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Anthony Devlin/Press Association via AP

Phony concoctions

Blair protesters have questions to answer, too

Issue: "Ghost streets," Feb. 27, 2010

In the recent proceedings of Britain's Chilcot commission known also as the Iraq Inquiry, much focus was on the six-hour testimony of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Nearly unreported was the two-hour testimony before the commission of Ann Clwyd, a member of parliament who headed a British human-rights group and has traveled to Iraq since the 1970s. Listen:

In 1985 they told us of 400 [Iran-Iraq] war objectors in the Abu Ghraib [prison]. . . . Bodies were drained of blood before execution because obviously the blood was then used, but people were actually, while they were still alive, they were drained of blood.

This particular man seemed to have very good access to information, obviously he was a Shia from Najaf, and so you know, the Shia population in particular were under attack.

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Then [came] the campaign, the genocidal campaign against the Kurds, and there were thousands we were told who were arrested in a Kurdish city, Sulaimaniya, including 300 children. . . . There was a report at the time that Iraqi forces delivered 57 boxes of dead children and each dead child was drained of blood and their eyes gouged out.

This is but one grim section of a grim recounting. All of the MP's testimony is available on the internet and covers not only pre-war but post-war Iraq, as Clwyd has served since 2003 as its British human-rights envoy. For the sake of politics, which is what this is about, Clwyd is a member of the Labour Party and launched into Iraq at the behest of Britain's International Mineworkers Union-not at some Crawford ranch confab or from an overdose of neocon literature.

Clwyd recounted the practice of taking and killing children, then returning their bodies to their families and charging the parents with their deaths; the discovery via recovered identity cards of official rapists in the Saddam Hussein regime; first-hand visits to mass graves containing 15,000 or more corpses. She told of the Iraqis' certainty that Saddam planned to use weapons of mass destruction (WMD) leading up to the 2003 invasion, as mothers bought out stores of diapers after learning they could be used in the absence of gas masks to protect their children from a chemical weapons attack.

All the while, outside the QE2 conference center in Westminster, where the latest round of Inquiry sessions ended Feb. 8, protesters in Blair masks raised bloody hands along with coffins and shackles, shouting, "Blair lied, thousands died." The size and intensity of the planned protests prompted British authorities to increase the terrorist threat level from "substantial" to "severe" during the weeks of testimony of Blair, Clwyd, and others.

The crux of the protests is the meta-narrative that predominates on both sides of the Atlantic: Tony Blair and George Bush concocted phony assessments on Iraq's WMD capability as a pretext for ousting Saddam. It's a narrative that should be turned on the post-war naysayers: Why their obsession with WMD? Why their refusal to consider the grotesque, genocidal abuses of the Iraqi people under Saddam, the dictator's flouting of UN sanctions and his embrace of terrorist causes?

If the Chilcot information flow is any indication, historians and future generations one day will know better. Clwyd, pressed by the panel for her own views, said of the invasion, "I felt myself there was no other option." Sir Peter Ricketts, chairman of Parliament's Joint Intelligence Committee in 2001, and now Permanent Secretary at the Foreign Office, told the commission: "By 2001 [our] containment policy was failing and the rate of failure was accelerating."

Blair said Saddam's genocidal tendencies and use of chemicals weapons "indicated a mindset that's profoundly wicked." Under rigorous questioning from the six-member panel, he maintained, "This isn't about a lie, or a conspiracy, or a deceit, or a deception. It is a decision." He also pointed out the relevance of such decisions: "Today we would be facing a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran, competing both on nuclear weapons capability and competing more importantly perhaps than anything else . . . in respect of support of terrorist groups. . . . If I am asked whether I believe we are safer, more secure, that Iraq is better, that our own security is better, with Saddam and his two sons out of office and out of power, I believe indeed we are."
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