British politics has not been the same in the aftermath of a messy and gruesome four years since the invasion and occupation of Iraq. Not that this is a new revelation! Many British-based analysts and commentators have documented mammoth reams of information on it, alongside a great deal of sober critiques and lots of early warnings.
Now that British meddling in the territorial waters of a sovereign state has once again raised healthy internal debates about the morality and sustainability of a skewed foreign policy which has kept the Blair regime hitched to America’s right-wing neocons, many are wondering just what the hell is going on in the Kingdom of the Queen.
The images of a powerful nuclear state’s naval troops being paraded as captives after duly confessing that they were on a spying mission and subsequently gracefully released in full glare of international media, amidst the laid-back pomp and ceremony presided over by none other than the nemesis of Bush and Olmert, the head of Iran’s Islamic Republic President Ahmedinejad, has yet again raised many troubling questions for Britain’s political elite.
What are we doing in the Middle East? What should we be doing? Where are we headed? How long do we remain tied to the apron-string of Uncle Sam? Is it not time to accept that the sun has a long while ago set on the Empire? Are we so delusional to believe that our ratings rank high amongst the world’s impoverished masses? What has gone wrong and why?
These questions reflect a greater and deeper malady within the political establishment than mere academic debate related to the anticipated departure of Tony Blair.
They also go to the heart of the real areas of disillusionment which has characterized public mood since Blair stubbornly refused to listen to his own cadres who opposed being pushed into a conflict in Iraq by a US Administration with an agenda of its own.
Since this month also marks the fourth anniversary of that fateful day when the former foreign secretary and leader of the house, Robin Cook, tendered his resignation as protest against committing British troops in alliance with the “shock and awe” military action in Iraq, it is necessary to re-visit his profound arguments.
Cook made his anti-war case against the background of failure to secure agreements in any of the international bodies of which Britain is a leading partner –” NATO, the European Union or the UN Security Council. He argued that unlike the action taken in Kosovo, neither the international community nor the British public was persuaded that there was an urgent and compelling reason for military action in Iraq.
He also pointed out some very fundamental contradictions in the Blair regime’s propaganda for war: “Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion. [But] We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.”
Another paradox he conveyed was the double-standards approach. If it was argued that Iraq had 12 years to complete disarmament and that British “patience was exhausted”, why was it that “more than 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories” Britain did not “express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply.”
This all-important question is as relevant today as it was then when Cook qualified it further by correctly pointing to the sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees “as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest”.
But perhaps the least debated about in the fall-out of a war now widely acknowledged as a horror story with devastating consequences for the people of Iraq has been the issue of weapons of mass destruction [WMD] and the Anglo-American role in underpinning Saddam Hussein’s brutal dictatorship.
Cook dealt with this during his resignation speech when he pointed out that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term –” namely “a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target”.
While conceding that Saddam Hussein probably had biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, Cook claimed that these were possessed by Iraq “since the 1980’s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories.”
Cook may have become history with the passage of time since he warned that British public mood was not supportive of the US-led war on Iraq. His sound analysis though, remains an acute reminder of the futility of going out on a limb on a military adventure which has come back to haunt the Establishment.