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IOS Minaret Vol-1, No.1 (March 2007)
Vol. 4    Issue 18   01-15 February 2010

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown: How the British empire is striking back

Like Blair, this inquiry is imperialist. Dusky natives have no voice or representation

I did try to sit through the Blair show. An unfortunate combination of Asiatic high emotion and feminine fragility made me feeble. I had to walk away, knocking over a large goblet of dark red wine, the colour of blood. It stained the beautiful wooden floor. From TB, then, the final words. I Did It My Way and Je ne regrette rien. So long folks. The Tory poster of Blair as the devil man now seems prescient.

Acidic revulsion filled the back of the throat. I wanted to be there, to look into the opaque eyes of our ex-Prime Minister, shake his obscene complacency and moral smugness, meet head on his disdain for international law, evidence, citizens of both Britain and Iraq. I discussed these reactions on Sky News and afterwards was driven back by an Algerian driver, who confessed he too had to stop watching from time to time, to calm down the storm building up inside his head. Neither of us is Iraqi. Imagine now what it must have felt like if you were, and like millions of them, against the war.

Judging from the many, many emails I have had since that appearance, countless Britons were just as repulsed. For the families of dead soldiers, Blair's cold, pitiless delivery must have felt like fresh cuts on open wounds. They at least have had public attention. But what of the Iraqis? How can we have had five inquiries into Iraq without a single Iraqi being called and all Muslim voices expunged?

The Chilcot panel could have included a dispassionate Muslim academic or one of the impressive experts on international affairs at Chatham House. But no. They chose instead Baroness Prashar, an Asian of Hindu background, someone I know and admire, but who, in this case, might be seen as an establishment insider and so lack credibility.

Blair has always been an imperialist and one reason he fell in so readily with the neo-cons was that they promised to fly him on winged horses back to those glory days again. In his victory speech to the Labour party conference in 1997 he expressed unseemly pride and undisguised longing for the British empire "that covered the world", an echo of his godmother Margaret Thatcher's intimations of colonial greatness in Bruges in 1992. And from his testimony he is still is profoundly a Western supremacist.

That he says there was "no humanitarian disaster" means it doesn't matter how many dusky natives men, women and children have been killed, maimed, reduced to destitution or ended up as refugees. They do not matter any more than did those Bengal famine victims under the Raj when they were denied food for sound economic reasons. When he says the "calculus" changed he reduces these humans to a number. He and Bush, white masters of the universe, decide who lives and who dies.

The only "humans" in Blair's story are the Americans whose safety and sovereignty was violated on 9/11. We know all that more clearly than ever before. Blair for sure would not accept China and India using his example to launch an attack on Iraq. That privilege is open only to white power.

His henchmen were of the same mindset. Geoff Hoon and I were on the Question Time panel just before action. He was aloof and arrogant before, during and after the heated programme. And so he was at the inquiry, as were Campbell, Straw, Goldsmith. They were all absolutely right, and have nothing to explain.

Instead we, who were anti-war, are being made to feel treacherous for questioning their integrity a shabby trick that only reveals how they have no integrity.

That no tough follow-up questions were asked by the Chilcot elders, that those who were affected by these breezy ideologues were never called, makes this inquiry itself imperialist. The natives don't matter too excitable and indecorous to be allowed in. No questions need be asked on their behalf either.

Wouldn't be cricket to disturb the comfy, between-us-chaps atmosphere we have witnessed in every one of the useless inquiries. They might have summoned, for example, the surviving members of the Hamoodi family hit by two missiles in Basra as they gathered in the family home. They lost Moustapha (13), grandmother Kariah (70), Hassan (9), Zain (19), Zainab (19), Zina (12), Wissam (41) and Ihab (32), a consultant gynaecologist. They are thought to have died of suffocation. Even if one accepts that such things happen in war, we need to know if they who suffered most still support this kind of delivery of democracy, and what kind of help they were offered next. OK, perhaps it's not a good idea to bring victims into such staid procedures.

So invite in Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi commentator in Britain, whose observations have been consistent and facts reliable. He warned back in 2006 that disinformation and deceptions kept the truth hidden of "the divide and rule tactics that have spawned death squads, torture, kidnappings, left people with polluted water, depleted uranium" and of course the uncounted dead.

Or get the testimony of Lailia al-Arian, of Al Jazeera, who in 2007 interviewed US war veterans who admitted using random brutality against innocent civilians, some because they could, others because they were terrified of the place they had ended up in and the people who didn't see them as liberating heroes, not for long anyway. We are only now finding out about some of our soldiers who indulged their sadism in Iraq.

They should also have had in some of those exiled Kurds and Iraqis who backed Blair and Bush (some for personal gain) and questioned them on the backroom advice they were giving and why. We needed to know just who has benefited in material terms from this "freedom" mission. Who wantonly looted historical treasures? Who got oil and reconstruction contracts? What do we know of the Iraqis now in power who thank Blair for his generous intervention? As ever, brown sahibs are always on hand to serve the interests of Empire makers and they too, like their masters, get away with it because they must.

There will be no truth or justice for Iraq. The book is done. Perhaps, as a small gesture of contrition, the Chilcot panel should put this verse from Dante Gabriel Rossetti's "The One Hope", on the front page of their report:

'When vain desire at last and vain regret
Go hand in hand to death, and all is vain,
What shall assuage the unforgotten pain
And teach the unforgetful to forget?'

Source: The Independent, 1 February 2010

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