Saturday, January 20, 2007
By Robert Fisk
".....I curl down deep in my bed, because the nights are strangely damp and read by the bedside light, Hans von Sponeck's gripping, painful account of his years as the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, A Different Kind of War, an analysis of the vicious, criminal sanctions regime levelled against the Iraqi people between 1990 and 2003. Here, for example, is what Sergei Lavrov, the Russian ambassador to the UN wrote in March 2000: "...the scale of the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq is inexorably leading to the disintegration of the very fabric of civil society." It was "a situation where an entire generation of Iraqis has been physically and morally crippled". The French ambassador to the UN, Alain Dejammet, spoke similarly of "the very serious humanitarian crisis in Iraq", a crime that would eventually persuade von Sponeck to resign.
Another warning. I remember how von Sponeck said the very same words to me in Baghdad. So did Denis Halliday, his predecessor. But when Peter Hain - now so desperately anxious to distance himself from US policies in Iraq - was asked to comment, he said that von Sponeck and Halliday were "obviously not the right men for the job". James Rubin, then earning his keep as Madeleine Albright's spokesman, said that von Sponeck "is paid to work, not to speak".
Yet there are all the warnings. Did we really think that after we had impoverished them and destroyed so many of their children; after a generation of Iraqis had been "physically and morally crippled", they were going to welcome our "liberation"? From this wreckage of Iraq was bound to come the insurgencies and the hatreds now tearing its people apart and destroying the presidency of George W. Bush and the prime ministership of Tony Blair.
Yet what do they tell us? They still want us to be frightened. Terror, terror, terror. Now we have Doctor Death, our Home Secretary, telling us that the War on Terror could last as long as the Cold War. Recently, it was the Dowager of Fear in charge of our intelligence services who said that the War on Terror could last "a generation". So that's 30 years? Or 60 like Dr Death claimed? Bush claimed it might last "forever", surely an ambitious goal for an ex- governor-executioner....."