Inter Press Service
Saturday 29 March 2003
LONDON - Labour Party MP Tam Dalyell, revered as the 'father' of the British Parliament, sees catastrophic times ahead if the war on Iraq continues.
"God only knows how this will end," Dalyell told IPS in an interview Saturday. "But if it must be ended sensibly, I can only say that there should be a ceasefire forthwith that is mandated and administered by the UN. It is clear already that this talk of achieving a regime change is fanciful."
Dalyell said: "They have not just miscalculated, they have completely misunderstood the nature of Iraqi society and its institutions."
Tam Dalyell, who is known as the Father of the House because he is the longest serving MP (he was elected first in 1962), carries considerable weight in Parliament and in the public. He has led a loud campaign since the build-up to the war that the government is deceiving the people.
Dalyell, who has been closely monitoring the situation in Iraq, said most people could see what the U.S. and British governments could not.
"When I was in Baghdad in 1994, a lot of people were very critical of Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath party," he said. "When I went back in 1998, there was far less criticism of Saddam Hussein. The effect of the bombing and the sanctions had begun to tell. I must add that I went on my own expense, and I was not beholden to anyone."
The U.S.-British alliance lost their cause when the war began, he said. "Within the first night, the bombing blitz on Baghdad would have united most Iraqis against the U.S. and Britain," he said. "So there is first a misunderstanding about the nature of Iraqi society, and then a total miscalculation about fighting the Iraqi people - and they are now fighting the Iraqis, not Saddam Hussein."
The blunder has happened because "people like U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Vice-President Dick Cheny and Rumsfeld's deputy Paul Wolfowitz have hijacked the U.S. government."
They have been backed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair because "he is a great believer in bombing," Dalyell said. "He likes the idea of being a great war leader."
Among other consequences, "British relations with France and Germany are at present sub-zero, and I do not know how they can be put right without at least a change of Prime Minister." A demand for that change is beginning to grow within Labour, he said.
"There is also great consternation within the Labour Party," Dalyell said. Of the 410 Labour MPs, 140 voted against the government move to back the war. At the same time, Labour MPs also feel the need to back British troops, he said.
Dalyell, who served in a tank regiment himself for two years, says "my heart goes out to the soldiers." He said leaders have no idea what it is like to wear a tank suit, no idea how hot Iraq can be even in the early summer. "It was 80 degrees when I used to wear tank suits in the Rhine Valley in Germany," he said. "And that is nothing like Basra."
Just the heat in Iraq can become a major problem, he said. "Napoleon and Hitler perished in the snow before Moscow," he said. "I think the allied armies will be frizzled by the sun on the gates of Baghdad."
The blunders have been covered by a litany of lies in the build-up to the war, Dalyell said. There is little that the British government is saying that can be believed, he said.
"In the dossier on Iraq released by the British government late last year, there is a long passage about the Iraqi football team having the soles of their feet beaten for losing a qualifying match in 1997 for the world cup football," he said.
"I had checked with FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association) at that time. They had said they sent the chairmen of the football associations of Malaysia and Qatar to Iraq for an inquiry, along with an experienced doctor. The members of the team showed no scars and dismissed the allegations. The football officials said there was no truth in those allegations. But why has the British government brought those allegations into a dossier in late 2002?"
The blunder over the passages plagiarised from a Californian research student that found their way into the British dossier are well known, he said. Apart from the nature of the source, "if someone in a university had done that, they would have been dismissed."
The dossier had spoken of uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger, Dalyell said. But International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Mohammed ElBaradei had established that those allegations were nonsense, he said.
He quoted ElBaradei as saying: "Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that these documents - which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger - are in fact not authentic."
Dalyell said in Parliament: "This is a matter of trust and deceit - Parliament has been deceived. The British people have been deceived ... on a matter which is the basis of peace and war." Britain, he warned earlier, is on "a motorway without exit to war". He was ordered out of the chamber when he refused to sit down and give up.
This is not the first time Dalyell has challenged a British government over warlike moves. Twenty years ago he accused Margaret Thatcher of "lying" to the Commons during the Falklands War over the sinking of the Argentinean ship, the General Belgrano. He maintained that the act of sinking the ship was illegal. He relentlessly opposed the Falklands war.
(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)