So, they’ve got the evidence, about the weapons of mass destruction, but we can’t see it just yet. Is it still at the printers? Is it being held up by a row about how you spell “aflatoxin”? Perhaps there’s a problem with the plot, and the scriptwriters are refusing to let it go because the character of Tariq Aziz is left in the air and the relationship between Saddam and the scud missiles left hopelessly unresolved.
If they know the evidence, why can’t they tell us the main points until we have the dossier? Or at least make a trailer: “This is a story of a man for whom mass destruction was simply a hobby â€“ ‘Soon all my chemical weapons will be in place’ -â€“ and two men determined to stop him â€“ ‘My God, there’s enough uranium in there to murder every living thing in every country affiliated to Nato. And look at this delivery notice, it says he’s getting his last crucial warhead in exactly three months’ â€“ Together they have 90 days to stop the axis of evil.”
Or when it comes they might announce: “We don’t have any photos of his weapons of mass destruction just yet â€“ but we have got drawings. In felt pen.”
And what a coincidence, that this evidence should promise to pop up now, just as it becomes clear public opinion is against a war. It all looks as desperate as a couple coming back from holiday and incompetently trying to carry out an insurance fiddle. Blair and Bush are almost kicking each other under the table as they mutter: “They’ve definitely got plutonium. Uranium. No, plutonium. Hang on a minute â€“ I thought we agreed uranium.”
In a couple of weeks Blair will hold another press conference and announce he’s left the evidence on the Tube. But he has finished it, honest. Then that night he’ll ring Bush and say: “Can I copy yours?”
So for the time being we’re left with statements such as the one by White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, who said the war must go ahead because “Saddam has not lived up to his promise to allow inspectors into the country”. He was then asked if the war would still go ahead if Saddam did allow them into the country, and Fleischer answered: “The policy of the US is regime change, with or without inspectors.” So if Saddam does admit inspectors, they’ll be doing the most pointless inspecting in the world. You couldn’t blame them if they sat in the shade for a fortnight and sent back a note saying: “He’s got a machine that can turn us all into tadpoles.”.
Which would be at the level of one paper’s cut-out guide to “Iraq’s evil arsenal”, pride of place going to “Scud missiles”. It admits the accuracy of these things is less than a mile, so can we really go to war with someone for possessing a large firework? They might as well include “The Dead Leg. Evil thigh-tingling weapon that could numb several people in one day”. The Scud, we are told, has a “range of 200 miles, making Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, Iran and Kuwait possible targets”. So either the demand is that Saddam gets rid of his Scuds, or that he moves Iraq to somewhere more than 200 miles from the nearest country.
But the tabloid also mentions nuclear weapons. For, “if Saddam acquires enriched uranium, he could be just months from building a warhead”. If the Women’s Institute acquired enriched uranium, they could be just months from building a warhead. There is, however, a fair amount of evidence that Saddam doesn’t have the military power that Blair and Bush claim. Scott Ritter, who led the UN inspections team, has stated repeatedly that any nuclear potential was destroyed. And the last bunch of inspectors eventually left because they admitted they were acting as spies.
The other argument for war, that Saddam’s evil is proved by his war against Iran and his treatment of Kurds, is poetic in its hypocrisy. It’s true he did both those things but we were backing him at the time. The Americans shot down a civilian Iranian plane, vetoed a United Nations resolution condemning the attacks on the Kurds and dismissed anyone who pointed out this barbarism. It’s as if Alex Ferguson decided to bomb Roy Keane, screaming “But this is a man prepared to hack down his own colleagues” at anyone who suggested he shouldn’t.
So it could be that because the warmongers are failing to win public opinion, they’re suddenly cobbling together “evidence”. And there will be piles of it. Just like the stories of Germans raping nuns in 1914 and Iraqis throwing babies out of incubators in 1990, admitted as lies once those wars were over. There will be grainy film of Saddam chucking kittens in canals and crackly tape of him threatening to ruin David Beckham’s hair. But the football manager the Americans will try to copy once the war starts will be ArsÃ¨ne Wenger. Every time hundreds of civilians are slaughtered by wayward bombs, the US spokesman will look blank and say: “Well I didn’t see that incident so I really can’t comment. But aren’t we doing well?”