Mar 18, 2013 20:58 Moscow Time
Hans Blix, who was the head of U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq in the lead-up to the 2003 invasion, looks back at the Iraqi campaign. Mr. Blix begins by saying that he views the Iraqi war as a ‘terrible mistake and violation of the US charter’. Reflecting on the events that preceded the invasion and on the outcome of the war he tries to figure out what lessons should be learnt from it.
Being the head of the UN inspection team responsible for verifying whether Iraq was really reviving its weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program Mr. Blix faced a serious moral dilemma: although no evidence of weapons was found in Iraq the Bush administration was pushing for the invasion.
Mr. Blix remembers that the then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz explained that the WMD was the only rationale accepted by all parts of the US administration. When Blix`s team reported that they had found no weapons in Iraq, the then US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfield said: “The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” There was logic behind his words, Blix says, adding, however, that the US and Great Britain had no excuse to mislead the rest of the world by giving credit to fake evidence.
Toppling Iraq’s dictator Saddam Hussein was perhaps the only positive result of the war, while none of the invaders` political aims was achieved. Instead of making Iraq a model democracy they replaced tyranny with anarchy, Blix says.
Governments should not ignore information coming from their intelligence programs but should also pay equal attention to the results of multimillion dollar international reports based on extensive professional inspections on the ground, Mr. Blix insists. “It is likely my U.N. office in New York was bugged in lead-up to invasion of Iraq. I regret that those listening in did not pay more attention to what I had to say”, he says.
There are severe limitations on what can be achieved by military means, and this should be viewed as probably the most important lesson of the Iraq War, the expert concludes.
Britain’s MI6 and the CIA were told before the start of the Iraqi campaign that Baghdad had no active weapons of mass destruction (WMD), BBC`s Panorama program revealed on Monday.
The report claims that Naji Sabri, Saddam`s foreign minister, told the CIA`s station chief in Paris at the time, Bill Murray, that Iraq had “virtually nothing” in terms of WMD.
Lord Robin Butler, who led an inquiry into the use of intelligence in the runup to the invasion of Iraq, told the BBC that he was not told about Sabri`s comments, and that he should have been.
When it was suggested to him that the British public was the body that probably felt most misled of all, Butler replied: “Yes, I think they’re, they got every reason to think that.”
The former deputy Pentagon chief Paul Wolfowitz has conceded that a series of blunders by George W. Bush’s administration plunged Iraq into a cycle of violence that “spiralled out of control”.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, he said there “should have been Iraqi leadership from the beginning”, rather than a 14-month occupation led by an American viceroy and based on “this idea that we’re going to come in like (General Douglas) MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them”.
“The most consequential failure was to understand the tenacity of Saddam’s regime,” he said.
Dr Wolfowitz denied he was “the architect” of the Iraq invasion. “It wasn’t conducted according to my plan.”
According to several insider accounts of Washington policy-making in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz was one of the first to call for an attack on Iraq as well as on Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan.
Now a think-tank analyst, the neo-conservative has come closer than most to admitting that the public case for war was designed to maximize support for the invasion.
“For reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy we settled on the one issue that everyone could agree on, which was weapons of mass destruction as the core reason,” he said.
This March is marking a dubious anniversary. 10 years ago, the US started a military operation in Iraq. Recently, Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen presented a report to the US Congress, where he sums up the results of the war in Iraq. From this report, one can conclude that what the world gained from this war is hardly worth the gigantic sums that the US spent on it.
Since its invasion in Iraq on March 20, 2003, the US spent more than $ 800 bln on this war. However, no money losses, however colossal they may be, can be compared with the losses of human lives. About 5,500 US servicemen and freelance contractors were killed in this war. The exact number of killed Iranians can hardly be calculated. According to various estimations, from 90,000 to 120,000 civilians were killed in Iraq from 2003 to 2012.
“The fact that the money that the US spent on this war was spent in vain is not the worst thing,” Russian analyst Alexander Ignatenko says. “A much worse thing is that the US’s actions in Iraq have resulted in very bad consequences that are now very hard to be improved.”
“For all his features of a totalitarian ruler, Saddam Hussein led a policy of making Iraq a secular state. Even after ousting Hussein, the US, at first, had a chance to support the policy of a secular Iraq. However, instead of that, the US worked out first a temporary and, then, a permanent constitution for Iraq, which made it a confessional state. This caused a conflict, which can be called a real war, between Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq, which is still going on.”
At present, supporters of the already executed Saddam Hussein, who are mainly Sunnis, are concentrated in Iraq’s northwest.
It can be said without much exaggeration that Iraq is now at the brink of a collapse. The Kurdish part of Iraq, is, in fact, ignoring the government in Bagdad. Last spring, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan Erbil started to supply its oil to Turkey, although the government in Bagdad was against this. The authorities of Basra, a province in Iraq’s south that also has oil, do not hide it that they want to make Basra a separate state. In the provinces of Kirkuk and Mosul, clashes between Sunnis and Shiites constantly take place. The border between the Iraqi province of Anbar and Syria is practically controlled by Iraqi and Syrian Islamists, who are linked with Al Qaeda.
Although, as it was mentioned, Iraq produces a lot of oil, at present, it is experiencing serious problems with fuel, as well as with electric power.
When the US attacked Iraq 10 years ago, it did this under the pretext that the Saddam Hussein regime allegedly presented a threat because it had chemical weapons. This alleged threat was in fact very dubious, because no feasible evidence of chemical weapons in Iraq has been found so far. However, the threat to stability in the Middle East, which the situation in Iraq is presenting now because of that US attack, is much bigger than the threat from these alleged chemical weapons.
An expert in Middle Eastern affairs Sergey Seregichev says:
“Unfortunately, the situation in Iraq will most likely only worsen in the future. The US forceful interference in Iraq, Libya and Syria only aggravated the situation in these countries.”
Voice of Russia, CNN, The Sunday Times, The Australian, AFP, BBC