By Gwynne Dyer
The favorite fantasy headline of British comedian Spike Milligan was: "Archduke Franz Ferdinand Found Alive! First World War a Mistake!" We are unlikely to see a similar headline in any American paper soon, but in the rest of the world the continued failure of the U.S. and British occupation forces in Iraq to find any of the "weapons of mass destruction" (WMD) that were the alleged reason for their invasion is a diplomatic disaster and a joke in very bad taste.
Tony Blair ran into both phenomena and came away severely shaken when he visited Moscow last Tuesday. The British prime minister thought he had a good personal relationship with the Russian president, but Vladimir Putin is a former intelligence officer and, like his American and British counterparts, he was outraged at the way the U.S. and British governments misrepresented the intelligence they got from their own agencies in order to justify their war. Unlike the people at the Central Intelligence Agency and MI5, however, Putin was free to speak -- and did he ever.
Putin openly mocked Blair for the failure of the "coalition" to find any of the fabled WMD even weeks after the end of the war: "Where are those arsenals of weapons of mass destruction, if indeed they ever existed? Perhaps Saddam is still hiding in an underground bunker somewhere, sitting on cases of weapons of mass destruction, and is preparing to blow the whole thing up and destroy the lives of thousands of Iraqis."
The Russian journalists at the press conference roared with laughter -- maybe it loses something in translation -- but Blair looked distinctly grim. He is going to have lots more practice at that.
Two months ago, Blair talked a reluctant parliament into supporting the attack on Iraq by warning of Iraqi WMD ready to strike on 45 minutes' notice, and President George W. Bush warned of "mushroom clouds" if the U.S. didn't invade Iraq. It was all so desperately urgent, so hair-trigger dangerous, that Washington and London couldn't wait for the United Nations arms inspectors to finish their job; they had to bypass the U.N. and invade right away. So many thousands of Iraqis (2,500 civilians and perhaps 10,000 soldiers) were killed, 137 U.S. and British soldiers died, looters destroyed most of Iraq's cultural heritage while "coalition" troops stood idly by -- and nobody has found any WMD.
The rest of the world never really believed the White House's justification for war anyway. As U.N. chief weapons inspector Hans Blix said in late April, Washington and London built their case for going to war on "very, very shaky" evidence, including documents that subsequently turned out to have been faked -- and with the war now over, Washington isn't even bothering to insist that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to the United States any more. "We were not lying," a Bush administration official told ABC News on 28 April. "But it was just a matter of emphasis." The real reason for the war, according to the ABC report, was that the administration "wanted to make a statement" (presumably about what happens to countries that defy U.S. power). Iraq was not invaded because it threatened America, but because "Saddam had all the requirements to make him, from [the administration's] standpoint, the perfect target." The assumption, at the White House and the Pentagon, was that everybody else could be bullied into forgetting the lies about WMD and accepting the fact of American control of Iraq.
They probably could be if the occupation turned out to be a brilliant success that produced a happy, prosperous, united and independent Iraq, but that does not seem likely. Instead, it is going sour very fast, with U.S. troops shooting civilian demonstrators, the Shia majority seeking an Islamic state, and the beginnings of a guerilla resistance to the foreign occupiers. Even if the U.S. were willing to let the United Nations have a role in occupied Iraq, the desire of other powers to get involved in any way in this proto-Vietnam is waning from day to day.
Washington continues to insist that the U.N. weapons inspectors will not be allowed back in, which means that the rest of the world is unlikely to believe the U.S. and British forces even if they do claim to have found something. And frankly, hardly anyone in Britain believes in Iraqi WMD any more either -- not even former cabinet ministers.
On 22 April, former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said he doubted that there was a single person in the intelligence services who believed that a weapon of mass destruction in working order would be found in Iraq, and accused the White House of trying to bridge the credibility gap by "re-inventing the term 'weapon of mass destruction' to cover any artillery shell with a chemical content, or any biological toxin, even if it had not been fitted to a weapon." Even on that preposterous definition, they have not found any WMD in Iraq yet -- and as former British Defense Secretary Doug Henderson said on 18 April: "If by the turn of the year there is no WMD then the basis on which this [war] was executed was illegal."
The post-9/11 patriotic chill still prevents any senior American politician from questioning the existence of Iraqi WMD in public, but this issue is not going to go away. As the situation in Iraq deteriorates and the American body count rises, questions about how America got talked into this mess will keep coming back, and sooner or later they will have to be answered.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
There is also evidence in hand that Bush and Cheney didn't like the intelligence they were getting, so, keep sending it back till they got the intelligence they wanted. Cheney and Rumsfeld even created their own intelligence organization to invent what they wanted. To belie these truths is disingenuous Then again, that sums up the entire Bush regime.... and so it goes.
This leads into a long and eyeball-glazing section on the longtime association between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family, including members of Osama bin Laden's large extended clan - not exactly the scandal Moore makes it to be, considering that the Bushes have long been in the oil business, as have the Saudis.
Moore's critics on the right have long complained he plays fast and loose with the facts, and he gives them ammunition by implying that Bush allowed a large contingent of bin Ladens and other Saudis, mostly students, to leave the United States immediately after 9/11, while commercial flights were still grounded.
In fact, the bipartisan Sept. 11 commission has found that most, if not all, of these evacuations took place after Sept. 13, when the ban on commercial flights was lifted - and the evidence weighs against Dubya even being aware of these special flights.
--Lou Lumenic (exerpted)
It seemed a victory that the film was finally allowed to be shown in America...
You must be a much more careful and insightful reader of my words than I am, since I am unable to detect any deviation or contradiction. Since you don't provide any support for your assertion, however, I guess I'll have to remain unenlightened.
It is true that I do not know exactly what Bush should have done in those seven minutes. In the same vein, I also do not know what a nuclear plant technician should do in the first seven minutes after learning of a potential core meltdown. Nor do I know precisely what an airplane pilot should do in the first seven minutes after learning of an engine failure. Likewise, I do not know what a city fire chief should do in the first seven minutes after learning of a commercial airliner striking a skyscraper. I would expect, however, that the people in these situations would rely upon their training, their intelligence, and their gut instincts to react in a way that is appropriate, given the circumstances. Furthermore, I would expect that, in all of those cases, the correct response is to do something in preference to doing nothing.
In any event, after seven minutes elapsed it is evident that the president did finally do something. The question then, is: if acting after the lapse of seven minutes was appropriate, was the seven minutes of inaction appropriate?
Well, let's see if I can answer some of your concerns Piff.
" Are the people who died the enemy? "
I bet a lot of those who died were the enemy. But of course, it would not advance Moore's agenda to show them, just the civilians. Well guess what? Civilians and innocents die in every war. So are you ready to condemn WWII and Pres. Roosevelt for those deaths of civilians? How about Truman and Korean civilian deaths? Do you accuse Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon for civilians killed in Vietnam? Maybe you do. If so, then at least you are consistent and I would presume you do not believe that any war is just. Or is it just this one?
"Are we safer? "
Probably more so than had we done nothing other than shake our collective fingers and try to shame terrorists and/or Saddam into stopping the killing of these innocents you are now so concerned about.
"Who has gained wealth? "
Well, this one I have no answer for. Do you? Provide figures as to who has gained wealth. Figures for every company and individual who has profitted. I bet there are many more than you care to admit and most will surprisingly have no ties to the current admin.
"Is this what being American is about?"
Yes it is what we are about. Making the world "safe for democracy" and all that. We can argue all our lives about whether we should be the world's policeman, but like it or not, it seems to be the job we have taken on for the last 75 years or so. It may be a thankless job, but somebody has to do it less we find ourselves faced with another Hitler, Stalin, etc.
I know you may not agree with my sentiments, but here they are. Moore has every right to make a film to espouse his views. Just as Rush Limbaugh has every right to spout his on radio. Some people on both sides will embrace as gospel everything they say or film. And that is too bad for them.