Saturday, 10 November 2007

Disarming Iraq

This Saturday’s review is “Disarming Iraq” by Hans Blix. It’s an interesting, if not riveting book by the executive director of UNMOVIC (United Nations’ Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission) in the heady days prior to the invasion of Iraq by the Coalition of the Willing in 2003.

It’s a significant read for Australians for two reasons. One is that we are, under the Liberal-National coalition, part of the invasion force. In addition, it’s timely because Blix was in Australia on 7 Nov 2007 to receive the 2007 Sydney Peace Prize.

Blix comes across as very laid-back character with a dry but penetrating wit. He is also a little old-fashioned, as amongst other things, he makes his own bed every morning. Somehow I can’t see George Bush (or Saddam Hussein – when he was alive) doing that.

The text is a little sparse and scholarly – I’m not sure if it translated from the Swedish, but the subject matter is intriguing. He sheds light on the background to the invasion, and the great pressure exerted on his organisation by the most powerful forces on earth.
Some extracts are illuminating –
In a now famous interview, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz said that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction were chosen as the rationale for the war for "bureaucratic" reasons, implying that while there were many other reasons, this was the only rationale that could rally broad support in U.S. public opinion and that stood a chance at having appeal outside the U.S. and inside the United Nations. (p 266)
And –
The impression one may get from all this, apart from that of a general skepticism towards inspection not controlled by the U.S. itself, is that influential members of the administration were so rock-solid convinced of the existence of WMDs that inspectors, who had access to all sites in Iraq and who did not report findings of WMDs, appeared to them to be either pursuing their own politics, dishonest or doing less than they claimed to do. These members evidently preferred to believe the tales of Iraqi defectors or shaky intelligence produced by their own means. They do not seem to have been ready—as the inspectors were—to apply critical thinking to their own "evidence" or even for a moment entertain the hypoth¬esis that there were no weapons. (p285)
Generally, anyone with an interest in recent history in the Middle East should read it, not only because it outlines the build-up to the war, but also because it provides a deep insight into the relationships between the figures of power and influence in both the US and the UN.
It’s published by Bloomsbury and I paid $20 Aus.

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