Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bombing Iraq

Truth Behind Iraq War

I assume that the purpose of any inquiry into the war in Iraq is to establish truth transparently, not bury it ("Miliband pledge to hold Iraq war inquiry dismissed as playing for time' ", The Herald, March 26). Truth enshrines due regard for history.

That Saddam was a very bad man is not in doubt; but those who nurtured the man may be considered equally bad. Donald Rumsfeld was such a man. Nor was I ever in any doubt that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction (WMD), not least because shortly before I arrived in Baghdad, in 1984, Mr Rumsfeld had been in the city to sell Saddam pathogenic material.

So whoever else might have been surprised by the attack on Halabja in 1987, in which 5000 Kurds were gassed, I wasn't one of them.

The invasion of Kuwait and the onset of genocidal sanctions marked a pivotal change and I tended to the view, promoted by the French and others, that from 1991 Saddam's WMD stockpile had degraded out of existence. Otherwise, what stopped him from deploying (again) the weaponry formerly held? However, it was his alleged arsenal of WMD, no less, that led to the deaths of two million Iraqis from 1991 to 2003 via economic sanctions, which included coalition cruise missile and bombing attacks. A key such episode was Operation Desert Fox (ODF), in 1998, encompassing remorseless US/UK attacks.

For four terrifying nights, a defenceless nation was assaulted by an unseen enemy in the dark. Non-military targets destroyed included the Baghdad Teaching Hospital, the Baghdad Museum of Natural History and the Tikrit Teaching Hospital.

The US Navy launched 325 cruise missiles, the US Airforce 100. Additionally, US and UK bombers flew 650 sorties with RAF Tornadoes alone dropping 50 200lb bombs. There were massive civilian losses. ODF was the direct responsibility of Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and, like "shock and awe", five years later, it was predicated on a lie: that Saddam, now firmly the bad guy, owned WMD. The inquiry must also investigate both the politics and the quality of intelligence behind ODF again. As Rumsfeld himself might put it, "stuff happens". Question is, what?

Chris Walker West Kilbride.

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