by Eric Margolis
LONDON -- PM Tony Blair's popularity has risen with the end of the
Iraq invasion. Britons, like Americans, enjoy jolly little wars in
which large numbers of heathen savages are mowed down by western
military technology at minimal cost to imperial troops. Add
Britain's most recent invasion of Iraq to her list of 19th century
colonial "little wars," like the Zulu, Ashanti, Afridi wars and, of
course, the more famous campaign against Sudan's Dervishes, and
their "fiendish" leader, the Khalifa, a 19th-century version of
Osama bin Laden.
In spite of Blair's modestly resurgent popularity, a thunderstorm of
questions is coming from parliament, media and the public over
Bush/Blair claims that Iraq had to be urgently invaded because it
posed, in Bush's words, "an imminent threat to the U.S. and the
world," and, as Blair claimed, "Iraq possesses huge quantities of
weapons of mass destruction." British intelligence claimed Iraq
contained thousands of tons of biological weapons and poison gas,
thousands more tons of precursor materials, nuclear weapons
fabrication equipment, medium-ranged missiles, 500 km-ranged drones
equipped to spray germs, etc., etc
Embarrassed by their failure to so far find a shred of evidence,
never mind a "smoking gun," to justify an entirely illegal invasion
of a sovereign nation, violating international law and the UN
Charter, London and Washington still insist evidence will be found.
"We sold it to them; it's got to be there," some London wags are
If it is, it had better be a mammoth underground trove worthy of a
James Bond super-villain, not just a few rusty old cans of chemicals
left over from the 1980s Iran-Iraq war, when the U.S. and Britain
were among Saddam Hussein's principal suppliers of germ and gas
Don't for a minute believe Pentagon leaks about an "unnamed Iraqi
scientist" who says he knows where all the nasties are buried and,
what's more, ties Saddam to Al-Qaida. American fans of Rush Limbaugh
may swallow this pap; most Brits are too cynical and worldly to
accept such crude propaganda; many Brits and Europeans believe the
U.S./UK will eventually plant fake evidence.
What's one more fabrication in a war of lies?
Calls are growing for parliamentary investigations of Blair's war
rationale and of British intelligence. Critics ask if Her Majesty's
spooks were simply lying and concocting fake evidence to please
their political masters, or were they producing junk intelligence at
the cost of one billion pounds sterling annually? Every single
weapon of mass destruction site listed in MI-6's notorious dossier
presented at the UN, and cited by U.S. Secretary Colin Powell as
proof positive, turned out to be bogus. More trusting Americans have
yet to raise similar questions about their $40 billion per annum
intelligence agencies - the ones that failed to predict 9/11.
This week, another uproar occurred in Britain after the New York
Times leaked Pentagon plans to establish four permanent air bases in
Iraq, adding to its existing 184 bases around the globe. The
Pentagon denied the report, but my military and intelligence sources
say it is largely accurate.
Imperial Britain ruled Iraq from the 1920s until 1958 by relying on
the RAF to bomb and strafe rebellious tribesmen.
The U.S. now appears set to follow the British Empire by keeping
order in its new colony through the use of air power rather than
But the new U.S. bases in Iraq, if established, have a far more
important role than mere colonialism. They will form the last spans
of a gigantic air bridge, linking the U.S. with Central Asia.
America's new imperial lifeline goes from the U.S. east coast to
bases in Britain or Spain, then to America's newest client states in
East Europe: Poland, Romania and Bulgaria. Their bases link directly
to U.S. Mideast bases in Turkey, the Gulf, Saudi Arabia, and, soon,
The new Iraqi bases will give the U.S. control of the region's
second largest oil producer, and allow a lower American profile in
Saudi Arabia. They will be stepping stones to U.S. Central Asian
bases - in Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, and
Uzbekistan - created in 1991-92 to dominate the Caspian Oil Basin.
These aforementioned are all permanent bases that will give the U.S.
Air Force the resources to speed warplanes, men and war materials
across three-quarters of the width of the globe. Just as the Suez
was the key to Britain's imperial naval lifeline, so Iraq and/or
other Mideast bases will be, for America's mighty air force, the
Dreadnaught of our modern day, will rule over all of the world's
richest reserves of oil and gas, extending from Morocco to China's
Increasing numbers of unhappy Britons are asking if they were not
euchered into an imperial war as American auxiliaries, rather than
having saved civilization from the "imminent danger" allegedly posed
by Paper Camel Saddam Hussein. Other, more hardheaded Brits, are
preparing to grab their share of the spoils of war to "liberate"
[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster, and
author of War at the Top of
the World - The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir, and Tibet which was reviewed in
The Economist, May 13, 2000]
Copyright © 2003 Eric Margolis - All Rights