JONATHAN POWER The Obama administration is going to leave behind 50,000 troops as they withdraw from Iraq called Advise and Assist Brigades. They will have warplanes, helicopters and Iraqi troops to command. Besides all this, the US State Department will deploy tens of thousands of mercenaries, provided by so-called contractors who seem to enjoy their Rambo style, careering around without much discipline. One wishes the more or less disciplined US military were not going if this is the substitute. What kind of withdrawal is this? Other questions remained unanswered too. Why did president George W. Bush and prime minister Tony Blair seek to topple Saddam Hussein when he was extraordinarily weak militarily, having lost most of his planes, tanks and warships in the first Gulf War 12 years before? Moreover, a good part of what was left of his armoury was destroyed by the UN and the sanctions were visibly working. Why did they persuade themselves that war was necessary when they knew they had bent the evidence about there being weapons of mass destruction in Iraqs armoury? Why could they not wait two or three months for Hans Blix, the UNs specially appointed arms inspector, to complete his on-the-ground investigations? He was a former director of the respected International Atomic Energy Agency, whose latest appointment was approved in the Security Council unanimously, including by the US and the UK. Why didnt Washington and London decide not to seek a second resolution to legitimise the invasion when that is what Tony Blair had promised earlierwith President George Bushs initial (if unwilling) agreement? On September 1st Tony Blair will publish his memoirs with a long section on the war in Iraq. Leaks have him saying that Bush was a visionary and a highly intelligent friend. What can we expect from a prime minister who hyped and distorted any evidence that he considered could run in his favour, often lying in the process, all the time trying to keep up with the lies of the Bush administration? At home Blairs reputation is in tatters. There was the famous dossier that he published in which he claimed that Saddam could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45-minutes. Over the course of the build-up to war this was repeated four times. Later a government-appointed enquiry chaired by a senior judge found that the intelligence that led to this public statement was uncorroborated and came from a single source, which was reporting hearsay from another uncorroborated single source. The government must have known this. The intelligence services would have told the prime minister. Blair had told one of his lies. The scrupulous chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, John Scarlett, revealed that it was always known inside the government that the 45-minute claim applied only to non-serious battlefield munitions and small calibre weaponry. Ex-foreign secretary Robin Cook wrote in his book, written after he had resigned in protest, that when he was visited by Scarlett he was told that Saddam had no long-range weapons of mass destruction and neither did he have useable battlefield weapons. When Cook put this to Blair a couple of weeks later he gave me the same reply as Scarlett that the battlefield weapons had been dissembledI was therefore mystified a year later to hear him say he had never understood that the intelligence agencies did not believe that Saddam had long-range weapons of mass destruction. Another lie by Blair. After the invasion and toppling of Saddam, Blair and Bush had to admit they were wrong about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction. So they justified the invasion by making out that Saddam had worked alongside Osama bin Laden, the chief of Al Qaeda. But almost every respected expert on Al Qaeda said that there had been no love lost between the two. Indeed, bin Laden considered Saddam as apostate. Another lie being told by Blair. The war took about 100,000 lives and created millions of refugees. (Even at his worst Saddam didnt do anything as bad as that In fact, most Iraqis lived a fairly calm and productive life as long as they didnt oppose him). Some price, Mr Blair, to pay for brainwashing the public with false information and deceiving parliament. Khaleej Times