Today’s Independent goes to town with the confirmation that Iraq had no links to al Qaeda, which is fair enough in many ways. I’m only surprised that anyone thought this was so in the first place. The Indy quotes a Washington Post poll showing 69 per cent of Americans thought there was a link. But that’s only because the Bush Administration told them so and there’s a tendency – when you don’t know any better – to think your enemies are all friends. (The reverse proposition – the Soviet’s enemies are my friends – had seemed to work for Reagan: that’s why he supported Saddam and the Mujahedeen.)
Anyway. That Saddam wasn’t about to give WMDs to al Qaeda is a so what. Truth be told very few people who’d bothered to take an interest prior to the war on terror doubted Iraq had these weapons. I was at ‘An Evening with Tony Benn’ (you don’t get more peacenik without going Baathist) on Tuesday and he told us in a throwaway remark that when he met Saddam, asked if Iraq had WMDs and was told it hadn’t, he didn’t believe him for a moment.
Cheney’s continued pursuance of the al Qaeda line further demonstrates the lack of focus and general incompetence of those prosecuting what remains a war that had to be fought. The focus should be on the real achievement: removal of a brutal dictatorship that had used WMDs in the past; refused to prove it no longer had those weapons; had clear and stated ambitions for regional dominance and through that the lion’s share of the world’s oil. The real tragedy is that the occupiers seem incapable of offering Iraqi’s something better or even showing them what better might look like.