Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 10)
The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.
Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.
Deception on a grand scale (continued)
As full-scale war approached, the air war commanders had five goals, The New York Times reported. They wanted to neutralise the ability of the Iraqi government to command its forces; to establish control of the airspace over Iraq; to provide air support for Special Operations forces, as well as for the Army and Marine forces which would advance towards Baghdad; and to neutralise Iraq’s force of surface-to-surface missiles and suspected caches of biological and chemical weapons.
Once the war began, air war commanders adopted an aggressive posture to keep up the pace of the attack. Unarmed refuelling tankers and radar planes flew into Iraqi airspace early on, and combat search and rescue teams set up bases inside the country. For the first three weeks of the air war, there were never fewer than 200 aircraft aloft.
According to General Moseley’s internal briefing, 73 personnel were rescued who would have died if they had not been extracted.
Planning for the illegal air war began shortly after Prime Minister Blair attended a summit with President Bush at the President’s ranch in Crawford, Texas on 6 and 7 April 2002. The Chilcot Report confirmed evidence from a Cabinet Office Briefing Paper, part of the ‘Downing Street Memos’, to the effect that Blair agreed at Crawford “to support military action to bring about regime change” in Iraq.
The fairly lengthy document, which was marked ‘Personal. Secret UK eyes only’, contained the text of a Cabinet Office Briefing Paper prepared for all those attending a meeting of the British war cabinet at 10 Downing Street on 23 July 2002. The document was headed: ‘Iraq: condition for military action’.
In summary, the attending Ministers were invited:
(1) to note the latest position on U.S. military planning and timescales for possible action.
(2) to agree that the objective of any military action should be a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or international security, and abiding by its international obligations on WMD.
(3) to agree to engage the U.S. on the need to set military plans within a realistic political strategy, which includes identifying the succession to Saddam Hussein and creating the conditions necessary to justify government military action, which might include an ultimatum for the return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq. [Emphasis added] This should include a call from the Prime Minister to President Bush ahead of the briefing of U.S. military plans to the President on 4 August.
(4) to note the potentially long lead times involved in equipping U.K. Armed Forces to undertake operations in the Iraqi theatre and agree that the [Ministry of Defence] should bring forward proposals for the procurement of Urgent Operational Requirements under cover of the lessons learned from Afghanistan and the outcome of SR2002.
(5) to agree to the establishment of an ad hoc group of officials under Cabinet Office Chairmanship to consider the development of an information campaign to be agreed with the U.S.
By way of introduction, the document informed that:
“1. The US Government’s military planning for action against Iraq is proceeding apace. But, as yet, it lacks a political framework. In particular, little thought has been given to creating the political conditions for military action, or the aftermath and how to shape it.
2. When the Prime Minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford in April he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change, provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion, the Israel-Palestine Crisis was quiescent, and the options for action to eliminate Iraq’s WMD through the UN weapons inspectors had been exhausted. [Emphasis added].
3. We need now to reinforce this message and to encourage the US Government to place its military planning within a political framework, partly to forestall the risk that military action is precipitated in an unplanned way by, for example, an incident in the No Fly Zones. This is particularly important for the UK because it is necessary to create the conditions in which we could legally support military action. Otherwise we face the real danger that the US will commit themselves to a course of action which we would find very difficult to support.”
In order to fulfil the conditions set out by the Prime Minister for the United Kingdom support for military action against Iraq, certain preparations needed to be made, and other considerations taken into account. The note was going to set them out in a form which could be adapted for use with the United States Government. Depending on American intentions, a decision in principle could have been “needed soon on whether and in what form the UK takes part in military action.”
It was thought that the United Kingdom’s objective should have been a stable and law-abiding Iraq, within present borders, co-operating with the international community, no longer posing a threat to its neighbours or to international security, and abiding by its international obligations on weapons of mass destruction. It seemed unlikely that this could be achieved while the current Iraqi regime remained in power. The American “military planning unambiguously takes as its objective the removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime, followed by elimination if Iraqi WMD. It is however, by no means certain, in the view of UK officials, that one would necessarily follow from the other. Even if regime change is a necessary condition for controlling Iraqi WMD, it is certainly not a sufficient one.” [Emphasis added].
As far as the American military planning was concerned, it was thought that “although no political decisions had been taken, the U.S. military planners have drafted options for the U.S. Government to undertake an invasion of Iraq. In a plan called ‘Running Start’, military action could have begun as early as November of , with no overt military build-up. Air strikes and support for opposition groups in Iraq would have lead initially to small-scale land operations, with further land forces deploying sequentially, ultimately overwhelming Iraqi forces and leading to the collapse of the Iraqi regime. On the other hand, a ‘Generated Start’ would have involved a longer build-up before any military action were taken, as early as January 2003. [Emphasis added]. American military plans included no specifics on the strategic context either before or after the campaign. At that moment the preference appeared to be for the ‘Running Start’. Chief of Defence Staff [Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, GCB, OBE] was ready to brief the Ministers in more detail.
American plans assumed, as a minimum, the use of British bases in Cyprus and Diego Garcia. This meant that legal base issues would arise virtually whatever option Ministers choose with regard to British participation.
The Chiefs of Staff had discussed the viability of American military plans. Their initial view was that there were a number of questions which would have had to be answered before they could assess whether the plans were sound. Notably these included the realism of the ‘Running Start’, the extent to which the plans were proof against Iraqi counter-attack using chemical or biological weapons and the robustness of American assumptions about the bases and about Iraqi (un)willingness to fight.
With regard to a possible British military contribution it was noted that it depended on the details of the US military planning and the time available to prepare and deploy them. The Ministry of Defence was examining how the U.K. might contribute to a U.S.-led action. The options ranged from deployment of a Division, i.e. the Gulf war sized contribution plus naval and air forces, to making available bases. It was already clear that the United Kingdom could not have organised a Division in time for an operation in January 2003, unless publicly visible decisions had been taken very soon. [Emphasis added]. Maritime and air forces could have been deployed in time, provided adequate basing arrangements could be made. The lead times involved in preparing for British military involvement included the procurement of Urgent Operational Requirements, for which there was no financial provision.
Continued Thursday: Deception on a grand scale (continued)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980). He may be reached at George.Venturini@bigpond.com.
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