Needless to say, few newspapers reported the obvious irony that this was a man whose connections allowed him to join the Texas Air National Guard in order escape serving his country in Vietnam. Or that it was like saluting the bravery of a bodybuilder who had just pummelled a handicapped person to a bloody pulp.
Yet Bush's photo opportunity serves more than to remind us how obnoxious politicians or that the US elections are approaching (Bush wants to be elected to the office he stole in the 2000 elections). It can be considered a fitting end for a stage-managed war, thrust upon an unwilling world by systematic state lying and media collusion.
The minimum number of Iraqi civilian deaths has now exceeded the maximum number of civilian deaths from September 11th. Let us never forget that America's generals publicly stated that there would be no attempt to count the bodies of the dead left in their troops wake. This exposed the "humanitarian" nature of the war: an Iraqi's life was only of value if Saddam was extinguishing it, otherwise it (literally and figuratively) did not count.
For all the crowing in the pro-war camp, the fact is that this invasion has vindicated the anti-war case. It's easy to see why. The pro-war arguments have been exposed as the lies they obviously were. Rather than a "new Hitler" poised to take over the world, Saddam has been exposed as an evil dictator ruling over a devastated nation by means of a clapped out military machine. And he was picked by the US because they knew it.
Now you seem them...
Let us remember the "official" case for the war, namely Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD). The stated rationale for the US invasion was that Iraq was a threat to the US, if not the world. We were asked to believe that after a devastating war and a decade of sanctions, US bombing runs, and UN inspections, Iraq still possessed a viable nuclear, chemical or biological threat.
And let us not forget how formidable this threat was. Bush talked about "25,000 litres of anthrax. 38,000 litres of botulinum toxin. 500 tons of sarin, mustard [gas] and VX nerve agent. Several mobile biological weapons labs. An advanced nuclear weapons development program." In October 2002, he said, "We know that the regime has produced thousands of tons of chemical agents, including mustard gas, sarin nerve gas, VX nerve gas. And surveillance photos reveal that the regime is rebuilding facilities that it had used to produce chemical and biological weapons." Moreover, Saddam had the means of deploying them, including missiles and tens of thousands of warheads. In March, Vice President Cheney asserted that Saddam "has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Colin Powell claimed at the UN to possess clear evidence that huge stocks of everything from sarin gas to anthrax to sanction-violating missiles were stored in Iraq, ready for use. Blair and his cronies faithfully echoed these claims of the Bush Junta.
... and now you don't
Yet where are these massive stores of weapons now? No weapons have been found. None. Colin Powell said to the United Nations Security Council that "every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence." How could these "facts" have proved so elusive to prove now that the US has complete control over Iraq?
Apparently the Iraqis were able to hide or smuggle it all out despite almost constant tactical surveillance and nearly constant satellite and aircraft recognisance. And is there any evidence at all this stuff has been secreted out or hidden? None. It's unfounded speculation based on the lack of evidence. In this, though, Bush and Blair are consistent. As before the war, if no evidence exists then the evidence must have been cleverly hidden or destroyed! Rest assured, David Blunkett will shortly revise the UK courts to operate on these "moral" principles of "guilty until proven innocent" and "no evidence equates to guilt."
None of the "facilities" claimed to exist by the Bush Junta have been found. Can we be surprised? There was no way for Iraq to replace chemical and biological weapons once they did degrade. Chemical weapons require vast industrial infrastructure to make, and another industrial infrastructure to build the means to deliver the chemical agents. Iraq had neither. As was pointed out before the war, even if Hussein had somehow secretly imported the materials necessary to rebuild his WMD within the past five years, even as UN sanctions, no-fly zones and vigorous spying by Western forces remained firmly in place, Iraq could not hide the gases, heat, and gamma radiation which centrifuge facilities emit - and which the intelligence capacities would have identified by now. Plants that make VX, for instance, cannot be hidden, they discharge residual elements into the atmosphere that would have been immediately detectable by the UN teams, or by foreign intelligence establishments watching Iraq like falcons waiting to pounce but their combined resources produced not one piece of evidence.
The argument for Iraq as a nuclear threat was built on even shakier ground. As the US Congress was preparing to vote on authorising the use of force against Iraq, Blair publicly released an apparent bombshell: British intelligence had obtained documents showing that between 1999 and 2001, Iraq had attempted to buy "significant quantities of uranium" from an unnamed African country "despite having no active civil nuclear power programme that could require it." This evidence was important in getting Congress to back the war resolution. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was to verify the authenticity of these important documents for the UN Security Council, but only obtained them from the U.S. government after months of pleading. A strange delay, considering the Bush White House was so eager to prove Saddam's nuclear intentions to a sceptical world. But an unsurprising one, for the IAEA told the UN Security Council that the documents were clearly and obviously fakes. MI6 was regarded by many as the perpetrators. This is the very same agency which Blair asserted would never plant WMD in "liberated" Iraq in order to provide evidence justifying war.
Likewise, the same Iraqi defector who told Powell about the stores of chemical and biological weapons also said they had been completely destroyed. Powell neglected to inform the UN of this.
Into the Memory Hole
At this point, with even White House insiders and media boosters admitting they no longer expect to find much, if any, in the way of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, different unconvincing storylines are being floated: The weapons all went to Syria, they were efficiently destroyed just hours before the U.S. invasion, etc. The truth is that Iraq was a paper tiger, with little or no ability to threaten anyone, particularly the US. With no evidence of WMD, the justification has shifted from the weapons threat to the humanitarian benefits of having removed a brutal regime.
This change can be seen here. This re-writing of history has reached farcical levels. John Reid, appointed as the Leader of the House of Commons for services rendered to Blair, accused the BBC of having an "obsession" with Iraq's WMD. Given that this "obsession" was Blair's (and his own) before the war, this seems ironic.
Jack Straw has joined in, saying it was "not crucially important" to find them because the evidence of Iraqi wrongdoing was overwhelming. He argued that "We did not go to war on a contingent basis. We went to war on the basis of the evidence which was fully available to the international community." Yet the war was sold on the basis of WMD. As Blair said in September, "the ending of this [Iraqi] regime would be the cause of regret for no one other than Saddam Hussein... But our purpose is disarmament." Bush made it clear as well: "The United States and our allies are authorised to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction. This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will." What was there to disarm?
As for Straw's "evidence," it did not convince anyone beyond the Bush Junta and its sycophants. And little wonder. Here is the "evidence" Straw considered so persuasive. According to Blair, Saddam's "WMD programme is active, detailed and growing. It is up and running... Iraq has chemical and biological weapons. Saddam has continued to produce them, he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes... and he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability."
And now all this cannot be found! Not even the production facilities that would have been hard to hide or move. We must not forget that Bush and Blair claimed Iraq had tons of the stuff, and a way to deliver it, and knew that to be an absolute fact (although one which they could not prove). Now the argument has now changed. Now it's about "probabilities" of WMD, when they originally talked in certainties.
Mid-May saw the team searching for WMD in Iraq ending its operation without having found proof that Saddam Hussein had stocks of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. It investigated numerous sites identified by US intelligence as those likely to harbour WMD but has now all but accepted that it is unlikely to find any weapons.
It's leader, Colonel McPhee, said his team of biologists, chemists, computer experts and documents specialists arrived in Iraq believing the intelligence community's warning that Saddam had given "release authority" to those in charge of a chemical arsenal. "We didn't have all those people in protective suits for nothing," he said. Apparently they did.
Bush and Blair should be indicted for war crimes. Ironically, Bush himself stated that "War crimes will be prosecuted. War criminals will be punished. And it will be no defence to say, 'I was just following orders.'" The only legitimacy this war had involved the alleged imminent threat of Saddam's WMD. Since there are no WMD, and they must have known that they didn't exist, then they are guilty under the Nuremberg Principles and the U.N. Charter of waging "aggressive war." Unfortunately it's doubtful they will be in the dock in The Hague any time soon. Nor will those who implemented those orders join them.
And lastly, before the invasion Bush stated that the oil wells were "a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people." Now we discover that the US will have total control and the oil revenues will be used to pay US corporations for their "reconstruction" of the country destroyed by the weapons produced by US corporations.
The media watchdog
While a few papers saw through the nonsense (notably the Mirror, the Independent and the Guardian) the rest of the media faithfully played its role as repeater of official li(n)es. Now a few of them are feeling a tad silly.
Yet the coverage is interesting. The missing WMD are considered simply as an "embarrassment" to the government. The obvious conclusion that Blair and Bush have just launched an illegal invasion, conquest and occupation of a devastated Third World country, killing thousands, on a completely false pretext is not raised. That they systematically lied to their own populations and the media repeated those lies with little or no analysis is not considered that important. Murder, destruction and lying can be considered as being merely "embarrassing."
One last point. Bush's lies about WMD speak volumes not only about his honesty and integrity, but also the role of the media. Clinton was hounded over denying sexual relations with an intern. Apparently conning your country into a war is considered less important. "Make war, not love" is the preferred motto of the American media. The British media is well on its way to a similar level of investigative and moral ability.
The morals of expediency
So we should not forget the "official" reason for this war, particularly as Bush and Blair are trying to put it into the memory hole. They prefer to stress what has become known as the "moral case" for war: namely the need to liberate an oppressed people.
Yet this "case" was tacked on at the last moment when it was obvious the "official" reason was not believed by the "international community." And this moral policy was quickly downplayed by Bush and Blair, who both argued that if Saddam disarmed then he could remain in power. In the case of Blair, his morality must be made of rubber as the very next day he backtracked on "regime change." Such morals are truly heart warming and an inspiration to all.
The legacy of Saddam's regime is being discovered in mass graves. These contain the remains of thousands arrested and executed after the 1991 uprising. An uprising which the US encouraged and then betrayed as it preferred Saddam in power than "destabilising" popular power. It is outrageous for the US/UK to use these crimes as a justification for their bombing of the Iraqi people, given their role in them. Moreover, both have supported regimes conducting far worse crimes against humanity.
So these discoveries do not invalidate the anti-war movement. No anarchist denied the brutality of Saddam's regime. Quite the reverse, we stressed it and the fact that both the US/UK supported it for decades. Anarchists took part in the anti-war movement on the basis of true, meaningful, regime change both at home and in Iraq. We opposed both Saddam and the UK/US, his onetime supporters. We argued that genuine liberation can only come from below and that the Iraqi people, with genuine solidarity from others, could free themselves (as they had almost done in 1991 and the regime was far weaker in 2003).
Given developments in post-Saddam Iraq, our fears have been proven to be justified. The Iraqi people are not free. Iraq is now an occupied country, whose occupier is shaping it in its own fashion.
Meanwhile, in Iraq...
It's clear that the so-called army of "liberation" is all too quickly and predictably becoming an army of occupation. US troops killing unarmed civilian protesters is merely the most obvious example of this.
The reshaping of Iraq into an American colony is progressing. This involves rebuilding the old state machine. Anarchists are not surprised by this. We argued that the US/UK policy was always personnel change, not regime change. And post-Saddam Iraq proves the point. Report after report shows that the Ba'ath old guard have been appointed by the occupying forces into leading roles, sparking popular protest in the process. It is mainly middle and lower ranking officials who are back in their old jobs, but there are reports that senior figures in the oil and health ministries have been offered their jobs back by the US.
The Iraq's chief administer, Henry Kissinger's protégé Paul Bremer, indicated American priorities. It's not fixing water and electricity supplies. Oh no, it's the "serious law and order problem" in the capital was a top priority. He noted that 100,000 inmates were released from Iraqi prisons in October by Saddam Hussein. "It's time those people are put back in jail," he said. This apparent ringing endorsement of Saddam's judicial system will undoubtedly play better with Saddam's old friends in the Bush Junta than ordinary Iraqis.
And who will be re-arresting Saddam's prisoners? Saddam's police force! On the streets, thousands of Ba'athist police officers have been re- hired. This in spite of the torture cells found in a Basra police station and the predictable use of the "discovery" to justify the invasion. The anti-war movement knew Saddam's regime was torturing dissidents for a long time, including back when the US/UK supported, armed and trained it. Looks like the pro-war group's short-term memory is as bad as its long term.
Meanwhile, the US is working to establish an interim government by selecting delegates to a national assembly. The provisional assembly, to be hand-picked by Iraqi exiles and Bush administration allies, would then in turn select an executive council or prime minister. So much for democracy and liberty.
Phoney Blair strikes again
And what of Blair? New Labour and parts of the media are trying to portray him as a great leader, risking his job in order to risk the lives of British soldiers and Iraqi civilians. The facts are somewhat different. Not only are all the excuses used to justify the war proven to be false, so are all the promises he made regarding a "liberated" Iraq. As well as no second UN resolution (which was once considered essential), there is no "vital" role for the UN in post-Saddam Iraq. After promising that UN weapons inspectors would return, Blair meekly followed Bush's line on US only ones (and so ensuring no one would take any "discoveries" seriously). He re-iterated that it was a "conspiracy theory" that the war was about oil and stated that Iraq's oil would not be touched by the UK or the US and would be held, in trust, by the UN. Now the US/UK occupying forces are in de facto total control of it for at least a year and oil revenues will be used to pay the US corporations rebuilding Iraq. Finally, he stated that the UK/US would be an army of liberation. Once the war was over, they declared themselves the "occupying power" and would run it for the foreseeable future.
How can this man sleep at night?
But oil wells that ends well
It goes without saying that the US/UK protected the oil fields and got them started. Water and electricity supplies are a different matter. WHO officials are saying that there is a cholera epidemic in the region. While Basra has had a history of cholera annually but health officials say this year's outbreak was triggered early because of the war has caused shortages of water and of sanitation in the southern Iraqi region. Residents in Basra went for weeks without running water.
But, of course, this war had nothing to do with oil, in spite Iraq having the second largest proven reserves in the world. So we were assured by Blair countless times. So when Amnesty International accused US-led forces of better "preparation to protect the oil wells than to protect hospitals, water systems or civilians," it must have been a coincidence. Like the fact that since US forces rolled into central Baghdad, one of the two public buildings untouched by looters has been the oil ministry, protected as it is by US troops.
Similarly, despite the fact that Iraqis have the ability to run their oil industry the US is not letting them. The Bush Junta is putting together an advisory council to the Iraqi oil ministry. It must be another coincidence that this advisory council is headed by the former CEO of Shell Oil and that another of the other key advisors was formerly with ExxonMobil. Even before the U.S. launched its war, the State Department was meeting with oil company executives and exile groups to plan for the management and possible privatisation of Iraq's oil sector.
But that, of course, is just a coincidence. This war was about WMD. Or not, depending if the US can find any.
It sometimes seems that this war was designed to prove anarchism correct. Both states have given hypocrisy a bad name. They have lied to, manipulated and ultimately ignored the populations they claim to represent. They have placed the interests of big business above the needs of their people. They have shown that imperialism is alive and well. They have shown, in a nutshell, that the state is an instrument of minority rule and that capitalism is riddled with imperialist priorities.
While it's easy say "what do you expect," we should not fall into the cynicism trap. This war has been an outrage and we should feel indignant about the lies, the deaths, the occupation. And we should hold those who are responsible accountable and stop them before they kill again. So what next?
Obviously the US is looking further consolidate its position in the Middle East. This is unsurprising as the war was never purely about oil. It was also about US regional and global domination. And the next targets seem to be lined up. Syria has been accused of holding Saddam's mysteriously missing WMD as well as having terrorist links, its own chemical and biological weapons programmes and of being repressive. Iran has also be accused by the Bush Junta of hiding attempts to build a nuclear bomb, being a supporter of terrorism and of stockpiling nerve agents and pursuing a chemical weapons programme.
But the main issue for the US for the moment must be securing Iraq from its people.
The worry in the US is not about the absence of a smoking WMD gun - but that Iraq will descend into chaos. By this they mean an anti-US revolt by Iraqi people. It seems a likely possibility, given the last few weeks. Journalist Robert Fisk predicted that a US victory would soon see them denouncing any Iraqi resistance as "remnants of Saddam's regime" or as "terrorist networks." That seems to have started.
Anarchists before the war argued against both US/UK imperialism and Saddam's regime. Today "No to America, no to Saddam, no to tyranny" is a common chant in Iraq. Our common sense analysis has been confirmed in the streets of Iraq. We must reiterate this and demand the withdrawal of the occupying forces as the necessary precondition for genuine self-determination for the Iraqi people. The rebuilding of any country can only be done in the people's interest if it is done by the people themselves. This means power must lie in the hands of a federation workplace and community assemblies, not in religious hierarchies, would-be politicians or US appointees. Unfortunately, for the time being, it looks likely that Islamic institutions will be the focus of resistance in most of the country. But the hope remains that any revolt will go beyond changing one set of bosses for another. The example of the Shoras (workers' councils) in 1991 shows that it is possible.
US imperialism is not going to stop after Iraq. This means that the anti-war movement in the UK will need to learn the lessons of the Iraqi conflict. The SWP dominated Stop the War Coalition shows how not to stop a war. While it managed to get massive amounts of people onto the streets, it preferred media friendly marches than effective direct action. Yes, marches play a role but if that is all you do then politicians can and will ignore you. If, for example, the march in Glasgow during the Labour Party conference had been turned into a Seattle-style blockade then, perhaps, things may have been different. Or if they had not waited until the day that war started to protest at Parliament. But hindsight is easy. The next time libertarians have to be better organised to present a better way to stop the war.
Ultimately, the major problem is that the anti-war movement was not rooted in anti-capitalism. In other words, that the struggle against imperialism was not a product of a wider struggle against capitalism in our workplaces and communities. Without working class grassroots organisation and direct action spontaneity can only achieve so much. If people are not willing to struggle for their rights at home then they will less than able (confident) about doing so for others across the world.
So we need to encourage the spirit of revolt, make the links between exploitation and oppression here and imperialism abroad and show that it is possible to fight and to win. Easier said than done, but it is the only way.