Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: We have done as much harm to Iraqis as Saddam

Blair and Bush should be in the dock in The Hague answering for these crimes
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The Independent Online

On Saturday, I spent 10 hours watching The Royal Shakespeare Company's Henry VI parts I, II and III in Stratford. This tour de force swept us through battles between the French and the English, courtier plots against a sweetly pious and weak Henry, popular dissent, the Wars of the Roses and the breakdown of words, trust and society itself. Killings ravaged the land until the endgame. In the final scene the victorious Edward IV's white train turns red with blood sloshing on the floor. He doesn't notice the spreading stain, so occupied is he with his crown and with power.

As the land they say they freed runs red, Blair and Bush don't notice the stain either. Besotted with themselves and each other, what these leaders have done to the people of Iraq is at least as bad as what Saddam Hussain did to his own citizens.

This month, our Army head, General Sir Richard Dannatt, expressed doubts about the mission; over 70 US soldiers were killed; the former US Secretary of State James Baker said the situation in Iraq is dire; a 43 per cent increase in attacks was reported in Baghdad; and Amara was vanquished by the Mahdi army of the Shia hardliner Muqtada al-Sadr. Worst of all were the results of a survey in The Lancet which revealed that the death toll for Iraqis is over 600,000.

Not a single new hospital has been built since 1986. Thousands of children are dying of treatable diseases. Childhood mortality has risen from 5.5 per thousand to 13.5 since the invasion. Foreign contractors are making millions when they do shoddy work or make off with precious Iraqi resources.

For those who supported and instigated the war, this has been a testing month. And although some still carry on with unabashed vigour, others are unnerved and unsure of themselves and the views they once flagged up so boldly. Some proffer a mea culpa, others sophistry and excuses to deflect the light of blame shining on their shifty faces. Oh, the war was right but the peace was mishandled, some say; others that the insurgents are too damn devilishly cunning for the honourable western army, or that it was a mistake to intervene in a country this barbaric and doggedly unenlightened.

Spare us the latest fakery, deceit masked as anguished concern or democratic idealism. Pundits and politicians, neo-cons and neo-con liberals, the Kurds and Iraqi exiles who drove the venture, all are guilty of crimes against the Iraqi nation and the violation of international law. They have never cared for the people of old Mesopotamia. The story of their savage intentions were clear long ago, when they betrayed the rebels working to rid the country of Saddam Hussain, then kept silent when hundreds of thousands of Iraqis died under UN sanctions. They turned away when Bill Clinton ordered bombs to rain on Iraq to distract attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Where the hell were they when cluster bombs were used in Basra and other areas? Did they protest when Fallujah, city of mosques, was demolished to set an example as collective punishment? Anwaar Hussain, once a Pakistani F-16 pilot, now a compelling columnist, wrote about the rape of Fallujah: "It has been laid waste, its citizens gunned down, its structures devastated by 2000lb bombs. It is hell on earth of crushed bodies and shattered buildings where hungry dogs are devouring the bodies of former masters."

Allied soldiers are increasingly venting their anger on blameless citizens, using rape, maltreatment, beatings and torture to break people who hold them in contempt. Pitiless men of violence on the other side terrorise innocents - like hyenas, they hunt in the habitat ravaged by the allies. Kurds were once the victims. Today they watch with indifference the anguish of Iraq, ripped by sectarianism, authoritarianism, murders and kidnappings.

Laurie King, of the website Electronic Iraq, writes: "Reality is starting to push through the resilient layers of denial, illusions, lies and wishful thinking that have insulated official Washington and London from the consequences of an illegal and immoral war."

I hope she is right, but as the warniks wake up, it is already too late. Options have closed off. If we withdraw, civil war breaks out; if we stay, the country haemorrhages - and our credibility and the world's security with it. Blair and Bush should to be in the dock in The Hague, answering for these crimes against all our futures. But that can't happen in an unequal world which they own. So we watch helplessly as they storm into their next theatre of action. And just like Edward IV and Bin Laden, they appear to believe they are only enacting God's wish, a divine plan as the blood flows.