Friday, 1 March 2013

The Iraq War - 10 years on

Just over 10 years ago – February 15 2003, to be exact – around 100,000 people marched through Glasgow.

Over the years I’ve been on a lot of marches but the one against war in Iraq was, by-far, the best attended. People were still leaving the starting-point at Glasgow Green as the front of the march reached the car-park of the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC) two-miles away. Protestors filled the streets along the length and breadth of the route. This was wall-to-wall opposition to the then Labour Government’s plan to support an American invasion of Iraq.

On the same day, similar protests took place in cities across Europe – including a march by over 1,000,000 people in London.

The inescapable message was that the UK Labour Government would not be acting in the name of the people if it took part in a military offensive against Iraq. One month later American and British war-planes began to rain-down ‘shock and awe’ on the people of Baghdad. Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Labour Government, with the support of the Conservative Party, ignored the people and sent young British men to kill or be killed in an illegal, immoral, imperialist American war.

Back in February 2003, the reason the car-park of the SECC had been chosen as the end-point of the anti-war march was because the ‘Scottish’ Labour Party was holding a conference at the venue and Tony Blair was due to address it on the 15th. The rally of 100,000 people was timed to coincide with Blair taking the stage inside the SECC.

However, while Blair was prepared to send British forces into mortal danger, he himself did not have the courage to face peaceful protestors. The ‘Scottish’ Labour Party re-arranged the time of Blair’s speech so that the British Prime Minister could avoid the anti-war protest: he was in and out of Glasgow before the march reached the SECC.

Very few people still attempt to pretend the Iraq war was about removing a brutal dictator, far less destroying weapons of mass destruction supposedly held by the regime of Saddam Hussein. The war in Iraq was all about American global power and gaining access to the country’s abundant oilfields.

Just last week, in an interview for the BBC’s Newsnight, Tony Blair said Iraq today is not what he’d hoped it would be. Iraq today is a bloody nightmare, riven with sectarian violence, ruled in different areas by Sunni and Shiite warlords. Every day terrorist atrocities continue to claim the lives of innocent Iraqis. What, then, did Blair think would happen when American and British invaders bombed the country back to the stone-age, in the process destroying the civil and social infrastructure of the country, before pulling-out and leaving a violent free-for-all? The only stable and secure parts of Iraq today are the heavily-fortified oil fields, which continue to supply cheap oil to the United States.

Tony Blair and his Labour Government knew all along that the Iraq war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction or freeing the people of Iraq from the rule of a brutal dictator. Blair knew it was always about getting access to Iraq’s oil. Blair lied to the British people and, alongside his buddy George Bush, he waged an illegal war against a country that posed no threat to the UK or America.

In December 2004 the Scottish Socialist Party tabled a Motion in the Scottish Parliament calling for British forces to be brought home from Iraq. I was one of the MSPs who supported the SSP Motion and I spoke in the parliamentary debate on the subject of Iraq. What I said revealed how long the invasion of Iraq had been planned, and just how much Tony Blair was prepared to lie to the people:

Scottish Parliament – Official Report.
December 9 2004. Scottish Socialist Party debate on Iraq.

Campbell Martin: To understand what is happening in Iraq today, we have to understand the real reason for the war. To get to the real reason for the war in Iraq, we have to go back to September 2000—four months before George Bush was elected as the American president and a full year before the aircraft were flown into the World Trade Centre.

In September 2000, an American organisation called the Project for the New American Century published a document called ‘Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century’. That document contains a blueprint for an American invasion of Iraq: America was always going to invade Iraq. Bush and Blair knew about the document. There is no way that they could not have known about it because the document's authors included Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz and Jeb Bush. One of those is the president's brother and the other three took prominent roles in the Bush Administration. They knew full well that America always intended to invade Iraq because the invasion was planned before Bush became President.

Tony Blair knew full well that was the reason for America going into a war in Iraq, but he was still prepared to send young British troops to kill and die in an illegal, immoral and imperialist American war. British troops were sent to Iraq to establish an American presence in the Middle East so that America can organise and govern that area of the world in American interests. That is why Iraq was invaded.

Now that we know why the war happened, what are its consequences? Far from being a safer place, the world is much more dangerous. Thanks to the actions of the British Government, Britain has become a target for terrorists. Thousands of Iraqi men, women and children have been killed in their homes. The infrastructure has been all but destroyed. Those are the consequences of the American and British invasion of that country. Hundreds, if not thousands, of young Iraqis have been driven into the arms of fanatical organisations they would not have gone near before their country was invaded. While all that is happening, ordinary Iraqis are witnessing the American occupiers selling-off their country and Iraq's assets to western, mainly American, corporations.

Now we know that the war did not take place because of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction—even Tony Blair accepts that was never true—we are being asked to believe the war was still legitimate because it brought about regime change. We removed Saddam Hussein because he was a dictator and he had to go. It is true, of course, that Saddam Hussein was a dictator, but he was a dictator back in the 1980s when he was supported, financed and armed by western countries including Britain and America. He was a dictator back then, but no action was taken back then, so there is a wee problem with the Government's current line that the war was legitimate because it brought about regime change.

That wee problem was probably best summed up by Tony Blair in October 2002, in an interview with the BBC Radio 4 ‘Today’ programme, when he was asked what Saddam had to do to avoid being attacked by Britain and America. Blair said Saddam had to disarm himself of his weapons of mass destruction. Blair went on to say, “he [Saddam Hussein] can have his conventional weapons, he can have his army, he can have his air force, he can have his navy, he can have conventional weaponry of all sorts including tanks and artillery and so on.”

Tony Blair was prepared for Saddam Hussein to remain in power with all his conventional weapons. It was not about regime change, or weapons of mass destruction, or Iraq being a threat to the United Kingdom, which it never was. The document published in September 2000 told us what it was all about when it referred to America having ‘full-spectrum control’. In case anyone is under any illusion about what that phrase means, it means American world domination.

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