Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: They lied about Iraq in 2003, and they’re still lying now

Gordon Brown has been spinning his own fairy tale of Baghdad

The Independent, UK, Dec 22, 2008

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Triumphalists are getting off on Iraq again, intoning hallelujah songs as they did after staging the fall of Saddam’s statue then again and again, sweet lullabies to send us into blissful sleep and wake to a new dawn. The composers and orchestrators – Blair, Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Straw, Hoon and Rice – still believe history is on their side.

Bush visited his troops at Camp Victory in Iraq this month and said: “Iraq had a record of supporting terror, of developing and using weapons of mass destruction, was routinely firing at American military personnel, systematically violating UN resolutions … Iraqis, once afraid to leave their homes are going back to school and shopping in malls … American troops are returning home because of success.” Only one shoe and one without a sharp stiletto was hurled at him by Muntadar al-Zaidi, an Iraqi who begged to differ.

Gordon Brown, also in Iraq, spun his own fairy tale of Baghdad, where everyone is living happily ever after and British soldiers come home proud heroes. The reality is that some of our soldiers are broken – physically and mentally – fighting this illegal and unpopular war and that too many did terrible things in the land of endless tears. General Sir Mike Jackson now blames the Americans for their “appalling” decisions. And yet he too insists the campaign was a success.

Even the choral backers of Bush and Blair, once oh-so-influential, sound tinny now, out of tune. In a new book, The Liberal Defence Of Murder, Richard Seymour names many usually enlightened individuals who cheered on the disgraceful crusade and have now gone silent. Others who supported the adventure have escaped through passages of ingenious exculpation. Most Tories, for example, now say they were hypnotised by the Government’s false dossiers.

Really? Even hard-of-hearing Mrs Kirkpatrick down the road – she’s 79 – understood that we were being deceived. The UN weapons inspectors Hans Blix and Scott Ritter both told us there were no WMDs. Ken Clarke said this weekend: “I opposed the Iraq war. I’m not sure whether anybody believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction that were a threat to anybody. Most American spies didn’t believe that, most British spies didn’t believe that and most of the Foreign Office didn’t believe that”.

Nor did the Opposition but it still backed Blair because Conservatives love wars and one against a swarthy potentate was irresistible.

So to Iraqis, the beneficiaries of our noble “sacrifices”. This week Nahla Hussein, a left-wing, feminist Kurdish Iraqi, was shot and beheaded for her campaigning zeal. Fifty-seven Iraqis were blown up in Kirkuk. Christians in Mosul are being savagely persecuted and sharia law has replaced the 1959 codified entitlements given to women in family disputes. Women in Iraq have fewer rights today than under Saddam. Yes, there is some normality in parts but tensions between Shias and Sunnis are explosive. When troops are withdrawn next year, expect more bloodshed. The resources of Iraq, meanwhile, are being plundered.

For these blessings, one million Iraqis had to die and their children still suffer from illnesses caused by our weapons and our war. Five million Iraqis are displaced and, of these, the US took in 1,700. It is easier for an Iraqi cat or dog to gain entry to the land of the free. Try Baghdad Pups, which offers (for a hefty fee) to get the adopted pets of US soldiers into America. In 2007, 39,000 Iraqis sought refuge in the EU countries and we took in 300. Sweden, which has no responsibility for the havoc, gave refuge to 18,000.

I have been talking to exiled Iraqis in London. One young man has a child whose mother killed herself after giving birth during the war. He both loves and hates this country, as did Bilal Abdullah, the NHS doctor convicted for dreadful plans to blow up people in the UK. A beautiful Iraqi woman told me her nephew gave plastic flowers to our soldiers when first they went into Basra. Last year, they shot him dead, mistaking him for an enemy.

On Friday, I met an Iraqi artist, Yousif Nasser, whose studio has become a hub for other exiles, artists, musicians and the mentally ill seeking art therapy. A gentle, melancholic man, he showed me his series titled “Black Rain”, enormous works depicting the violence in Iraq: “There are no bodies, only pieces, bits, of a little bit of this and that. People don’t buy my pictures – they are too dark. How can I tell you what has happened to my country? I have no words, only these images.”

I have words, too weak and inadequate to carry the rage felt by millions at the renewed arrogance of the villains who first devastated Iraq and now garland themselves. Lies, lies and now delusion. There is no glory to be salvaged in this desert.

y.alibhai-brown@independent.co.uk

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