What is history but a fable agreed upon? – Napoleon Bonaparte
Kamm, it appears, is no more immune to the central conceit of many a poor historian in seeking to fit the facts to his personal theses rather his theses to the facts.
Appearing in the Thunderer column in today’s Times, Kamm again displays this tendency in no uncertain terms in criticising General Sir Michael Rose’s call for the impeachment of Tony Blair over the Iraq War.
In all this article seems fairly typical of Kamm’s – and the War Party’s – tendency towards obvious economies of fact in their analysis of conditions leading to the invasion of Iraq. The matter of Tony Blair’s case for war, as presented to the House of Commons, being fundamentally incorrect in every material fact presented in relation to Iraq’s capabilities in the area of WMDs is dismissed as a mere conventional argument as if to suggest that its lacks any factual base.
One Rose’s own performance as UNPROFOR commander in Bosnia, Kamm asserts that this:
caused the greatest rift in transatlantic relations since Suez
While neglecting to mention the fundamental disagreements in policy between the US and UN as regards arming Bosnian Muslim forces – the US, unsurprisingly, were in favour of providing such armaments – whcih lay at the heart of this dispute.
Kamm also charges Rose with what he purports to be a ‘conventional ommission’ – a failure to give due deference to the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre and Pentagon as a determinent of policymaker’s perception of strategic risk. Kamm, of course, omits to make any reference to the question of whether such perceptions had any basis or justification in fact, a conventional omission of his own.
Kamm then counter’s Rose’s criticism of Blair’s failure to put the flawed intelligence used in making the case for the Iraq War with the charge that he ‘played down’ intelligence reports that Gorazde was about to fall in 1994 with disasterous consequences. Except that Gorazde did not fall in 1994 – it was the only Muslim enclave under UNPROFOR protection not to fall to Bosnian Serb forces or suffer ethnic cleansing – at least that what NATO says. – nor was Rose alone in, perhaps, taking an over cautious view of Serbian intentions:
Quite naturally, Gorazde came first. The leadership of the Bosnian Serbs, as it seems, believed that the west will understand this change in orientation and that it will not strain the situation too much. In this, they probably relied on the need for the soonest possible establishment of peace, hoping that Goraze, taken or surrounded by a strong circle, could be exchanged for some other region, for example, a part of Sarjevo. The fact is that at the very outset of the Serbian offensive against this area, the competent authorities from the international community were rather reserved. The UNPROFOR Commander for Bosnia, general lt. Michael Rose, for example, relatively easily agreed with the suggestion of the Serbian leadership that he should not go to Gorazde, although it is hard to believe that he had no information on what was going on there. The American administration also showed some reservations at the beginning , which only convinced the Serbs even more that they were doing “the right thing”.
Surely enough, the Moslem side either knew or anticipated such Serbian plans. Aware that it had no sufficient forces to resist the Serbian offensive it, as confirmed by the UNPROFOR sources, expedited the whole affair, by attacking first. The Moslems, rightfully as it turned out, counted on the international community not to allow a safe area to get into the Serbian hands so easily, hoping for that finally, the West would intervene with military forces. In this, they had enough strength to forestall the “blitz action” of the opposite side and prevent it to take the region of Gorazde with military force in just a few days, thus leaving UN and NATO sufficient time for the organization and preparations.
Rose, at least, was prepared to mount a defence of Gorazde, which is rather more than can be said of commanders a year later…
UN and U.S. officials were also publicly predicting the town [Zepa] would fall within forty-eight hours. But [General] Janvier went further and also ruled out defending Gorazde, the third and largest enclave in eastern Bosnia, which was home to 60,000 people. “The BH has 6,000 soldiers [in Gorazde],” Janvier said, using a slightly inflated figure. “They are perfectly capable of defending Gorazde against the BSA. The Bosnian government can do something now if they want.” The UN was only strong enough to act in Sarajevo.
The French general was still pushing the proposal he had made to the UN Security Council in May: that the UN withdraw from Srebrenica, Zepa and Gorazde. Unless Janvier was receiving secret instructions, he was apparently doing everything in his power to abandon the safe areas without the permission of the Security Council.
The outcome of this failure to consider humanitarian needs was, of course, the ethnic cleansing of Srebrenica.
Finaly Kamm arrives at a series of unqualified economies that would have done credit to the most blinkered of dossier compilers in advance of the invasion of Iraq.
Saddam, so Kamm contends, ‘welcomed 9/11’, as if delight in the face of seeing an enemy humiliated on their own soil is grounds for war. He ‘sought a WMD capability in defiance of UN Security Council resolutions’ and – pausing only to concede that the inbtelligence about Iraq’s, then, current capabilities was wrong (is that also a conventional view?) – nots that according to “Charles Duelfer of the Iraq Survey Group, could quickly have produced chemical and biological weapons”.
Again, Kamm offers up unqualified statements as matters of fact without their necessary corollaries as the main points of Duelfer’s report were:
Iraq’s main goal was to end sanctions while preserving the capability to reconstitute WMD production.
Iraq’s WMD programs had decayed significantly since the end of the first Gulf War.
No senior Iraqi official interviewed by the ISG believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD forever.
Iraq had no deployable WMD of any kind as of March 2003 and had no production since 1991.
The ISG judged that in March 2003, Iraq would have had the ability to produce large quantities of Sulfur Mustard in 3-6 months, and large quantities of nerve agent in 2 years.
There was no proof of any biological weapons stocks since 1991.
Iraq’s nuclear program was terminated in 1991, at which point micrograms of enriched uranium had been produced from a single test gas centrifuge.
Iraq had intended to restart all banned weapons programs as soon as multilateral sanctions against it had been dropped, a prospect that the Iraqi government saw coming soon.
Smuggling was used by Iraq to rebuild as much of its WMD program as could be hidden from U.N. weapons inspectors.
Iraq had an effective system for the procurement of items banned by sanctions.
Until March 2003, Saddam Hussein convinced his top military commanders that Iraq did indeed possess WMD that could be used against any U.S. invasion force, in order to prevent a coup over the prospects of fighting the U.S.-led Coalition without these weapons.
Kamm offers an interesting defintion of ‘quickly’ here – three to six months to drag his chemical weapons capabilities up to 19th century standards and produce mustard gas and a whole two years to produce nerve agents…
…provided that sanctions were lifted and the whole world were to look the other way for two years and not notice what he was up to.
Saddam was, in addition, a sponsor of terrorism – but only ever is support of his regional ambitions, backing mainly left-wing secular Iranian and Palestinian terrorist groups in addition to left-wing Kurdish separatists in Turkey.
On the matter of US Government claims of links to Al-Qaeda used to support the case for war in the US, the US 9/11 Commission, CIA, FBI, DIA and NSA, together with the Senate report on pre-war intelligence on Iraq, all concluded that there was never any substantive evidence for such a link.
How to weigh all this evidence is, in Kamm’s estimation, a matter of political judgement, not a perfidious wangle – as if to suggest that there can be no accountability when such political judgements result in unlawful actions based on erroneous assumptions derived from evidence that simply did not exist.
Kamm concludes in thinly veiled ad hominem fashion by nothing that:
The military mind in politics, from Cromwell to Douglas MacArthur and beyond, is notoriously insensitive to uncertainty. Sir Michael’s advice should be treated with the respect due to him.
To which it seem only fair to reply in similar fashion by noting the applicability to Kamm’s efforts as a historian of George Santayana’s comment that:
History is a pack of lies about events that never happened told by people who weren’t there.