When the United States and Britain invaded Iraq in 2003, a number of people pointed out what a terrible message this sent to the world about nuclear weapons. Iraq had dismantled its WMD programmes and it was invaded. North Korea had developed a rudimentary nuclear device and got negotiations. So, if you don’t want to be invaded, build a bomb.
The champions of Bush and Blair’s policy, however, claimed they were vindicated when Libya quickly offered to dismantle its WMD programmes. Gaddafi was welcomed with open arms, by western governments and by many of the same pundits who now want his blood.
So, once again, the message is: get hold of a nuclear weapon, or one day they’ll be coming for you too. According to an interview in the Russian magazine Arguments and Facts, that’s precisely what Gaddafi is saying now. I’ve translated the interview below, but we’ll come to that in a minute.
First, for anyone who still believes the United States and Britain didn’t know Iraq had no WMD, here’s what the British diplomat Carne Ross told John Pilger in the documentary The War You Don’t See:
I remember before I was sent to New York in late ‘97 I did the round of departments in London, saying to them, “OK, I’m going to New York, I’m going to be doing Iraq, what do I need to know?”
And I went to see non-proliferation department in the Foreign Office and I was expecting a briefing on the vast piles of weapons that we still thought Iraq possessed. And the desk officer sort of looked at me slightly sheepishly and said, “Well actually we don’t think there’s anything. We don’t think there’s anything in Iraq.”
I said, “That’s extraordinary. I mean, I thought we had sanctions because we thought Iraq had large amounts of weapons.”
He said, “No, no. The justification for sanctions is basically that we have unanswered questions about how those stocks were destroyed in the past.”
They knew in 1997 that Iraq had destroyed its WMD, but they kept the sanctions in place anyway. Then they invaded anyway. It was a convenient excuse. So could we stop now with the claims that Saddam “fooled us”?
Anyway, here’s a rough translation of the interview which Arguments and Facts (AIF) says it conducted by telephone with a man they say is close to Gaddafi and demanded anonymity. (The original Russian is here; and there’s a Chinese translation here if you prefer.)
AIF: - Does Gaddafi understand the position he’s in?
- Of course. We’re all realists here and no one is expecting a miracle. Our main goal right now is to hang on in Tripoli for a few months, despite the bombing. Another important thing is that Gaddafi should have everything he needs for long-term defence.
AIF: - Weapons?
- No. Money. Soldiers fight better when they’re paid.
AIF: - And then what?
- We’ll see.
AIF: - Is it true that Libya’s aircraft have all been destroyed?
- We can’t compete with NATO’s military power. That’s our fault - after the West lifted sanctions we should have immediately bought the latest Russian weapons. We signed the contract, but we delayed its execution for a long time. But it’s not a complete disaster. Every day CNN says Libya no longer has any air defences and then shows us firing at enemy aircraft. Where’s the logic in that?
AIF: - Yugoslavia resisted NATO for three months, but it had to surrender in the end.
- Gaddafi won’t give up. He saw that Milosevic died in prison and Saddam was hanged. He’s got nothing to lose - so Muammar will fight to the end.
AIF: - How long for? This week the rebels have occupied three cities.
- They haven’t taken the capital. Everyone who is now fighting for Gaddafi knows that if we lose we will be hanged from lamp posts. We have no choice but to fight back. Remember - when the riots started in February, they kept saying: “Gaddafi’s finished. He’s fled to Venezuela.” But Muammar crushed the rebels for two weeks. If it wasn’t for the Americans, we would have already taken Benghazi. Who knows how things will turn out? But Libya can’t hold out against a ground invasion.
AIF: - Do you think NATO has achieved success in the war against Libya?
- It’s funny - the best air forces of the most powerful countries in the world can’t deal with the army of a country with a population of six million in a week. This isn’t war. It’s a farce. Once again the West has shown its contempt for all decency. Protecting “freedom fighters”? Nonsense. In 2008, a small country started brutally killing insurgents. A big country stood up against that. Everyone condemned this country for its “aggression”. You don’t know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the war between Russia and Georgia. But when a similar situation appears in Libya, the Americans immediately take the side of the rebels. Why didn’t they bomb Tbilisi? It’s all lies. Gaddafi is accused of killing 8,000 people, but nobody has shown even twenty corpses on television, let alone mass graves. Not a single Libyan fled to Europe because of “Gaddafi’s atrocities” but now thousands are fleeing NATO’s bombing.
AIF: - Does Gaddafi regret anything now?
- Only that he stopped developing nuclear weapons. Everyone’s afraid to touch North Korea now. If we had a nuclear bomb no one would have attacked us.