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The BBC reports (Nov. 17) that two former British government employees have been charged with violating the Official Secrets Act.
The Official Secrets Act is useful for protecting the British government from accountability. Anyone who reveals wrongdoing by government officials can be charged under the act.
The two men are charged with leaking a harmless memo, “Iraq in the Medium Term,” that expresses British Foreign Office doubts about US tactics in Iraq. The real crime is not the leak but her Majesty’s government’s continuing support for a policy that the British government knows to be illegal and bulging with war crimes. It is Prime Minister Tony Blair and his ministers who should be facing charges.
As the publication by the London Times (May 1, 2005) of the super secret Downing Street Memo (July 23, 2002) made clear, prior to the US invasion of Iraq the head of British intelligence returned from meetings in Washington to tell the British cabinet that the Bush administration first made the decision to invade Iraq and then manufactured the “intelligence” to justify the decision.
The British government knew in advance that the invasion was wrong. Members of the British cabinet were concerned that British participation in an act of naked aggression would expose British government officials to war crimes charges. Nevertheless, Blair insisted that the UK had to support Bush. Little doubt but Blair was concerned that otherwise his political retirement would not be secured with US corporate directorships.
Consequently, the US and UK governments invaded a country for reasons that were different from the fabricated reasons used to make the case to the public. Thus did the highest officials in the two governments commit a plethora of crimes.
Under the Nuremberg standard, it is a war crime to initiate military aggression.
It is a criminal act both in the US and the UK to commit military forces to action under false pretenses.
Many aspects of the conduct of the war are criminal. Torture, murder of civilians, corruption in contracts. Prosecutors could build a list of charges against President George W. Bush, Vice President Richard Cheney, Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and Prime Minister Blair.
In England it is not Blair who is on trial for participating in what he knew was a wrongful act that has resulted in thousands of deaths.
It is not the crimes committed in secret that get punished. The people who are punished are the ones who leak memos that reveal wrongdoing has occurred.
Blair may escape punishment for his treachery to the British and Iraqi people. Bush, however, may not. One of the neocon architects of the illegal invasion, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, has been indicted on a peripheral issue. Another of the neocon architects, Douglas Feith, is being investigated by the inspector general of the Department of Defense at the insistence of the Senate Armed Services Committee and Senate Intelligence Committee. Feith is suspected of overseeing the task of creating the false intelligence.
Bush’s public support has plummeted. A majority of Americans believe Bush lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and now they doubt his integrity. Trapped in their lies, Bush and Cheney are lashing out at critics, proving once again the truth of Samuel Johnson’s 18th century observation that “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
Rep. John Murtha (D, Pa.), a former marine, has had enough of the senseless killing, maiming, and expense of the Iraq war, which he termed “a flawed policy wrapped in illusion.”
Murtha, a strong supporter of the US military, has realized along with General George W. Casey that US occupation, not terrorism, is the driving force behind the Iraq insurgency.
On November 17 Murtha declared: “We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interest of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf Region.”
A new CNN/USA Today Gallup poll shows that the American public agrees with Murtha. Fifty-two percent of respondents believe all US soldiers should be withdrawn immediately from Iraq or over the next 12 months. Only 38 percent believe the troops should remain in Iraq.
The neocon architects of the war believed that the “cakewalk” invasion of Iraq would flow seamlessly into the overthrow of the Syrian and Iranian governments, making the Middle East safe for whatever policy Israel wished to pursue. Instead, the invasion has poisoned Muslims against America and created chaos and instability that play into the hands of Osama bin Laden.
The Bush administration believed that the euphoria of a “cakewalk” conquest would prevent the nonexistence of weapons of mass destruction from becoming an issue. Success would mask the lies, and the issue of accountability would not arise.
Success, however, was never in the cards. Congress has caught on, and pressure is mounting to bring our troops home. The determination of the Bush administration to discredit all critics resulted in illegal acts and Libby’s indictment. The prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, has announced the formation of a new grand jury to continue the investigation of illegal acts by Bush administration high officials.
As events unfold, we must keep in mind that matters do not end with bringing home the troops and punishing the administration officials who blew the cover of a covert US agent. The worst transgression was the Bush administration’s decision to deceive our nation in order to use a war in Iraq to pursue an undeclared agenda in the Middle East. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld committed treason. They still have not told us the real reason they were so determined to invade Iraq that they used falsified intelligence to justify a war of aggression. We must find out their real agenda and hold them fully accountable for their crimes.
If low level British government employees are to be punished for leaking a memo that had no adverse consequences except for the reputation of Blair and his cabinet, the monsters who started a war that has killed and maimed tens of thousands must be held accountable.
PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS has held a number of academic appointments and has contributed to numerous scholarly publications. He served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in the Reagan administration. His graduate economics education was at the University of Virginia, the University of California at Berkeley, and Oxford University. He is coauthor of The Tyranny of Good Intentions. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org