Friday, February 19, 2010

Those weapons had better be there somewhere

At the United Nations in February, the US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, presented evidence claiming that there were mobile laboratories and showing clear signs that the Iraqis had moved material to escape inspection from UN teams. Put together, all this was argued as constituting a clear breach of UN resolutions that therefore required urgent action.

These claims cannot be wished away in the light of a successful war. If nothing is eventually found, I - as a supporter of the war - will never believe another thing that I am told by our government, or that of the US ever again. And, more to the point, neither will anyone else. Those weapons had better be there somewhere.

Thus that bloody prediction.

I hope this isn't off-topic, but what the hell is he talking about? WMD not reason I backed Iraq war, says Gordon Brown.

But Mr Brown said weapons were not his prime motivation, and instead it was Iraq's persistent disregard for United Nations' resolutions which "put at risk" global security.
"The evidence that was given to us was that there were weapons and that was the finding of a number of people, but for me the reason for intervention was always the breach of international obligations by the Iraqi government," he said.

There were many allegations and arguments around at the time, and its hard to recall them all now, but actually David A did a fair job, IMO. If there were WMD (or intent to produce same), Iraq was contravening UN resolutions. But if there weren't, what "international obligations" were breached that were serious enough for invasion? If we're not talking about weapons, but, say, torture and general unpleasantness, how did this '"put at risk" global security' where North Korea or Saudi Arabia (as for instances) don't?

I'm not trying to join the Nick Cohen/Martin Bright etc attacks on Gordon Brown. I understand the 'regime change' argument, even though I'm not persuaded by it; and I understand the 'WMD' line. But this? Tell me it isn't nonsense.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't understand either how Iraq could have been breaching UN resolutions if it had allowed in inspectors, allowed them to work and didn't have WMD. The examples given at the time (such as Aaro's mention of Powell's speech about Iraq moving around WMD) all involve the assumption that the WMD were there somewhere: but they weren't.


2/19/2010 10:34:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

The arguments

1. The non-compliance stuff (The issue was that they should disclose in full and co-operate with the international community, but I think everybody agrees that was never fully done.) that Brown is trying to pull is supposed to be based on WMD-ish concerns, without relying on there actually being any 'WMD's. It may be a reasonable position in principle to draw an adverse inference from a refusal to comply with investigators but as CC says the action to be taken will have to be proportionate to the apparent risks. And the position fails because the UN were asked whether they thought it would be a good idea to unleash war on the Iraqi population or not, and decided not. They probably agreed with Guano.

2. Hence the 'WMD' claim - that the UN are wrong, so go in anyway. The trouble with this being that to get the appropriate standing to decide that and act on it, you better be acting in self-defence or people tend to think you're just

3. Waging aggressive war, a la the Nuremberg hangings, which is what the 'regime change' argument is basically assimilable to in the absence of some reasonably objective and impartial (e.g. legal) criterion. Complaints that current law overprivileges members of the heads-of-state club were correct, but recent developments have changed that to some extent. In principle. Of course the status quo is defended by Hutton/Butler-style arguments, i.e. "this accused person is a politician, and a judge shouldn't get involved in politics" (try substituting, e.g. 'Bishop' and 'religion' there.)

The idea of sending in a police force to get any international-criminals then fucking off again was never considered of course, what with it not involving a new ultra free-market constitution, permanent US military bases etc etc. The practicalities are interesting and haven't AFAIK really been discussed much for that kind of case, or very much at all.

I suppose it's assumed that political realities (corrupt realities) mean this kind of thing will happen only to very weak regimes (and btw certainly not to, say, the US or UK, in the same way that the UN doesn't monitor US elections). I don't suppose those Euston meetings featured much discussion of these issues.


1. I wonder how much, if he had the courage of what I imagine was his true opinion*, Brown could have achieved. Or, what he should have done instead of hiding. And generally how he saw his options.

2. Brown's remarks to me have the air of those sort of token excuses (say for work absence) which are basically not fooling anyone but still have to be given and which, to avoid adding insult to injury, are deliberately shifty, unconvincing and cursory. There's also the "ahem, yes, mum, you do always know when I'm lying" motivation for that too though. But I genuinely do get the impression that Brown is not comfortable with routine dissimulation in the way that Blair, Campbell and Mandelson are - nor his boundary between pretence and self-deception so porous as I think Blair's is . But then I basically have a soft spot for Brown despite, for example, PFI and all his acquiescence over the years. I still see him as far more human and basically decent than the likes of them (not that that's saying much).

In that respect, Brown:Blair::Cohen:Aaronovitch?

*Can anyone locate footage (byteage) of D Milliband squirming on Question Time as P Hitchens tells him that he (PH) is sure he (DM) was privately against the invasion? I'd like to see it again.

2/20/2010 12:37:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Forgot to add that the 'arrest Saddam' option, quite apart from the big practical issues and I imagine the low priority of Saddam on these hypothetically unpoliticised ICC prosecutors' list of nasty bastards, would be unthinkable for the US because a proper trial (rather than the show trial on one - possibly spurious - count that Saddam actually got) would have revealed far too much embarrassing, IIRC possibly incriminating, info.

2/20/2010 12:50:00 AM  
Anonymous BenSix said...



2/20/2010 02:09:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gordon Brown is playing the "everyone agrees" game, just like "everyone agreed that Iraq had WMD". He actually means "all my frends agree and we're not taking any notice of those who disagree".

It will be interesting to see if the Chilcot Inquiry force him to present some evidence apart from his belief that other people agree with him.

2/20/2010 02:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And that was me


2/20/2010 02:27:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Cheers, Bensix

2/20/2010 10:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Saw an instalment of BBC4's 'The great offices of state' last night, featuring Straw saying he could have prevented the UK from joining the invasion if he had resigned, and suggesting that he had given serious consideration to doing so.

He didn't speculate on whether that could in itself have had any effect on the US decision to invade - but it seems unlikely...

2/22/2010 02:43:00 PM  

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