The Arab Spring, Iraq and John Simpson: 7 March

If Saddam Hussein had still been in power at the beginning of this year, would he be in power today? Certainly not. The ‘Arab Spring’ would have swept him away along with Ben Ali of Tunisia and Mubarak of Egypt. If the Americans and the British had only waited 8 years, the change they said they wanted to see would have happened, without the immense death and destruction, madness and mutilation.

I’ve been reading John Simpson’s Not Quite World’s End a collection of ‘Traveller’s Tales’ from 2007. Having spent many weeks in Iraq, he is certain that Saddam was widely hated and feared by his own people. Commentators are now writing seriously about the possibility of change even in Saudi Arabia. Saddam Hussein, would certainly have faced an uprising. With the momentum of fellow Arabs and Iran pushing hard from the side, the uprising would have succeeded.

Simpson also explains the reasons for the invasion of Iraq:

1 Revenge for 9/11. Many Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11. A sizeable minority believed that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were the same person. Other reasons, such as Saddam’s alleged weapons of mass destruction were fabricated justifications. When I marched in London against the planned invasion I carried a bed sheet reading ‘Repay No-one Evil For Evil.’

2  An army ready to be used. John Simpson writes: ‘A Saudi government minister told me, a month before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, that he had pleaded with Dick Cheney. Cheney had told him there was no alternative. “All right, then, tell me why you have to invade Iraq,” the Saudi minister said. “Because it’s do-able,” Cheney replied. In other words attacking Iraq was an easy way of demonstrating America’s strength.’ (p210f)

3  The false belief that the Iraqi population would greet the Americans as liberators. ‘Few of those who mattered once George W Bush had become president… seemed to have known anything about the deep division between Arab Sunnis and Shi’ites in Iraq… When the CIA … warned of the likely consequences of an invasion, their reports were ignored.’ (p49)

The ‘primary source’ of the false belief that the invasion would be welcomed by Iraqis was Ahmad Chalabi, a wealthy Sh’ite exiled to America after the uprisings in Iraq following the first Gulf War. He ‘was found guilty in absentia at a trial in Jordan on charges of corruption.’ ‘After 2003 it became commonplace to accuse Chalabi of having acted as a conscious agent for Iran, by persuading the American president to take out Iran’s chief enemy, Saddam Hussein.’(p49) Iran was certainly the biggest beneficiary of the invasion and could well have duped Bush’s America.

We in Britain now have to live with the shame of having gone along with this gung-ho blood-stained fiasco. We were ideally placed as the friend America needed to speak the truth – the truth about the divisions in Iraq which would erupt, the truth about aggressive armies being counterproductive when hearts and minds have to be won, the truth about the need to live with vulnerability to terrorism, as we had been doing for years with the IRA. We failed completely, God help us, and instead chose to collude with all the violent lies.

Our troops are now not in Iraq but they continue in Afghanistan. All that applied to Iraq also applies to Afghanistan. The bombing and then invasion of Afghanistan was clearly revenge for 9/11. We were told that Osama bin Laden was hiding there and the objective was to hunt him down. Today he is still at large, still broadcasting. The Taliban were attacked because they harboured Al Quaeda. After 9/11 the US Army had to hit back at someone – or else what was the point of their existence? The Taliban were an easy target. Yet the population of Afghanistan has not welcomed our soldiers with open arms. The effects of tribal divisions there too have been misunderstood and miscalculated. We have brought much extra suffering to the Afghans.

Simpson writes that Iraq is another Vietnam. Afghanistan is too – but we Brits are there alongside the Yanks. We will suffer ignominy and judgement together.

Roger Harper


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