Friday, July 18, 2003

Critics of military intervention in Iraq got much of their pre-war intelligence wrong. The 250,000 deaths predicted did not happen. Nor the refugee crisis. Nor the cholera epidemic. Baghdad did not become a replay of Stalingrad, nor was the Arab world set aflame.

To make this point is not to accuse opponents of the war of lies, deception or propaganda. Doubtless, many of these same people would be greatly relieved that some of the more exaggerated pre-war fears were to prove unfounded.

For others, however, the war over Iraq is far from over. Just as Saddam's "bitter-enders" are mounting a ferocious guerilla campaign against US forces in an effort to sabotage moves towards economic reconstruction and political reform, so too are revisionists on the march in the US, Britain and Australia. Their aim? To discredit the war in Iraq as unjustified and immoral.

On the basis of a disputed British Government claim that Iraq had sought to buy uranium in Africa, there is an attempt under way to rewrite the record to read something like this: leaders of three of the world's oldest democracies lied to their people about the reasons for going to war; concocted evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction; and exaggerated the nature of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's regime in order to provoke conflict.

It is becoming the mother of all conspiracy theories, worthy of a Comical Ali. That it appears to be gaining traction - and not just among the partisan critics of George Bush, Tony Blair and John Howard - goes to show just how out of touch with reality the debate has become.

Put it that way and the whole thing seems just a bit silly, now doesn't it?

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