This week a UN-backed tribunal in Cambodia will present its final arguments against a frail old man named Duch, otherwise known as Kaing Guek Eav, former head of “S21”, a death camp where more than 14,000 people were imprisoned, tortured and murdered in the late 1970s as enemies of the so-called “communist” regime.
Though thoroughly guilty, Duch, 66, is the classic patsy for the monstrous Khmer Rouge regime responsible for the deaths of about 2 million Cambodians. Justice delayed and denied.
While these atrocities are all but forgotten, not only in the enlightened West but also in enlightened Cambodia itself, more recent atrocities remain unpunished, as those responsible for the destruction of Iraq and invasion of Afghanistan remain at large, among them George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condaleeza Rice and other co-conspirators in the Bush Regime, as well war crimes facilitators Tony Blair and Australia’s reviled John Winston Howard.
And now new revelations confirm what most of us knew from the beginning: the U.S. invasion of Iraq was planned by the Bush Regime prior to the Saudi attacks on New York on 9/11.
First published November 25, 2009, The Times Online (UK)
British and US officials held secret discussions about ousting Saddam Hussein two years before invading Iraq and months before the September 11 terrorist attacks, the official inquiry into the war heard yesterday.
Senior civil servants said that the “drumbeats” from Washington had begun soon after the election of George W. Bush amid concern that sanctions against Saddam’s regime were ineffectual and losing international support. Overthrowing the Iraqi leadership was considered by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in 2001 but had been ruled out because it had “no basis in law”, the inquiry heard. At the same time, the Attorney-General was raising questions about the legality of Britain continuing to enforce “no-fly zones” over Iraq.
Relatives of some of the 179 British servicemen and women killed in Iraq gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster before the start of the inquiry’s first public hearing yesterday.
Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry chairman, said that it was not a court or trial and would not be determining guilt or innocence. The inquiry team said yesterday that witnesses could be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony.
Relatives of some of those who died have already told private sessions that they believe that Tony Blair, Prime Minister at the time of the invasion, should be charged with war crimes.
Sir Peter Ricketts, then chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, told the inquiry that he was aware in 2001 of discussions in Washington about overthrowing the Iraqi leadership. “We did hear voices around Washington of arming opposition groups but it did not feel like an operation,” he said.
Sir Peter, appointed director-general political in the Foreign Office in September 2001, said: “All the advice I saw go to ministers in 2001 . . . it was clear that it was not something we thought was advisable.”
In early 2001 there was a “clear impression” that Saddam intended to acquire weapons of mass destruction, having used them in the past, added Sir Peter, now head of the Diplomatic Service. Britain was continuing to press for the United Nations to introduce “smart sanctions” as the best way of thwarting Saddam’s ambitions, he said.
However, the September 11 attacks on America led to heightened concern there that terrorists could obtain weapoms of mass destruction. “Not to say that we had any evidence that Iraq was a direct link,” said Sir Peter. “Indeed, we did not have any such evidence.
“We heard people in Washington thought there might be some link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden — undocumented. I don't think we saw any evidence of it.”
Sir William Patey, head of the Middle East department at the Foreign Office in 2001, said that even in the early months of the Bush Administration, hawkish voices could be heard: “In February 2001 we were aware of these drumbeats from Washington and internally we discussed it.
“Our policy was to stay away from that. We didn’t think Saddam was a good thing, and it would be great if he went, but we didn’t have an explicit policy for trying to get rid of him.”
Sir William had asked his staff to look at all the options for dealing with the growing threat from Saddam. This included regime change, which was dismissed at the time “as having no basis in law”. He said: “It was very much an internal paper. We didn’t go into how to achieve regime change.”
Sir William said: “I am not aware, right up to March 2002, when I left, of any increased appetite by UK ministers for military action in Iraq.”
Simon Webb, then a policy director at the Ministry of Defence, said he initially did not encounter any British official who supported regime change. “Later some people were saying we should not entirely exclude it because there was no legal basis,” he added.
Mr Webb said that during a visit to Washington in March 2001 the issue of overthrowing Saddam had been discussed with US officials. “The issue of overthrow came up but I wrote in my notes that ‘the dog did not bark’. I said it grizzled but it did not bark.”
Sir Michael Wood, who was then legal adviser to the Foreign Office, revealed that by 2001 concern was growing about the legality of continuing to enforce the no-fly zones over northern and southern Iraq to prevent Saddam attacking his own population. Britain had justified the no-fly zones — imposed in 1991 after the Gulf War — as legal on the basis that they were necessary to avoid a humanitarian disaster, said Sir Michael. Unlike the US, Britain did not rely on a UN resolution for the legal authority.
However, the Attorney-Generals in 2001, the late Lord Williams of Mostyn and Lord Goldsmith, had raised concerns about the continuing legality because the humanitarian threat had faded, he said.
Sir William added that around February, he had worries that the Attorney-General would withdraw support. The Attorney-General had ruled that an assessment by the Joint Intelligence Committee in December 2000 that there was a continuing humanitarian risk was “not good enough”, and officials had to “go around the course a few times” before convincing him, Sir William added.
The inquiry will continue to hear from senior government officials, diplomats and military officers before Christmas. Current and former members of the Government, and their political advisers, are to be questioned in the new year. The report is not expected before the end of 2010.