Friday, 15 February 2019

Standards in Public Life, Management and the Post-Truth Era. The Iraq War.

I did mention in my previous post on this subject that the Iraq war and the untruths surrounding it deserve a special post. Well, here it is. Please bear with me, as this encompasses the political landscape on both sides of the Atlantic. I may ramble and I have no doubt this will be a long post.

So, we've had 9/11, I mentioned that such an action on American soil would result in war, but that war started not with the paymasters in Saudi, but instead started an action in Afghanistan.

On a personal note, I was back in gainful employment when the war in Iraq kicked off. I was able to follow the Afghan conflict in detail because after we lost all our clients in 9/11, I took voluntary redundancy and had 18 months away from the rat race.

Anyway, on to 2003 and the Iraq war.

For no apparent good reason except because they had been emboldened by the early successes in Afghanistan, both the US and UK governments had started to rail on the Iraqi government. I find this odd because the conflict in Afghanistan was not settled. In fact reports were coming out that things were not good at all. But still the US eyed Iraq...

Since the first Iraq war the Iraqi government had been under close scrutiny from weapons inspectors trying to pin down what Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) weapons Iraq had developed and were under development. Iraq had form for using such weapons in their war with Iraq. Hundreds of civilians had been gassed during that war and the Western governments, possibly with one eye towards regime change wanted the Iraqi WMD threat eliminated.

The Iraqis for their part were very often illusive, evasive and plain untruthful. Their point of view being why should they be pushed around by the West. And so the merry go round of weapons inspectors being allowed access to facilities quite obviously just after significant clean-up activity had happened began.

Whether Iraq did have effective weapons during the time of the inspections is debateable. Certainly the weapons that were found were of very poor quality and effectiveness. A highly trained Western Force may have suffered slightly extra casualties, but it was nothing that they had not been trained for, having had full NBC training.

However, for whatever reason the West decided to Weaponise the WMDs on a political way, egged on by dissident Iraqis that had been exiled and wanted to be back in power in their home country.

It's also quite clear that the Joint special forces in Iraq in 2002 could have an probably were reporting back that things were not as the exiles in the UK and US (who were supposed to have direct contact with people back in Iraq) were making things out to be. But the voice of the exiles fitted the narrative.

My own personal opinion is that it galled the Bush family in the US that George Bush Snr had almost got Saddam Hussein out of Bagdad in '91 but as Iraq's defences fell away so too did the support of the coalition forces. So Saddam stayed in power while Bush Snr had to end his tenure as President. I think it stuck in his and his son's craw. They wanted revenge. However, it would have been obvious if they had just rolled into Iraq. No, they needed a premise, a reason to roll in. God Bless the UK government, for they came up with the goods...

In February of 2003 a dossier was produced (the so-called sexed-up dossier, or dodgy dossier) that mainly took points from an article by a student. Along with spurious reports by dissidents, the whole tissue of lies, half-truths and speculation was formed into an almost coherent report. As a basis for going to war, it was as flawed as it could possibly be. Very little factual real-time information could be gleaned from inside the closed society of Iraq, so the dossier was built up from outside sources.

The report creators cherry-picked virtually anything that could emphasise the requirement for military action. Tony Blair went on record saying that WMDs could hit London in 45 minutes, with absolutely no concrete proof of this.

The Dossier was unforgiveable. It and the invasion of Iraq are held in some circle to be war crimes and I have some sympathy for that point of view. It is incumbent on governments to use the projection of force in an honourable way.

In another part of the UK, Dr David Kelly, a weapons inspector who had actually gone to Iraq, seen their facilities and had a lot of knowledge on Iraq's actual capabilities was concerned. He had seen the actual truth, the conditions on the ground in Iraq. His reality and the reality promoted by the dossier were entirely different.

He expressed his reservations privately to Channel 4 journalist Andrew Gilligan. Gilligan reported on these reservations and it came out that David Kelly was the source of the information.

Kelly was summoned to appear before a select committee in Parliament in July 2003. By then the invasion of Iraq had begun, (it began in earnest in March 2003) but Kelly was the one person credible enough to destroy the dossier and therefore the case against the legitimacy of the dossier and therefore the case for military action. Much had been said about how legal the war was, considering the lack of U.N. support and support worldwide.

Massive pressure was put on Kelly from the Media and Government. It was a witch hunt, because Kelly was a credible rebuttal to the Government's fiction. He had to be discredited and silenced by trial by media.

Two days later Dr David Kelly, the only credible person who could bring the government position into disrepute was dead. All reports say suicide and by God, he was probably under enough pressure to consider taking his own life. But questions and conspiracy theories around his death abound.

It was too convenient for some and of course Western governments have form: the Serbian TV station being a classic example of lives not mattering when silencing a narrative.

Just as with the death of Lady Diana, it was too convenient for some to accept as just one of those things.

So, we went into Iraq with a plan to win the war, but not win the peace, and on a false premise too. This time the world was not with us, we just stuck two fingers up and carried on. We would pay dearly in blood and honour for our arrogance.

So much went wrong after the slick invasion and so many errors of judgement made, before and after President George W. Bush declared mission accomplished on board the USS Abraham Lincoln in the following May. Yet another lie. The war was most certainly not won at that point and peace was a far off dream that hasn't yet come to Iraq 15 years on.

March to May, Less than 3 months. That's all it took to dismantle Iraq. And get sucked into a mire of our own making. Faction upon faction decided to settle old scores, some as old as history.

As with Afghanistan, the US installed a puppet government, with absolutely no legitimacy. They could not control the many different religious and tribal factions that sought to fill the vacuum after Saddam.

Over the next decade the failings of the governance of Iraq would lead to a threat larger and more widespread than Al-Queda. One that provides a credible threat even today. ISIS.

As with the death of Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan by Muslims from Belgium, there are links to ISIS and Belgium, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. All is not as it seems. There are too many coincidental links to er, be a coincidence.

The assassination of Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim  in Iraq just after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein's regime is another destabilising factor. A Shia cleric, he was at first critical of the US action in Iraq, but then moderated as he realised that it would be better for the Shias to work with the US in forming the interim government of Iraq and have influence.

A couple of factors come out of his assassination: the first is the fact that two of the assassins were Salafist Arabs and the second is a name: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Zarkawi started the beheadings and extreme violence that have set the trend for subsequent Jihadist actions. He also went to the same university as Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi the leader of ISIS. In fact there is a group of people associated with both men that eventually became senior figures in ISIS.

But of course that's not reported by the Western media. Because the narrative from the Western media is the violence and eventually land-grab are just mindless, there is no controlling influence, no financial backing and it's all ideological.

Anyway, after Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim gets assassinated, Iraq descends into the anti-Western turmoil and bloodbath that we came to watch on our TV screens. Beheadings of Westerners, bombings, attacks on bases... it can all be linked to Mohammad Baqir al-Hakim's death and the subsequent rise of al-Zarkqawi. His methodology of killing any dissenting local leaders and the ruthlessness of it all put him in prime position as a target for the West and he was eventually killed in a US bombing raid, but the global network he set up has not been dealt with.

The war in Iraq is surrounded by a smokescreen, a refusal by the media to investigate truthfully the reasons for the eruption into violence. I can understand, those times were dangerous and there was no way of getting to the truth without great risk, but the gung-ho! attitude to suppression of the population of Iraq only added fuel to the fire. The American administration and media have a lot to answer for in this regard. The administration for not using their forces more intelligently and the media by not holding the US administration to account.

The military action in Iraq at this time looked more like World War One than a modern military action: try to smother the problem by throwing bodies at it. A unacceptable number of those bodies came back in boxes, considering that the truth was at the time discernible with decent intelligence and a more focussed force projection would have reaped greater rewards.

Sorry, I've got a bit sidetracked by the political aspect.

Back to the War.

So, the tanks and troops roll over the various borders into Iraq. This time accompanied by so-called "embedded" reporters. These reporters were attached to military units. They sent back impressive footage of the Western War machine in action. However, the trade-off was that very little substance could be reported. Ostensibly this was to stop the enemy watching the same real-time reporting and knowing where our military assets were. But the censorship went deeper, with an atmosphere developing that the reporter could not report anything critical of his colleagues in arms.

Also on that day, a number of non-embedded reporters crossed the border. These independents crossed without the military knowing of their presence, without military support or the ability to directly contact someone in authority should anything go wrong. 

Unfortunately in modern warfare, anything has to be regarded as a threat. A bunch of guys in an SUV can quite easily be carrying handheld anti-armour missiles.  In the fog of war, things go bad.

So it happened to Terry Lloyd, a journalist for ITN. He and his colleagues came across an Iraqi convoy just before an American unit. He died in the crossfire between the US and Iraq forces. It took years for the truth to come out. Journalists called it a war crime, but honestly he and his colleagues were just in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Iraqis marked them as targets I assume blaming them for alerting the US forces. Without comms, the journalists couldn't tell the US forces they were friendly. In the fog of war they were declared targets by both forces and those that did survive were extremely lucky.

The death of Terry Lloyd and his colleagues had a cooling effect on the more independent-minded journalists. Criticism of the war was suppressed because when anti-war reports rose, so did attacks by Iraqi insurgents.

That cooling effect drove what were independent journalists to embed with military units. Under such circumstances they were subject to some (rightly justified) censorship regarding operational matters. But, it morphed over the months into an inability to criticise anything about the war, or the subsequent shaky peace.

The Allied governments declared mission accomplished at the same time mortars were being launched into Allied compounds.

Just as with Afghanistan and the Kadjaki Dam fiasco (the full story of which has not been told) those at the top seemed to be concerned only with media and political points scoring, far removed from operational reality. As coalition troops fought an eventually pointless battle at Kadjaki, Iraq descended into chaos. Certainly once journalists became fully embedded and wedded to the military in 2001 and 2002, there was no critical investigative journalism of any following actions. Even the criticism of Snatch LandRovers used in action with predictable loss of life was really pushed by the relatives of the dead. It took a long, long time for journalists to pick up and run a story so critical of UK military high command.

That mentality has stuck. From the Iraq war onwards, there have been very few critical reports exposing military or political wrongdoing. The political elite got used to tightly controlling information.

From memory, the only real investigative journalism in the UK since then was the MPs expenses scandal.

The majority of journalists these days are happy to regurgitate press releases verbatim, without ever casting a critical eye over the information they are presented with.

Governments in the West eyed the control of information in China with jealous eyes. The innocent age of the internet was coming to a close. In the UK the Regulatory Investigative Powers Act (RIPA) was modified in 2005, bringing in even more draconian powers on the internet.

A few years later in the UK we had the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act 2008, which was such a loosely written piece of legislation especially with regard to violent pornography that it can be used to ban anything the government deem illegal. Mission creep was bound to happen and in some small cases brought since then the law has moved beyond what was originally envisioned with a number of different acts of Parliament.

But journalists stayed quiet during these moves against liberty and freedom of speech. The Investigative journalism of the Seventies had died, forever. Even as the financial sector was crumbling, journalists were blissfully unaware...

Out and Stay Out...

So, it appears that a teenage girl who went out to Syria to join ISIS wants to come back to the UK to have a child.

Under no circumstances should she be allowed back into the country without first feeling the full force of the law.

Of course the do-gooders want to welcome her back with open arms, a house, benefits and the whole shebang. No consequences whatsoever.

She has aligned herself with an organisation that has claimed responsibility for killing people in this country. She has effectively aligned herself with enemies of the UK.

She can come back by all means, but she gets arrested at whichever port or airport she arrives, in, remains remanded in custody until such time as her court case can be heard. Then I would hope she is prosecuted for membership of a proscribed organisation and spends time in jail.

It's interesting to note that a guy that went out to fight against ISIS was arrested on his return to the country and is currently in jail in the UK.

So no double standards there at all. She gets banged up, job done.

It's also interesting to note that Muslims are saying she's only a kid, she didn't know what she was doing. Which from a Muslim point of view is total bollocks. According to Sharia law, at 15 that girl was an adult, old enough to marry an ISIS fighter and have his children.

Any woman that has reached menstruation is an adult under Sharia law. It's the same argument that Muslim rapists use to try and prove that the children they were raping were consenting adults and justify their actions.

In a Muslim country, she's an adult. End of. She should deal with the consequences of her actions.