Monday, 18 December 2006

Lessons not learned

One of the most commonly heard defenses heard from people who voted for the Iraq war resolution is that they with the “widely-held” belief at the time suggesting that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al Qaeda, and with the American media swallowing this excuse unquestioningly, I think it’s time for a reality check.

Despite David Kay's insistence that we were “all wrong” in Iraq, the evidence says otherwise. Many of the assertions that Bush and Blair made in the run-up to the war were highly dubious and viewed with a high degree of skepticism around the world, particularly in Britain. In the UK the media reported on these doubts in the run-up to the war. This is partly why the war was and has remained so unpopular there, prompting the largest public demonstration in London’s history right before the invasion.

But in the US, public debate about the facts leading to the war was muted. Anti-war demonstrations were presented as the natural displays of a segment of the population automatically predisposed to be against war of any kind (“hippies” in the common vernacular). In the US evidence that Bush, Powell, Blair and Cheney were presenting to the world was taken as indisputable fact, whereas in the UK they were regarded as highly dubious.

Since the war has taken a disastrous turn for the worst, many US media outlets, including the New York Times and the Washington Post, have publicly apologized to readers for their decidedly sub standard reporting in the run-up to the war. They have acknowledged that they did not fulfill the intended role of the 4th estate during this time, and this led to disastrous consequences.

However judging from the US coverage (or lack thereof) of the drumbeat of revelations coming from the UK showing that that country’s intelligence services actually disputed many of the intelligence claims of the US, it seems the US media has still not learned its lesson. Last week Carne Ross, who was part of Britain’s UN delegation during the run-up to the war, revealed that the UK government did not assess Saddam Hussein’s weapons capability as being an even remote threat to Britain, and they were actively trying to discourage the US from trying to undertake regime change, saying it would almost surely lead to “chaos.” Add to this Brian Jones, a former nuclear and biological arms specialist at the Ministry of Defence, who earlier this month revealed that senior British intelligence experts rejected major claims in the so-called “dodgy dossier” that Blair circulated to parliament to sell them on Iraq. Add to the pile Andrew Willkie, who has asserted that basically everyone in the UK intelligence community was convinced that an Iraq invasion would plunge the country into chaos, but they were overridden by Blair.

So why has there been nary a word about this in the US media? Because it blows their alibi, of course. If there were numerous people, and even foreign governments, who were loudly disputing the intelligence claims made by the Bush Administration and they just ignored them, that looks pretty bad. Especially considering that that intelligence turned out to be completely and devastatingly wrong.

But if they’re not willing to acknowledge these revelations then they’re not really sorry about the breach of public trust they committed in the first place, are they?

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