Saturday, February 04, 2006

Smoking Guns

We now know that in January 2003 President Bush suggested flying U2 spyplanes (in UN colours) over Iraq to try to provoke Saddam into a response which could be used to justify the invasion.

No government is going to be happy to let reconnaissance aircraft overfly their territory when faced with the threat of military attack. It should also be remembered that the US and UK airforces had been carrying out offensive operations inside Iraq for years. Nevertheless, Saddam did agree to let those U2 flights take place. The flights, under the nominal authority of the UN, were allowed to begin in February. This must have been a major disappointment to Bush and Blair who would have expected Saddam to refuse and thus be in material breach. Worse still, he didn't try to shoot them down, even when they pushed the boat out in mid-March and sent two at the same time. Was that a deliberately provocative action by the US government? Given the contents of the memo, it's hard to see it as anything else.

But Bush and Blair's attempts to find the smoking gun came to nothing. Today, more than ever, it is clear that our government launched a war of choice which had nothing to do with the defence of this country. In fact, there is a mounting body of evidence which demonstrates that the invasion of Iraq has made the people of the United Kingdom less safe, not more.

For people who opposed the war, one of the central issues is the degree to which Blair knew that he was exaggerating the threat of Saddam's WMD. It is obvious that he did.
Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term - namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.
- Robin Cook, 18th March 2003
Cook presumably had access to the same intelligence which Tony Blair used to justify the invasion of Iraq. One of the two was misrepresenting the intelligence. We now know which one.

Cook did say that he believed Saddam probably had battlefield chemical and biological munitions. This turned out not to be the case but when did Blair know this?

In the first week or so of the invasion, much was made of the fact that the coalition was worried about such attacks. Journalists wearing gas masks told us that soldiers were on alert against chemical and biological attacks on a number of occasions. What I really want to know is, when did the troops stop "suiting up"? Did they continue to take steps against such attacks until Saddam's regime fell? Or were those alerts something which only happened in the first couple of weeks?

Does anyone know the answer? I can't remember alerts like that being reported in the latter part of the invasion. Was this because journalists stopped reporting them? Is it my bad memory? Or did the troops actually stop suiting up after the first couple of weeks? If they did stop while Saddam was still in command in Baghdad, it would strongly suggest that the main purpose of those alerts was to generate propaganda for domestic consumption.

So, does anyone know anyone who knows when it was that the troops stopped taking these precautions? When was the last occasion when UK troops donned their protective suits in Iraq? Do tell. Perhaps, unlike Bush and Blair, we can still find a few smoking guns.

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