So – Tony’s begun the final stretch of his long goodbye. Shed a tear and forgive him for he only did what he thought was right seems to be his message. I guess – in the end – that’s the get out of jail free card he wants to play – but I am not sure that Iraq, above all other issues, can be put away so easily.
Of course, it’s better waging war if you think it’s the right thing to do than waging war if you think it’s wrong – but that’s not really the issue. So – why did we go to war in Iraq? We can never crawl into his head to find out for sure, but my guess would be a mix of the following:
- the difficulties of getting armed intervention working in the former Yugoslavia made him (wrongly) see the US as being the only effective international force for intervention
- he believed disagreeing with George W Bush wouldn’t stop him, but agreeing with him would give the UK some influence and control over what happened (largely wrong again I think)
- he genuinely thought it was the right thing to do – and it became almost a crusade for him (though the religious overtones of that word shouldn’t be latched on to too much – after all armed intervention in the former Yugoslavia was largely on behalf of Muslims to protect them)
- he judged that Saddam’s fall would bring peace and stability to Iraq
And as for weapons of mass destruction – did he really believe Iraq had them and sincerely convinced himself of the case? Or did he deliberately set out to make a case, exaggeration and distorting it knowingly in order to get the votes in Parliament and the support outside? Plenty of ink has already been spilled on that question and I don’t think today’s speech will have changed people’s views one way or the other.
Anyway, I digress. Of course – all the media focus is was he good or was he bad. Ten years of Prime Ministership has to deliver both good and bad. Northern Ireland – good. Iraq – bad. The obvious is easy.
My own main beef with Tony (outside of illegal wars) is that he went a step further than Thatcher. Thatcher is the reason I went into politics. I couldn’t stand the selfishness she created by promoting and encouraging a grasping ‘me’ society – and negating the common good. Blair has gone further down the road by delivering permission to dodge and spin to get what you want. Truth doesn’t matter – only getting what you yourself wants matters. It’s a sad old world – ain’t it?
Your last paragrapgh says it all Lynne. But there are a number of noteworthy plusses and given the choice between ‘authoritarian’ Labour and the supposed ‘liberal Conservative’ Cameron crew I’d still opt for the former !I remember the carnage of the 80’s and Thatcher. I still shudder at the ‘No such thing as society’ and the ‘Good Samaritan’ speeches.Like you I was motivated into political activity by the Thatcher regime and I still have a loathing for all that party represents.
The £22,000 worth of stationery in a month society we live in is indeed something to deplore.
The reasons for Iraq? I think I could add a few more.It’s not just Yugoslavia, but also Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Tibet, Iran, …, the list goes on and on. Today it’s the Sudan. For that matter, Iraq itself was a prime example. Diplomacy tried for 12 years to get Saddam to comply with its resolutions, and failed utterly. This week, Zimbabwe has been chosen to lead us all on sustainable development. That’s the standard the international community, European diplomacy, whatever you want to call it, has sunk to. The dictators own you, and they know it and laugh. The US are not the only effective international force: China and Russia and the OIC Islamic bloc are too. But the US are the only one who are likely to do you any good.He believed that if the US and the Islamist terrorist world were going to take each other on, he wanted to be on the Americans’ side; both because he thought them more likely to win, and because the world in which they won would be a better one than the one where they lose. You know what the Islamists have planned for us (or you should do). The choice should be easy.Maybe he judged that Saddam’s fall would give a better chance of peace and stability than to allow the French to drop the sanctions, allow a terrorist-supporting state to acquire nuclear weapons, and then to have the whole mess collapse when Saddam died and his psychopathic sons, his army generals, the Shia, Kurds, Iranians, Turks, Syrians, and Saudis all started a nine-way bunfight over the oil-rich spoils. Maybe you figure your diplomacy could have prevented that – but it’s for sure that few of the participants would owe you infidel Westerners any favours. How do you know that what might have been wasn’t worse?Maybe he read some of those stories about the rape and torture, the oppression, the injustice, and the continual fear and suffering of the ordinary people. We’re not supposed to interfere in domestic affairs (I seem to remember a time when the police had that attitude), but one cannot help having some compassion should a legal opportunity arise.He knew that it was legally required under the terms of the UN Charter. The UNSC has the responsibility to identify threats to international peace and security, and to take effective action to resolve them. It can do this by sanctions, or if sanctions either would not or have not worked, then by military force. When the sanctions clearly did not work, the UN had no choice by its own laws but to intervene militarily. Because of its corruption, a few members illegally chose to block that action. What little credibility international law still has rode on defiance of UNSC resolutions having consequences. A future where every murderous dictator knows they can ignore it with impunity is a bleaker one for the world’s oppressed. It has consequences for us, too.As for weapons on mass destruction, everybody believed they had them. And they certainly had the capability, which was the point. What strategically does it matter if there are none there now if you know he can regenerate his entire stockpile in a couple of months? Do you think you could stop him doing so? For that matter, we don’t know that they weren’t there at the time and later moved, we don’t even know that they’re not still there waiting to be discovered. The search was pitiful. Those 500 or so that we have found were supposed to have been destroyed under UN supervision. What else don’t we know?I could go on, but this comment is far too long already. I think that we will not be able to properly judge Iraq for decades yet. It is part of a far larger picture, that only hindsight will reveal. One or other of us will be caught on the wrong side of history. I hope it is me, I fear it will be you.(PS. I won’t be offended if you filter this out. Dropping essays on other people’s blogs is bad mannered. But I feel strongly about it, and feel you ought to know and understand the other side of the argument, even if you’ll never agree with it.)
Good and reasoned argument always welcome. We obviously disagree on what happened – but I am not a pacifist and do support intervention when appropriately authorised and based on solid reasons. As to the state of the international institutions – totally agree with you (see my stuff on the World Bank and its structure), but the UN is the best mechanism we have – otherwise there is pretty much no order in the world.