continue to maintain – how dare they still pretend – that the "intelligence was wholly wrong", as though this was an innocent error?

Leaving aside that Wheatcroft preempts criticism of seeming an old pub bore in the very next paragraph, the word "fixed" in idiomatic British English means "established," as he well knows. And what's so "devastating" about the above admission? Nowhere is it stated the intelligence and facts were presumed wrong or doctored — only that a preformed plan to get rid of Saddam was being justified by them. Quelle scandale! Perhaps those who argue we should have invaded Saudi Arabia instead would not have searched for a legitimate case for war with intelligence on how the Saudi monarchs fund Wahhabist madrassas and al-Qaeda? Some people are just cowboys like that.

Then again, why play with hypothetical history when the present offers its own convenient thought experiment. Run the following statement through your "visceral reaction" processor:

Military action in Iran is now seen as inevitable. Bush wants to remove the mullahs, through military action, justified by Iran's conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts are being fixed around the policy.

As alarming as it'd be to read such a paragraph in tomorrow's New York Times, would our response be: What conjunction of terrorism and WMD? Of course not, even if it could be shown a year from now that Ahmadinejad was all talk and that those satellite-unfriendly facilities in Natanz and Bushehr were really underground sheep paddocks. Everyone assumes Iran is developing WMD, and it's become increasingly obvious that the Tehran regime is also suborning terrorism in Iraq. How to deal with these violations of international law may be controversial, but the suspicion of guilt with regards to Iran's intentions and activities, is not.

So it wasn't with regards to Iraq back in 2003, when every other country not part of the coalition to remove him thought that Saddam was nonetheless up to no good.

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