Sarajevo Film Festival 2024

The last public servant

IRAQ / Former UN Secretary-General Hans Blix's fact-finding mission in Iraq became an issue of war and peace, with his words becoming the most crucial for those trying to stop it.

Former Swedish Foreign Minister Hans Blix served as the United Nations Secretary-General, and he served as a weapons inspector in Iraq from 2000 to 2003. He stood up against US President George W Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney. They both falsely claimed that Iraq had hidden weapons of mass destruction, and Bush said: «Our war against terror is only beginning. We must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons from threatening the United States […] The Iraqi regime has something to hide from the civilized world.»

Blix Not Bombs
Blix Not Bombs, a film by Greta Stocklassa

An issue of war and peace

Hans Blix’s fact-finding mission in Iraq suddenly became an issue of war and peace. His words became the single most important words for the hundreds of thousands who wanted to stop the war.

Greta Stocklassa interviewed the soon 95 years old and made a film about him: Blix Not Bombs. The film is also about her growing up in Sweden as a child, when the war in Iraq started and when she started to understand that the world was a hostile place – until she recognized that some people at high places had stood up against the warmongers.

She presents Blix’s career, daily life, Swedish summers, and shopping tours. But she also presents his arguments and the counter-arguments for being a civil servant who tells the United Nations and the world what the inspectors know and what they do not know. Blix had insisted that he, as a UN inspector in Iraq, «should be able to go anywhere anytime.» He told the Iraqis: «If you go out and say that we don’t have anything, you have little credibility. But if we go out and say there is nothing, then it has credibility.»

Documents presented to them showed that Iraq had bought uranium from Niger. President Bush asked: «What more evidence do you need?” But Blix said that it took them less than a day to discover that these documents were «not authentic.» The signatures were not authentic. It was all fake.

Blix argues that, as a servant to the Secretary-General, he is not an activist, and the world would not have listened to him if he had turned himself into an activist. When the issue of war and peace becomes an issue of fact-finding, the neutral civil servant becomes the most important voice of peace. Blix believed at the time that the fact that the UN didn’t find anything would possibly stop the war, but he later understood that there was no way he could have prevented it. The war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction.

Blix Not Bombs
Blix Not Bombs, a film by Greta Stocklassa


Cheney’s undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz had asked the CIA to look at Hans Blix’s dossier to find something about his background that could be used against him, but they found nothing. Later, when the CIA found no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld denied having said what he actually had said.

Hans Blix was never possible to corrupt, and when we look at what goes on today on the world scene, we may think of him as the last uncorrupted representative of the world community, the last genuine public servant.

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Ola Tunander
Ola Tunander
Tunander is professor emeritus at (Peace Research Institute, Oslo). He is a regular critic/essayist at NY TID –

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