The world press on the missing WMDs

Arab News: Whether or not WMDs are found is irrelevant to the Iraqi people.

By Compiled by Laura McClure

Published June 10, 2003 8:06PM (EDT)

United Kingdom, Simon Tisdall in the Guardian

Before going any further down the Bush-Blair road, the British people have a right to know the whole story of why this country went to war, who decided what and when, and what the consequences of that policy have been and most likely will be in the future. Good-faith probing by MPs is not enough. Nothing less than a royal commission on the conflict in Iraq will do, working in public. And if Blair is as sure of his ground as he says, he will have no difficulty in agreeing, in all honour, to heed its conclusions.

Our commission will have a busy time of it. For starters there is the extent to which the Iraq imbroglio undermined global anti-proliferation efforts. But it should also look at the way the U.S. effectively dictated British policy. It should inquire whether Bush was already set on war last summer, as Clare Short and others maintain. It should ask whether the American decision to go to the U.N. was a charade; and whether Blair and Jack Straw suspected this and if not, why not. Were the diplomatic processes and U.N. inspections used as mere cover for the military preparations? Despite Blair and Straw's endless protestations to the contrary, was the war inevitable all along?

Our commission should ask whether it was really in Britain's national interest to aid and abet diplomatic vandalism at the U.N. And where does that leave the U.N. now? Does Britain believe in multilateralism as the basic organising principle in global affairs or does it truly prefer a unipolar world run from Washington?...

Our commission might look at the sort of society now being created, or suppressed, in Iraq; and at Iraq's impact on western relations with the Muslim world. There is much else it could and should do. It is certainly a tall order. But if such an inquiry were fully to illuminate this whole sorry, cataclysmic episode, what lessons might be learned, what repeat errors yet avoided! What dangerously dubious, do-gooder schemes and hatching interventionist plots might the planet be spared!

United Arab Emirates, Max Boot in the Gulf News

Opponents of the war in Iraq must be chagrined to see pretty much all of their arguments discredited by events. The invasion did not cause greater regional unrest; instead it led to a resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. There have been no massive refugee flows or other humanitarian disasters. U.S. troops did not encounter a Stalingrad on the Euphrates. And so on.

Not able to forgive George W. Bush and Tony Blair for being right, the naysayers are now emphasising what looks to be their strongest argument: the failure so far to find weapons of mass destruction. The European media is in a frenzy about the "lies" that led to war.

The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman is already suggesting this may be "the worst scandal in American political history."

Those who make this argument must think that the U.S. and British governments are not only deeply venal but also stupid. Their theory, essentially, is this: The president and prime minister deliberately lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to justify an invasion that they knew would show that no such weapons existed.

It is indeed puzzling that U.S. forces haven't found more evidence of WMD, but this hardly shows that Bush and Blair lied. It does show how imperfect our intelligence about Iraq was, which actually makes the case for preventive war that much stronger...

The CIA's long history of failures in Iraq -- the agency was surprised by the extent of Saddam Hussein's nuclear programme in 1991 and again in the mid-1990s -- suggests that we can have very little hope of figuring out exactly what closed societies are up to.

The safer course when dealing with rogue states that have demonstrated a capacity to manufacture and use WMD is to stop them before it's too late. Iraq, despite the paucity of "smoking guns" (aside from two possible mobile bioweapons trailers), fits this category...

It is reasonable for critics to find this rationale for war unconvincing. It is not reasonable for them to accuse Bush and Blair of lying. Whatever the details of his WMD programme, the fact that Saddam was a dangerous monster is no lie.

Saudi Arabia, Editorial in the Arab News

The stinging attack by retiring U.N. chief arms inspector Dr. Hans Blix against the American and British governments for the quality of their intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction will hurt them...

However, it is not an issue that the Iraqis are excited about. Whether or not Saddam Hussein possessed WMD is of virtually no interest to them. As far as they are concerned he is gone -- which is good -- and the sooner they can get on with running their country themselves the better. It is forces within the U.S. and U.K. that are pushing the issue...

However, while there are those who would love to think that Bush and Blair deliberately manipulated intelligence reports and lied to their public, this is likely to be a nine-day wonder. In Bush's case, American public opinion is firmly behind the president and is not interested in the actual justification for going to war. As far as it is concerned, the U.S. won the war, Saddam's butt was kicked and America is great; end of story. In the U.K., the outcry is louder and with a substantial number of people wanting to believe Blair lied. But they are largely in his own party and they dare not stab him in the back on this or any other issue because it would be the opposition Conservatives who would reap the benefit of such open internal party warfare, come an election.

In any event, the congressional and parliamentary enquiries will almost certainly, when they eventually report back, administer nothing more than the mildest rap on the knuckles. They will probably say that some of the sources of information used by the CIA and MI6 should have been better evaluated but nonetheless, given the Baathist regime's past history of developing and using WMD, the governments had every reason to believe that some WMD were still held by Baghdad and others being developed.

This furor, for all the passions and anger that it will generate among those who want to believe George Bush and Tony Blair guilty, will not sweep them from power -- Blix's intervention notwithstanding.

Russia, Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey in Pravda

The pretext for the war against Iraq was that the "odious regime" of Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, WMD. WMD is not a few rusting shell cases, nor is it piles of out-of-date flasks sitting in some laboratory.

WMD is not a handful of missiles with a capacity to strike at 150 kilometers. WMD is the capability to deliver a weapon which will cause mass destruction, killing hundreds of people, in a major center of population...

Now that Washington has had more than enough time to find the WMD, where are they? Hidden in the desert? Moving around the country on the backs of vehicles?

The truth is, these systems did not exist. Washington was in such a hurry to install itself in the region, so desperate to find an alternative to the increasingly unstable Saudi Arabia, so pressed by the handful of companies which gravitate around the White House and form the policy of the State department by proxy, that any excuse was steamrollered through and a massive and murderous military assault brushed the Ba'ath regime aside...

The real issue here is being forgotten. Thousands of innocent people were slaughtered, murdered, in the worst act of butchery since the Vietnam War, in an illegal campaign without any pretext whatsoever, one based on lies.

It was not Saddam Hussein who "stiffed" the world, it is George W. Bush and his increasingly absurd lap-dog, Tony Blair. Saddam Hussein, it seems, was the one telling the truth, making Bush and Blair blatant, barefaced liars. They lied to their nations, they lied to the UNO, they lied to the world. All in aid of establishing a convenient military base in Iraq for the U.S. to push forward another piece as the stranglehold closes around Russia and all in aid of the vanity, fickleness and protagonism of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

United Kingdom, Kamal Ahmed and Gaby Hinsliff in the Observer

Downing Street is to express regret about the fundamental flaws in the second 'dodgy dossier' on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction...

Number 10 officials now admit that the second dossier, which was largely culled from a 13-year-old thesis by a Californian PhD student, is damaging the government's case for war against Iraq.

The dossier was published last February to coincide with Blair's 'war summit' with President George Bush in Washington. A week later it was revealed to be a mish-mash of intelligence reports, student work and publicly available briefings by Jane's Intelligence Review. None of the document acknowledged the sources, leaving the impression that it was all based on fresh intelligence.

One government figure admitted that it was used to fill a 'political vacuum' ahead of Colin Powell's presentation on the weapons to the United Nations Security Council.

Officials hope that admitting errors over the second dossier will strengthen their case on the first dossier, published last September, which has been the subject of allegations that it was 'sexed up' to make a stronger case for war.

Although officials will admit that there are some 'serious questions' about claims in the first dossier that Saddam was trying to procure nuclear material from Niger -- the claims were based on crudely forged documents -- they will say that Number 10 relied on security analysis.

A growing number of government figures are becoming convinced the security services have been involved in a pincer movement against Downing Street. In an attempt to cover up their own failures, brought into sharp focus by the failure to uncover any evidence of the weapons since the war, they briefed that the politicians tried to overplay what they were told.

One senior government source said that John Reid, the Leader of the House of Commons, was wrong to claim that it was 'rogue elements' in the security services behind the briefings.

Number 10 now believes that it was a far more concerted attempt to undermine Downing Street's position and keep the intelligence services out of the firing line.

Nigeria, Dele Sobowale in the Vanguard

When two of the most powerful men in the world conspire to deceive the world and to invade a small country for no just cause, then the world is witnessing a return to imperialism ... The war on terrorism might indeed have started as an attempt to rid the world of terrorists; but it is increasingly turning out to be a ... mission resulting in a loss of human rights ... in the developing world...

Retired General Collin Powell at best might have been "an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country" (Wotton 1568-1639) when he ran all over the globe before the invasion insisting there were weapons of mass destruction which have now vanished into thin air. At worst, he might have been an active participant in the conspiracy to deceive the world. Either way, the man no longer talks about weapons...

In many ways Americans themselves have become the victims of this war; not because of Osama bin Laden but because of the freedom it has granted their government to encroach on their right to privacy; all on the excuse of fighting terrorism ... Yet it took no more than a few thousand unthinking black shirts and the cowardly silence of millions in Germany to set the world ablaze in 1936. The silence of the millions in America and Britain could produce the same result in this new millennium.

Compiled by Laura McClure

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