Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: Our crimes in Iraq must not be forgotten

If the alliance was arrogant at the time of the invasion, it is even more so today

Share
Related Topics

Don't bring up the catastrophe in Iraq, not in polite circles or at dinner parties, or anywhere in public really. Better to burp or fart loudly. That is the message for 2008. What war? We have moved on, you bore, say the frightfully busy great and good, their eyes glazing over.

The people responsible for the war have, of course, moved on, and we must follow their fine example. Still they rise, praise be to them. Such self-belief, such resilience, no sign of weakness, no dribble of an apology. Awesome. Instead of being marched off to face war crimes tribunals they are forgiven their trespasses and rewarded generously.

The Catholic Church blesses and receives the deceiver (Mr Blair); fat banks and oil companies welcome them on boards (Jonathan Powell, Mr. Blair et al); they are called to make peace in the Middle East and lecture us on ethics ( Mr Blair and Mr Campbell) and invited in to the Cabinet (Jack Straw).

For some (still) enthusiastic warmongers – boys who never forgot the excitement of running around shooting their toy guns at strangers – the invasion and colonisation is the best thing ever. The "surge" has worked, they declare – our boys and American soldiers are not dying in the numbers they were, and look!, Iraqis are coming out to play, buy and sell, smoke their pipes in tranquillity, and thousands are returning from exile in Syria. Hip hip hooray. For we're the jolly good fellows.

In the US with the primaries going full blast, John McCain is anointed as the noble saviour, the man who promises to crush all those aliens out there who are plotting to kill the US of A. I attended the BBC Radio 4 Alistair Cooke Lecture delivered by McCain, and what I heard was a man who uses his terrible experiences in Vietnam to justify all future wars he wants his country to wage.

Bill and Hillary both actively and tacitly supported the invasion of Iraq and never once defended the UN route. These candidates are "liberals", we are told. Only in America. None of the above are exactly in the habit of mentioning the caged of Guantanamo or the anguish of Iraqis. Obama did fleetingly touch on these ugly American transgressions, but not for long, and not with intense moral purpose. At least the guy tried, and had the guts to vote against the invasion. The others still seem to believe fervently that the attacks on 9/11 outweigh all other acts of political violence.

If the alliance, its leaders and brass bands were imperiously arrogant when they went into Iraq, they are even more so today. Failure has given them no humility at all and completes the cycle of villainy. They lied and broke international law and appear to have no duty of care towards the innocent inhabitants of that blighted land.

Iraqi deaths are now calculated at around one million. According to international organisations monitoring migrations, Iraq is going through one of the largest and most serious humanitarian crises in the world, with population displacement within and from Iraq. Last November, cholera figures were the worst for 40 years, says an Iraqi health minister. Childhood diseases are rampant. There are relentless bombardments across the country, for reasons not given, on people unseen and labelled al-Qa'ida.

The current hand-wringing about British journalistic standards concentrates entirely on small, domestic matters. The real shame and scandal is that air attacks on Iraq go on and on and get hardly any serious coverage. In 2006, there were 229 such raids; in 2007 there were 1,447 raids (dead uncounted and unidentified). The ghastly, ruthless General David Petraeus says they have now reached a "sustainable level of violence". That is, at least, a truthful assessment and one that explains why we went into Iraq. If the allies allow Iraqi Sunnis, Shias and Kurds to carry on murdering each other day after day, not so many that it turns into a full-blown civil war, we can steal their oil and control the place.

Meanwhile, here Lord Guthrie, once Chief of Staff, and others of his ilk are furious with Gordon Brown for promising that the consent of Parliament will be sought before any future war is launched by the Government. These generals have become extraordinarily bullish after the lamentable collapse of all their strategies in Iraq – thereby fending off any accountability and reasonable interrogation as to why even Basra became disillusioned with our presence.

There are, thank God, people who keep alive truth and awaken our collective conscience. On Tuesday there is a public meeting in London (courtesy of the Stop the War Coalition) organised by Phil Shiner, public interest lawyer and an indefatigable campaigner for justice. For years he has tried to expose the brutality of some of our soldiers in Iraq who have committed heinous crimes against the populations and got away with it. At the meeting, which all good people should attend, Shiner will be talking about the British state and how it tolerates the torture, mutilations and killings of Iraqi civilians.

This Thursday the Jordanian Jamil el-Banna and Libyan Omar Deghayes go to court to argue against extradition to Spain to face charges of terrorism. These are the two men who were last year released from Guantanamo Bay, where they were caged and tortured for five years. Imagine the state of their minds and bodies, their fears of incarceration.

Here they were interrogated by our spooks and police officers, and released without charge. Yet Spain clamours for them and we will deliver them into yet another jurisdiction unless the lawyers can win the case. Helena Kennedy and Geoffrey Bindman have spoken up to defend these poor men; journalist Victoria Britten has investigated charges against them for four years and tells me she is absolutely sure they are innocent. Great Britain, Mr Brown? Tell me about it.

Just released too is the film Battle for Haditha by the exceptionally diligent director Nick Broomfield (I must remember him in my prayers). He has bravely brought to the screen an untold story of the war – the massacres of innocents by the allies in Hathida, a middle-class Sunni city where he says "couples would honeymoon on the Euphrates". Fallujah was similarly "punished". Both places at first supported the invasion and learnt to their cost that their saviours had dark intent and too many had lost their own humanity.

If Blair is elected President of the EU and either Clinton or McCain get the US presidency, the final insults will be added to the endless injury suffered by the Iraqis. They will know conclusively that there ain't no justice in the world. And some of them will turn to terrorism. And the peace we hope for will never come.

y.alibhaibrown@independent.co.uk

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Banking - London - £550 - £650

£550 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Business Analyst - Traded Credit Risk - Investmen...

Data Insight Manager - Marketing

£32000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based o...

Data Centre Engineer - Linux, Redhat, Solaris, SAN, Puppet

£55000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A financial software vendor at the forefro...

.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, WPF,BLL, MSMQ, SQL, GIT, SQ...

Day In a Page

Silhouette of clubber dancing Hacienda nightclub  

A comedian has opened an alcohol-free nightclub. Is he having a laugh?

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

Air strikes? Talk of God? Obama is following the jihadists’ script

The President came the nearest he has come yet to rivalling George W Bush’s gormless reaction to 9/11 , says Robert Fisk
Ebola outbreak: Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on the virus

Billy Graham’s son declares righteous war on Ebola

A Christian charity’s efforts to save missionaries trapped in Africa by the crisis have been justifiably praised. But doubts remain about its evangelical motives
Jeremy Clarkson 'does not see a problem' with his racist language on Top Gear, says BBC

Not even Jeremy Clarkson is bigger than the BBC, says TV boss

Corporation’s head of television confirms ‘Top Gear’ host was warned about racist language
Nick Clegg the movie: Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise

Nick Clegg the movie

Channel 4 to air Coalition drama showing Lib Dem leader's rise
Philip Larkin: Misogynist, racist, miserable? Or caring, playful man who lived for others?

Philip Larkin: What will survive of him?

Larkin's reputation has taken a knocking. But a new book by James Booth argues that the poet was affectionate, witty, entertaining and kind, as hitherto unseen letters, sketches and 'selfies' reveal
Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?

Waxing lyrical

Madame Tussauds has shown off its Beyoncé waxwork in Regent's Park - but why is the tourist attraction still pulling in the crowds?
Texas forensic astronomer finally pinpoints the exact birth of impressionism

Revealed (to the minute)

The precise time when impressionism was born
From slow-roasted to sugar-cured: how to make the most of the British tomato season

Make the most of British tomatoes

The British crop is at its tastiest and most abundant. Sudi Pigott shares her favourite recipes
10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Malky Mackay allegations: Malky Mackay, Iain Moody and another grim day for English football

Mackay, Moody and another grim day for English football

The latest shocking claims do nothing to dispel the image that some in the game on these shores exist in a time warp, laments Sam Wallace
La Liga analysis: Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Will Barcelona's hopes go out of the window?

Pete Jenson starts his preview of the Spanish season, which begins on Saturday, by explaining how Fifa’s transfer ban will affect the Catalans
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape