How many lies had been told in this auditorium? How many British excuses for the Suez invasion, or Russian excuses - the same year - for the suppression of the Hungarian uprising? One recalled, of course, this same room four decades earlier when General Powell's predecessor Adlai Stevenson showed photographs of the ships carrying Soviet missiles to Cuba. Alas, Powell's pictures carried no such authority. And Colin Powell was no Adlai Stevenson.
If Powell's address merited front-page treatment, the American media had never chosen to give the same attention to the men driving Bush to war, most of whom were former or still active pro-Israeli lobbyists. For years they had advocated destroying the most powerful Arab nation. Richard Perle, one of Bush's most influential advisers, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton and Donald Rumsfeld were all campaigning for the overthrow of Iraq long before George W Bush was elected US president. And they weren't doing so for the benefit of Americans or Britons. A 1996 report, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, called for war on Iraq. It was written not for the US but for the incoming Israeli Likud prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and produced by a group headed by Perle. The destruction of Iraq would, of course, protect Israel's monopoly of nuclear weapons - always supposing Saddam also possessed them - and allow it to defeat the Palestinians and impose whatever colonial settlement Sharon had in store for them.
Although Bush and Blair dared not discuss this aspect of the coming war - a conflict for Israel was not going to have Americans or Britons lining up at recruiting offices - Jewish-American leaders talked about the advantages of an Iraqi war with enthusiasm. Indeed, those very courageous Jewish-American groups who opposed this madness were the first to point out how pro-Israeli organisations foresaw Iraq not only as a new source of oil but of water, too; why should canals not link the Tigris river to the parched Levant? No wonder, then, that any discussion of this topic had to be censored, as Professor Eliot Cohen of Johns Hopkins University tried to do in The Wall Street Journal the day after Powell's UN speech. Cohen suggested that European nations' objections to the war might - yet again - be ascribed to " anti-Semitism of a type long thought dead in the West, a loathing that ascribes to Jews a malignant intent". This nonsense was opposed by many Israeli intellectuals who, like Uri Avnery, argued that an Iraq war would leave Israel with even more Arab enemies.
The slur of "anti-Semitism" also lay behind Rumsfeld's insulting remarks about "old Europe". He was talking about the "old" Germany of Nazism and the "old" France of collaboration. But the France and Germany that opposed this war were the "new" Europe, the continent that refused, ever again, to slaughter the innocent. It was Rumsfeld and Bush who represented the "old" America; not the " new" America of freedom, the America of F D Roosevelt.
Rumsfeld and Bush symbolised the old America that killed its native inhabitants and embarked on imperial adventures. It was "old" America we were being asked to fight for - linked to a new form of colonialism - an America that first threatened the United Nations with irrelevancy and then did the same to Nato. This was not the last chance for the UN, nor for Nato. But it might well have been the last chance for America to be taken seriously by her friends as well as her enemies.
Israeli and US ambitions in the region were now entwined, almost synonymous. This war, about oil and regional control, was being cheer-led by a president who was treacherously telling us that this was part of an eternal war against "terror". The British and most Europeans didn't believe him. It's not that Britons wouldn't fight for America. They just didn't want to fight for Bush or his friends. And if that included the prime minister, they didn't want to fight for Blair either. Still less did they wish to embark on endless wars with a Texas governor-executioner who dodged the Vietnam draft and who, with his oil buddies, was now sending America's poor to destroy a Muslim nation that had nothing at all to do with the crimes against humanity of 11 September 2001.
Before the Iraq war of 2003 started, I'd read a number of writers from blogtopia and elsewhere regarding the factors that would influence Middle East politics for the foreseeable future. Among those reasons was the control of water resources, which of course we would consider a scarce commodity in this arid region. Indeed, one of the tangible complaints that Palestinians have made is that the Israeli version of Apartheid includes increasingly diverting water from whatever areas that the Palestinians are still allowed to occupy to the Israel and its settlements. That our nation would be sending men and women half-way across the world in order for Israel (or any other nation for that matter) to have the potential to divert water from the Tigris River strikes me as pure madness on the part of our own supposed leaders.