10 myths about the invasion and occupation of Iraq
I wrote this in 2006, but I think much of it is still relevant...
I wrote this in 2006, but I think much of it is still relevant...
IN PERHAPS the biggest propaganda campaign since the Second World War, the British political and military elite has attempted to serve up a series of distortions, exaggerations and outright lies to the British public in an attempt to gain support for the unpopular invasion of
Ignoring Eduardo Galeano's truism that "the words uttered by power are not meant to express its actions, but to disguise them"; large sections of the media have echoed and channeled government propaganda. The writer George Monbiot notes, "The falsehoods reproduced by the media before the invasion of
It is high time we put the record straight.
Myth 1: British and American forces "came to
Fact: That the US/UK are sincere about Iraqi democracy is the central myth of the conflict - it underpins all the other myths and is the prism through which all US/UK actions are interpreted.The historian Mark Curtis notes, "The ideological system promotes one key concept... the idea of Britain's basic benevolence... criticism of foreign policies is certainly possible, and normal, but within narrow limits which show ‘exceptions' to, or ‘mistakes' in, promoting the rule of basic benevolence." The historical record clearly shows, rather than promoting democracy and human rights in the Arab World, Anglo-American foreign policy has been systematically opposed to these ideas; installing the Shah in Iran in 1953, supporting Saddam Hussein in the 1980s, arming Turkey in its war against the Kurds and the continuing support for the Saudi regime to name but a few examples.
An Iraqi government that reflected Iraqi popular opinion is likely to push for US/UK troops to withdraw (see Myth 10), seek closer ties with
Myth 2: "The reason why we are taking the action we are taking [in
Fact: The control of the energy reserves in the
interested in world domination." It seems little has changed. In 1999 General Anthony Zinni, Commander in Chief of the US Central Command, testified before Congress that the Gulf region's huge oil reserves is of "vital interest" of "long standing" to the US, who "must have free access to the region's resources." Just before the invasion, the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated one of the long-term priorities of British foreign policy was "to bolster the security of British and global energy supplies."
Myth 3: "This is what they [the Joint Intelligence Committee] are telling me the British Prime Minister and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture they paint is one accumulated over the past four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative." (Tony Blair, statement to Parliament on publication of dossier, 24 September 2002)
Fact: The thesis that Tony Blair was honest and sincere, if very mistaken, in his stance over
· "What I believe the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons." (Tony Blair's foreword to the dossier on
· "We have little intelligence on
· "I am in no doubt that the threat is serious and current." (Tony Blair's foreword to the dossier on
· "Intelligence remains limited and Saddam's own unpredictability complicates judgments." (Joint Intelligence Assessment, 9 September 2002)
· "I have been briefed in detail on the intelligence and am satisfied as to its authority" (Tony Blair's foreword to the dossier on
· "Intelligence on
Another example of Tony Blair's dishonesty is the case of Hussain Kamel, the man in charge of
Myth 4: "I continue to want to solve this issue of
Fact: The recent revelation that Tony Blair told George Bush he was "solidly" behind US plans to invade
This conclusion is supported by information contained in the Downing Street Memos, in which Jack Straw reportedly said "We should work up a plan for an ultimatum to Saddam to allow back in the UN weapons inspectors. This would help with the legal justification for the use of force." A further Cabinet Office briefing paper clarified: "It is just possible that an ultimatum could be cast in terms which Saddam would reject." The goal then, was to use the UN inspectors as a tool for triggering war with
It is also useful to remind ourselves of a long forgotten story reported by The Observer on 15 February 2004: "A joint British and American spying operation at the United Nations scuppered a last-ditch initiative to avert the invasion of
Myth 5: "As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, Resolution 1441 gives the legal basis for this [war]." (Tony Blair, House of Commons, 12 March 2003)
Fact: Unfortunately for Tony Blair, he himself had previously said Resolution 1441 would not authorise war. On 8 November 2002 he said, "To those who fear this resolution is just an automatic trigger point without further discussion, paragraph 12 of the resolution makes it clear that this is not the case."
Indeed Resolution 1441 was only passed at the Security Council because it did not automatically authorise war - this was understood by all (the
Myth 6: "The French position is that
Fact: President Chirac has consistently argued the
Also, the idea that a veto can somehow be ‘unreasonable' is completely fictitious. Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, told Tony Blair in his legal advice, "I do not believe that there is any basis in law for arguing that there is an implied condition of reasonableness which can be read into the power of veto conferred on the permanent members of the Security Council by the UN Charter. So there are no grounds for arguing that an ‘unreasonable veto' would entitle us to proceed on the basis of a presumed Security Council authorisation."
Myth 7: "Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld... once again today listed only ‘dead-enders, foreign terrorists and criminal gangs' as opponents of the American occupation." (New York Times, 17 September 2003)
Fact: According to the journalist Patrick Cockburn, "It is difficult to meet Iraqis who do not support the attacks on the Americans." Several opinion polls confirm Cockburn's observation that the insurgency has widespread support in the wider population. Asked whether they viewed the coalition forces as "liberators" or "occupiers" in an April 2004 USA Today/CNN/Gallup opinion poll, 71 per cent of Iraqis said "occupiers". So it should be no surprise a secret October 2005 Ministry of Defence poll (subsequently leaked to the Daily Telegraph) found 45 per cent of Iraqis believed attacks against the US and UK troops were justified (rising to 65 per cent in the British controlled Maysan province). A recent poll conducted by the
Myth 8: "We have a process... to get
Fact: The Iraqi insurgency is largely homegrown. In May 2004, USA Today, quoting figures supplied by the
We should also remember the focus on Arab ‘foreign fighters' is, in itself, a red herring. The journalist Robert Fisk: "I can tell you there are at least 200,000 foreign fighters in
Myth 9: "Coalition forces take great care to avoid civilian casualties." (George Bush and Tony Blair, joint statement, 8 April 2003)
Fact: As early as October 2003, Human Rights Watch reported, "a pattern of over-aggressive tactics, excessive shooting in residential areas and hasty reliance on lethal force" by US forces in
In October 2004 the Lancet medical journal estimated 100,000 people had died as a result of the invasion: "violence accounted for most of the excess deaths and air strikes from coalition forces accounted for most violent deaths... most individuals reportedly killed by coalition forces were women and children." This figure is likely to continue to rise because US forces are dramatically increasing their use of air power in
Myth 10: "We will stay as long as the Iraqi government and people want us to stay and there is a job for us to do" (Jack Straw, 26 November 2003)
Fact: Opinion polls conducted in
Introduction: George Monbiot, 'Our lies led us into war', Guardian, July 20, 2004. Znet quotes, http://www.zmag.org/quotes/quotesResults.cfm?topic1=Media
Myth 1: Mark Curtis, Web of Deceit: Britain's Real Role in the World (
Myth 2: Noam Chomsky, ‘A modest proposal', Znet, 3 December 2002,
http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=15&ItemID=2694. David Wearing, ‘Blair's next war', Znet, 4 May 2005, http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=7784§ionID=1. Ewen MacAskill, ‘Straw admits oil is a key factor', Guardian, 7 January 2003. James Paul, ‘
Myth 3: Media Advisory, ‘Star witness on
Myth 4: Richard Norton-Taylor, ‘Blair-Bush deal before
http://www.medialens.org/alerts/05/050627_conspiracy_the_downing_street_memo.php. Martin Bright, Peter
Myth 5: ‘PM statement on
http://www.number-10.gov.uk/output/Page3206.asp. ‘Joint Statement by
Myth 6: ‘The gall of
Myth 7: Patrick Cockburn, The Independent, 18 September 2004. ‘Poll: Iraqis out of patience', USA Today, 30 April 2004, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-04-28-pollcover_x.htm. Sean Rayment, ‘Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops', TheTelegraph, 23 October 2005, http://telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/23/wirq23.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/10/23/ixportaltop.html. ‘What the Iraqi people want', Program on International Policy Attitudes, 31 January 2006, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/jan06/Iraq_Jan06_rpt.pdf.
Myth 8: Peter Eisler and Tom Squiteri, ‘Foreign detainees are few in
Myth 9: ‘Hearts and minds: Post-war civilian deaths in Baghdad caused by U.S. forces', Human Rights Watch, October 2003, http://www.hrw.org/reports/2003/iraq1003/index.htm. Dahr Jamail, ‘800 Civilians feared dead in Falluja', Inter Press Service, 16 November 2004, http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=26296. Jonathan Steele and Dahr Jamail, ‘This is our
http://www.plusnews.org/report.asp?ReportID=44075&SelectRegion=Iraq_Crisis&SelectCountry=IRAQ. George Monbiot, ‘The US used chemical weapons in
Myth 10: Sean Rayment, ‘Secret MoD poll: Iraqis support attacks on British troops', The Telegraph, 23 October 2005,
http://telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/10/23/wirq23.xml&sSheet=/portal/2005/10/23/ixportaltop.html. ‘Poll: Iraqis out of patience', USA Today, 30 April 2004, http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/iraq/2004-04-28-poll-cover_x.htm. ‘Majority of Sunnis to shun vote: poll', http://www.zogbyworldwide.com/int/readinthemedia.cfm?ID=6278. ‘What the Iraqi people want', Program on International Policy Attitudes, 31 January 2006, http://www.worldpublicopinion.org/pipa/pdf/jan06/Iraq_Jan06_rpt.pdf.