Thursday, February 05, 2004

War was necessary - inquiries should be concerned with the future

On April 11, CNN's Eason Jordan revealed that during the past 12 years he had made 13 trips to Baghdad during which he had seen and heard "awful things that could not be reported because doing so would have jeopardized the lives of Iraqis, particularly those on our Baghdad staff". John Burns of the NY Times put paid to the "endangered lives" excuse when he blew the lid on the corruption of the media (not just CNN) whenever they deal with totalitarian regimes, like Saddam's.

All of this is relevant to the current predicament with regards to WMD and why such a narrowly focussed inquiry is insufficient. The truth of Saddam's weapons programs was impossible to discern without actualy invading and taking full control of the country. While Saddam was in power, he was in control of virtually everything the west knew of what went on inside Iraq.

He had his paid agents in the Arab world and the west, an intimidated, docile western media in Iraq and an undercurrent of anti-American sentiments throughout much of the Middle East and Western Europe whose adherents would believe anything that countered the views put forward by the US and its allies.

All of these factors would have been in the mix with the confused, presumably often conflicting, intelligence that the governments were receiving. Combine all this, add a sprinkling of Saddam's character, a drop of faltering UN sanctions and a soupçon of September 11 and you have the ingredients for war. It was inevitable.

I would agree with anyone who would say that the Bush and Blair teams could have done a better job of communicating why this war was necessary. However, that would probably have required making public their suspicions about paid agents in the Middle East and the west, which might have caused more trouble than the WMD argument.

The justification for having an inquiry into intelligence failures is solely in order to be as well prepared as possible to meet future risks. There is no point in trying to score points against the Bush and Blair administrations because ultimately, the war was necessary and it was better to have waged it in 2003 than 2006 or 2007 well after the UN sanctions were removed.

Meanwhile, some hopeful signs are coming out of the Middle East as recently noted by Fawaz Gerges.