The Guardian October 23, 2002


Robert Fisk tears Blair's "dossier" to shreds

by Robert Fisk

Tony Blair's "dossier" on Iraq is a shocking document. Reading it can only 
fill a decent human being with shame and outrage. Its pages are final proof 
 if the contents are true  that a massive crime against humanity has 
been committed in Iraq. For if the details of Saddam's building of weapons 
of mass destruction are correct  and I will come to the "ifs" and "buts" 
and "coulds" later  it means that our massive, obstructive, brutal policy 
of UN sanctions has totally failed. In other words, half a million Iraqi 
children were killed by us, for nothing.

Let's go back to May 12 1996. Madeleine Albright, the US Secretary of 
State, had told us that sanctions worked and prevented Saddam from 
rebuilding weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Our Tory government agreed, and Tony Blair faithfully toed the line. But on 
May 12, Mrs Albright appeared on CBS television. Leslie Stahl, the 
interviewer, asked: "We have heard that half a million children have died. 
I mean, that's more than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price 
worth it?" To the world's astonishment, Mrs Albright replied: "I think this 
is a very hard choice, but the price, we think the price is worth it."

Now we know  if Mr Blair is telling us the truth  that the price was 
not worth it. The price was paid in the lives of hundreds of thousands of 
children. But it wasn't worth a dime.

The Blair "dossier" tells us that, despite sanctions, Saddam was able to go 
on building weapons of mass destruction. All that nonsense about dual-use 
technology, the ban on children's pencils  because lead could have a 
military use  and our refusal to allow Iraq to import equipment to 
restore the water-treatment plants that we bombed in the Gulf War, was a 
sham.

This terrible conclusion is the only moral one to be drawn from the 16 
pages that supposedly detail the chemical, biological and nuclear horrors 
that the Beast of Baghdad has in store for us.

It's difficult, reading the full report, to know whether to laugh or cry. 
The degree of deceit and duplicity in its production speaks of the trickery 
that informs the Blair government and its treatment of MPs.

There are a few titbits that ring true. The new ammonium perchlorate plant 
illegally supplied by an Indian company, which breached those wonderful UN 
sanctions, of course, is a frightening little detail. So is the new rocket 
test stand at the al-Rafah plant. But this material is so swamped in 
trickery and knavery that its inclusion becomes worthless.

Here is one example of the dishonesty of this "dossier". On page 45, we are 
told in a long chapter about Saddam's human rights abuses that "on March 1, 
1991, in the wake of the Gulf War, riots (sic) broke out in the southern 
city of Basra, spreading quickly to other cities in Shia-dominated southern 
Iraq. The regime responded by killing thousands".

What's wrong with this paragraph is the lie in the use of the word "riots". 
These were not riots. They were part of a mass rebellion specifically 
called for by President Bush Jnr's father and by a CIA radio station in 
Saudi Arabia.

The Shia Muslims of Iraq obeyed Mr Bush Snr's appeal. And were then left to 
their fate by the Americans and British, who they had been given every 
reason to believe would come to their help. No wonder they died in their 
thousands. But that's not what the Blair "dossier" tells us.

And anyone reading the weasel words of doubt that are insinuated throughout 
this text can only have profound concern about the basis on which Britain 
is to go to war.

The Iraqi weapon programme "is almost certainly" seeking to enrich uranium. 
It "appears" that Iraq is attempting to acquire a magnet production line. 
There is evidence that Iraq has tried to acquire specialised aluminium 
tubes (used in the enrichment of uranium) but "there is no definitive 
intelligence" that it is destined for a nuclear programme.

"If" Iraq obtained fissile material, Iraq could produce nuclear weapons in 
one or two years. It is "difficult to judge" whether al-Hussein missiles 
could be available for use. Efforts to regenerate the Iraqi missile 
programme "probably" began in 1995.

And so the "dossier" goes on.

Now maybe Saddam has restarted his WMD programme. Let's all say it out 
loud, 20 times: Saddam is a brutal, wicked tyrant. But are "almost 
certainly", "appears", "probably" and "if" really the rallying call to send 
our grenadiers off to the deserts of Kut-al-Amara?

There is high praise for UN weapons inspectors. And there is more trickery 
in the relevant chapter. It quotes Dr Hans Blix, the executive chairman of 
the UN inspection commission, as saying that in the absence of (post-1998) 
inspections, it is impossible to verify Iraqi disarmament compliance.

But on August 18 this year, the very same Dr Blix told Associated Press 
that he couldn't say with certainty that Baghdad possessed WMDs. This 
quotation is excised from the Blair "dossier", of course.

So there it is. If these pages of trickery are based on "probably" and 
"if", we have no business going to war. If they are all true, we murdered 
half a million Iraqi children. How's that for a war crime?

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