“The right thing … a magnificent job … heroes … pride”. So off Tony went again yesterday on Breakfast With Frost, spinning and spinning about Iraq.
I wonder what he’d think of the city morgue downtown from here when they bring the gunshot victims in every morning. Or down in the Basra area where the British rule and where, in the past few weeks, 38 corpses have been found, hands and feet tied, each neatly executed with a shot through the back of the neck. Baath party officials, we’re told. Killed, quite possibly, by the Shia Badr Brigade. Yup, things are getting better and better in “New Iraq”.
And as for those weapons of mass destruction?
“We know perfectly well he had these weapons, he had these programmes.” But is there anyone who doesn’t see through this obfuscation? For when Tony says: “We know perfectly well he had those weapons”, he is, of course, referring to the chemical weapons Saddam had more than 10 years ago and which have not existed for years. The “programmes”, which we still haven’t discovered, are what Tony hopes the Iraq Survey Group will come up with when they admit in a few days’ time that there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction.
No mention of course that when Saddam had these terrible things, the British and American government were happily doing business with Saddam. Why not talk about weapons of mass deception?
Then we have my favourite line. “We were getting rid of one of the most terrible, repressive regimes in the world’s history.” Well, I’ve seen the mass graves and I’ve met the torture victims and I’ve been to Halabja and I was denouncing Saddam’s wickedness when the Foreign Office were telling a former editor of mine that I was being too harsh on Saddam. But as for one of the most terrible, repressive regimes in the “world’s history …” Well, we’ll just forget the Roman Empire with its system of mass slavery and crucifixion and we’ll pass on Ghengis Khan and all the Goths, Ostrogoths, Visigoths, the Inquisition, the anti-semitic Tsars, Mussolini’s Fascist Italy, Stalin’s Soviet Union and that little man with the moustache who caused a wee problem between 1939 and 1945.
I’m afraid that even by Saddam’s demented values, he doesn’t come close to the latter. But in the wheel of historical fortune in which our Tony lives, it doesn’t matter a damn. Actually, I rather prefer Thomas Friedman’s depiction in The New York Times of Saddam as a cross between Don Corleone and Donald Duck. But you can’t bang your fist on your heart and clang your armour for such a creature. And how are the victors really faring? Well in Baghdad today, there are more roads blocked by the occupation authorities than there were under Saddam. There’s a grey concrete wall along the Tigris river bank three miles in length and 20 feet high to protect the occupiers and another one of two miles to protect the so-called Interim Council and there are walls around the Baghdad Hotel where the CIA lads stay and there are soldiers on Humvees on every road pointing rifles at the Iraqis they came to liberate and there is a ruthless resistance movement increasing in size by the day.
The Americans are keen to have some “rules of engagement” for their occupation soldiers and they’ve just received them – at Washington’s request – from, wait for it, the Israeli Defence Force. So stand by, I suppose for yet more shooting at demonstrators and stone throwers and more brutal night raids with innocents killed. But according to Tony, it was all a jolly successful war.
Robert Fisk is a reporter for The Independent and author of Pity the Nation. He is also a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s forthcoming book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism.