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Bush, Blair and Howard – Three reckless adventurers in Iraq (Part 14)

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)

The Foreign Secretary thought the US would not go ahead with a military plan unless convinced it was a winning strategy. On this the US and UK interests converged. But on the political strategy, there could be US/UK differences. Despite US resistance, we should explore discreetly the ultimatum. Saddam would continue to play hard-ball with the UN. John Scarlett assessed that Saddam would allow the inspectors back in only when he thought the threat of military action was real.

The Defence Secretary said that if the Prime Minister wanted UK military involvement, he would need to decide this early. He cautioned that many in the US did not think it worth going down the ultimatum route. It would be important for the Prime Minister to set out the political context to Bush.”

The following conclusions were reached:

“(a) We should work on the assumption that the UK would take part in any military action. But we needed a fuller picture of US planning before we could take any firm decisions. CDS should tell the US military that we were considering a range of options.

(b) The Prime Minister would revert on the question of whether funds could be spent in preparation for this operation.

(c) CDS would send the Prime Minister full details of the proposed military campaign and possible UK contributions by the end of the week.

(d) The Foreign Secretary would send the Prime Minister the background on the UN inspectors, and discreetly work up the ultimatum to Saddam. He would also send the Prime Minister advice on the positions of countries in the region especially Turkey, and of the key EU states.

(e) John Scarlett would send the Prime Minister a full intelligence update.

(f) We must not ignore the legal issues: the Attorney-General would consider legal advice with FCO/MOD legal advisers.” [Emphasis added].

The secret air attacks had continued through June and July 2002. They would go on in August with both U.S. and U.K. aircraft carrying out increased bombing; yet they failed to provoke the Iraqis into a reaction which might give the attackers an excuse for war.

The attacks needed to be increased still further.

On 5 September 2002 some one hundred American and British aircraft attacked an Iraqi air defence facility in western Iraq in what was believed to be a prelude to the infiltration of special forces into Iraq from Jordan. The R.A.F. saw it as such a success that it was reported on the front page of the official publication R.A.F. News.

The raid appeared to be a prelude to the type of special forces operations which would have to begin weeks before a possible American-led war. It was launched two days before an encounter between Blair and Bush in the United States.

The Prime Minister had long promised that Britain would be alongside the Americans “when the shooting starts.”

The attack seemed intended to destroy air defences and thus to allow easy access for special forces helicopters to fly into Iraq from Jordan or Saudi Arabia to destroy Scud missiles before a possible war soon to follow. The attack was regarded as a response to Iraqi 130 attempts to shoot down coalition aircraft in 2002 alone.

The American central command refused to go into detail about the number of aircraft involved in the raid. It said, simply: “Coalition strikes in the no-fly zones are executed as a self-defence measure in response to Iraqi hostile threats and acts against coalition forces and their aircraft.” The measure was described as an “air defence command and control facility” was the first time that a target in western Iraq had been attacked during the patrols of the southern no-fly zone. Until 5 September all strikes had been against air defence sites in the south, around Basra, Amara, Nasiriyah and Baghdad.

Central command said it was still assessing the damage caused by the attack. If the air defence installation was not destroyed, a second raid is expected.

The Pentagon said that the raid was launched in “response to recent Iraqi hostile acts against coalition aircraft monitoring the southern no-fly zone.”

On its part, the Ministry of Defence refused to confirm that R.A.F. aircraft had taken part, but defence sources said that Tornado ground attack and reconnaissance aircraft played a key role.

In a further sign that America was preparing for war, a Pentagon official confirmed that heavy armour, ammunition and other equipment had been moved to Kuwait from huge stores in Qatar.

Any war on Iraq was likely to begin with a gradual intensification of attacks on air defences. But the raid of 5 September appeared more likely to be related to the forthcoming deploy of special forces.

Speaking in Louisville, Kentucky, President Bush said that, besides having talks with Mr. Blair, he would be meeting the leaders of France, Russia, China and Canada over the next few days. He would tell them that “history has called us into action” to oust Saddam Hussein, the president of Iraq. (Remarks to the Community in Louisville, Kentucky, September 5, 2002, Presidential Audio/Video Archive – George W. Bush, www.presidency.ucsb.edu/medialist).

He said he was looking forward to the talks, but suggested that the U.S. could do the job on its own if need be. “I am a patient man.” he said. “I’ve got tools; we’ve got tools at our disposal. We cannot let the world’s worst leaders blackmail, threaten, hold freedom-loving nations hostage with the world’s worst weapons.” (Remarks Prior to Discussions With Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United Kingdom and an Exchange With Reporters at Camp David, Maryland, September 7, 2002).

During September 2002 American and British aircraft dropped 54.6 tons of munitions on southern Iraq ( see: www.parliament.uk, 27 November 2002: Columns 330W-331W), of which 21.1 tons were dropped by R.A.F. aircraft. In October they dropped 17.7 tons of which 11.4 tons, roughly two-thirds, were British.

During September 2002 American and British aircraft dropped 54.6 tons of munitions on southern Iraq (see: www.parliament.uk, 27 November 2002: Columns 330W-331W), of which 21.1 tons were dropped by R.A.F. aircraft. In October they dropped 17.7 tons of which 11.4 tons, roughly two-thirds, were British.

This was not to be known until 10 March 2003 when, in reply to a question by Sir Menzies Campbell MP to know on how many occasions since October 2002 coalition aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone in Iraq have (a) detected violations of the no-fly zones, (b) detected a direct threat to a coalition aircraft and (c) responded in self defence; how much ordnance was released in each month since October 2002; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. Ingram, Secretary of State for Defence provided the following information:

“The information requested is only currently available up to the end of January. No-fly zone (NFZ) violations are detected in several ways, though rarely by tactical aircraft. The number of violations recorded, by month, in the southern no-fly zone, is as follows:

Month Number
October 2002 2
November 2002 2
December 2002 9
January 2003 2

 

Coalition aircraft recorded threats on a total of 113 occasions, as follows

Month Number
October 2002 14
November 2002 48
December 18
January 2003 33

 

Coalition aircraft in the southern NFZ responded in self defence against Iraqi Air Defence targets on 41 occasions in the period, and released 128.4 tons of ordnance.

Responses conducted in self defence

Month Number
October 2002 6
November 2002 10
December 2002 13
January 2003 12

 

Tonnage of ordnance released:

Month Number
October 2002 17.7
November 2002 33.6
December 2002 53.2

(www.parliament.uk, 10 Mar 2003 : Column 60W)

Because of the reticence, the half-truths and the denials spread by the Blair government it might have been possible to think that, throughout the first few months of 2002 at least, U.S. and U.K. aircraft had hardly dropped any bombs on Iraq. But, on 27 November 2002, in reply to a question by Sir Menzies Campbell MP to know “on how many occasions (a) coalition aircraft and (b) UK aircraft patrolling the southern no-fly zone in Iraq have (i) detected violations of the no-fly zones, (ii) detected a direct threat to a coalition aircraft and (iii) released ordnance in each month since March, stating for each month the tonnage released; and if he will make a statement.”,

Mr. Ingram, Secretary of State for Defence provided the following information, then currently available as at 13 November,

(i) No-fly zone (NFZ) violations are detected in several ways. I am withholding details of detection methods in accordance with Exemption 1 of the Code of Practice on Access to Government Information. The number of violations recorded, by month, in the southern No Fly Zone, is as follows:

Month Number of violations recorded
March 0
April 1
May 0
June 1
July 1
August 0
September 3
October 2
November 0

 

(ii) Coalition aircraft recorded threats on a total of 143 occasions, as follows:

Month Coalition aircraft recorded threats
March 0
April 1
May 20
June 13
July 30
August 15
September 41
October 14
November 9

Note: We do not hold separate threat figures for individual nations’ aircraft.

(iii) (a) Coalition aircraft in the southern NFZ responded in self defence against Iraqi Air Defence targets on 41 occasions in the period from 1 March to 13 November, and released 126.4 tons of ordnance.

Month Responses conducted in self defence Tonnage of ordnance released
March 0 0
April 1 0.3
May 5 7.3
June 3 10.4
July 5 9.5
August 8 14.1
September 10 54.6
October 6 17.7
November 3 12.5

 

(iii) (b) Of these totals, UK aircraft responded on 17 occasions and released 46 tons of ordnance:

Month Responses conducted in self defence Tonnage of ordnance released
March 0 0
April 0 0
May 2 4.9
June 2 2.2
July 1 3.2
August 2 3.2
September 6 21.1
October 4 11.4
November 0 0

(www.parliament.uk, 27 November 2002: Columns 330W-331W).

The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 was introduced into the 107th Congress of the United States on 2 October 2002 and was enacted after being signed by the President on 16 October 2002, to become Pub. L. 107-243. Secret Operation Southern Force had begun at least five months before.

Resolution 1441 (2002), which was the ground on which the United Kingdom Government would claim the legality of the war, was adopted by the United Nations Security Council at its 4644th meeting on 8 November 2002. The secret war against Iraq had begun six months before.

It was not until 17 March 2003 that British Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, QC formally confirmed that military action was legal on the basis of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1441. A day later, the British Parliament voted for military action in Iraq.

Two days, later the Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF–I), often referred to as the coalition forces, led by the United States of America, and with participation of the United Kingdom (with the so-called Operation TELIC), and of Australia, Poland and Spain began the 2003 invasion of Iraq – codenamed “Operation Iraqi Freedom” by the U.S.A. It was originally called Operation Iraq Liberation, … but with an acronym as O.I.L?

Tomorrow: The bloody cost and legacy of the invasion

GeorgeVenturini 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.

⬅️ Part 13

➡️ Part 15

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