Almost ignored by the mainstream UK press and TV, which had earlier devoted much air time and column space to Clare Short, the testimony of UK human rights envoy Ann Clwyd to the Chiilcot Inquiry gives a picture of the genesis of contemporary Iraq that is rather different from the one propounded by the critics of Tony Blair’s policy who are currently so vociferous in the British media. For one thing, unlike many of the media “opinion-formers”, Clwyd obviously knows Iraq and cares about its civilian population, especially the Kurds among whom she has lived and worked at intervals for many years. Instead of focusing on issues from the past, she is concerned for the present and the future of the fledgling democracy that has emerged from years of brutal dictatorship – and like Iraqis themselves she sees an improvement. On police training, for example, she has this to say:
Obviously we have been helping through our police training, through our training of judges —
BARONESS USHA PRASHAR: When you say “our police training” — I was going to come to that — what sort of support have you been giving to them on police training? Because the evidence we have had shows that our kind of model is not necessarily relevant.
RT HON ANN CLWYD MP: They have never actually said that in my hearing. I haven’t heard that from the Iraqis. In fact, they want more of the British. They have always said, I have to say, right from the beginning, you know, “The British understand us. We would like more of the British to come here, and, you know, we don’t want you to go away. We would like more help from you”. That’s why they can’t understand Inquiries like this. The Iraqis always say to me, you know — because weapons of mass destruction was Saddam — “Why are you still operating in this area? What we need is your help and your attention”, and obviously the Iraqis can pay for a lot of things themselves now, but nevertheless they appreciate the guidance that we can give them and we have had police trainers there. We have also had them in round tables.
Ann Clwyd’s testimony can be viewed here (scroll down to Video 2), and the transcript is here (pdf). Via Harry’s Place
In their eagerness to assume that their excoriation of Tony Blair over the issue of the Iraq war is universally shared, sections of the British left are trying to cast the ex-prime minister as an international “pariah”, who will have to spend the rest of his days in ignominy. In protest, Normblog writes:
So dogmatically certain are some of the denizens of those ‘quarters’ of there having been only one truth about the Iraq war, that they blithely assume that everyone must feel the same about Blair as they do. But worst of all is what is least likely to be noticed. I know nothing about his metaphysical outlook, but Norman here offers a secular version of the belief that there is divine justice: Blair may not get what’s coming to him, but don’t worry, all those of you who also loathe him; I, Matthew Norman, am in a position to assure you that Blair is suffering all the torments.
In the Spectator, a British soldier who served with the army’s Intelligence Corps in Iraq and Afghanistan gives his perspective on Israel’s Gaza operation. In the problems faced by the IDF during Operation Cast Lead he sees direct parallels with the difficulties that were encountered by British forces in Iraq, including the public relations dimension opened up urban warfare and the methods needed to combat an enemy such as Hamas, which “is willing to dress in civilian clothing, attack from legally protected sites and use civilians as human shields”. He also addresses the issue of so-called “disproportionate” firepower:
A fact often unappreciated by those with no military experience is that the selective use of overwhelming force, aimed at key targets, actually shortens conflict and saves lives. In Basra in 2003 the USA and the UK chose to use extreme force against locations that had been fortified by the Ba’ath Party, in order to spare our troops and the people of Basra the horror of a drawn-out street battle. It appears that the IDF made the same choice in Gaza.
Via Z-Word Blog