Article originally published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site
If George Bush and Tony Blair had presided as CEOs over deceptive and fraudulent practices in the City comparable to those they are guilty of with regard to Iraq, they would have been immediately and unceremoniously sacked.
Five years on, the legacy of the Iraq war is now clear. Let us look at the balance sheet.
Based on an extrapolation from the figures of the Lancet study, more than 1 million Iraqi civilians have died – a figure that might even eclipse the genocide in Rwanda.
In terms of casualties, 3979 US soldiers have died to date, and almost 30,000 have been seriously wounded.
Four million refugees have been created. Two million of these have fled the country altogether; 2 million have been internally displaced.
According to Joseph Stiglitz, the combined cost to the UK for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan comes to some £10bn, over £3bn of that having been spent in the last year alone. Based on estimates from the congressional budget office, the cost of the war to the US is in the trillions.
Massive human rights abuses have been permitted and even perpetrated by the occupying nations. These include the torture and abuse at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, the Haditha killings of 24 civilians, the use of white phosphorous, the gang rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl and the murder of her family in Mahmoudiya, and the bombing and shooting of civilians in Mukaradeeb.
Finally, the price of oil has quadrupled since 2002. Today it is almost $110 a barrel.
What is so astonishing about these stories and statistics is that the politicians responsible for them have not been held accountable, despite the fact that between 65% and 70% of the population in this country opposed the war, and despite the fact that the war has been an unqualified disaster.
We have entered a dangerous period in world politics, one in which our politicians are not being held accountable for their mistakes or for their lies.
Tony Blair’s casual attitude to the rule of international law was demonstrated again this week when the foreign secretary, David Miliband, admitted to parliament that Britain assisted in the extraordinary rendition of US detainees to face uncertain treatment by foreign interrogators in foreign jails in 2002.
We have become complicit in a series of secret, underhand “dirty tactics” in America’s so-called war on terror. This must stop now.
Iraq was from the outset an immoral, illegal and unwinnable war. We did not provide enough troops or equipment, and we did not provide sufficient resources to back the civilians on the ground.
We have failed to provide security. We have failed to provide good governance. We have failed in our efforts at reconstruction.
Iraq today is less secure and less stable than it was under Saddam Hussein, a brutal dictator. Even under him, Iraq did not have 2 million people flee the country and 2 million people internally displaced.
The failure is such that, according to an Iraq Centre for Research and Strategic Studies poll in December 2006, 90% of Iraqis preferred Iraq under Saddam.
What are our forces actually doing in southern Iraq? They have not been able to prevent the slaughter of the Iraqi people. The only reason, I would suggest, that Prime Minister Brown remains in Iraq is to provide camouflage for the American presence.
So we must withdraw, and redeploy our forces somewhere in the world where we are able to do good. Continuing this war will further destabilise this region.
In January 2006, General Sir Michael Rose called for Tony Blair’s impeachment over Iraq. I would make a different, more modest claim on Blair’s successor: Prime Minister Brown, I urge you and the British government to announce the date of our withdrawal from Iraq, and to do so today.
I agree wholeheartedly with the statement by Amnesty International this week that on top of a much-needed independent enquiry, the government should unambiguously condemn all “renditions”, secret transfers and the programme of “ghost detentions”.
History should have taught us by now that we will not bring democracy at gunpoint.
Surely it is time now to admit that the war was a disaster. I urge Brown to have the strength and the integrity to do the right thing, to admit the mistakes of his predecessor and to withdraw completely and immediately from Iraq.
At a press conference held to promote the Stop the War Coalition’s fifth anniversary protest march in London tomorrow, I called on the public not to vote for any MP who refuses to give his support to a full parliamentary enquiry. Politicians must be held to account for this colossal failure.
Bianca Jagger is Chair of the World Future Council.