‘The time for accounting is now’

By Andrew Murray in The Guardian

Tony Blair’s announcement that he will henceforward account only to God for the Iraq war makes perfect sense. Every secular reason he has concocted for the catastrophe has turned out to be the reverse of the truth: there were no weapons of mass destruction, we are less safe from terrorism, the Iraqi people themselves do not want us in their country. No more of his excuses for this epic man-made disaster stand an earthly chance of being believed.

As the third anniversary of the calamity draws close, the final argument used by what little remains of the brave army of pro-war punditry that set out with the prime minister in 2003 has gone belly up. Far from preventing a civil war, the Anglo-American occupation of Iraq is provoking one. It is doing so through its divide-and-rule strategy, which has entrenched and inflamed the Sunni-Shia divide beyond anything in Iraq’s history, and through its refusal to afford Iraqis the unfettered exercise of national sovereignty, which is the only framework for overcoming such differences.

There is scarcely even a pretence that Iraq is permitted such sovereignty at present. Both Jack Straw and the US ambassador to Baghdad have recently been instructing the Iraqis as to what sort of government they must form – three months after the supposedly decisive national elections took place.

And all this to the accompaniment of unabated violence. Reliable estimates for violent civilian deaths under the occupation range well over 100,000. Faik Bakir, the director of the Baghdad morgue, has had to flee the country after revealing that more than 7,000 people had been killed, often after torture, by officers of the US-supervised interior ministry. The carnage continues: more families will be burying their dead this morning after yesterday’s 50-warplane assault on Samarra by the US – the biggest yet and clearest possible demonstration of the occupation’s brutality and failure.

It defies common sense to suppose that the only torture and degradation of civilians carried out by US and British troops has been that caught on camera at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. No wonder Iraqi local authorities now refuse to deal with the British army in the south.

The pledge that all this suffering would at least assist a solution to the Palestinian question has proved painfully hollow, with the Israelis ram-raiding a Palestinian prison in Jericho – just like British troops in Basra. But still the war junkies seem to believe one more hit – this time against Iran – will lead to the breakthrough to the docile Middle East they desire. Straw’s assertion that it is “inconceivable” has found no echo in Washington or Jerusalem. Almost every Iranian agrees that aggression will consolidate support for the regime in Tehran. It will certainly cost many more lives and inflame Muslims everywhere.

None of this was unavoidable. The anti-war movement around the world has been vindicated both in its estimation of the unjustified nature of the war and the consequences of an occupation of Iraq. And Britain has reaped the consequences. Most people understand that the terrorist threat “over here” is in large measure a consequence of what we are doing “over there”. The denial of that connection has damaged civil liberties and community cohesion in Britain.

This was not a war the British people wanted. This weekend protests against the prolongation of the Iraq war and its threatened extension to Iran will take place across the globe, including in Iraq. To put it in language the prime minister understands: vox populi vox dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). The time for accounting is now.