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Monday, 21 November 2016

Was Tony Blair to Blame for the Iraq War?

What is surprising is the amount of people who fall into the trap of blaming others for Arabic violence and Islamic fanaticism – or at least they've done so in the case of the Iraq War. Has everyone bought into this “narrative” (a favourite word of Leftists) on Iraq?

So who was – and still is - to blame for the violence in Iraq? Not ISIS, Iraqi Muslims, Shia/Sunni militia and terrorists, Baath party members, etc. Not in the slightest. Muslims, it seems, are never to blame when in comes to the racist Left; which sees all Muslims as children who are incapable of behaving humanely or decently. Instead it's all the fault of Blair, or Bush, or the “neocons”, or global warming (as The Guardian and Noam Chomsky have it), or whoever.

Yes, it may be absolutely true that Tony Blair shouldn't have intervened in 2003. It may also be true that he's power-mad lunatic who wanted (or still wants) to go down in history as a great statesman. Nonetheless, what he did, he did some 14 years ago and the violence is still with us. Sure, we stayed in Iraq until 2009/11; though in 2007 Blair resigned and then more or less disappeared from the political scene.


Tony Blair attempts to legitimise his position on Iraq by using a quote from an Iraqi woman – formerly a victim of Saddam Hussein. According to Blair:

I still keep in my desk a letter from an Iraqi woman who came to see me before the war began. She told me of the appalling torture and death her family had experienced having fallen foul of Saddam's son. She begged me to act.”

Blair continues:

After the fall of Saddam she returned to Iraq. She was murdered by sectarians a few months later. What would she say to me now?” (479)

As I will say a few times in this piece, many haters of Blair will simply say that he's lying about this. (After all, Blair is “Bliar”, isn't he?) The basic gist here is that Blair thought he was doing good. Nonetheless, he accepts that his actions had disastrous consequences. Thus are critics of Blair critical because Blair couldn't predict the future? Or are they critical because, in his heart of hearts, Blair knew that mass violence and terrorism would be the result of the intervention in 2003?

Tony Blair also confronts Saddam's crimes head-on when he quotes himself speaking in Glasgow in October 2002 (on the same day as the mass protests). He told the audience that “'tens of thousands of political prisoners languish in appalling conditions in Saddam's jails and are routinely executed'” (426). He also said that “'in the past fifteen years over 150,000 Shia Muslims in southern Iraq and Muslim Kurds in northern Iraq have been butchered'”. Finally, he said that “'up to four million Iraqis in exile round the world including 350,000 now in Britain'”.

Following on from that, and in the same speech, he singles out the hypocrisy of the “anti-war” Left. He said:

'There will be no march for the victims of Saddam, no protests about the thousands of children who die needlessly every year under his rule, no righteous anger over the torture chambers which if he is left in power will be left in being.'”    (426)

Of course the revolutionary - and even moderate - Left didn't march against Saddam Hussein. Saddam had brown skin and he didn't rule a “Western capitalist state”. Thus his crimes were of no interest to most – if not all – Leftists. That's unless links could be found which connected Saddam to the UK, US and the West generally. And, of course, links were made; though they were made primarily after the intervention of 2003.

Tony Blair also argues that, as philosophers put it, there was no necessary connection between removing Saddam Hussein and the mass violence which followed (mainly a couple of years later, according to Blair). As Blair himself puts it:

The notion that what then happened was somehow the ineluctable consequence of removing Saddam is just not right. There was no popular uprising to defend Saddam. There was no outpouring of anger at the invasion. There was, in the first instance, relief and hope.”    (465)

What ruined all this was that “tribal, religious and criminal groups [decided] to abort the nascent democracy and try to seize power” (465). What's more, Blair believed that “if the terrorists could cause chaos, the resulting fear and security clampdown would become a signal that the mission had failed” (465).

Again, should Blair have known all this would have happened in a (typical?) Arab country?

Thus not all the blame for the Iraq War can be placed in the hands of Blair and Bush... at least not according to Blair himself. He tells us that “it is instructive to read the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 passed by President Clinton” (385). In more detail:

It was then that US policy became regime change, but it did so – as the Act makes clear – because the WMD issue and Saddam's breach of UN resolutions.” (385)

Of course it can now be said: But Clinton didn't invade Iraq. Blair and Bush did! We can also ask if Clinton would have intervened in Iraq had he the chance and/or reason to do so. I believe that at some point, had he retained power, Clinton might well have invaded Iraq. (Let's not forget here that Clinton had already bombed Iraq in 1998).

*) All quotations are from Tony Blair's autobiography, My Journey.

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