As we are bombarded with images from Iraq beyond the war's first month -- including the killing and maiming of innocent civilians, looting and chaos, the deepening health crisis amidst water and power breakdowns, the repeated eruption of pockets of resistance to the Anglo-American troops, and their increasingly imperious conduct towards the Iraqis -- the real, horrendous costs of this war of aggression begin to unfold. As does the truth about the 'spontaneous' celebrations on Day 21 of the war, especially in Firdos Square in Baghdad, where a delirious crowd was repeatedly shown welcoming the Anglo-American occupation, and pulling down a statue of the now-vanished President Saddam Hussein.
It now turns out that the April 9/10 'celebrations' were stage-managed (see www.informationclearinghouse.info). The television pictures from Firdos Square purported to show enthusiastic Iraqis hailing the US military and trampling on a bronze statue of Mr Hussein -- which commentators compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989) and Liberation of Paris (1944). But the first photograph on the above web site is a wide-angle shot encompassing the entire expanse of Firdos Square, rather than a closely cropped frame. It shows the 'crowd' is anything but massive (a few dozen), and the square itself surrounded by US Abrams tanks and cut off from the rest of the city.
Firdos Square is across the street from the Palestine Hotel, where international journalists in Baghdad were located, a fact that was 'either splendid luck or brilliant planning on the part of the military.' The BBC reported that only 'dozens' of Iraqis were present. Their leaders, the website's other photos suggest, were supporters of Pentagon favourite Ahmed Chalabi, recently returned from exile. Some were Iraqi agents of the US military who served as a mere backdrop for 'the most staged photo-opportunity' since Japan's surrender in 1945.
This is just the latest in a long story of deception, trickery, fabrication of evidence and lies with which the US-UK have tried to rationalise an unwarranted, unjust and illegal war. Now even Chief UN Weapons Inspector Hans Blix says the war was planned 'long in advance' by the US and UK which 'are not primarily concerned' with finding weapons of mass destruction; the war is 'a high price to pay in terms of human lives' when the WMD threat 'could have been contained by UN inspections.' Worse, says Mr Blix, the war is sending out 'wrong signals,' like those which North Korea has picked up: if you don't have WMD, but 'let in the inspectors, like Iraq did, you get attacked!'
This puts a huge question-mark over the war's two stated objectives: to disarm Iraq of WMD, and to 'liberate' it by destroying Hussein's regime and by planting the seed of 'democracy.' The first hasn't happened: a month on, there's no evidence that Iraq has/had WMD. Secondly, the US hasn't yet defeated or captured Hussein; it has merely sacked him, relieved him from a job he was given way back in the late 1950s as its own client or agent. (Hussein was recruited by the CIA in 1959 to assassinate Abd al-Karim Qasim, who had just overthrown the Iraqi monarchy. He received full-fledged US support when he usurped power in 1979 and invaded Iran the next year. For details, see United Press International, 'Saddam key in early CIA plot,' April 10).
'Democracy' is certainly a long way away in Iraq. The war is becoming increasingly predatory. Nothing says this more starkly than the reactions of ordinary Iraqis (who now accuse the invaders of being only interested in oil, not people), or the pillage of the National Museum, said to be the most precious in the Middle East with its 170,000 treasures, some going back to the beginning of human civilisation 7,000 years ago. This, like the sacking of Iraq's National Library, destroyed a priceless heritage of humanity -- an act worse than the Taliban's razing of the Bamiyan Buddhas. That the US allowed it to happen compounds its guilt. Indeed, its soldiers have also indulged in looting.
Amidst this comes the surrender of General Amer Hammoudi al-Saadi, the Iraqi president's top scientific adviser, to US forces. Al-Saadi holds the secret to the truth about Iraq's WMD programme. He was a key player in its design and operation in the past, and the principal negotiator with UNMOVIC in the critical last few weeks of the inspections. He has told German television ZDF that Iraq has no WMD: 'I know and have always told the truth about these old programmes, and only the truth. You will see, the future will show it, and nothing else will come out I am saying this for posterity and not to defend a regime '
This reinforces the assessment that Iraq had no significant nuclear weapons programme (as the IAEA repeatedly concluded), nor biological and chemical weapons which can kill on a mass scale: that is, deliverable weapons with high lethality, as opposed to primitive anthrax-type of armaments that degrade rapidly, or chemicals that can kill 20, 30, 100 soldiers, but hardly fit the description, 'mass-destruction' weapons.
What does this say for the now-fashionable argument that had Iraq really had efficient and powerful WMD, the US wouldn't have attacked it, America would have been deterred? This view holds that the sole assurance that Pakistan or India have against being targeted by the US -- as many people fear might happen soon -- is their own WMD. They must never give up their nuclear weapons; these can be instruments of national defence against Empire. Is this right? Doesn't North Korea, with its 'successful' defiance of the US through its 'nuclear hardball' tactics, confirm that view?
This argument is factually unsound and logically flawed. To start with, North Korea isn't quite 'playing nuclear hardball' with the US. It has no nuclear weapons, only nuclear spent fuel. It is threatening to restart a reactor closed under a 1994 agreement with the US -- probably in a reckless attempt to drive a political-economic bargain. It has walked out of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it's probably still many months from acquiring even a first-generation nuclear weapon.
It is Pyongyang's conventional weapons, including missiles, that worry the US: they can strike 30,000-plus American troops in the vicinity. They can also target hundreds of thousands of troops and civilians of two key allies, Japan and South Korea. Washington is currently far too preoccupied with Iraq to deal militarily with Pyongyang (although it's not hard to construct a scenario in which it could coercively 'take out' any suspected North Korean WMD or medium-range missiles).
To return to Iraq, the mere possession of WMD by Baghdad would not have caused, nor prevented, this war. No single weapon influences the decision to go to war so totally. Thus, the US' nuclear weapons did not prevent China from entering the Korean War in 1950. Non-nuclear Vietnam gave nuclear China a bloody nose in 1979. And Argentina wasn't deterred from fighting the UK, a nuclear power, in the Falklands in the 1980s.
What would make a big difference of course is if an adversary has WMD and an assured means of delivering them, especially after absorbing a first strike. That would certainly make Washington think twice. Plainly, Iraq had no such capability. It did not control its own airspace in US-imposed 'No-Fly Zones.' And its missiles were too crude to matter.
The absence of a workable deterrent to the US isn't unique to Iraq. It's true of North Korea, Pakistan and India too, none of which has intercontinental missiles. Even China has at best a handful of missiles that can reach continental America -- never mind their accuracy. These countries, leave alone Iraq, are just not in America's league. To imagine that mere possession of WMD by Iraq could have averted this war is to indulge in dangerous self-delusion. It is also to profoundly misunderstand the nature of WMD. They are not instruments of defence, but weapons of mass annihilation. They are not 'anti-imperialist' weapons, but weapons of indiscriminate destruction.
It is utterly unforgiveable to sanctify or legitimise them under any circumstances -- without undermining the strong case for universal disarmament of all WMD, no matter who possesses them. In 1996, the International Court of Justice, the world's highest authority on international law, held nuclear weapons possession illegal, and declared that the nuclear states have a legal obligation to complete talks for their abolition with the utmost urgency. The global public must build on this.
The most hypocritical aspect of the present war is that it's being waged in the name of WMD disarmament by states which haven't the least intention of disarming their own WMD, and which indeed are about to inaugurate the world's Second Nuclear Age, via ballistic missile defence. The only way to fight these double standards is to demand a single, uniform yardstick, that of universal, global WMD abolition. India and Pakistan would be desperately ill-advised to imitate the US/UK, or to conduct fresh nuclear/missile tests, as the international trade journal Nuclear Fuel disturbingly reports they are planning to do. That way lies self-destruction -- and a terrible, unequal, unjust world.