Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq, Blair ; and Guardian editor Michael White’s lazy, contemptuous failure to research the facts on Iraq or Iran

Guardian editor Michael White's coverage of the Chilcot Inquiry on Iraq is unbelievably lazy. His fact free, condescending and contemptuous piece makes the ludicrous claim that Blair is partly right on Iran as Iran is “scary”. White couldn't even be bothered finding out the second name of the mother who had lost her son to Blair's war - she's just "a middle aged woman called Deirdre" to him

According to White on Tony Blair’s latest appearance before another shoddy ‘ Iraq Inquiry’, “Yet again Sir John Chilcot's panel had hardly laid a glove on the former prime minister” (1)

What a surprise that such trenchant critics of Blair as the Chilcot Inquiry didn’t put him on the spot.

There’s Baroness Prashar, made a Baroness and member of the Lords by one Tony Blair MP in 1999 – and also appointed by him to various other jobs (2) – (3).

There’s historian (read propagandist in this case) Sir Martin Gilbert, who is an expert on and hero worshipper of Winston Churchill (4) – (5). He whitewashes Churchill’s urging of the use of “poison gas” on such “uncivilised tribes” as the Iraqi Kurds – and later on German civilians in World War Two. Churchill claimed that targeting civilians and using chemical weapons on them were matters of “fashion” not of “morality” (a German historian has brought attention to this) (6) – (8). Luckily no-one at the time listened to Churchill’s plan for an early version of Saddam’s Anfal genocide of the Kurds by gassing them – though the RAF and British army deliberately massacred thousands of Kurdish villagers and other Iraqi rebels and civilians with conventional weapons in the 1920s and 1930s, one RAF officer recounting tactics used against Kurdish villages as follows “the attack with bombs and machine guns must be..unrelenting…continuously by day and night, on houses, inhabitants, crops and cattle” An RAF manual noted that by using such methods “within 45 minutes a full sized village can be wiped out”.  (This is not a quote from Gilbert’s histories but Arab American historian Rashid Khalidi) (9).  Boer and black African civilians in the Boer War were starved to death in huge numbers in the first concentration camps, a British invention which provided neither enough food nor any shelter. Sadly for Churchill he didn’t get to use poisoned gas on the detainees, but he fought in and enthusiastically backed the war and the methods used in it (10). Churchill’s actions could only look enlightened by comparison with Hitler’s – and then only because other members of the British government and military refused to carry out Churchill’s full plans.

Gilbert also hero worships and whitewashes the records of Bush and Blair, which are even worse, just as much.  In 2004 he compared Bush and Blair to Roosevelt and Churchill and the "war on terror" against some terrorist groups to World War Two against the most powerful state and military in the world – as if bombing, invading and occupying entire countries with whole armies and air-forces could ever stop terrorism rather than create new enemies with dead allies and civilians to avenge) – and as if in the present the attacked  and invaded weaker countries, not the attackers, were the aggressors. If he’d compared the war on terror to the British and French Empires’ invasions and occupations in the Middle East between the First and Second World Wars he’d have been closer to the truth. (11) – (12).

Gilbert’s modern day heroes continued the British Empire’s methods in Iraq with constant air strikes by the USAF and RAF on Iraqi civilians from the 1991 war on through the ‘No Fly Zone’ period from 1991 to March 2003 - and massively increased during ‘Operation Desert Fox’ and from 2000 to 2003. Between 10,000 and 20,000 civilians were killed directly by US and Coalition bombing in the 1991 war alone and an estimated 250,000 died due to damage to clean water supplies, sewage systems and hospitals as an indirect result of that bombing. During the war from 2003 to 2010, in which (as in 1991) bombing, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, napalm and similar substances and white phosphorus were used on Iraqi cities, massive civilian casualties were the result again. Many more would die due to sanctions. They continue to be killed by terrorism, Iraqi government (US trained) death squads and torture; and hunger and illness due to corruption and lack of reconstruction at a rate exceeding that under Saddam and sanctions. Millions of civilians have died as a result from 1991 to present; at least as many as were killed by Saddam in the 80s (when he was armed and funded by the US and British governments among others even after Halabja) and in 1991 (when the US government ordered it’s troops to prevent Shia rebels getting to arms caches and let Saddam’s forces wipe them out to minimise Iranian influence in Iraq) (13) – (22).

Then there’s Gilbert’s colleague on the Chilcot Inquiry, another (only a bit less biased) historian  Lawrence Freedman, who has written an entire book on US involvement in the Middle East since 1976 (‘A Choice of Enemies’) which makes almost no mention of the vast number of civilians killed in indiscriminate attacks by US forces or their allies – and absolutely none of the deliberate targeting of civilians and ambulances in Coalition assaults on Fallujah and other cities like Samarra ; nor of the systematic and brutal torture by Coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq reported by US and British troops to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch as well as to British courts. The word “torture” appears on just a few paragraphs on 4 of 509 pages of Freedman’s book and is glossed over without any discussion of the scale of it or the methods used. Unlike in soldier’s reports to human rights groups, Freedman mentions “beatings” once – without mention of the fact they often go on for days and nights on end by shifts of troops, with some victims dying. Breaking bones with baseball bats is never mentioned by Freedman, nor does battering head off doors or concrete floors, nor electrocution. His only other descriptions are “humiliation” and “attack with dogs”, in the same sentence as “beatings” – and he gives the false impression these happened only at Abu Ghraib and only by the soldiers named in the Taguba report. (23) – (24).

Then there are a two thoroughly establishment former civil servants, one being Inquiry Chairman sir John Chilcot, who approved the previous Butler Inquiry whitewash (25).

In short the entire inquiry is a joke Michael. It is not dealing with any of the core facts or evidence, just playing around the edges for show. Pretending otherwise is a sad joke, but feel free to pretend this is a rigorous trial which has found Blair guilty of nothing more than “mistakes”.

White goes on to say that

a middle-aged woman called Deidre, smartly dressed and articulate, emerged from the hearing on BBC TV to sum up the familiar case for the prosecution….Deidre acknowledged "tears in his voice, but it was all rehearsed. I don't believe a word of it"…And that's it really: "We wuz robbed." Whatever the man says doesn't matter to his hardcore critics…It will not stop the Iraq specialists poring over Blair's testimony and the accompanying release of documents looking for flaws and inconsistencies, as they so often have done before – and emerge as "frustrated" as Deidre because they still can't find that final proof…. ……..

….It's disappointing for the pack that always gathers where Blair goes, not least because the Get Blair crowd are looking for something that isn't there – the smoking gun that proves Blair's villainy. Instead they get mistakes, his misplaced optimism in the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) intelligence about WMD, the efficacy of invading such a snake pit as quasi-Stalinist Iraq or the Pentagon's reckless occupation strategy.

You really think we would ever expect to get evidence of Blair's guilt coming from his own mouth in an inquiry set up with a panel of Iraq war supporters who are banned from even referring to parts of his communications with President Bush during questioning in the inquiry or in the final report, when, even if they’re released, large sections of these conversations have also been deleted from Whitehall records ?  (26) – (27) How naive. How ludicrous.

Should we judge everyone's guilt or innocence of crimes on these standards? We could allow the accused to appoint his friends and associates as judges, not bother with a jury - and decide what evidence the "court" is allowed to bring up and what it can't; and what questions they can and can't ask. Then everyone will be found to have just made some mistakes, even if they got large numbers of people killed by premeditated lies, because i mean if they didn't admit their guilt you haven't laid a glove on them. Isn't that right Michael? The prisons can be emptied tommorrow that way. Everyone's a winner.

Still, it makes you feel smug to pretend that if Blair doesn’t admit guilt he must be innocent of anything but some “mistakes”, despite the wealth of evidence ; and clearly you can look down on some “middle aged woman” who’s only one of millions to have lost people they loved as a result of Blair’s lies.

Her name by the way Mr White is Deirdre Glover and her son's name was Kristian Glover. He was 30 when he was killed in Iraq.

Forget researching the facts, Iran is “scary” so Blair and his critics are supposedly equally wrong

White continues

I think Blair was naive and careless, but so were many of his critics – as they demonstrate today on the scary subject of Iran, though I share their distaste for Blair's bellicosity, on evidence again today. But we're not learning more than nuances of the Iraq policy any more, we're mostly spinning in well-trodden mud.

Wow another brilliant fact and argument free "analysis". Iran is "scary". Blair just made mistakes and all his critics are supposedly as wrong as he is and just as much to blame for being “careless”, based on not one fact, because he hasn’t admitted guilt.

Fact: Iran's government had the opportunity for glorious national martyrdom in 1988 when the US Vincennes shot down an Iranian Airbus. They believed this signalled the US was about to join the Iran-Iraq war on the Iraqi side, as opposed to arming him and providing him with chemical and biological weapons (as it had been for years). They - including Rafsanjani and Khameini and Revolutionary Guard officers like Ahmadinejad - chose to persuade Khomeini to make peace instead. This fact is available from many histories of Iran, including the Persian Puzzle by former CIA analyst Kenneth Pollack (28).

Iran's 'Supreme Leader' Ayatollah Khameini (above) has control of Iran's military - not President Ahmadinejad while the pragmatic Ayatollah Rafsanjani (below) is influential in Iranian politics. Both helped persuade Khomeini to choose peace over national martyrdom in 1988.

So, as Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld and US General John Abizaid have both said, the world can live with a nuclear Iran, as Iran's government is not going to commit mass suicide by starting a nuclear war, however much they might urge individual martyrdom on others (29) – (30).

Former US General John Abizadi (above) and Israeli military historian Martin Van Creveld (below) both say we can live with a nuclear Iran

Fact: This is basically the same scenario as with the whole Iraq charade. During the 1991 war Saddam did have WMDs and some delivery systems for them - highly inaccurate Scud missiles with chemical warheads. He did not use one of them (You can find this fact in a book written by Joseph S .Nye (a former member of the Clinton administration) and Robert Keohane called 'After the Storm' though they pretend it's a "mystery" that he didn't use them, despite the blindingly obvious - that as Condoleezza Rice acknowledged in 2000 "rogue regimes" could not use WMDs even if they developed them without being destroyed by a nuclear counter strike from Israel, the US or it's allies and so "classical deterrence" would render their WMDs ineffective for anything except deterring others from attacking them (31) – (32).

Chilcot Inquiry member and historian Lawrence Freedman also acknowledges the scud chemical warheads existed but weren’t used by Saddam in the 1991 war in his book ‘A Choice of Enemies’, adding that “Iraqis..Indicated that they were influenced by the prospect of nuclear retaliation, though as much from Israel as the United States.”, but, as far as I can find out, has never brought this up during the Inquiry. His book goes on to make up some illogical and vague claim about the Iraqis maybe having made this claim about their motives for reasons of “prestige”. (33)

A Scud missile - in 1991 Saddam had chemical warheads for his scud missiles, but only fired conventional ones for fear of nuclear retaliation from Israel or the US. So the supposed Iraqi "threat" never existed and whether Saddam had WMD or not was irrelevant.

North Korea has nuclear weapons already and it’s government is no less “unstable” or “irrational” than Iran’s – if anything more so. So why is the prospect that Iran might get it’s own nuclear deterrent “scary” to you Mr. White, but you don’t worry about North Korea?

The conspiracy theory that the Iraqi or Iranian governments would commit national and personal suicide by proxy by handing WMDs to terrorist groups is ludicrous - which is why, a decade into the "war on terror", it's never happened - despite the chaos in Iraq after the invasion letting Al Qa'ida get it's hands on the few remnants of Saddam's WMDs from the 1980s. Even Al Qa’ida do not want to risk nuclear retaliation.

Fact : Saddam could only use WMDs on his own people - and on Iranians- while the nuclear powers - including the US, France, theUK, Russia and China - were allied to him during the Iran-Iraq war. Fact :  At the time of Halabja none of these governments gave a toss about it - and Blair refused to sign parliamentary motions condeming the gassing and genocide and demanding US and British aid be ended (which it never was till shortly before the 1991 war as the Scott Report and US members of congress revealed) (34)

Saddam could only use chemical weapons on his own people and the Iranians when all the nuclear powers were supporting him, funding and arming him during the Iran-Iraq war - which they continued to do for 2 years after Halabja. After 1991, with the US hostile to him, he couldn't risk it. So there was no threat of him using WMD on his own people again either

As for Blair having made “mistakes” on WMD don’t make me laugh (or should that be cry that not one national newspaper editor seems to know or care about the basic facts). Read UNMOVIC head Hans Blix’s last two briefings of the UN Security Council on the progress being made in destroying Saddam’s last reserves of WMDs from the 80s and on the destruction of his longest ranged missiles and of manufacturing facilities for them (35) – (37).

Also note the trick of misdirection used on the mythical “threats” posed by Iraq or Iran getting WMD –  i.e both had and have proven they wouldn’t use them if they had them for fear of a nuclear counterstrike.

As for your theory that his critics should “move on”, that will only be possible when Blair, the Israeli government and half the politicians in the US at least stop calling for another war on Iran that would get hundreds of thousands more killed – and editors and journalists like yourself stop parroting them on the non-existent “threat” from “scary” Iran. (Hoping that they might admit the horrendous lies they told and crimes they committed in Iraq and deal with the reality that neither Iraq nor Iran can possibly pose a threat to nuclear armed nations and their allies who also have immensely stronger militaries than them would doubtless be too much.)

Iraqis will not be able to move on for decades, because they’re still being killed by the same US trained death squads and the same terrorists that the US let into the country by invading and creating chaos, with no concern for anything but their own profits.

You, Mr. White, like Blair, are certainly “careless” of the truth and “spinning in well-trodden mud” on Iran as on Iraq before it though. You never let facts get in the way of some smug opinion that Blair is half right and his critics are all just as wrong as he is - some tawdry, fact and logic free, fence sitting.

But forget facts, eh Michael? Iran is "scary" so Blair must be half right. Pathetic. Anyone paying to buy a newspaper with one of your columns in it is certainly being robbed if they expected any of the central facts from reliable sources, or any coherent argument.

Have you spent so much time being flattered and fed lies by government press officers and Ministers that you actually believe they’re giving you the facts and not spoon feeding you garbage? Do you actually check any reliable, neutral (as opposed to political, government) sources on anything? ; Clearly not often.

The above includes plenty of reliable sources with solid facts (listed below and in some cases on the links below). I wish you’d recognise some of them. I don’t think it’s likely you ever will though. Much easier to pretend the truth is half way between what Blair says and what his critics say than risk losing readers or having to do any work by researching and publishing the unpleasant facts.

(1) = Guardian Politics Blog 21 Jan 2011, 17.38 GMT, ‘Chilcot inquiry: we wuz robbed again’,

(2) = Baroness Prashar,

(3) = The Iraq Inquiry – People - Baroness Usha Prashar of Runnymede,

(4) = The Iraq Inquiry – People – Sir Martin Gilbert,

(5) = Sir Martin Gilbert Online,

(6) = Telegraph 31 Jan 2007 ‘Churchill wanted to use gas on enemies’,

(7) = Guardian 28 Nov 2002 ‘The Churchill you didn't know’,

(8) = Guenther W. Gellermann, "Der Krieg, der nicht stattfand", Bernard & Graefe Verlag, 1986, pp. 249-251,

(9) = Rashid Khalidi (2005) ‘Resurrecting Empire’, Beacon Press, Boston, Massachusets, 2005, page 26 - 27

(10) = Thomas Pakenham (1999) ‘ The Boer War’, The Folio Society, London, 1999,
p613-615, 626-634 (chapters 38 & 39)

(11) = Observer 26 Sep 2004 ‘Statesmen for these times’,,,1379819,00.html

(12) = See (9) above, entire book

(13) = Bennis , Phyllis & Moushabeck  , Michael (Editors) (1992)  ‘Beyond the Storm’  ; Canongate Press , London , 1992, p326 – 355

(14) = Lee , Ian (1991) ‘Continuing Health Costs of the Gulf War’, Medical Educational Trust , London , 1991

(15) = Clark , Ramsey (1992) ‘War Crimes: a Report on United States War Crimes Against Iraq’ Maissoneuve Press , 1992 – and at

(16) = Observer 20 Dec 1998 ‘Refineries in the bombsights in plan to undermine regime’

(17) = New York Times 18 Aug 1999 ‘With Little Notice, U.S. Planes Have Been Striking Iraq All Year’,

(18) = New Statesman 17 Aug 2000 ‘Labour claims its actions are lawful while it bombs Iraq, starves its people and sells arms to corrupt states’,

(19) = Guardian 19 Feb 2001 ‘Raid shows Bush-Blair bond on Iraq’,

(20) = Counterpunch 04 Dec 2002 ‘No-Fly Zones Over Iraq : Washington's Undeclared War on "Saddam's Victiims"’,

(21) = See blog post on following link and the sources listed for it,

(22) = See blog post on following link and the sources listed for it,

(23) = Lawrence Freedman (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies’, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2008

(24) = See the website page on the following link and the sources listed for it,

(25) =

(26) = BBC News 18 Jan 2011 ‘Iraq inquiry 'disappointed' by Bush-Blair note secrecy’,

(27) = Independent 20 Jan 2011 ‘Details from Blair's Iraq calls were deleted’,

(28) = Pollack, Kenneth M.(20054), ‘The Persian Puzzle, Random House, New York, 2005 paperback edition - pages 249-374 ; Also see the link below and the sources for it, which include Pollack’s book with chapter and page numbers,

(29) = Forward – The Jewish Daily – 24 Sep 2007 ‘The World Can Live With a Nuclear Iran ’,

(30) = CNN 18 Sep 2007 ‘Retired general: U.S. can live with a nuclear Iran’,

(31) = Nye , Joseph S. & Smith , Robert K. (1992), ‘After the Storm, Madison Books , London , 1992 , - pages 211-216

(32) = Rice, Condoleeza (2000) in Foreign Affairs January/February 2000‘ - 'Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest' - cited in Chomsky, Noam (2003) 'Hegemony or Survival' , Penguin Books , London & NY 2004, pages 34 & 260 citing Mearsheimer, John & Walt, Stephen (2003) in Foreign Policy Jan/Feb 2003

(33) = Lawrence Freedman (2008) ‘A Choice of Enemies’, Weidenfield & Nicolson, London, 2008, Chapter 12, p245

(34) = See the blog post link below and sources 5 to 11 at the bottom of it,

(35) = Briefing of the Security Council, 14 February 2003: An update on inspections, Executive Chairman of UNMOVIC, Dr. Hans Blix,

(36) = Briefing of the Security Council, 7 March 2003: Oral introduction of the 12th quarterly report of UNMOVIC, Executive Chairman Dr. Hans Blix,

(37) = Also see the blog post link below and sources for it,


Mark @ Israel said...

The facts are scarier than what we have known or have been revealed. Yet, so many facts have been hidden from our knowledge. May these inquiries and investigations really bring out the truth and those who have sinned be made to pay for what they have done.

calgacus said...

Correction to this post - Blair did not sign Early Day Motions on Iraq because at the time he was a front bencher (shadow minister) and it's a convention that they do not sign EDMs