For the record: The so-called “Downing Street Memos” provide us with some truly valuable bits of evidence that the British Prime Minister and other ruling Labour Party ministers and advisors not only engaged in a joint criminal conspiracy with their superiors in Washington the explicit purpose of which was to militarily seize Iraqi territory—an enterprise that culminated in the unprovoked war of aggression of March, 2003. But also that Downing Street clearly understood its plans as such. As evidenced by the memos’ repeated insistence that a workable political strategy for the war was as important as the military strategy. The fear being, of course, that unless people believed the political cover story—”justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD“—the “conditions necessary for military action” would remain unmet.
Now. Aside from the mother of all smoking guns—the elementary fact that it was the Bush and Blair regimes’ decision to initiate the war in the first place, and not Iraq’s—and for this little bit of news, no memo is required—one of the most important bits of evidence of criminal conspiracy derives from the minutes of the meeting between Tony Blair and several of the top Labour Party figures on July 23, 2002:
The Defence Secretary said that the US had already begun “spikes of activity” to put pressure on the regime.
Remember that phrase “spikes of activity.” According to Michael Smith (“The War Before the War,” New Statesman, May 30, 2005), the British reporter who has done more than anyone else to place these memos before the bar of history, what Geoff Hoon, the former British Defense Secretary meant by this phrase
becomes clear in the light of information elicited from the government by the Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell, who asked the Ministry of Defence about British and American air activity in 2002 in the southern no-fly zone of Iraq – the zone created to protect southern Shias after Saddam Hussein brutally suppressed their 1991 uprising against him.
The MoD response shows that in March 2002 no bombs were dropped, and in April only 0.3 tonnes of ordnance used. The figure rose to 7.3 tonnes in May, however, then to 10.4 in June, dipping to 9.5 in July before rising again to 14.1 in August. Suddenly, in other words, US and British air forces were in action over Iraq.
What was going on? There were very strict rules of engagement in the no-fly zones. The allied pilots were authorised to fire missiles at any Iraqi air defence weapon or radar that fired at them or locked on to their aircraft. As was noted in Foreign Office legal advice appended to the July 2002 briefing paper, they were only “entitled to use force in self-defence where such a use of force is a necessary and proportionate response to actual or imminent attack from Iraqi ground systems”.
That May, however, Donald Rumsfeld had ordered a more aggressive approach, authorising allied aircraft to attack Iraqi command and control centres as well as actual air defences. The US defence secretary later said this was simply to prevent the Iraqis attacking allied aircraft, but Hoon’s remark gives the game away. In reality, as he explained, the “spikes of activity” were designed “to put pressure on the regime”.
What happened next was dramatic. In September, the amount of ordnance used in the southern no-fly zone increased sharply to 54.6 tonnes. It declined in October to 17.7 tonnes before rising again to 33.6 tonnes in November and 53.2 tonnes in December. The spikes were getting taller and taller.
In fact, as it became clear that Saddam Hussein would not provide them with the justification they needed to launch the air war, we can see that the allies simply launched it anyway, beneath the cloak of the no-fly zone.
In the early hours of 5 September, for example, more than a hundred allied aircraft attacked the H-3 airfield, the main air defence site in western Iraq. Located at the furthest extreme of the southern no-fly zone, far away from the areas that needed to be patrolled to prevent attacks on the Shias, it was destroyed not because it was a threat to the patrols, but to allow allied special forces operating from Jordan to enter Iraq undetected.
It would be another nine weeks before Blair and Bush went to the UN to try to persuade it to authorise military action, but the air war had begun anyway. The number of raids shot up, from four a month to 30, with allied aircraft repeatedly returning to sites they had already hit to finish them off. Senior British officials insist that no RAF aircraft opened fire until it was at least locked on to by an Iraqi radar, but it is difficult to see how the systematic targeting of Iraqi installations could have constituted “a necessary and proportionate response”. The story of the secret air war dovetails neatly with the other evidence from the leaked documents, further demonstrating why, even after the general election, Blair’s efforts to dispel the allegations about the background to war and get the country to “move on” seem doomed to fail.
To reiterate the tonnage of bombs reportedly dropped by the British Royal Air Force on targets in southern Iraq for ten months in 2002:
March: 0.0 tons
April: 0.3 tons
May: 7.3 tons
June: 10.4 tons
July: 9.5 tons
August: 14.1 tons
September: 54.6 tons
October: 17.7 tons
November: 33.6 tons
December: 53.2 tons
In light of the ongoing revelations about these “spikes of activity” over the skies of Iraq, I have decided to archive here links to a large number of documents that the Iraqi Government filed with the UN Security Council and Secretary-General over the course of the roughly 19 months before the official start of the American and British war on March 19-20, 2003.
Typically, these Iraqi documents took the form of letters from Iraq’s Permanent Representative or one its Chargé d’Affaires to the United Nations, and laid out Iraq’s factual complaints about the activities of the American and British warplanes.
Note that the period of time covered by my catalogue (late August, 2001 through late March, 2003) is somewhat arbitrary—though it does include everything during the post-9/11 period until the start of the war over Iraq. But whereas the bombing activities by U.S. and U.K. warplanes did indeed spike upwards during the twelve months (or so) prior to the ground invasion (especially from September, 2002 onward); still, U.S. and U.K. warplanes had been very active over Iraqi territory since the first Bush regime had declared a ceasefire at the end of February, 1991, including numerous instances of air-strikes against Iraqi targets throughout the entire 12 year period. The “spikes of activity” by the U.S. and U.K. warplanes in the summer and fall of 2002 did indeed constitute real spikes in activity and the tonnage of bombs dropped. But under no circumstances did they represent a new kind of activity—violence as opposed to peace—as we learn by looking at the extensive Iraqi reports to the United Nations not only in the second-half of 2002, but earlier.
Of course, the guiding thread throughout all of this remains the absolute commitment on the part of the American and British political leadership to state violence and aggressive, predatory conduct with respect to Iraq, even as the American and British governments and their prolific advocates at home and abroad projected onto the Iraqis the very attributes that they themselves not only possess. But exemplify.
Instead, the American and British governments went out of their way to pretend that it was Iraq, that it was the dread Saddam Hussein, with his “weapons of mass destruction” and his sponsorship of the Al Qaeda hijackers of 9/11, that initiated the war. Or, in the very least, that had established the threat of war in the world, thus giving the Americans and British (and any other state that would tag along with them—Australia, to name one) the right to take “pre-emptive” action to counter the threat.
To quote just one of the literally hundreds of letters having been drafted in the name of the Iraqi Government and addressed to the Security Council and the Secretary-General over the years between the first and second wars over Iraq (October 20, 2001: S/2001/995):
On instructions from my Government, I have the honour to transmit to you herewith a letter dated 20 October 2001 from Mr. Naji Sabri, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Iraq. The Minister calls attention to the acts of aggression and terrorism that the United States and the United Kingdom are committing against Iraq on the pretext of enforcing the two so-called no-flight zones imposed in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international law, which have begun to take on more intrusive dimensions in targeting Iraqi civilians. He states that, in addition to the bombing of Iraqi towns and villages and of the infrastructure of the Iraqi economy that has caused thousands of civilian deaths, left tens of thousands wounded and inflicted enormous material losses, United States and British aircraft have begun to intercept Iraqi civilian aircraft operating on domestic flights between Baghdad and the other governorates and to threaten the pilots on the pretext that they are violating the so-called no-flight zones.
The Minister states that the threats being made by United States warplanes to the safety and security of civilians and civilian aircraft represent organized State terrorism that is no different from any other terrorist action targeting civilians in any other part of the world. He expresses the hope that, acting with the Security Council, you will meet your responsibilities under the Charter of the United Nations by intervening immediately in order to halt these acts of terrorism — namely the interference of United States aircraft with Iraqi civil aviation and their threats to shoot down Iraqi civilian aircraft — and to deter those who are committing these terrorist acts and bring them to account for their actions. The Minister affirms that Iraq reserves in full its right to respond in an appropriate manner to these threats in order to ensure the safety of its people and the integrity of its airspace and territory, that it charges the United States and the United Kingdom with full legal responsibility for these acts and that it reserves its right to claim compensation for all the damage they have inflicted on the Iraqi people.
I should be grateful if you would have the present letter and its annex circulated as a document of the Security Council.
(Signed) Mohammed A. Al-Douri
I cannot tell you whether the Secretary-General obliged the Iraqi Ambassador, and circulated his letter. Or whether the Secretary-General even understood the meaning of the words with which it was written.
But I can tell you that the material linked below shows a beleaguered regime encircled by a predatory superpower. With the one institution in the world to which the regime might turn to plead its case and to seek assistance instead having aligned itself with the predatory superpower. At a cost of hundreds of thousands of lives. And the destruction of any hope for an international order governed by the rule of law.
Except in those cases when the laws can be crafted so as to coincide with the ever-shifting needs of the predatory superpower.
For your information: A few words on how the sources catalogued below work: In all instances, the date refers to the date of the original Iraqi document—not the date placed on it by the UN bibliographic system. The second piece of information refers to the UN bibliographic system’s ranking of the document. Note also that in all instances, the best I’ve been able to do is direct readers to the UN bibliographic system’s file for each document, whereupon readers will be able to access the document in question. (Try accessing a document, and you will immediately see what I mean.) Unfortunately, there is no way around this problem. The UN system simply is set up to work in this proximate fashion.
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March 24, 2003 (S/2003/362) [Letter of Iraq as Chairman of the Arab Group to the President of the Security Council requesting the "convening of an urgent session for the Security Council with regard to halting the American-British aggression and the immediate withdrawal of the invading forces outside the international boundaries of the Republic of Iraq and reconfirming Iraq's sovereignty, political independence and territorial integrity and preventing all States from interfering in its internal affairs."]