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    <h1 ="size32">Iraq: the crime of the century</h1>

    John PilgerThe purpose of the Chilcot inquiry is to normalise an epic crime by providing enough of a theatre of guilt to satisfy the media

    I tried to contact Mark Higson the other day, only to learn that he
    had died nine years ago. He was just 40, an honourable man. We met soon
    after he resigned from the Foreign Office in 1991 and I asked him if
    the government knew that Hawk fighter-bombers sold to Indonesia were
    being used against civilians in East Timor.

    “Everyone knows," he said, "except parliament and the public."

    “And the media?"

    media - the big names - have been invited to King Charles Street [the
    Foreign Office] and flattered and briefed with lies. They are no

    As Iraq desk officer at the Foreign Office, he had
    drafted letters for ministers reassuring MPs and the public that the
    government was not arming Saddam Hussein. "This was a downright lie,"
    he said. "I couldn't bear it."

    Giving evidence before the
    arms-to-Iraq inquiry, Higson was the only British official commended by
    Lord Justice Scott for telling the truth. The price he paid was the
    loss of his health and marriage, and constant surveillance by spooks.
    He ended up living on benefits in a Birmingham bedsit where he suffered
    a seizure, struck his head and died alone. Whistleblowers are often
    heroes; he was one.<h2>“Questionable legitimacy"</h2>

    He came to
    mind when I saw a picture in the paper of another Foreign Office
    official, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was Tony Blair's ambassador to the
    United Nations in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was
    Sir Jeremy, more than anyone else, who tried every trick to find a UN
    cover for the bloodbath to come. Indeed, this was his boast on 27
    November to the Chilcot inquiry, where he described the invasion as
    "legal but of questionable legitimacy". How clever. In the picture he
    wore a smirk.

    Under international law, "questionable legitimacy"
    does not exist. An attack on a sovereign state is a crime. This was
    made clear by Britain's chief law officer and attorney general, Peter
    Goldsmith, before his arm was twisted, and by the Foreign Office's own
    legal advisers, and subsequently by the UN secretary general. The
    invasion of Iraq is the crime of the 21st century. During 17 years of
    assault on a defenceless civilian population, veiled with weasel
    monikers such as "sanctions" and "no-fly zones" and "building
    democracy", more people have died in Iraq than at the height of the
    slave trade. Set that against Sir Jeremy's skin-­saving revisionism
    about American "noises" that were "decidedly unhelpful to what I was
    trying to do [at the UN] in New York". Moreover, "I myself warned the
    Foreign Office . . . that I might have to consider my own position . .

    It wasn't me, guv.

    The purpose of the Chilcot inquiry is
    to normalise an epic crime by providing enough of a theatre of guilt to
    satisfy the media, so that the only issue which matters, that of
    prosecution, is never raised. When he appears in January, Blair will
    play this part to odious perfection, dutifully absorbing the hisses and
    boos. All "inquiries" into state crimes are neutered in this way. In
    1996, Lord Justice Scott's arms-to-Iraq report obfuscated the crimes
    his investigations and voluminous evidence had revealed.

    At that
    time, I interviewed Tim Laxton, who had attended the inquiry every day
    as an auditor of companies taken over by MI6 and other secret agencies
    as vehicles for the illegal arms trade with Saddam. Had there been a
    full and open criminal investigation, Laxton told me, "hundreds" would
    have faced prosecution. "They would include," he said, "top political
    figures, very senior civil servants throughout Whitehall . . . the to
    The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves