They do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it
Editorial, The Independent, 30 March 2003
Every day public statements on the war are made with great bravado by British and US leaders. A day later most of them turn out to be inaccurate or untrue. Political leaders are understandably evasive about the detailed military strategy, but these evasions and inaccuracies have nothing to do with the movements of the troops.

Without qualification Tony Blair declared at the joint press conference with President Bush last week that two British soldiers had been "executed". Shortly afterwards distressed relatives were informed that the soldiers had died in combat. A junior minister was despatched to make the appropriate public apologies. On the same day that Mr Blair spoke of the "executions", the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon claimed that the discovery of protection suits in Iraq was "categorical proof" that Saddam possessed chemical weapons. He withdrew the claim within 24 hours.

Today we report that Mr Blair greatly exaggerated the scale of humanitarian aid being shipped to Basra. Half the load of a naval ship consists of food and other supplies from Britain. The rest of the ship is stuffed full of arms and ammunition. As the head of emergencies at Christian Aid writes opposite, Iraq needs the equivalent of 32 such ships to deal with the humanitarian crisis. Most preposterous of all, Mr Blair and the US leaders said with certainty in advance that the "liberators" would be cheered in the streets. Now we are told that our war leaders always knew the cheers would be delayed and that they are not at all surprised that Iraqis are resisting their liberators.

So the obfuscation over the causes of war continues now the war has started. Before the war began the reasons for the conflict shifted constantly. One day the objective was to remove the weapons of mass destruction, the next it was regime change and the day after that it was a "war of liberation". An old PhD thesis was paraded as evidence that Saddam was a threat to the world and had to be dealt with by war. The "UN route" was followed, but only so long as the UN agreed with the US and Britain. When the UN "failed to agree" Britain and the US blamed the UN. Each time President Bush or Tony Blair were questioned about a previously declared objective or statement, which had since changed, they appeared irritated or bewildered. The leaders believed what they were saying on that particular day. Now the same sequence is recurring over the conflict itself. Statements made with apparent certainty are later contradicted by the facts or "clarified" by a new ministerial statement. The pattern is already extending itself to what will happen after the war, with linguistic games being played to cover up divisions and uncertainty about the political "reconstruction" of Iraq.

The persistent inaccuracies, proclaimed so confidently, expose the great flaw of this war. President Bush and Tony Blair were never clear about why it was being conducted and what would happen once it had ended. If they were not clear in their own minds it is hardly surprising that their public statements fail to make much coherent sense.

From before 11 September Iraq was "on the agenda" of the divided Bush administration for reasons that would require the assistance of a psychiatrist, as well as political and military analysts. They decided on war long ago and then went about searching for the precise reasons. Even less thought has been given as to how the war will end and what will happen in the immediate aftermath. In Britain, Clare Short was quite open about this in a Commons debate held last month. She said then that the UN did not want to contemplate the aftermath of a war that many of its members strongly opposed. Of the many statements from the Bush administration about the war none conveys a clear sense of what will happen afterwards. It has been a constant theme in US newspapers, most of whom support the war, while despairing over the lack of planning. That is what is so worrying about the shifting arguments and statements from the political leaders. They do not know what they are doing or why they are doing it. They are fighting an unnecessary war and are still trying to find the reasons to justify it, even though the conflict has started and lives are being lost.

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