Rumsfeld, Bush, Blair aren't “war criminals”, told no “lies” about WMD, Iraq. The Left needs to grow up.

The lies have been repeated so many times that an entire generation risks growing up believing falsehoods.

Donald Rumsfeld in Iraq
The Commentator
On 1 October 2011 12:19

Last Monday in Boston, a group of American Leftists attempted to perform a citizen’s arrest on former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

One of them, Nate Goldshlag, has written about the experience in an article in the Guardian. It is the best read comment piece of the last 24 hours.

Here’s Goldshlag’s justification for why he and his comrades acted in the way that they did:

Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and the rest of this crew are war criminals, according to international law. They lied about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. They lied about Saddam Hussein being linked to 9/11. They lied about mobile weapons labs, yellowcake from Niger, how painless a war would be and countless other things. They instigated a program of torturein Guantánamo, Bagram and who knows how many other black sites. These lies were used as a pretext for initiating a war of aggression against a sovereign nation – an international war crime.

“They are also guilty of violating the UN convention against torture (ratified by the US) and are responsible for the murder of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 5,000 Americans.”

Since Goldshlag also tells us of his concerns about “the military industrial complex”, “the multinational corporate elite” which needs “to continue this policy of endless war, for profit” and how he became “an activist in college at Harvard in 1968”, it would be easy to dismiss him as a rather stereotypical Leftist of a certain generation.

What is far more important is that his comments have been taken so seriously. As we note above, in the British Left’s most influential, opinion forming media outlet his opinions have got top billing.

Let us set the record straight.

First, international law. No respected international tribunal has made a ruling on whether the invasion of Iraq was legal or not. The United States and Britain did in fact secure United Nation’s resolutions.

It is simply a matter of personal opinion whether these resolutions sufficed to make the war legal or not. Those who supported the war say they were. Those who didn’t say they weren’t.

International law is in any case a murky business, especially at the UN where resolutions are simply deals struck between different nations, many of them dictatorships.

Second, WMD. There is no evidence whatsoever that Rumsfeld, Bush, Blair et al lied about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. It does appear that they were mistaken. But a mistake is not a lie.

Saddam Hussein had had WMD in the past and had used them on his own people. Reacquiring them would have been extremely easy. Biological and chemical weapons are simple to produce. They were used as far back as World War I.

It is also noteworthy that practically every government in the world (including those that opposed the war) also thought Saddam had WMD at the time of the invasion.

Third, the 9/11 connection. The general view emanating from the US and British governments was that 9/11 had changed the “calculus of risk” in international affairs, not that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11. It was known, and cannot be disputed, that Saddam was involved in international terrorism in the form of financial support to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers.

Fourth, torture. It is quite clear that there were abuses of Iraqi prisoners by US military personnel. Whether this can, in most cases, be called “torture” is debatable. What we do know is that there have been several prosecutions. The US military took action when it found out. It is clearly false to say that the abuse was systematic or that a program of torture was “instigated” in Washington.

Waterboarding at Guantánamo presents obvious dilemmas. But dealing with some of the most dangerous and violent people in the world is not kid’s play. The use of the word “torture” in such circumstances is inappropriate.

Fifth, the “murder” of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis. This is perhaps the most dishonest accusation of all, but unfortunately it is also one of the most commonly voiced.

The wikileaks of the Iraq War Logs and other sources suggest the death toll overall is probably in the region of 110,000. That figure includes around 5,000 deaths between the time of the invasion itself and the overthrow of the regime a few weeks later.

What is crucial to recognise is that practically all the civilian deaths that have occurred since the toppling of the regime – ie more than 95 percent of all civilian deaths – have occurred at the hands of Islamist and other insurgent groups.

The US Marines were not the ones driving truck bombs into crowded markets.

Our view is that reasonable people can disagree on how the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq was conducted.

It is also perfectly arguable that Iran was the greater risk and that we should have focused our efforts there and continued with a policy of containment over Iraq. On discussion of such matters, let a thousand flowers bloom.

What is unacceptable, however, is to conduct the debate on Iraq in an atmosphere of hysteria.

The kind of outright falsehoods being pumped into the public domain by large sections of the British, American and European Left do nothing to promote enlightened debate, and those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves.

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