The British Public Was Deceived Over Iraq - And it Can't Happen Again | Luca Delpippo

On the 20th of March 2003, Tony Blair addressed the people of the U.K. The world watched and waited for him to announce his decision to intervene in Iraq - a decision Blair hoped would make him the advocate for human rights across the globe. However, the decision Blair took placed him as a pariah in the eyes of those who champion human rights. Rightly so. Looking sternly into the camera Blair stated: “On Tuesday night I gave the order for British forces to take part in military action in Iraq… and disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.” The war that took place to remove said weapons of mass destruction - that later turned out not to exist - cost the lives of 179 British servicemen and women and 134,000 civilian deaths. It cost the British taxpayer £9.6bn and created 3.9 million Iraqi refugees. His speech is testament to the dishonesty, deceit and downright savagery of the war that now characterises the memory of the Blair Years. That is the legacy of the Iraq intervention the world remembers; this is the legacy that it is still dealing with today. The Iraq intervention did not make the situation there any better in terms of human development, human rights and human progress. Therefore, we need to oppose any form of foreign intervention when it comes at such a high cost to all parties involved – and with no successful outcome.

Blair’s speech foreshadowed what would unfold over the next fourteen years through a reversal of virtually everything he told the people in that speech. We were told that we went in to Iraq to disarm the WMDs. There were none. In his speech he claimed the conflicts of the past were conventional but now “…this new world faces a new threat, of disorder and chaos borne of brutal states like Iraq…”  This statement served as a monument to the irony of the Iraq invasion that brought brutality, disorder and chaos to the Iraqi people. No one is claiming that before the invasion Iraq was heaven. However, it was not the hell it is, for many, today: a warzone, a deadly mix of sectarian violence and dysfunctional government. This new situation is a direct consequence of the West’s intervention in Iraq. “Divide et Impera” is the infamous slogan from the Roman army that means “divide and conquer” - the idea being to stimulate existing sectarian division to accelerate violence while maintaining control within a nation. And it was a favourite of the British government, having used this strategy in colonial India, mid-19th century - a time when Britain ruled ruthlessly and for its interest; not its values. Lieutenant-Colonel Coke noted that Britain’s undertaking has to be to “uphold in full force the separation which exists between the different religions and races, not to endeavour to amalgamate them. Divide et Impera should be the principle of the Indian government.” Such was the principle of the Iraqi occupational government. A regional electoral system, endorsed by the U.K, was created that stimulated sectarian division and would culminate in a series of terrorist attacks and instability. This is why we should not be intervening, as our methods for intervention are still inherently imperialistic in theory and in practice.

Furthermore, in his speech, Blair explains: “these tyrannical states do not care for the sanctity of human life.” This is where he implies, in an ironic twist and transparent role reversal, that he is a tyrant. For neither Blair, nor any of the coalition members, cared for the “sanctity of human life”. He did not consider the consequences of full utilisation of a military force that receives more funding than the GDP of small countries. The figures and the arrogant attitudes of the invaders showed this all too well as did the remark from General Tommy Franks who commented that “We do not do body counts.” This is categorically why we shouldn’t interfere abroad: the attitudes of those who carry out the actions do not reflect our intentions.

Surprisingly, the military invasion of Iraq - compared with the intervention as a whole - was not the cause of most fatalities. All said and done, between 2003-2009, military belligerents slaughtered well over 461,000 people. Mostly innocent. To Blair, this is what caring for the “sanctity of life” meant. Indeed, countless more innocent men, women and children died due to subsequent repercussions of the intervention. For example, the military used depleted uranium technology during the invasion. Dr. Al-Ali, a cancer specialist at the city hospital of Basra in Iraq, offered a tragic insight into the consequences of the use of these British weapons of mass destruction when his findings showed that “40-48% of the population in this area will get cancer.” Depleted uranium serves absolutely no short term military purpose. Therefore its use is not justified in what was portrayed to be the strategic removal of an oppressive government. Not a nation. Not a people. The effects of intervention when we use weapons such as this are long term depopulation of an area - this has clearly worked in Basra, destroying families, entire cultures and depriving children of their right to life.

The UN sanction committee, virtually dominated by the US and the UK, denied basic medical treatment to Iraq citing that such equipment could be used to create WMDs. This is by far the most brutally cruel and inhumane action of the intervention in Iraq. This is not only directly killing innocent lives, but targeting the sick. The vulnerable. Professor Karol Sikora, chief of the cancer programme at the World Health Organisation testified to this, writing in the British Medical Journal that the “saddest thing [he] saw in Iraq was children dying because there was no chemotherapy…It seemed crazy they couldn’t have morphine.” It wasn’t just “crazy”. It was a cruel calculated component of military intervention. This was an embargo that could only ever harm the sick and the most susceptible to harm. Instead of aid meant for the Iraqi people literally dying on the streets, the UN created the “Oil for Food Programme” in which the provisional Iraqi government would export oil at favourable rates to the UK and USA. And such money would go directly into providing essentials for Iraqi civilians. This gave the Iraqi population a choice: survival or an agonising death of malnutrition, cancer and sickness. Not much of a choice when we think about it. Moreover, the head of the Oil for Food Programme, Hans von Sponeck, calculated that it allowed $100 for each citizen to live on a year. This is more often than not, the objective of a military intervention. Not to uphold the values of human rights, but to assert the interests of the realm.

We felt the shame as a nation, we still do, but we have nothing to be ashamed about. We were lied to by shameless warmongers. We were deceived into going along with the intervention and then, of course, made to pay for it. Literally. We did not know of the repercussions it would have on the Iraqi people and the terrorist organisations it would later serve as a pretext to recruit thousands. We cannot simply shrug off the fact that war, no matter the cause, will always be responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of innocent lives nor that intervention does not serve to protect human rights but rather to harm them. We cannot support intervention abroad once more, when we know the repercussions to be so dire and adversarial.  We need to learn from history and oppose it.

By Luca Delpippo


Dutt, Palme R, The Problem of India (NewYork: International Publishers, 1943)
Pilger, John, New Rulers of the World  (London: Verso Publishers, 2016)

The British Public Was Deceived Over Iraq - And it Can't Happen Again | Luca Delpippo The British Public Was Deceived Over Iraq - And it Can't Happen Again | Luca Delpippo Reviewed by Student Voices on 12:34 Rating: 5

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