Monday, January 21, 2008


Iraq War Needs Official Inquiry

A new book by Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, throws unflattering light on both Tony Blair and the Foreign Office's planning of the Iraq War. It shows that:

1. The Foreign Office failed to warn of any likely adverse consequences despite an open to letter to Blair from 52 former diplomatic officials to the region that an invasion would be a disaster:

All those with experience of the area predicted that the occupation of Iraq by the coalition forces would meet serious and stubborn resistance, as has proved to be the case. To describe the resistance as led by terrorists, fanatics and foreigners is neither convincing nor helpful," they declared.

2. Blair consulted academic experts on Iraq only once and then failed to listen to their warnings. George Joffe received the impression of: "someone with a very shallow mind, who's not interested in issues other than the personalities of the top people, no interest in social forces, political trends, etc". When these experts failed to convince him of what he had already decided he must do, he just ignored their advice.

3. Christopher Segar, who took part in Whitehall's Iraq Policy Unit's prewar discussions and later headed the British office in Baghdad immediately after the invasion, said: "The conventional view was that Iraq was one of the most Western-oriented of Arab states, with its British-educated, urban and secular professionals. I don't think anyone in London appreciated how far Islamism had gone."

4.'the real problem was a failure to comprehend that western armies cannot successfully take over Arab countries and force them to run along western lines. The occupation was doomed from the start. No matter how efficient, sensitive, generous and intelligent the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) had been, it could not have succeeded. Occupations are inherently humiliating. People prefer to run their own affairs; they resent foreigners taking over their country.

It seems the Conservatives will renew their call for an official enquiry into the the genesis and conduct of the war on Thursday in the Lords. After the Falklands War, after all, Margaret Thatcher did allow the Franks Report to be produced. The difference might just be that the Falklands was a relatively clinical successful military operation while the Iraq affair long ago morphed into the biggest western disaster since Vietnam. If Labour has any sense of honour, it will agree set up an independent inquiry into the provenance and conduct of the war. I'm not optimistic...

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