Open Discussions/ Gulf Cultural Club
The Chilcot Report: UK’s Foreign Intervention;
Legality and Consequences
Professor Rodney Shakespeare*
Dr Sami Ramadani **
No sooner had the shock of the Brexit saga befallen Britain than did the tantalising details of the Chilcot Report strike the chord of anxiety and despair among the public. Could the British intervention outside the British isles become something of the past given the moral, legal and political consequences of recent doomed adventures? The Chilcot Report has condemned one of the most prominent prime ministers to political oblivion, but how diverse are the opinions and stands with regards to its legality and consequences?
Tuesday, 19th July 2016
Chairman: This morning I was talking to Professor Charles Tripp who went to meet Blair with other intellectuals and academics. They expressed their views that the war was a very shaky alternative to a peaceful solution but they were not listened to. Their advice had not been heeded. Blair did what he told President Bush that he would do.
Then there is the issue of democracy itself: Is the popular voice taken into account with regard to decision making, especially decisions that have a great impact on people’s lives in this country and elsewhere.
Tonight we are going to discuss the war, the consequences, the legality of that war and also what we see as the future political policies especially in England where we have just had a new prime minister and a new change of government and whether Boris Johnson is going to be different from his predecessors. So far from what he said in the last week or so I do not anticipate any difference from what his predecessor said or did. The same old clichés. We are not here to judge the present government or discuss what Mrs May is going to do. Neither can we pass a judgement on whether Tony Blair ought to be brought to trial or not but we are going to shed some light on the legality of that war.
Professor Rodney Shakespeare: Here is a book. The title is The Islamic World System: A Study in Polity Market Interaction. It is by Abdullah Choudry, it costs £65 and it is completely unintelligible. I wrote the forward to the book just before the invasion in 2003.
In these four pages right at the beginning I say that if the purpose of the invasion was to lessen the rich poor division, introduce some form of economic democracy, focus financial activity on the real productive economy, enable societies to control their resources and their own destiny, mitigate the practices of riba (interest) and counter a financial system that is putting the world into ever increasing debt – I said that if that was going to be the purpose of the invasion then at the end of the day it may be something worthwhile doing. I then stated there wasn’t a snowballs chance in hell of the Americans and British doing that.
I also stated that the existing Islamic governments are just as corrupt in their economics and their politics, they are controlled by riba, there is no intent for economic democracy and focus on the productive capacity and spreading it among the population.
That is the essence of what the invasion was about. You will say it was about getting rid of Saddam Hussein and promoting democracy. It was not. It was actually about what I have just said or the failure to do that and to do something else.
I have a simple question. I am going to ask everybody to raise their hand. I am going to refer to something called the Bremer Orders. It is the name of a person. I want you to raise your hand if you have heard of it. I am not going to ask you any questions. It is about half and I congratulate those who have heard about these orders. Most people out in the street have not heard about this.
The first governor after the invasion was a rather nice man. He was J Garner. Basically he wanted Iraq to be in control of its own destiny. He lasted about six weeks and they got rid of him and they brought in a thug, a civil service thug called Paul Bremmer. And Bremmer introduced 100 Bremmer orders. They took over every single aspect of Iraqi society. I am not going to go into the 100. They even controlled what side of the road people were to drive on. I don’t know if it was the right or the left but it was going to be the other one.
The purpose of this was to rip off and control the whole of the Iraqi economy. It was beyond colonialism. Once they got rid of Saddam Hussein they realised they could do exactly what they liked. It was an extraordinary undertaking. Look at order 39. Just within the one order the privatisation of 200 state enterprises is allowed. It allows for 100 percent foreign ownership of all Iraqi businesses. There was to be unrestricted remittance of all profits and other funds. Other funds? This is to go on for a period of at least 40 years. So in effect order 39 took over the ownership of the whole Iraqi economy. Probably street vendors would not be affected but anything of a substantial size was to be taken over largely by the Americans.
Order 40 turned the banking sector from a state-run banking sector. I would like to say this. When you look at all the countries that get attacked by the Americans if they had any form of an independent state bank or an independent financial system they always end up being attacked. That explains what happened to Libya, Syria and Iraq and what they would like to do to Iran. Ultimately global finance capitalism wants above all to control your financial system.
Order 49 tax rate, order 12 customs duties. Another one I want to hit on is order 81. It is all about seeds. It is Mondanto. It is today’s trans-Atlantic partnership in which they not only control your economy in such a way that the big corporations can over rule governments. They destroy all your heritage seeds and you have to have these seeds with killer genes in them. You have to buy the seeds and they take huge cuts. This practise in India today results in one Indian farmer committing suicide every half an hour. They are colossally in debt because they have to buy these very high priced genetic killer seeds. This is one order of the 100 which was imposed.
If you then say is there any way in which the situation improved in Iraq? I was invited to Iraq to a very, very good conference in 2011. There was a period when there was a hope that things would change. I was totally shocked by the complete destruction and the complete failure to get the thing working in favour of the mass of the population. But the point I am making is that after the conference we went to Kerbala. Coming back in the car there was me, Dr Versi who I travelled with, there was an ayatollah and there was Tariq Aswarat. Cutting the story short we were separated by a cunning trick from our guards and soldiers. In the middle of the desert in the dark and the rain cars came in and we were only saved by a remarkable action from our driver. There was an attempt to either kill us or to kidnap us. Probably to kidnap because they thought it was an ayatollah in the car.
It was that sort of thing that makes you realise how great the hatred of the foreigners is in Iraq. If you want to understand that hatred it is largely because in every single aspect and respect that you can think of the Americans were determined to take over, to rip off and to leave the Iraqis without any ownership and without any dignity whatsoever.
I will just tell you the funny punch line of that attack. We asked the university people what is that all about. It is a bit nasty. They said we were going to be kidnapped or probably killed and I asked how much? What is my body worth? They said you are a Brit you are worth $10,000. I said thank you very much. And then I said what about Talib Versi who is a medical doctor. And they said he is worth more than you. He is a Brit. He is worth £12,500. What about the ayatollah? They said he is rather expensive. We are not prepared to say. Then there was the fourth one Tarik. He has a British passport and I said how much is how much is his body worth and they said ‘nil’. I said I am worth $10,000, Versi is worth £12,5000 how come Tarik is worth nothing. They said he also has an Iraqi passport. And that was the punch line.
What struck me was the anger against the foreigners, the complete ripping off and at the same time the body of an Iraqi was worth nothing. This is the extent of the lies we have been told. You were told about democracy. Forget democracy. Forget anything except ripping off and beating down by people with no integrity, no values and no economics whatsoever. One can go into all the different orders.
Order 81 was the one of saving seeds. Orders 57 and 77 put US auditors into every government ministry. Order 17 granted all foreign contractors free reign and immunity from any Iraqi laws. It is like diplomatic immunity. They could kill. Even if they kill someone, and cause environmental disaster there was no redress for anybody – even if the Tigris was polluted.
Iraq is where civilisation developed in this world. You want to remember that Mesopotamia is where rye, wheat and barley was grown. It is where irrigation and agriculture was developed. We went in there with complete arrogance and ended up destroying one of the oldest civilisations, one of the extraordinary achievements of humankind. We were doing this for no noble purpose. It was to rip off the assets in every conceivable way.
The consequence of all that is that in no time at all the water was poisoned, the bridges were never repaired. I was horribly shocked by what I saw there and the sheer hatred that was directed at me because I was perceived as being American. It is an aspect of the war that you don’t normally hear about. You hear about what Saeed touched on, you hear about the military, you hear about the deaths. You do not hear about the ripping off of the economy.
Chairman: The Chilcot report said that the aftermath of the war was not planned well. After the downfall of Saddam Hussein. There were many questions about the legality of the war, there was no international United Nations resolution. It was done in defiance of the people’s wish here. It was poorly executed especially in terms of what would have been the aftermath of having the regime brought done and nothing else to take its place. The Iraqis are paying the price today. What Professor Shakespeare just mentioned are vivid examples of these horrific outcomes of the war. Iraq which is the biggest, strongest and wealthiest of the Arab countries today has to beg for its own security and stability. It is plagued by all sorts of instability. You have corruption, bad management. It has become a hot bed for extremism and terrorism. Whose fault is it? Was it Saddam’s fault? Is it the fault of the people who came after him, the other regional powers. Is it the West, the Anglo-American alliance?
Dr Sami Ramadani : One thing I wanted to stress. If you don’t have £776 – that is how much you pay for the 12 volume Chilcot report there is an article by Philippe Sands. He published a very important book about the Iraq war. This article is a summary of the Chilcot report. He is a premier legal mind. The article is published in the London Review of Books. You can get it online free. It is called a Grand and Disastrous Deceit. He provides an excellent summary. He addresses one issue which is the legality of the war. The Chilcot inquiry did not have the legality of the war as one of its frames of reference. They left that bit up in the air.
What he is arguing is that there is quite a lot in the report to indicate the war was illegal. He provides some arguments about the legality of the war on several grounds but very importantly on the ground of a war of aggression.
You probably all know that the Nuremburg Trial put the Nazi generals and leading figures on trial after WWII declared in one of its conclusions that a war of aggression is one of the greatest crimes from which other crimes like what the Nazis did would flow. So a war of aggression is a very serious matter.
I believe Sands argues that Iraq is a war of aggression. At the end of his article he quotes Elizabeth Wilmshurst. She was the foreign office legal adviser before the Iraq war started and she provided the government with a legal opinion and resigned just before the war started because her conscience could not take it.
This is a paragraph from what she has written : I regret that I cannot agree that it is lawful to use force without a second Security Council resolution. I cannot in conscience go along with advice within the foreign office or to the public or parliament which asserts the legitimacy of military action without such a resolution particularly since an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression. Nor can I agree with such action in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law.
At the time it attracted a little bit of attention but really not the attention it deserved from our media. I refer here to the BBC as that is where most people get their news. The BBC played quite a bad role in my personal experience regarding preparations for the war. On a particular point which is probably relevant here since I was born in Iraq. I spent my childhood in my beloved Baghdad. One thing that was really clear that they would not let Iraqis who were opposed to the war and opposed to Saddam and onto the media.
I was a refugee from Saddam. People here and in the USA tried extremely hard to get our voices heard in the media that Saddam’s regime is a ruthless dictatorship but this war will be a disaster for the Iraqi people and if we are having the Iraqi peoples interests at heart then we should not engage in this war not only as a matter of principle but as a practicality because Iraq will be destroyed in the event of such a war. After the war and when things started going wrong the BBC started getting in touch with me and other Iraqis as asked us to take partg in some programmes. And I did.
At one point I engaged with a programme The Jeremy Vine Show. They had one special programme on elections in Iraq. It was the first election that was held under the occupation regime and it was famously George Bush who said you cannot have free and fair elections in an occupied country. He was referring to the Syrian forces in the Lebanon.
The Jeremy Vine people called me and said:’Sami can you come along either in the studio or on the phone we are going to ask you a few questions about the elections. What do you think.?’ I gave them my opinion. The guy very politely said ’sorry Sami but we need a positive spin on this one.’ I wrote that in an article about this in the Guardian. Because I was telling the truth the BBC did not deny it.
Throughout the course of the war unfortunately the BBC and other media outlets did not properly cover the tragedy that befell the Iraqi people. The Chilcot report falls into the same problem, unfortunately. But it does talk about the destruction of the country and what befell the Iraqi people. But ultimately it ignores enormous problems and there are lot of data about what befell the Iraqi people during those years of occupation until today.
If you remember the first siege of Fallujah and the way in which the USA moved in and used phosphorous bombs. Again one incident and this clarifies what I am talking about. They used phosphorous bombs and all Iraqis knew that phosphorous bombs were being used. Iraqi doctors were receiving patients in hospitals. They said they had never seen anything like this because this material eats through the flesh and stops at the bone. It will go through your clothes, the flesh and it stops at the bone. That was one of the features of the phosphorous bombs.
Paul Wood was one of the BBC’s chief correspondents in Iraq. He was one of the embedded journalists with the American forces in Iraq. And Iraqis where saying white phosphorous is being used he came along in a report on the BBC and said no white phosphorous was being used. I was with the American forces, I attended every operational command meeting. Neither verbally nor on the battlefield was there any white phosphorous. Very categorical.
A year later who exposed it just like the Abu Ghraib prison scandal? It was exposed by US soldiers putting up those pictures of tortured Iraqis. American soldiers started putting on the website how they used white phosphorous on the battle field. It hit the international headlines. When Iraqis say something nobody listens but when an American soldier says it gets international attention.
I wrote an article in the Guardian accusing Paul Wood of being a liar and I named him and the BBC still would not respond. When he denied it so did his chief editor, his boss. She was actually the person who was in charge of the News night programme. She vetoed broadcasting the Jimmy Saville documentary which exposed Jimmy Saville as a paedophile when he was alive. She stopped that programme. Instead of being dismissed she was moved sideways later on, after the scandal was exposed.
I am saying all this because the Chilcot report has a positive side. It put in the public domain more documents than we had before about the illegitimacy of this war. It also ignores the legality and ignores the real suffering of the Iraqi people in terms of its magnitude.
The occupation should not be talked about in the past. I think we should talk about it in the present tense because that war of aggression and invasion of a sovereign people, the damage that it has done is continuing to be done through terrorism and terrorist organisations that they planted into our land in Iraq. I say planted because I have enough evidence. It was the US led forces that encouraged and planted these terrorist organisations to stir up sectarian hatred, to stir up sectarian clashes, to have these Wahabi terrorists with their takfiri ideology to go and kill and maim and destroy, to divide and rule the Iraqi people.
This is something that is a legacy of this occupation and it is also very significantly allowing the USA today to go back and occupy Iraq through the back door. There are now more than 5,000 US soldiers in Iraq in the name of fighting ISIS. They are doing no such thing. They are trying to limit ISIS to operationally control where they expand and where they should stop. But ultimately these organisations are providing more pretext for the US to pillage, to control and re-occupy and to influence the war in Syria.
Terrorists from about 100 different countries, more than 30,000 fighters came to destroy the beautiful land of Syria and a great society with a history of communities living together.
*Professor Rodney Shakespeare is a renowned political commentator and visiting professor of binary economics at Trisakti University in Jakarta. He is an outspoken critic of the Western policies in the Arab and Muslim worlds. He is a respected co-author of the standard textbook on binary economics ─ Binary Economics – the new paradigm (University Press of America, 1999). His first book on binary economics (The Two-factor Nation) was published in 1976. He is also co-author of the subsequent text ─ Seven Steps to Justice (New European Publications, 2003) ─ which furthers develops binary economics; and author of The Modern Universal Paradigm, containing later developments, being published in 2007 by Trisakti University, Jakarta. He is a Cambridge MA, a qualified UK Barrister, and a well-known paper presenter and lecturer.
** Dr Sami Ramadani is a senior lecturer in Sociology and a contributor to “The Guardian” on Iraq and the Middle East. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Stop the War Coalition. He opposed Saddam’s regime, but campaigned against the US-led sanctions and war of aggression on Iraq.