So what was the war for?

By Robert Fisk

18 May 2003

More than 70 dead in a week. Thanks for the Iraq war. Thank you, Mr Bush and Mr Blair, for making our world safer by ridding us of the one tyrant – Saddam Hussein – who never had any connection with 11 September 2001, or with the Riyadh bombings or with the bombings in Casablanca. The "liberation" of Iraq was supposed to free us from the bombers of al-Qa'ida.

So said Mr Blair. So said Mr Straw. Could you talk to us, please, Messrs Blair and Straw? What was Iraq for? No, we don't have any "claim of responsibility" for the Casablanca massacre, but the nature of the cold calculation behind the Casablanca bombings is sufficient. One suicide bomber kills himself by blowing open the doors of the Jewish community centre. Then his surviving comrade blows himself up inside.

Weren't the Jews – like the Christians – "people of the Book", honoured by Islam? But then – and there's always a "but then" – wasn't Morocco a "friend" of the West, a country that has resorted to torture again over the past year in its pro-American battle against "terrorism", yet another country in which human rights have taken second place to President Bush's war on terror? Osama bin Laden always said that his intention was to overthrow "the corrupt monarchies of the Arab world". It was Saudi Arabia at the beginning of the week, Morocco at the end.

So, back to the point. Ten suicide bombers killed the innocent of Casablanca – that's more than half the total killers of 11 September 2001. And only five days after al-Qa'ida struck Riyadh.

Was it not President Bush who boasted to us of how America had struck a devastating blow in the "war on terror" in Iraq? Was it not Vice-President Cheney who informed us that al-Qa'ida was reeling from America's bombardment of Afghanistan? Was it not Defence Secretary Rumsfeld who would have us believe that half of al-Qa'ida's leadership was eliminated – either through capture or murder (let us speak frankly) at America's hands? So take a look at the terrain.

Afghanistan is in a state of anarchy, its pathetic government scarcely ruling over Kabul. Iraq is in an even more incipient state of anarchy, largely without electricity, money or petrol. And this is a war of good against evil? Casablanca is a sorry and pertinent page in the history of America's folly in the Arab world.

So what comes next? More boasts by President Bush that he is winning the "war against terror" or more claims – yes, he told you so – that the "war on terror" is eternal? Heaven spare us all.