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[casi] News, 27/7-3/8/02 (2)

News, 27/7-3/8/02 (2)


*  The Reverend Blair has met his match
*  There should be no war in Iraq without more jaw-jaw
*  Rift over Saddam
*  MP warns of Iraq attack backlash
*  Blair warned: Iraq attack 'illegal'
*  The madness of war with Iraq
*  The world after Saddam
*  No mandate: no war
*   If we must go to war, for God's sake tell us why
*  Army not equipped for Iraq war
*  Blair's worries over Iraq invasion revealed [by King Abdullah of Jordan]
*  Only Bush, Blair want a war on Iraq
*  Deaths of SAS men spur talk of Iraq attack
*  The case for war

BACK IN THE UK,5673,764583,00.html

by Andrew Rawnsley
The Observer, 28th July


There is a five-year-old vacancy for Leader of the Opposition. Could it be
filled by the new head of the Anglican Church? Dr Williams has several
qualities to make him a potent national figure who speaks to and on behalf
of a constituency which ranges far beyond his own communion.

The new Archbishop has charisma. It is not the spray-on charisma of
contemporary politics. The man wears spectacles, has a shaggy Druidic beard
and flaunts defiantly flyaway eyebrows. Very unNew Labour. He has a halo of
silver hair and a gravelly voice. He favours low church black rather than
episcopal purple. You know what? The Church of England is getting a
spiritual leader who actually looks like a spiritual leader. By one of those
postmodern inversions, his holiness is so unfashionable that he is cool.

He is a gifted communicator and a fluent persuader who has an aura of
authority which was lacking in the prissy George Carey and the cerebral
Robert Runcie, neither of whom ever quite caught the ear of the nation. He
has a muscular mind and the nerve to speak it. His blast of well-argued
indignation against the corruption of children by the marketing machines of
multinationals will have answered a long yearning among many parents for
someone to speak out. I cannot think of a single leading politician who
would have had the guts to strike back at the Disney empire.

He does not trim. He is unapologetic about his arrest 16 years ago for
breaking into an American airforce base to sing psalms on the runway. This
self-described 'hairy Lefty' condemns the war in Afghanistan as 'morally
tainted' and has declared an assault on Iraq to be 'immoral and illegal'.
When the Reverend Blair joins the enterprise planned by the Reverend Dubya
of the Church of The Latter Day Morons, the Prime Minister will do so
without the blessings of the primate.

Asked about that at last week's news conference, the Prime Minister
responded that the archbishop is 'entitled to express his views - and why
not?' The selection of Dr Williams is an answer to the accusation that Tony
Blair is the total control-freak. Given that the Prime Minister was fully
aware that this priest could be very turbulent for him, it is to Mr Blair's
credit that he did not wield the veto. By putting his imprimatur on the
appointment, it also means he cannot now dismiss the archbishop's views as
of no account.

Tony Blair's own religiosity makes this Prime Minister particularly
sensitive to - and therefore vulnerable to - criticism from Canterbury. When
the bishops attacked Margaret Thatcher for creating unemployment and
poverty, their pleadings bounced off her steel hide because she despised the
clerics as simpering liberals or closet Marxists. And, anyway, she was a
rare attender in church who had a thin engagement with religion. Tony Blair
takes his faith very seriously. He is the most avowedly Christian occupant
of Number 10 since William Gladstone. He does go to church every Sunday. He
does pack a Bible in his luggage for sustenance on his travels. Though he's
been shy of being a strong witness to his faith for fear of offending the
floating agnostic voter, the Prime Minister has an intricate interest in
questions of theology. Intimates at Number 10 have described to me his
endless debates with himself about the ethics of war. A Prime Minister who
thinks of himself as deeply religious will find it as much a personal as a
political challenge to have to argue with a prime prelate regarded as the
most outstanding theologian of his generation.


Dr Williams is fond of quoting Coleridge's definition of the role of the
Church as 'the compensating counterforce to the inherent and inevitable
evils and defects of the state'.


by Menzies Campbell
The Guardian, 29th July

The daily beat of the Washington drum gets louder and more insistent. It is
assumed that Britain will answer the president's call to arms against Iraq.
Every troop movement or redeployment by the UK Ministry of Defence is
interpreted by commentators with urgent and inevitable significance. But
before Bush comes to shove, the British government owes the people of the UK
a clear explanation of the reasons why British forces may be asked to put
their lives at risk.

By any standards, the prime minister's performance before the chairmen and
women of the select committees of the House of Commons was a virtuoso one.
But in his answers to the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, and to
Charles Kennedy the following day at prime minister's questions, there were
more than a few latent ambiguities, which Mr Blair did nothing to dispel in
his end-of-term report to the press last week.

Let us begin by accepting that it is a reasonable assumption that Iraq under
Saddam Hussein has continued to develop programmes for chemical and
biological weapons and may have the means of delivery. We can't be so sure
of nuclear capability but, to be on the safe side, let us assume that Saddam
Hussein is working towards it, as he has been in the past.

No government committed to the security of its citizens can sensibly
exclude, in all possible circumstances, the use of military force. But
equally, no government committed to the rule of international law can choose
war unless it is convinced that all other avenues of action have been tried
and exhausted.

It should be the first priority of the UN security council and all of its
members to return the weapons inspectors to Iraq. We should not abandon the
strategy of containment and deterrence followed since the end of the Gulf
war in favour of military action unless there is compelling and immediate
evidence that self-defence requires it.

What is the objective of current British policy towards Iraq? Military
action should never be undertaken without clear and realistic political
objectives that are capable of achievement. The current sanctions policy and
no-fly zones are designed to contain the Iraqi regime and limit its ability
to develop weapons, threaten its neighbours or destabilise the region. Can
British national security only be served by joining in military action for
the removal of the current regime?

If policy on Iraq is to change, the prime minister needs to inform the
country. Even with a majority of 180, he cannot expect to be taken on trust.
He cannot even expect to be taken on trust by his own party. Where is the
evidence to justify a change of policy? The prime minister has said that the
government is planning to publish the evidence against Saddam Hussein, but
that he would need to "choose his time" to do this. That time is now. If the
government has the evidence, it should publish it. If the government is
confident of its case, it should take it to the British people.

Just how will military action achieve a better state of peace? Does the
British government share the somewhat improbable view of some US officials
who claim that a new regime in Baghdad will create a "benign ripple effect"
throughout the region, encouraging open and democratic government in
neighbouring Arab states and helping to resolve the Israeli Palestinian

What if these officials are wrong and instead of a ripple of democracy there
is a bow wave of instability? What if the Kurds in the north of Iraq use
change in Baghdad as an opportunity to declare an independent Kurdistan? In
the present fragile state of politics in Turkey, how can we expect Ankara to
react? And would Iran stand quietly by? Would a dismembered Iraq add to or
subtract from stability? In 1991 the allies most certainly regarded the
break-up of Iraq as one of several powerful reasons for not marching on
Baghdad after Iraq had been expelled from Kuwait.

Under what legal authority would military action be taken? The government's
claim is that any British action in Iraq would be "in accordance with
international law". Existing UN resolutions can be interpreted to permit
military strikes as part of the enforcement of weapons inspection, as they
were in December 1998, but they do not allow for regime change. Article 51
of the UN charter gives states the right of self-defence, but is silent on
the issue of anticipatory action in self-defence. Even if the right to
pre-emptive action in self defence can be inferred, the imminence of an
attack justifying it must be urgent. "Clear and present danger" must be
given content if it is to justify military action under article 51.

If the earlier assumption about Iraq having biological and chemical weapons
is valid, what assessment has the MoD made about the risk of them being used
against any British force engaged in conflict against Iraq? Even more
chillingly, what assessment has been made about the risks of them being used
against Israel, and of the likely response of that nuclear-capable country?

Crucially, would the deployment of British troops be subject to a debate and
an affirmative vote of the House of Commons? The prime minister told Charles
Kennedy: "We will obviously consider how we can best consult the House
properly should any such action arise." That response suggests that a vote
will only be forthcoming if the government is confident of winning it. The
prime minister is right to be anxious. It is not only Labour backbenchers
that have been expressing reservations but also former Tory ministers still
in the House such as Douglas Hogg and John Gummer and, outside the House,
the former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind. There is only one way to
consult parliament where British lives are concerned, and that is with a
full debate and a substantive vote. If the prime minister avoids a vote in
parliament because he thinks he would lose, he will have difficulty in
leading public opinion in the country.

It has been a characteristic of the Falklands, the Gulf war, Bosnia, Kosovo,
Sierra Leone and, more recently, Afghanistan, that the prime minister of the
day has enjoyed majority support for British involvement in military action.
As Sir Humphrey might say, it would be "courageous" of the prime minister to
embark on a military campaign without public support this time. He can only
expect that support if he answers the questions I have posed and takes the
British people into his confidence.

Menzies Campbell is Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman

Sunday Mirror, 28th July 28, 2002

TONY Blair has clashed with President George Bush over the go-ahead for a
war on Saddam Hussein. The PM wants a fresh mandate from the United Nations
for any military action.

He fears a split in the Government and a serious diplomatic rift between the
West and Middle East states if the US and Britain go it alone. Foreign
office advisers have told him the present UN mandate for sanctions against
Iraq does not cover an armed attempt to topple Saddam.

And they insist a new vote for action should be taken by the UN security
council, which would need the backing of Russia and China. But Mr Bush wants
to press ahead with an attack to wrongfoot Saddam - and before opposition
builds up too far in Western-friendly countries such as Jordan and Saudi

The rift raises the possibility of America going it alone without British

The two leaders have privately agreed an attack will be necessary if Saddam
continues to defy UN resolutions on weapons inspections. Mr Blair believes a
pre-emptive strike on Iraq is necessary after September 11 to prevent
"rogue" states sponsoring or carrying out further terrorist acts.

He believes public opinion will be more supportive if the two leaders are
able to show that every diplomatic channel has been exhausted.

In phone calls over the past week Mr Blair has urged Mr Bush to seek the
backing of the UN to "legitimise' the assault in the eyes of the world.

by Duncan Roberts
The Scotsman, 29th July

AN American-led attack on Iraq would be far easier to justify if it was
sanctioned by a fresh and specific United Nations resolution, a senior
Labour backbencher said today.

Bruce George, who chairs the Commons Defence Select Committee, was speaking
ahead of talks in London between Prime Minister Tony Blair and King Abdullah
of Jordan.

Jordan is opposed to any action against Saddam Hussein's regime and today's
talks come against a backdrop of growing unease on the Labour backbenches
over a possible military strike.

Later this week, King Abdullah will meet United States President George Bush
to repeat his calls for calm and to urge Washington to maintain its
engagement in the Middle East.

King Abdullah of Jordan has called for a firm timetable for the US Middle
East action plan and reiterated his opposition to military action against

Mr George today argued that Mr Bush had a major task on his hands to
persuade the rest of the world of the case for an attack on Iraq. And he
warned that Mr Blair could face strong opposition from Parliament if he
chose to back US action, and commit British forces to an attack, unless the
argument for military intervention had been made convincingly.

Mr George said: "A number of tests have to be met before we should commit
ourselves. I think the evidence has to be presented that there are weapons
of mass destruction in Iraq's possession and a willingness, a belief of
their willingness to use them."

"Before any military action is taken, it is necessary not just to have the
military capability, but there needs to be an alliance put in place, some
countries in the Middle East, and some within Nato and the rest of the


by Paul Waugh
Independent, 29th July

Tony Blair has been told by the Government's own lawyers that British
participation in an invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a new United
Nations mandate.

The advice, which is highly confidential, has led the Foreign Office to warn
Downing Street that a fresh UN resolution could be the best means of
ensuring Russian and moderate Arab support for any attack against Saddam

Senior government sources say the Prime Minister has also received
conflicting legal opinion from law officers that current UN resolutions
could offer sufficient cover for any military action. But the very fact that
even one part of Government has been told an attack could be illegal will
delight the many Labour MPs worried that Mr Blair will unilaterally back an
American assault.

The legal advice in favour of a new UN resolution is in tune with similar
calls made by Dr Rowan Williams, the incoming Archbishop of Canterbury.

Many Labour backbenchers, including former ministers such as Peter Kilfoyle,
have warned that the party will be split for years if Britain takes part in
any action against Iraq without proper justification. MPs are now sure to
demand publication of the advice from government lawyers.

Although Mr Blair stressed last week that the world was "not at the point of
decision", it is clear that some in Downing Street are determined that
Britain should back America whenever it does decide to attack.

Yesterday, Ben Bradshaw, Deputy Leader of the House of Commons, underlined
Mr Blair's case that inaction against Iraq was not an option.

In line with the Government's legal advice, Mr Bradshaw conceded that "there
is an argument" that a new UN mandate would be required for an invasion. But
he said there was a counter-argument that legal cover was given by the
existing 23 UN resolutions about Iraq's development of weapons of mass
destruction and failure to allow weapons inspectors into the country.

"We simply cannot think that by hoping a threat will go away it will. It
won't and Saddam poses a very real one," he told Sky News' Sunday with Adam
Boulton. "I would not want to come back on this programme in five years'
time after something terrible had happened and defend to you that we ignored
that threat."

A vote by MPs on military action was ruled out by Mr Bradshaw, who organises
Commons business as deputy to Robin Cook, the Leader of the House.

Mr Bradshaw accepted that the opposition in the Labour ranks was more than a
list of "usual suspects" and included moderate loyalists.

"There is also a broader group of people who, of course, are concerned about
how it could be done, why it is necessary, where is the evidence, and also
the wider repercussions for the Middle East," he said.

Mr Bradshaw dismissed a YouGov internet poll showing 51 per cent opposed to
action against Iraq compared with 40 per cent in favour.

"I think the majority of people supported what we did in Afghanistan, the
majority of people supported what we did in the Balkans," he said. "And any
British government is going to think very, very carefully about deploying
British forces in a situation where it does not enjoy majority support in
the population and in Parliament."

Speculation about British involvement in a future attack was heightened at
the weekend when it was claimed that HMS Ocean, one of the UK's biggest
warships, was being kitted out for amphibious use. But military sources
insisted no action would take place before December.

Jordan's King Abdullah II told CNN yesterday that he finds the idea of
intervention in Iraq while the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has the Middle
East in turmoil "somewhat ludicrous".

by General Sir Michael Rose
London Evening Standard, 29th July

Merely crying "Havoc!" and letting slip the dogs of war is no substitute for
clear thinking or the development of a welldefined military strategy. Yet
the evidence of the last few days seems to be that we are heading for an
assault on Iraq without - on either side of the Atlantic - anything like
enough open debate about the moral justification or military practicality of
doing so. If we in the West were confident that our reasons for going to war
were sound, we would be getting the UN's agreement before doing so. But it
seems we're not.

Instead of open debate, what we have had from President Bush is the vague
assertion that Saddam Hussein has "plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve
gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade". Our own Prime Minister is even
more vague, implying that Saddam Hussein now possesses an arsenal of
dangerous but as yet unspecified weapons of mass destruction. Neither of
them has yet produced any evidence that Saddam plans to use any of these
weapons against the West.

If there was such a threat, necessary authority for any invasion would be
needed from the UN in accordance with article 39 of its Charter. This
article clearly states that the Security Council should determine the
existence of any threat, as well as decide what measures must be taken
thereafter to maintain international peace and security. The launching of a
war against Yugoslavia in 1999 by American-led Nato forces without due
authority of the UN greatly diminished both the moral standing and
legitimacy of that action, and this made it subsequently much harder for the
Alliance to criticise others who did the same in pursuit of less worthy

Certainly it would make no sense for member states to go to war on behalf of
the UN - because Saddam is not fully cooperating with UN Security Council
Resolutions - if that body itself doesn't approve. Today it is reported that
Tony Blair has been advised by Government lawyers that an attack would be
illegal without UN backing. He should heed that advice and refuse to allow
British troops to take part in any attack without UN approval.

IF Bush thinks UN support is not a legal necessity, he will still have to
consider the military options. The launching of a largescale ground
offensive by USled forces against Saddam Hussein in Iraq is fraught with
operational risk. Its success would be dependent on good intelligence, quick
execution, and general support for the action from the Iraqis - none of
which can be guaranteed. Furthermore it is likely that the operation would
have to be mounted at long distance, as there would not be the same level of
support from neighbouring Arab states, including Jordan, as was provided at
the time of the Gulf War. Since Iran has also been identified as being part
of President Bush's axis of evil, what would their leaders make of an
attack? It is almost designed to create instability and a lack of security.
Is that what Bush wants?

Even if an attack against Iraq did meet with early success, the overthrow of
Saddam Hussein would not, of course, succeed in eliminating the possibility
of terrorist attack against the West. International terrorism is not just a
product of tyrants or rogue states, - nor can it be defeated by conventional
military means, no matter how superior US weapons technology might be. As
Northern Ireland showed us, terrorists can only be defeated when they lose
the support of the people. Resolving political, economic and social
grievances is therefore a far more important aspect of counter terrorist
wars than direct military action, which often adds to the numbers of people
prepared actively to support the terrorists.

Sadly, because the US is seen as condoning Israeli policy towards the
Palestinians, hostility towards America and the West is mounting, providing
fertile ground for extremist Islamic terrorist organisations among the one
billion Muslims around the world. Addressing the basic question of the
Palestinian grievance would do far more to defeat terrorism than the use of
the kinetic energy weapons so favoured by President Bush.

When he assumed command of the Army of the United States Colonies in 1775,
George Washington was assured that a single victory against the British was
all that was necessary to achieve total victory, and that the war would be
short in duration. In fact the war dragged on for six years. The US Army
today does not have the luxury of being able to wage a long drawnout war
against Saddam Hussein, for protracted operations would produce growing
opposition to the war at home.

Recent wars in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan have been conducted at arm's
length without responding counter strikes by the enemy in our homelands.
This time, things would almost certainly be different. In the event of such
attacks on our own doorstep, politicians will be hard pressed to explain why
an action designed to prevent Saddam Hussein from attacking the West, had
provoked that very thing.

The British Army fought three times in Iraq in the last century, not always
with successful results. It would be unfortunate if we have to do the same
again this century. There are huge political and military risks associated
with launching large-scale ground forces into Iraq. A more successful
strategy would be to strengthen economic sanctions, help create a viable
political and military opposition to the regime within Iraq, obtain improved
intelligence about his arsenal of weapons and whereabouts, and where
necessary carry out limited airstrikes against associated targets.

That is the sensible option. It also happens to be the way, I suspect, the
UN would want it done.;$sessionid$NM0HVIIAALNFJ

Daily Telegraph, 30th July

As speculation mounts about the kind of campaign the Americans will launch
to overthrow Saddam Hussein, allied misgivings are becoming more pronounced.

Yesterday the New York Times reported that Washington was thinking of going
straight for the jugular by attacking Baghdad and key military centres, in
the hope that the Ba'ath regime would quickly crumble. At the same time,
King Abdullah of Jordan told Tony Blair that the Arab world opposed an
assault on Iraq; priority should be given, rather, to resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian crisis. That is a view widely held by members of the
European Union.

The implicit assumption of those urging restraint on America is that the
present situation is better than anything that might flow from Saddam's
demise. That is to hold out very little hope both for the UN and for the
Middle East.

The Iraqi tyrant has done everything he can to thwart the resolutions passed
by the Security Council after his forces had been driven out of Kuwait in
1991. The key moment in that pattern of obstruction was the collapse in 1998
of the UN Special Commission (Unscom).

Since then, Iraq has been free of international weapons inspectors. The
Clinton administration acquiesced in that defiance of UN authority. There is
no reason why its successor should do the same, all the more so since the
terrorist attacks last September.

Nine days after that horror, George W. Bush told Congress that his quarrel
was not only with al-Qa'eda and the Taliban but with any government that
provided aid to terrorists.

Although no direct link has been found between Baghdad and the September 11
hijackers, its support for terrorist action against America and Israel is
beyond doubt.

Ten years ago, it was implicated in a plot to assassinate former President
Bush during his visit to Kuwait. And since the start of the second
Palestinian uprising, Saddam has proved himself the staunchest backer of
suicide bombers by giving cash to their families.

Such an enemy will not hesitate to use weapons of mass destruction to
advance its cause. Saddam has already demonstrated that degree of
ruthlessness by his gassing of the Kurds in Halabja in 1988. It would be
wise to assume that, since the departure of Unscom, he has done everything
possible to enhance his capacity to bully his neighbours and deter the West
by building up stocks of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. That
arsenal is a clear threat to world peace.

Given Saddam's record of internal oppression and external aggression, his
removal from power alone is a great prize. But the impact of his fall would
be much greater than that. It would fire a powerful shot across the bows of
all states that sponsor terrorism.

It would serve as a warning to would-be nuclear-armed powers such as Iran.
It would remove an important prop to those Palestinians and their backers
who would drive Israel into the sea.

It is more difficult to predict what might take the place of the present
regime in Baghdad. But if it were a democratic government representing all
Iraqis, the effect on the Middle East could be revolutionary. In its
campaign for good governance, the West has, for strategic reasons connected
with oil, made an exception of the region. The result has been to entrench
authoritarian, corrupt regimes. The removal of the most egregious, in Iraq,
could lead to the collapse of clerical rule in Iran and the isolation of the
Ba'athist government in Syria.

At the same time, moves towards parliamentary democracy in states such as
Bahrain and Jordan could be hastened. The overall result, it has to be
admitted, could be the arrival in government of Islamic radicals whose cause
has been aided by the shortcomings of current power-holders: Egypt and Saudi
Arabia come to mind. But that is not sufficient reason to leave the Middle
East in its present, deeply unsatisfactory state.

During the Cold War, the West united in Nato to protect itself from Soviet
attack, but also because it believed in the value of democracy. In the age
of terror heralded by September 11, military might could again bring about
the political transformation of a region deprived for too long of a proper
voice. Rather than distancing themselves from America in this quest, the
European democracies should wholeheartedly embrace it.,2763,765447,00.html

The Guardian (Leader), 30th July

The casualty toll in the second Gulf war is beginning to mount before a shot
is fired. One prominent victim is the United Nations.

Secretary-general Kofi Annan has been given the job of persuading Iraq to
allow a resumption of weapons inspections. To nobody's surprise, he has made
no headway so far. Privately, US and British officials are critical of his
efforts, suggesting he has not been nearly tough enough with the Iraqis. If
and when the weapons talks definitively fail, Mr Annan may be blamed - even
though influential figures such as Vice-president Dick Cheney never really
wanted him to succeed in the first place. US hawks fear that new inspections
would let Saddam Hussein off the hook. For his part, Saddam reportedly
believes the US will try to overthrow him whether or not he readmits the UN.

If the US (and possibly Britain) successfully argues that existing security
council resolutions provide sufficient legal authority for a new attack on
Iraq, the UN's authority will suffer another body blow. There is no doubt
that Saddam is in breach of UN resolutions passed after his 1990 invasion of
Kuwait. But these resolutions do not envisage, or authorise, the sort of
all-out invasion and "regime change" that George Bush now has in mind. To
obtain that kind of mandate, the US must persuade the security council to
invoke chapter VII, article 42, of the UN charter, having first made the
case that Iraq currently presents a "threat to the peace", under article 39,
that cannot be countered in any other way.

This will be very difficult to do. Iraq's weapons of mass destruction
capability is assumed rather than known (which is why inspections are
needed). A former UN inspector, Scott Ritter, insists that Iraq's ability to
manufacture such weapons was destroyed in the period to 1998. There is no
evidence that Saddam plans to use such weapons in future, if he has them,
nor that the US is a WMD target and is necessarily acting in self-defence
(article 51), nor that Saddam is threatening his neighbours in a way that
UNSC resolution 949 expressly forbids. Indeed, he has recently been busy
offering olive branches to old enemies in Saudi Arabia, Iran and even

US intervention on humanitarian grounds, on East Timor and other precedents,
could be justified in theory by UNSC resolution 688 which proscribes
repression of Iraq's civilian population. Such repression undoubtedly
continues. But given the likely cost in civilian lives of a major US attack
and the chaos that would ensue, even Mr Bush might find it a tad bizarre to
be claiming to act on purely humane impulse. For these reasons, the US
(despite anticipated French and Chinese objections) can be expected to try
to bypass the security council, as in Kosovo, while still vaguely claiming
to act in accordance with "international law". It must not be allowed to do

Other early casualties of this so far undeclared war include, principally,
the Palestinians. As Jordan's King Abdullah points out, a new conflict in
the Middle East will set back the cause of Palestinian statehood, not least
because of its impact on US leverage with Arab states and on Muslim opinion
generally. There are those who suspect Mr Bush has already pushed Palestine
to one side in order to concentrate on Iraq. At home, meanwhile, Tony
Blair's credibility on this issue is wounded. The prime minister appears to
be saying one thing to the public and parliament about British military
involvement and something significantly different in private to Mr Bush. Mr
Blair should clarify his position without delay. Casuistry causes
casualties, too.,,482-370088,00.html

by Simon Jenkins
The Times, 31st July

This is becoming surreal. Soldiers do not want a war. Diplomats do not want
a war. Politicians do not want a war. This is exactly how wars start.

When Tony Blair was asked at a press conference last week about an early
attack on Iraq his body language went absent without leave. His cheek
muscles twitched, his eyes darted and he reached beneath his desk for help.
Was he seeking a panic button or a White House messager? The answer was
worse. He raised a comfort mug to hide his lips and took a large caffein
hit. He stumbled out a no comment.

I cannot recall a time when British policy towards a troubled part of the
world was so incoherent. Mr Blair has no clue what America intends to do in
Iraq. This is understandable since, as yet, nor does America. But other
governments are not thereby reduced to treating their publics as idiots.
Britons are served a burble of "no decision ... not ready ... weapons of
mass destruction ... regime change in Baghdad... nothing imminent". Yet
every leak conveys a Government preparing for war. Mr Blair is like an East
European leader in the Soviet era, forced to support anything Moscow does
without knowing what it is.

Let us help poor Mr Blair in his predicament. Let us examine the case for a
war. The customary reason would be that Saddam Hussein threatens the
security of the British State and the lives of its citizens. Mr Blair has
been unable to convince anyone of this. He must therefore fall back on a
generalised threat posed by the Iraqi leader to the outside world, one so
grave as to justify early military intervention.

That threat is conceivable. Saddam controls a big and rich country.Whereas
the Taleban merely gave houseroom to those planning an attack on Western
targets, Saddam has gone to war with two neighbours and with some effect.
Nobody studying the reports of the last United Nations weapons inspectors
could doubt that he must still have nasty chemical and bacteriological
weapons. He used them against Kurds and Shias. The arrival of Russian
nuclear technicians also suggests that Iraq is trying to put them to evil

These activities are not new. Countering them has been the objective of 11
years of so-called "containment". This has involved economic sanctions,
ostracism and regular bombing. Mr Blair appears to feel that the containment
policy has failed. As many predicted, it has weakened Saddam's opponents and
made him, on one estimate, the sixth richest man on earth. It may have
enabled him to replenish his arsenal.

If so, containment has indeed been a catastrophe. But its failure does not
necessarily negate the need for war. Mr Blair now hints that Saddam not only
has nasty weapons ‹ as do many unpleasant states ‹ but that he intends to
use them against the West. This is a wholly different matter. It suggests
that Saddam's past stance, dedicated to cementing himself in power in his
region, has now changed. Mr Blair even hints that he may be employing the al
Qaeda network, which is still a threat to the West according to
bloodcurdling and recession inducing statements from Washington. That
presumably is why the Government yesterday denied habeas corpus to suspects
it seems incapable of bringing to trial.

If all these alarming assumptions are true, the war games being played in
Washington and London make some sense. Should American and British forces
march directly on Baghdad? Should they occupy a region of Iraq and proceed
only with surrogates? Should they go "Baghdad-lite" and use bombers and
paratroops against the capital alone, relying on Saddam's enemies to rise up
and depose him? The ghosts of Beau Geste and Lawrence of Arabia are stalking
the war rooms of Nato. What to the country at large may seem unreal and
implausible is to Mr Blair a desperate crisis. As he puts it over and again,
despite a decade of containment "inaction is not an option".

The first objection to any war is that it may be lost. The American military
has a dreadful record in trying to topple declared enemies. In Cuba, Libya,
Somalia, Serbia and now Afghanistan, a named individual was targeted and
survived. Assassination attempts against Castro, Gaddafi, Aideed, Milosevic
and bin Laden gave all of them a sudden elixir of life. Aideed died in his
bed. Milosevic lost power only to a democratic vote. The rest are said to be
going strong. As Gaddafi might reflect, an American precision bomb is the
next best thing to immortality.

Yet America can surely defeat Iraq. While President Bush may survive his
failure to capture bin Laden, he could hardly excuse a failure to eliminate
Saddam when "regime change" was his sole objective. Provided an invasion is
sufficiently massive, there is no reason why "the mother of all victories"
should not be achieved. The Republican Guard may exact a heavy price. But
with Baghdad laid to waste and to hell with collateral damage, regime change
is surely do-able.

A second objection to a war is whether, though winnable, it is "legal". To
that we may reply, so what? No particular legality attached to the bombing
of Belgrade or Kabul, in both of which Britain participated. As America has
made plain, it regards international jurisprudence as a discipline for
losers, not winners. George Bush and his Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld,
never cease to assert that war on Iraq is not an act of international
policing, demanding United Nations authorisation. It is a matter of American
self-defence. In such cases, international law is indulgent.

This may not help Mr Blair. He appears to see this war as partly
self-defence but partly moral crusade. For the latter he needs more
authority than a phone call from Mr Bush, especially as he means to
disregard his own Parliament. But a poodle knows only one master. I suspect
that the United Nations will not feature prominently in Britain's "war aims"
against Iraq.

A third objection to war is quite different ‹ that all my assumptions above
are not true and that a war is unnecessary. The aggression which it means to
forestall is not real. The evidence is not sufficient to justify bloodshed
and destruction. This objection would point out that the containment policy
towards Iraq has not failed. It has merely not succeeded. After the Gulf
War, America made a mistake. It should have treated Saddam as it now treats
Libya, Syria, Iran and other dictatorships, and as it once treated Saddam
himself. It should have smothered him with "constructive engagement". That
was the way to keep tabs on him. To attack Iraq when Saddam's standing is
high in the region is, as Lord Bramall wrote on Monday, to fan the flames of
anti-Americanism and set al-Qaeda back on the recruiting path.

I would love to see Saddam go. He is a thoroughly nasty job of work with a
nasty arsenal at his disposal. I would scheme in every way to bring about
his downfall. But Britain must have a casus belli, a reason to wage
aggression against a foreign state. Mr Blair has none. He taps his nose and
says in effect, "I will have a reason when I have a reason". But this is
extraordinary. There is no known or leaked evidence that Saddam is about to
attack Britain or anyone else. There is no reason for him to do so. The only
reason is recklessly supplied by the Prime Minister, that Saddam should now
regard Britain as an enemy and retaliate first.

If America wants to go to war with Iraq that is America's business, on a
rationale buried deep in the psychology of the Bush Administration.America's
friends are not being "anti American" in questioning it, any more than her
critics help by failing to understand the continued catatonic state of
American foreign policy since September 11. But Britain has no influence in
Washington and need not pretend otherwise. America will do what it chooses.
Besides, Americans are perfectly able to hold their own leaders to account,
more outspokenly than Britons seem able to hold Mr Blair.

An American war is not always a sufficient condition for a British war. If
the Government is right and al-Qaeda remains a threat to Britain the more
reason for caution in the minefields of Middle East politics. It is a reason
for listening and watching, not blundering into the region with bombs and
tanks. But if Mr Blair knows something nobody else knows, if he knows why
"inaction is not an option", surely he has a duty to tell us what that
something is.

by Robert Fox
London Evening Standard, 1st August

Most major Army equipment, from tanks to rifles and radios to boots, failed
alarmingly in a major desert exercise last year and the UK would be hard put
to make a serious contribution to any operation against Iraq, a major report
says today.

The National Audit Office report into Exercise Saif Sareea II, the biggest
deployment by the Army since Operation Desert Storm in 1991, points to
failures of the Challenger 2 tank, the AS90 howitzer, boots and medical and
supply-handling equipment.

The tanks and guns could not deal with the fine dust of the Omani desert and
temperatures of well over 38C (100F). The biggest weakness was the failure
of many of the new Challenger 2 tanks after only a few hours. Two out of the
five squadrons had to be withdrawn before the final exercise.

However, the Challenger 2s used by the Omani forces, the only country to buy
them, had been fully "desertified" and performed well. The Ministry of
Defence refused the extra £350,000 to buy the special desert sand filters
and the resulting damage cost more than £2million to put right.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon was so worried about costs of the summer
exercise with the Omani forces that at one point he is known to have
considered cancelling it. And the Treasury tried to impose cuts.

The Army's new self-propelled gun, the AS90, suffered from heat with plastic
filters melting in the sun. One caught fire and was written off at a cost of

The report highlighted enduring problems with the ageing Clansman radio
system, which failed in the Falklands 20 years ago. It said the system must
be ditched.

In Kosovo and Macedonia, soldiers used their own mobile phones for lack of
personal radios, but there was no satellite cover for mobiles in the Omani
desert. Shadow defence secretary Bernard Jenkin said he saw tank commanders
communicating with hand signals when he visited the exercise.

New radios for the Bowman system are on the way, though the whole system
will not be fully operational until the end of next year.

The Army's standard SA80 rifle suffered from sand and dust, as it did
against Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard outside Kuwait 11 years ago.

The new SA80 A2 version has been introduced since. With a new system for
oiling and maintenance, it proved difficult to handle for the Royal Marines
in their recent operations against Al Qaeda in the extreme conditions of
southern Afghanistan.

Many soldiers suffered from foot rot because their boots fell apart.

Many of the faults outlined by the NAO have been addressed. Defence has just
been given an extra £1 billion a year under the new Government Spending
Review, but there are concerns that the Army may not be ready if it is
called to action in Iraq.

An MoD spokesman defended the equipment. "Overall, we are very pleased with
the way our people and their equipment overcame the many challenges posed by
the exercise."

by Fraser Nelson
The Scotsman, 1st August

TONY Blair is privately opposed to bombing Baghdad and has deep concerns
about the consequences of any invasion of Iraq, according to King Abdullah
of Jordan.

The king has said the Prime Minister told him he harbours deep reservations
about the position adopted by President George Bush and the hawks in his

The disclosure has shattered the image of unity between Mr Blair and Mr
Bush, and left the Prime Minister accused of a duplicitous diplomatic
policy, telling each world leader what he thinks they want to hear.

King Abdullah met Mr Bush yesterday and preceded the talks by giving an
interview to the Washington Post, where he made clear Britain is among the
countries worried about the US's rhetoric.

The president, he said, does not realise how much opposition there is to a
war with Iraq because world leaders are reluctant to make their true
feelings known to him.

"In all the years I have seen in the international community, everybody is
saying this is a bad idea," he told the newspaper. "If it seems America
says,'We want to hit Baghdad', that's not what Jordanians think, or the
British, the French, the Russians, the Chinese and everybody else."

He then detailed the extent of opposition to Mr Bush and singled out the
Prime Minister: "Mr Blair has tremendous concerns about how this would

His comments flatly contradict the image of unflinching support for the US
which Downing Street has been careful to nurture since 11 September. No 10
believes that this position delivers the most leverage with the White House.

Downing Street yesterday did not dispute the king's version of events and
would only say there is no shift in position. A spokeswoman said: "The
situation hasn't changed. The Prime Minister met the king on Monday, when
they had a constructive dialogue. The Prime Minister believes that weapons
of mass destruction is an issue that has to be dealt with."


by Hugo Young
Dawn (from The Guardian), 2nd August, 22 Jamadi-ul-Awwal 1423

LONDON: If President George W. BUSH goes to war against Iraq, the ensuing
conflict will be without a close modern precedent. Each of the main western
wars of the last 20 years, however controversial, was perceivable as a
response to manifest aggression.

The Falklands war in 1982 was one such case, the 1991Gulf war another. The
military actions in Bosnia and Kosovo were conducted for the defence of
ethnic groups facing aggression at the heart of Europe. Each had a measure
of international approval.

A war to unseat Saddam Hussein would proceed on a different basis,
encompassed in the seductive word "pre-emptive". The attack would be
unleashed to stop Saddam doing something he has not yet started to do with
weaponry whose configuration and global, or even regional, potency is hard
to determine but might be serious. The Pentagon civilians pressing the case
envisage a gratuitous attack - one not preceded by an act of aggression - by
one sovereign country on another to get rid of a leader who happens to worry
and enrage them.

Europeans who opposed all those earlier conflicts will certainly oppose this
one. The usual suspects are already mobilizing for peace. But now we have
something new. Many Europeans who supported the Balkan wars and the Gulf
war, and even the Falklands absurdity, are getting ready to oppose a
pre-emptive attack on Iraq. They suspect its political provenance. They
reject its moral justification. They look in vain for the international
support it needs. They see nothing predictably good in its practical
outcome. And if they are British, they fear the prospect of being sucked
into all these absences of reason, these diplomatic and moral black holes,
at the behest of a different country, with different political impulses,
3,000 miles away.

Nobody pretends that Saddam Hussein is other than a murderous tyrant. He has
committed terrible crimes against his own people. He's a threat to his
neighbours and a source of instability, one of many, in the region. There
are signs he has restored some of the chemical and biological weapon-making
capacity that was destroyed under the lengthy aegis of UN inspectors. It may
well be the case that he is trying to acquire the capacity to build nuclear

But nobody is certain about the size of any of this. These ambitions, and
some of these weapons, can be assumed to be there, but the advantage of the
pre-emption doctrine is that its believers do not need to be specific. In
Washington there's disagreement between the Pentagon civilians and both
military and intelligence officials over how many, if any, ready to-go
missiles by which CB bombs could be delivered actually exist. No evidence
has been published that begins to make the case for attack, as against the
containment policy that has worked pretty well for 11 years. We're simply
supposed to accept that it's there.

Washington and London say airily that they have it. One begins to sense, in
their reluctance to accompany the build-up to war with a display of
evidence, the absence, in truth, of any justification enough to satisfy
open-minded sceptics.

Until this is rectified, scepticism can only deepen. The moral case for
pre-emptive attack needs to address issues of proportionality and collateral
civilian damage. The protagonists have not even broached them.

The legal case needs to take the UN seriously. So far, UN backing for an
attack has been the object of evasion in both capitals. Conceivably this
could be a negotiating tactic, winding Saddam up to concede. But nobody who
has talked to any of the principals who are about to be involved in this
decision can imagine them willing to risk losing in the security council as
their juggernaut assembles at the gates of Baghdad.

The practical case hasn't been made either. What happens afterwards? Field
Marshal Lord Bramall asked the question the other day. There are as many
theories about this as there are operational plans for different modes of
attack. A puppet regime of westernised Iraqis? A different sort of military
dictator? A government that includes the Kurds, the greatest victims of
Saddam's brutality: or, more likely, one that's guaranteed to exclude them
in order to keep Turkey happy, and thus open Turkey as a base for the
attack? These and many other scenarios are on the table. Washington is awash
with them. There's a leak a day in the New York Times. With each one that
appears we become aware not just of indecision, but of the colossal risks
this speculative operation runs, and the divided assessments made by serious
military men.

One faction, however, is indifferent to the arguments. The civilians driving
the Pentagon have a less analytical agenda. They seem ready to sweep through
all objections. A group of hard, obsessive officials, all much cleverer than
the president, exploit the instincts he shares, which include the instinct
to secure vengeance in a family feud after what Saddam did to his father.

Tony Blair doesn't like to hear any of this, and is disposed to deny it. He
says that Bush is in charge in Washington, and Bush is a sensible as well as
honourable man.

Blair asserts that he will not be pushed around by the president but act, as
always, in the national interest.

I think he forgets the uniqueness of what is being prepared: its gratuitous
aggression, its idle optimism, its moral frailty, its indifference to
regional opinion, the extraordinary readiness of those proposing it to court
more anti-American terrorism as a result.

Is Britain really destined to tag along uncomplaining, behind an extended
act of war that few people outside America and Israel consider necessary,
prudent or justified? Very many British, I surmise, more than Blair would
ever expect, will say 'No'.,,3-372986,00.html

by Michael Evans
Times, 3rd August

TWO SAS soldiers were killed in a training exercise in Oman, raising
speculation that Britain's special forces are preparing for desert
operations in Iraq.

One of the SAS soldiers was involved in a parachuting accident in mid-July;
he died from serious injuries. The other SAS man was involved in a separate
accident during a field training exercise in the Omani desert. There were no
details of how he died.

A third SAS soldier was seriously hurt and his condition was described as
critical by the Ministry of Defence yesterday.

The ministry confirmed that two soldiers had died, but made no reference to
the SAS, keeping to its policy of making no comment about special forces.
However, the lack of detail, such as the names of the soldiers and their
home addresses, was an indication that the British Army's most elite
regiment was involved.

An army spokeswoman said one of the soldiers was from the Royal
Gloucestershire, Berkshire and Wiltshire Regiment, and the other was from
the Royal Engineers. These were the soldiers' original units before they
joined the special forces.

She said that the next of kin had been informed and a board of inquiry was
investigating the deaths.

Army sources said that the parachute of the fatally injured soldier had
opened correctly, and the board of inquiry would focus on what went wrong.
There was no question of army parachutes being withdrawn from service
because of the accident.

SAS soldiers are trained to open their parachutes at the last possible
moment in a system known as Halo ‹ high altitude, low opening. It is not yet
clear whether it was the Halo system that caused the accident.

The SAS frequently trains in Oman, which has historic ties with the
regiment. Its harsh desert conditions are ideal for endurance training and
Oman would be the obvious location for the SAS to carry out an exercise
before a military operation, although there is no political decision yet on
any form of military action against Iraq.

SAS soldiers were among 22,000 British military personnel who trained in
Oman in Exercise Saif Sareea last autumn. The SAS element and Royal Marines
from 40 Commando from the exercise were subsequently diverted to take part
in the American-led War on Terror campaign in Afghanistan, aftr the
September 11 attacks in the United States.

Paul Keetch, Liberal Democrat MP for Hereford, where the SAS is based and
the party's defence spokesman, said: "British special forces are among the
best-trained forces in the world.

"That training is necessarily arduous and extreme. The death of these two
young men is a tragedy for their families and the regiment."

He added: "Confirmation that members of the regiment have been training in
desert conditions will heighten speculation about their participation in any
attack on Iraq."

The Economist, 1st August

If you will the end, it is only honest to will the means

ITS founders called on America to show a decent respect for the opinions of
mankind. And so, by and large, it does. But in the case of the looming
American war against Iraq, another wise saw needs to be borne in mind. This
one can be found pinned in many a corner shop. It advises customers against
asking for credit, because "a refusal often offends".

In much of the world, and even among some Americans, indignation is growing
at George Bush's slow but remorseless preparations to remove Saddam Hussein,
Iraq's president, by military force (see article). No step, the complainers
say, could be better calculated to offend a billion Muslims and confirm
fears that, after September 11th, the over-mighty superpower feels entitled
to trample wantonly on any enemy, imagined or real. At the least, it is
argued, America should abide by the rules. If Mr Bush is planning military
action against Iraq, he should first ask the UN Security Council for
permission. At talks in Germany this week, the French president and the
German chancellor said once again that there could be no new military action
against Iraq without fresh UN approval.

Will Mr Bush seek a new resolution before removing Mr Hussein? It is
unlikely. If he asks, he may be refused, and a refusal often offends. Having
refused, the other members of the Security Council will be offended in turn
if‹make that when‹America, with Britain probably alongside, strikes Iraq
regardless. Lawyers for America and Britain will claim that Mr Hussein's
wholesale violation of the UN disarmament agreements he signed after being
driven out of Kuwait in 1991 is all the justification they need. But with
all due respect to the Security Council, the legal arguments its members
deploy to justify their prior political choices are not especially gripping.
The issue here is not Jarndyce v Jarndyce, a quarrel about small print. It
is the danger Mr Hussein poses to the world, and whether that danger is big
enough to justify the risks of a war.
How bad does he have to be?

The danger Mr Hussein poses cannot be overstated. He is no tinpot despot,
singled out for arbitrary American punishment. Nor is Iraq a banana
republic. With the possible exception of North Korea, but perhaps not even
then, Mr Hussein is the world's most monstrous dictator, who by the
promiscuous use of violence has seized unfettered control of a
technologically advanced country with vast oil reserves. He has murdered all
his political opponents, sometimes squeezing the trigger in person. He has
subdued his Kurdish minority by razing their villages and spraying them with
poison gas. In 1979 he invaded Iran, thus setting off an eight-year war that
squandered more than 1m lives. In 1990 he invaded and annexed Kuwait,
pronouncing it his "19th province". When an American-led coalition started
to push him out, and though knowing Israel to be a nuclear power, he fired
ballistic missiles into Tel Aviv, in the hope of provoking a general
Arab-Israeli conflagration. Next time you hear someone ask why, in a world
full of bad men, it is Mr Hussein who is being picked on, please bear all of
the above in mind. He may very well be the worst.

And yet it is not simply in his record of aggression, cruelty and
recklessness that the peril to the wider world resides. If that were all the
story, the danger might be easily contained. The unique danger in Iraq is
that this country's advanced technology and potential oil wealth could very
soon give this aggressive, cruel and reckless man an atomic bomb.

How dangerous would that be? To judge by the reaction of Mr Bush's foreign
critics, the magnitude of the threat is in the eye of the beholder. But it
is not difficult to see why, after September 11th, Americans in particular
find it hard to be sanguine about the prospect of a sworn enemy equipping
himself with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In the worst case, these
might one day be used against the United States, either directly by Iraq
itself or by some non-state group to whom Mr Hussein had transferred his
lethal technology. At a minimum, a nuclear-armed Mr Hussein could be counted
on to revive his earlier ambitions to intimidate his neighbours and dominate
the Gulf. Prophesying is difficult, especially about the past. But if Mr
Hussein had already had nuclear weapons when he invaded Kuwait 11 years ago,
he might still be there.

Many people who acknowledge that Mr Hussein is a danger nonetheless oppose
Mr Bush's plan to depose him, on the ground that this would in itself set a
dangerous precedent. How safe would the world really be if the United
States, armed now with Mr Bush's new doctrine of pre-emption, swanned about
it shooting up any country that possessed or sought to acquire weapons of
mass destruction, deposing any president whose face it did not like? That is
a good question. It is not, however, the question that arises in Iraq.

At a minimum, a nuclear-armed Mr Hussein could be counted on to revive his
earlier ambitions to intimidate his neighbours and dominate the Gulf

When he invaded Kuwait, Mr Hussein forfeited some of Iraq's normal sovereign
rights. After his defeat, it became apparent that Iraq had been secretly
developing chemical, nuclear and biological weapons, in contravention of its
treaty obligations, such as those under the nuclear non-proliferation pact.
Given this, and his recent aggression, the United Nations put Iraq under a
uniquely intrusive system of surveillance, designed to ensure that his WMD
efforts would come to an end. Crippling economic sanctions were to be lifted
only when the UN's arms inspectors could be sure he had complied. Eleven
years on, Iraq is still crippled, the inspectors have been forced out, and
nobody believes that Mr Hussein has given up seeking a bomb or scrapped all
the chemical and biological weapons he already has. He has literally
preferred to starve Iraq than to give up his appetite for them.

None of this is to argue that a war to remove Mr Hussein should be
undertaken lightly. Though the Iraqi army is even less of a match for
America's than it was a decade ago, that was a different sort of war. With
his own head and not just his most recent conquest at stake, and especially
when he calculates that he has nothing to lose, Mr Hussein might very well
use the unconventional weapons he has collected. The casualties this
time‹especially the civilian casualties‹could be much larger than they were

It is little wonder, given this, that people of goodwill are groping for a
safer alternative. But wishful thinking in the face of mortal danger is bad
policy. Perhaps the best hope is that, as the noose tightens, Mr Hussein
will save himself by letting the inspectors return. If they did so on a
credible go-anywhere, check-anything basis, such an opportunity would be
worth grabbing, at least to see if it worked.

Failing this, however, the outlook is grim. Some argue that a better
alternative to war is to keep Mr Hussein in his box, persevering with the
strategy of containment. But after 11 years, it is time to acknowledge that
the box is full of holes and that containment has failed. By keeping Iraq
poor, the sanctions have inflicted suffering on Iraq's people and so brought
America and its allies into disrepute in much of the Arab world. But the
sanctions have not dulled the Iraqi leader's appetite for the most lethal of
weapons, and have slowed rather than stopped his ability eventually to
procure them. The honest choices now are to give up and give in, or to
remove Mr Hussein before he gets his bomb. Painful as it is, our vote is for

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