I think I’ve detected a new type of Gulf War Syndrome, a shocking disease that attacks the nervous system. It afflicts anyone defending the latest Gulf war, making them see piles of imaginary weapons. For example, one American soldier, interviewed after his regiment shot dead 14 demonstrating Iraqis, said his regiment was under attack, adding: “It was like the Alamo out there.” Yet not a single US soldier or US thing of any nature was dented by a bullet.
Or maybe the soldier was telling the truth, and at the Alamo the Americans came under siege from a terrifying horde of Mexicans carrying placards. And their leader cried: “Abandon the fort, amigo, or you leave us with no choice but to chant slogans. And I warn you, I have the fastest megaphone in Texas.”
But this is a mild attack compared with the alarming delusions of those victims who, for a year before the war, were certain they were in the presence of weapons of mass destruction. Now Donald Rumsfeld is suggesting the reason they can’t be found is because they were destroyed before the war started. So we went to war to rid Saddam of weapons that were already destroyed. We had no choice in this, because the destroyed weapons could have been used against us, or fallen into the hands of al-Qa’ida, who would then have been able to take them down the council dump or maybe sell them for scrap. In any case, as he’d destroyed his weapons of mass destruction, this meant he couldn’t hand any over to weapons inspectors, which was a flagrant breach of UN resolution 1441. If he wanted to comply with the UN he’d have built a nuclear plant so he could hand it over, but typically he had no interest in co-operating.
The lack of actual weapons is a little embarrassing for the British Government, so you get statements like that made by Jack Straw when he said it didn’t make much difference that there was no “literal” evidence. If only we weren’t so bureaucratic and were happy to accept conceptual evidence or imaginary evidence or evidence in which Jack Straw puts an ashtray on the table and says: “So let’s say this is his bunker. Then this salt pot here is his anthrax. Well there you are, there’s his weapons of mass destruction.”
Then there’s astrological evidence, documented evidence from tea leaves, evidence that Nostradamus predicted a man with a moustache would threaten the land of the eagle with deadly vapour, but knee-jerk anti-Americans persist in demanding the literal type. And presumably, because Saddam only destroyed the weapons because the threat of war was real, once they’d been destroyed we had to have the war anyway as otherwise the threat of war would have turned out not to have been real, creating an unsolvable philosophical puzzle.
The amazing part is the Americans aren’t even trying to lie properly. Surely they could find something if they really wanted to, but they almost take enjoyment from implying, “So what if we made it up, what’s anyone going to do about it?” They’re like someone having an affair with a married woman in the office, having to keep things officially secret but desperately wishing they could stand in the middle of the room yelling: “Guess what I’ve been doing”.
In some ways you can almost respect them. They made no secret, before the twin towers were bombed, of their “Project for the New American Century” with its military aiming for “full-spectrum dominance”. The really annoying people are the politicians and commentators who still think the war was fought to make the world a safer place. Ironically it seems that the anti-war movement in this country did more than anything to stem the growth of militant Islam. Several imams and Muslim leaders have stated how the scale of the movement made it hard for militant groups to argue that all Westerners were the enemy.
Even more infuriating is the certainty that the same people who fell for the lies will fall for them all over again. Already Iran is turning out to be backing terrorists and producing weapons of mass destruction. You’d think the Americans could at least be original and say they’re breeding dinosaurs or have made contact with Voldemort or something. And, almost inevitably, as we hear stories of how atrocious Iran is, we refuse to believe an asylum-seeker who’s been tortured in Iran. Then, when he sews up his eyes and mouth in protest, the attitude of those most enthusiastic about backing America is: “Well where did he get the needle and thread from, ay? That’s our taxes paying for that cotton, we’re mugs I tell you, mugs.”
Blair believed that his actions would be proved right. Instead we’ve become the country that has officially no friends. But so wild are his Gulf War sickness hallucinations, it must be almost certain that his response will be to announce: “I fully support the bid for America to have a regular entry in the Eurovision Song Contest.”
More articles by Mark Steel.