21 May 2012

How would Catherine Ashton know what’s good for Iraq?

News stories often require a health warning. In the interests of transparency, the words “this is a rehashed press release” should appear at the beginning of numerous articles in the papers and websites owned by the mainstream media. TV bulletins should open with an announcement, saying “much of what you are about to hear reflects the interests of the powerful”.

New Europe | By David Cronin | 17.05.2012 | NEDERLANDS

Earlier this month the European Union signed a “partnership and co-operation” agreement with Iraq. From my research it appears that virtually every press report on the agreement was based primarily, if not solely, on a statement issued by Catherine Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief. This statement told us that the accord would be “good for Iraq”.

All of the journalists who wrote about this agreement did so without seeing its precise details. When I asked Ashton’s spokesman for a copy of its text, he told me it is not yet “publicly available”. Ashton and her team have put out their side of the story before anyone has a chance of contradicting them.

Why on earth should Catherine Ashton be trusted? Ashton was a British government minister in 2003. Her boss at the time, Tony Blair, decided (along with George Bush) to invade Iraq in violation of the United Nations Charter, which expressly forbids wars of aggression.

“Auditioning” for her current job in 2010, Ashton told MEPs she believed that bombing Iraq was “the right thing to do based on what I knew at the time”. She has not once apologised for supporting that war or sought to distance herself in any way from Blair. Indeed, she maintains regular contact with that war criminal in his current role as an “international peace envoy” (the title conferred on him by the British media) for the Middle East.

How can Ashton know what is “good for Iraq” when she backed an illegal occupation which devastated that country? Tommy Franks, one of the military “brains” behind the war, famously said that “we don’t do body counts”. But the death toll was certainly enormous. A 2006 study in The Lancet, an authoritative medical journal, estimated that the war had caused 600,000 civilian deaths. The organisation Just Foreign Policy now puts the figure at over 1.4 million. WikiLeaks has exposed Franks’s assertion as dishonest by releasing diplomatic cables which prove that the US has been keeping tabs on casualties. The Iraq War Logs, published by Julian Assange and his cohorts in 2010, document 109,000 violent deaths in the 2003 to 2009 period. More than 66,000 of those killed were categorised as civilians.

What exactly did Ashton know in 2003? As she was a minister in the Department of Education and Skills then, I assume she was not privy to all the “intelligence” at Blair’s disposal. Yet she would have been extremely naive if she believed that the war was really about those weapons of mass destruction Saddam was supposed to be hiding.


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