Over the past few months it has become conventional wisdom that Iraq is of diminishing importance in the political world viewed from Westminster. Yet I notice that Sir Menzies Campbell QC MP has been receiving more than usual coverage in his protests.
Since George W. Bush declared on the deck of an Aircraft carrier that as far as the United States was concerned Iraq was "Mission accomplished", we have learned a great deal about Iraq and about the United States.
We have learned that Saddam Hussein had rendered his "weapons of mass destruction" unusable, so that the ostensible case for the war was entirely wrong. We have learned that there was considerable scepticism amongst British and American intelligence experts that Saddam indeed had such weapons at the time that war was launched, but that such doubts were edited out in order to support a political case for military action. In other words that the supporting documentation had in fact been "sexed up". We have learned that American and probably British troops were engaged in illegal torture and ill treatment of prisoners. We have learned that fuel-air weapons have been used with scant regard for innocent victims. We have learned that the United States did not have an effective plan to stabilize the political or security position in post war Iraq. We have learned that in this security vacuum that Al-Qaida affiliates have been able to unleash significant violence against Coalition troops and Iraqi civilians. We have also learned that the Bush administration has little more than platitudes to deploy in its self declared "War on Terror". We have learned that the American people are increasingly unhappy about the deployment of their soldiers in Iraq.
The Neo-Con vision for the United States as an active force to promote American values lies twitching in the dust of Mesopotamia. The First Ally- Mr. Blair- sees his own reputation fading. The price of failure on the Tigris is now so high that it threatens the entire economic security of the capitalist system. The mistakes that have been made have been made step by step. The result is governments have mislead their own people, and indeed taken freedoms away from their own people. They have broken international laws on the inception and conduct of war, they have committed criminal acts such as torture and the use of illegal weapons. With the use of white phosphorus now confirmed, we know that the only people who possessed and used illegal weapons in this conflict were... Us.
The charge sheet is now long, and if it had been read before we started, then the proposing governments would have been out of office immediately. Our sensibilities may be blunted, as those of the frog who would jump from boiling water but not from water that slowly heats to boil famously are. Nevertheless, Sir Menzies is right: a government that will not obey international law can not be trusted to obey constitutional limits on its own power- that way tyranny lies.
Cicero knows that war is a good way to usurp political power- as Julius Caesar did in his time in Ancient Rome. Blair may be no Caesar, but neither is he Cincinnatus who quietly returned to his fields when his time in political life was complete. The spinelessness of the Conservatives over Iraq is a scandal- they raised more heat over hunting that over Iraq. So the noble Phillipic that the Liberal Democrats continue to raise gives Cicero hope in the face of profound anger.
Iraq will not go away as an issue- and the questions that it raises are still fundamental to the morality and constitutionality of our political system.