More than 15 years after arguably the most terrible crime of the 21st century was inflicted on the Iraqi people, who continue to suffer from its results, the events surrounding the invasion of Iraq remain mired in secrecy.
However, yet another revelation has surfaced from the evil depths of the lies, deceit and murderous desire to destroy an entire country and people. In former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s rush to aid and abet his friend, then-US President George W. Bush, he and his intelligence services used so-called intelligence linking Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda that they knew had been extracted under torture.
The British secret service, known as MI6, knew that Ibn al-Sheikh al-Libi, whose real name is Ali Muhammad Abdul Aziz al-Fakheri, was tortured and failed to blow the whistle despite saying the agency had been “tempted to speak out.” MI6 officers witnessed Libi being sealed alive in a coffin before being loaded onto a military plane bound for Egypt where he was tortured. Despite this knowledge, MI6 sent questions to be posed to Libi by his torturers and received regular updates on what he was saying. One of his tips was that al-Qaeda was linked to Saddam’s alleged nuclear weapons programme and three terrorists had been sent to Iraq for training.
As it turned out, the intelligence turned up by Libi’s interrogators was bogus. Oddly enough, a man will say almost anything when he is sealed in a claustrophobic environment such as a coffin, subjected to electrocution, beatings and many other forms of torture. Libi later told the CIA, after he was transferred to its custody, that he lied about the intelligence just to make the torture stop.
Nevertheless, the faulty intelligence was used to sex up the case for war by falsely claiming that Saddam not only had a weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme but that it was linked to hardened terrorists who had killed nearly 3,000 people in the 9/11 attacks.
This was not the only example of false intelligence. Who can forget the dodgy dossier that the Blair government produced, fancifully claiming that Iraq could deploy a WMD within 45 minutes? Or US Secretary of State Colin Powell showing images of supposed portable Iraqi chemical weapons facilities at the United Nations? Or intelligence sources from Iraq who had an axe to grind with no credibility in the intelligence community but who were listened to simply because the case for war in Iraq needed to be concocted? The list of lies is gargantuan.
The Iraq war is the war crime scandal that just keeps on giving, yet its primary architects and perpetrators remain free. Despite the Iraq Inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, in the United Kingdom, these revelations show that we have not even scratched the surface of the disgusting deceit that led to a decade-and-a-half of suffering in Iraq and the rise of some of the worst terrorist organisations in memory, including the Islamic State and several dozens Iran-sponsored Shia groups. If there is a ground zero for the most pressing problems in the Middle East today, it is Iraq.
Iraqis have yet to find peace in their homeland and it is unlikely they will see justice meted out against Bush and Blair for destroying what semblance of a life they had. Future generations of Iraqis will take decades to shake off the yoke of Iran-backed sectarianism and to begin the process of rebuilding what was destroyed by the lies of two men who will never stand trial but who stood in judgment over others.
Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.
This article was originally published in The Arab Weekly.