Neil Mackay: Britain and America cannot be trusted when it comes to war in Ukraine

LET’S state the obvious first: Vladimir Putin is a monstrous individual sitting atop a murderous, authoritarian regime, and appeasing him would pave a bloody path to hell which we’ve trod before in Europe within living memory.

Ukraine, like any nation, must be allowed to determine its own future and alliances, including with Nato, whether Putin likes it or not – and the west must stand firmly behind Kyiv.

However, none of that means we can trust a word Britain and America says when it comes to war. The US and UK are practiced liars in international affairs, and are currently hammering hard on the drums of war rather than engaged in the hard work of diplomacy.

Are our memories so short that we’ve forgotten the lies spun by the governments of George W Bush and Tony Blair to lead us into the bloodbath of Iraq?

READ MORE: Tony Blair is guilty, m’lud

The Bush and Blair governments manipulated and manufactured intelligence to build the case for war against Saddam Hussein. Like Putin, Saddam was a monster atop a murderous regime. But Britain and America went to war not because Saddam was a brutal dictator but on the basis of US-UK claims that he had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

There was no WMD in Iraq. Those that were once there – many sold by the west – had been destroyed. London and Washington knew that, but still wanted war, because in the wake of September 11, Blair and Bush shared fantasies of reshaping the world. Look where that’s taken us.

From 9-11 until the invasion of Iraq, I spent most of my waking hours as a journalist investigating the intelligence claims made by Britain and America about WMD, and why our militaries should invade Iraq, inevitably causing the deaths of countless innocent civilians.

What I uncovered was a web of the most cynical lies ever spun. I ended up writing a book about the deceptions used to justify invading Iraq. I called it The War on Truth. One example of deceit was the UK’s Operation Rockingham. A former US military intelligence officer and UN weapons inspector told me how the operation produced misleading intelligence on Iraq’s WMD which was used to justify invasion.

READ MORE: Iraq lies sowed the seeds of Brexit

I was told: “Operation Rockingham cherry-picked intelligence. It received hard data, but had a preordained outcome in mind. It only put forward a small percentage of facts when most were ambiguous or noted no WMD … Rockingham became part of an effort to maintain a public mindset that Iraq was not in compliance with the inspections. They had to sustain the allegation that Iraq had WMD when [UN weapons inspections] were showing the opposite.”

One tactic would involve the leaking of false information to weapons inspectors who would then have to follow up on the lead. The inspection would then be used as proof of WMD. “Rockingham,” I was told, “was the source … of some very controversial information which led to inspections of a suspected ballistic missile site. We … found nothing. However, our act of searching allowed the US and UK to say that the missiles existed.”

David Kelly was connected to Rockingham. He was the UN weapons inspector who committed suicide after being caught up in the furore around reports the Blair government ‘sexed up’ intelligence.

I was told Kelly was “Rockingham’s go-to person for translating …confusing data, that came out of [UN weapons inspections], into concise reporting.”

The day before he died Kelly told the UK parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee: “Within the defence intelligence services, I liaise with the Rockingham cell.”

Another intelligence outfit I investigated was the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans set up by the Bush administration to build the case for war against Iraq. One former CIA officer told me that the OSP “lied and manipulated intelligence to further its agenda of removing Saddam. It’s a group of ideologues with pre-determined notions of truth and reality. They take bits of intelligence to support their agenda and ignore anything contrary”.

Over and over again in the run up to invasion, British and American intelligence sources told me that they felt manipulated and were horrified by the way the word ‘could’ became ‘will’ in the mouths of US and UK politicians. There’s a world of difference between saying someone ‘could’ attack you, and someone ‘will’ attack you. Many warned the invasion would lead to acts of terror across the western world. They were right.

Now weigh this history against claims being made by the west today. US officials insist they’ve evidence (unseen) of Russia planning to fake graphic videos showing a Ukrainian attack as a pretext for invasion. This alleged plot would involve using corpses and actors playing Russian mourners. UK foreign secretary Liz Truss backs the assessment.

Perhaps Putin is planning some ghastly false flag operation. Who knows? However, the fable of The Boy Who Cried Wolf exists for a reason. Back before the invasion of Iraq, intelligence sources warned that one day there’d be a real threat of war to contend with but the words of British and American leaders wouldn’t be taken seriously because of their lies over Iraq. Here we are today.

We should bear in mind that Ukraine has repeatedly said that Washington is exaggerating the imminence of the threat of invasion. Kyiv was particular aggrieved at Britain and America removing some non-essential embassy staff. Ukrainians felt it reinforced the image of their nation on the brink of collapse. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said he judges the threat from Russia to be no higher than during a previous troop build up by Moscow last Spring. Is Ukraine not the one country we should heed in this crisis?

The risks of war are very real. But America and Britain – two untrustworthy and manipulative nations – are heating the threat up, not cooling it down. France’s President Emmanuel Macron appears to be the one leader willing to try to bring some calm by engaging in face to face diplomacy with Putin. Sure, he risks being portrayed as a dupe, as a Neville Chamberlain, but with the discussion now turning to all-out war in Europe and nuclear conflict, it’s talk not tanks which is needed.

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald

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