- 20 Jul 21
While UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was the lead culprit on this side of the Atlantic, there is no way that Gordon Brown – who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time – should so easily evade scrutiny for his role in a brutal and unnecessary war, in which countless thousands of innocent Iraqis were butchered mercilessly.
I see that Gordon Brown is being lathered with praise for his safe handling of the British economy during his stint as Chancellor of the Exchequer under Tony Blair (1997 to 2007) and then as prime minister (1997 to 2010).
A canny Scot, son of the manse, nothing flamboyant, held the ship of state on a steady course in stormy times, boring, reliable, the antithesis of Blair, a man you’d happily buy an insurance policy from.
Brown had a book out last month, titled, with soaring pomposity, Seven Ways To Change The World. He’s been interviewed about it all over the place in newspapers and on radio and television. The contents of the book don’t matter much. Why didn’t he change the world when he had the chance?
What matters, or ought to, is that in none of the interviews has he been held by the throat against the wall and invited to account for his actions and non-actions at the time of the Iraq War.
There’s a shuffle of impatience these days when Iraq is brought up. Same oul’ toot, nobody under 30 knows what you are talking about, far more urgent issues facing us now.
The race massacre in Tulsa, Mississippi, happened almost exactly 100 years ago, on May 30th and June 1st, 1921. White mobs armed by the State and deputised as marshals went on a rampage of hate, burned down 35 blocks in the black area of Greenwood, and shot or burned or beat to death at least 40 African Americans. Nobody was brought to book for any of it. For years afterwards, the massacre went almost unmentioned. It wasn’t included in the history course in any US school.
But nobody sighs with impatience at mention of Tulsa now. This year, after a century of dour silence, commemorative events have taken place across the US. Why? Black Lives Matter. It was in light of the present that the past was re-illumed.
Half-way between Tulsa and now, 50 years ago, news of Ballymurphy and Bloody Sunday sent a shudder across the land. Who dares say that that was too far back to drag up now? The Ballymurphy inquest came just last May.
There’s no sense living in the continuous past. But no good comes either of allowing murder to moulder in the mind. If the truth of the past isn’t told, history’s memory will always haunt the present.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi troops were in pell-mell retreat from Kuwait in March 1991 when US airplanes flocked overhead to launch waves of attack. The Los Angeles Times reported: “On the sixty miles of coastal highway, Iraqi military units sit in gruesome repose, scorched skeletons of vehicles and men alike, black and awful under the sun… Every vehicle was strafed or bombed, every windshield is shattered, every tank is burned, every truck is riddled with shell fragments. No survivors are known or likely.”
FLIMSIEST CASUS BELLI
Saddam Hussein had sent troops into Kuwait to murder and torture and maim. How many of his soldiers were up for this we will never know. What we do know is that they did as they were told and so died in droves.
In the course of Iraq War 2, the Bush-Blair blood-fest which followed September 11th, thousands more Iraqi soldiers, mostly youngsters with scant training or knowledge of war, were buried alive as armoured bulldozers heaved embankments of sand onto their dug-outs and trenches while, again, warplanes swooped and dived to strafe survivors.
Such were the scenes which Brown might properly have been asked about as he promoted his book.
We don’t normally associate Gordon Brown with Iraq. He seems not to have been as big into war as Blair. But he voted and argued that it was Britain’s “duty” to join the US in putting manners on Saddam by bombing his country and its people to bits. Like many another, Brown has since squirmed to evade responsibility.
In an interview with the Evening Standard four years ago, Brown offered the excuse which he has since proffered any time mention is made of Iraq.
“We were misled by the Americans,” he ritually intones, explaining that US intelligence had neglected to tell the British that they had no evidence of Saddam possessing Weapons of Mass Destruction.
We thought we knew because they didn’t tell us that they didn’t know. This must be a fair candidate for flimsiest casus belli ever floated by a member of a wartime government.
COVER-UP OF CRIME
When it comes to ranking the Rogues’ Gallery of recent British warmongers, Brown comes out looking a bit better than Blair. At least he doesn’t have blood streaming down his face from the sockets of his eyes.
Sooner or later – probably sooner, given the state of the world – the axis will shift and the role of the government of which Brown was a prominent member will be seen in proper perspective.
We may hope that Brown and Blair live long enough for their offences against humanity to catch them up. In the meantime, a journalist who interviews either of them, whatever the peg on which the interview is hung, and doesn’t make at least an effort to skewer them about Iraq, is conniving in a cover-up of crime.
It’s a common occurrence.