The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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In the week that marked the 134th birth anniversary of the Mahatma, US intelligence expert, David Kay, reported to the US congress on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction; the Hutton inquiry in the United Kingdom published its report on the prevarications, exaggerations and outright lies of Tony Blair’s administration; and Robin Cook, Blair’s former foreign secretary, unveiled his diary of the critical period of the run-up to the war, establishing that not even Blair believed Saddam Hussein had any WMD, at any rate none that could be used against civilian targets in the Western world “within 45 minutes” as Blair had claimed on the floor of the House of Commons. Moreover, the evidence shows that George W. Bush had determined on invading Iraq long before Hans Blix’s UN inspectors were returned to Iraq by the UN security council and that Blair had decided to throw in his lot with Bush — WMD or no — at least as far back as September 2002, irrespective of whether there was or not a casus belli — a cause for war. It is some relief to us in India who suffer the deceptions and duckings of George Fernandes and Yashwant Sinha that our democracy is quite as flawed as that of the world’s most powerful, the United States, and the world’s oldest, the United Kingdom.

Begging the Mahatma’s pardon, satyameva jayate hardly seems to be on the cards — for Tony Blair has clearly escaped the chastisement he so richly merited at the Labour Party convention in Bournemouth last week and Bush is still way ahead of any Democratic candidate for the presidential poll next year (although — silver lining — he is at last beginning to lose ground and is trusted by less than half the US electorate, which gave him a 90 per cent thumbs up the week of 9/11).

So, why did the US and the UK invade Iraq, now that it is clear the invasion had nothing to do with WMD' The answer, I think, lies in the shards which almost defeated Bush in Florida and Britain’s imperial longings a half century after it lost the Jewel in its Crown. First, the shards. Bush, in the primaries leading to the millennium election of 2000, came across as something of a buffoon, incapable of a single sentence of grammatically correct English, ignorant of world figures whose names would have won the prize in an elementary school quiz, knowledgeable only about the commercial interests of his oil business Texan cronies, and with a disgraceful record of patriotism when it came to “Fighting for America”. 9/11 changed all that. Suddenly, Bush outranked George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt as America’s favourite president. And when he overturned America’s shock and awe at what Osama bin Laden had done to them by bombing an already cratered Afghanistan to smithereens, his ranking in US public esteem shot through the ceiling. Here was a president who had a second term assured, the old image of George the Son winning with a fistful of shards consigned to the dustbin of history.

That is when the neocons moved in for the kill. Although Afghanistan was pacified within weeks and the Karzai administration put into Kabul before the year 2001 was out, there were still three years to go for the next presidential election and there was little doubt that some of the glitter of Afghanistan would have worn off by then. Hence, the neocons needed a second target to confirm that Bush had it in him to make over the world. Iraq presented itself as a delightful soft target. Ten years of sanctions had robbed it of all capacity to defend itself. Its Baath leadership had forfeited much sympathy by its still unforgiven invasion of Kuwait. The neighbouring Arab monarchies continued to be nervous of the republican revolutionary that Saddam symbolized. The US could, therefore, count upon their cooperation, or at any rate, their complaisance. The gory dictatorship which Saddam ran made for the required moral veneer. And to this was added the flavour of Iraqi oil, second only to Saudi Arabia in proven reserves. The US is, however, substantially self-sufficient in oil and Iraqi oil is not indispensable to future American prosperity. What made Iraq more than an option for visceral vengeance was its location in the heart of the Arab world. Regime change in Baghdad was seen as the precursor to such a radical change in the Middle East as to shake it out of its sullen hostility to the West over Palestine. Hence the linking of the Israel/Palestine “road-map” to the quest for dominance over Iraq.

WMD provided a ready-made excuse. Saddam’s credibility on this was low. The West’s post-9/11 terror at their terrorist enemies could easily be linked to Saddam’s alleged WMD to paint the threat of them together blackmailing the whole globe into submission. The problem was that UN inspectors might find Saddam’s WMD to be a fairy tale. Hence, the moment it seemed that Blix and his boys would be unable to unearth any WMD, the Bush noecons moved in to pre-empt any UN certificate of innocence to the Baath regime.

As for Blair, the fact is that while Britain is reconciled to losing its empire, it is not reconciled to being Europe’s off-shore island. It wants to be at the centre of the world. One way would be to go along with “old Europe” — primarily France and Germany — to fashion a counter-point to American dominance, now that there is no Soviet Union to scare the Europeans silly. The other option is the “special relationship” — to piggy-back on America to power and influence on the world stage. Whatever their political colour, every British prime minister, Labour or Tory, since the End of Empire has clung to the “special relationship” as the road to at least a surrogate greatness. Blair, therefore, continues a tradition of servility to the “master”. The seven-minute standing ovation he received from the party faithful at Bournemouth only underlined how widespread is the British desire to continue as Washington’s favourite poodle.

However, the excitement of winning unequal wars has begun to lose its sheen as both Afghanistan and Iraq slip out of control. Regime change in both London and Washington is in the air as Blair gets pilloried as Bliar and Bush-Blair begin to blush over the shame of it all. Who knows, it might yet turn out to be satyameva jayate.

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