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The truth will return to haunt Iraq’s invaders

If you’ve ever heard members of the Sikh religion greeting each other, you will know that they always say “Sat Sri Akaal”. What you may not know is what it means: “Truth is Eternal”. The enlightened founders of Sikhism asked Sikhs to place truth so high that it is embedded in their daily greeting.

The Bible tells us: “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. In all cultures and all religions, truth is given paramount importance. Truth is sacred, and it is inviolate. Living by the truth is the highest ideal of humankind. Truth is a beacon that guides us through the often-troubled journeys of our lives. It is the raft we hold on to when the storms of life batter us.

Truth is not just important as a moral or philosophical tenet. The telling of lies, sooner or later, causes great difficulties in our lives. Said Mark Twain: “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” We all learn this as children. One lie often means another has to be told in order to corroborate the original. Lies inevitably bring more lies in their train. Soon the liar is caught in an ever-growing web of deceit, merely to avoid exposure on the first, often quite trivial, untruth. Lies spiral out of control. Eventually, the whole edifice has to come down, to much shame and personal disgrace.

Today, this important lesson seems to be entirely forgotten by the leaders of the western world. The Iraq war has shown us one thing very plainly: that truth is always the first casualty of war. If you step back from the toxic miasma of falsehoods that has been generated since the invasion of Iraq last year, and simply use your own common sense as your guide, then the truth, surely, is self-evident: Iraq was invaded on false premises. It had no weapons of mass destruction. It was not capable of destroying western targets within 45 minutes. This is now known. It is apparent. It is there for all to see.

But will the twin architects of the war, George W. Bush and Tony Blair, admit this lie? Not a bit of it! Like children, they are constructing falsehood after falsehood to conceal their first lie. Unlike children, they are using the nuances of language to construct these falsehoods. Let us put it plainly. Iraq was invaded because a group of American demagogues had decided several years ago that it had to be. All subsequent events – the negotiations with the United Nations, the now-discredited intelligence reports – were mere window dressing. But world opinion needed a strong reason to justify this invasion. A reason – that Saddam had the weapons to kill us all – was duly constructed. All else is smoke and mirrors.

In Britain, Blair’s Hutton Inquiry recently gave the government a clean bill of health over claims made by a BBC journalist that it knowingly ‘sexed up’ intelligence reports on Iraq in order to justify the war. Apparently, the various possible definitions of ‘sexed up’ were considered at length by His Lordship. On one possible meaning, he exonerated the government, whilst vilifying the BBC. The BBC may have been guilty of shoddy editorial control and poor governance, yes, but let us not lose perspective: it is merely a bit player, a reporter of events. The BBC did not start a war that led to thousands of deaths; the government did. Is a focus on management procedures more important than wars between nations? Inquiries that belabour technicalities and the shades and gradations of language are worse than useless; they are downright dangerous.

Paul O’Neill, Bush’s former Treasury Secretary, revealed recently that the coterie of warmongers around George Bush was planning to attack Iraq from the moment it took office in 2001. ‘Rumsfeld’s War’, a book published in February this year by a Washington journalist, quotes classified documents that show that Mr. Bush signed a secret national security council directive “establishing the goals and objectives for going to war with Iraq” in February 2002 – more than a year before the actual invasion. Yet senior US and British government officials spent the rest of 2002 denying that any decision had been made to go to war!

Let us look at events unfolding recently in Pakistan. That country’s leading nuclear scientist, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has admitted his role in selling nuclear technology to various rogue regimes around the world. The lie is that he somehow acted alone, without the knowledge of successive Pakistani governments. This is an absolute sham. Several Pakistani prime ministers have been part and parcel of the country’s trade in nuclear secrets for decades. Successive US presidents have known of this involvement. When Libya’s newfound spirit of openness and truth telling gave the game away late last year, a scapegoat had to be found. Mr. Khan was that man; he confessed and was duly pardoned. As was Pakistan itself. Always an important player in American strategic designs for Asia, Pakistan is forgiven its transgressions. Indeed, as I pointed out in this column last year, it is often rewarded handsomely: in 2003 it was granted US$ 3 billion by the USA.

When the US government tells us the lie that it is interested in instilling democracy in the world, it asks us to forget the truth that it has supported brutal totalitarian regimes across the globe for decades. When we are asked to swallow the falsehood that America will always hunt down regimes that possess weapons of mass destruction, we must avert our eyes from Pakistan, which not only possesses these weapons, but has also been proliferating them around the world; and from North Korea, which boasts openly about having the weapons and threatens aggressively to use them.

When we are asked to believe that America abhors ‘terrorists’ like Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden, we are being asked to simultaneously forget the uncomfortable knowledge that America once installed, supported and funded these very individuals. We must, in short, abandon all our concepts of truth and start to believe utter fabrications.

The sad part of it is that large numbers of people do believe these untruths, simply because they are stated by important people in important positions, and repeated unceasingly. “A lie stated often enough becomes truth”, said Lenin, and Bush and Blair have apparently taken this to heart.

But truth is eternal. It persists. It remains as it is. No amount of spin, fabrication or invention can alter one grain of the truth. Truth is. It does not require translation, interpretation or elucidation. It is known, and remains known. The longer it is evaded, the more fearsome the final reckoning.

The lessons we all learned about truth as children will be learned, tomorrow if not today, by the most powerful men in the world. Messrs Bush and Blair may have forgotten about the concept known as the truth, but the truth will not forget them. They will meet again.

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