Sunday, January 31, 2010

ANTHONY CHARLES LYNTON BLAIR & THE CHILCOT INQUIRY: A COMMENT



"RT HON TONY BLAIR: Yes. Look, one of the things that you always have to do in this situation you are absolutely right to draw attention to it is A you have to, when you are charged with the responsibility of trying to protect your country and that should be the job of the Prime Minister you have to take an assessment of risk. Now, my assessment of risk prior to September 11 was that Saddam was a menace, that he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best. If you had asked me prior to September 11, did I have any real belief in his good faith. No, I didn't. Did I really think that a new sanctions framework was going to do the trick? No, I didn't. On the other hand, precisely because the consequence of military action is so great, for me the calculus of risk was, "Look, we are just going to have to do the best we can". After September 11, that changed, and that change, incidentally, I still believe is important for us today because it is the reason today, as I say, I do take such a strong line on Iran or any other nation that tries to develop WMD. We cannot afford, in my view look, other people may have different views, but in my view we cannot afford the possibility that nations,
particularly nations that are brutal, rogue states, states that take an attitude that is wholly contrary to our way of life, you cannot afford such states to be allowed to develop or proliferate WMD".


Anthony Blair testimony before the Chilcot Inquiry, 29 January 2010, in www.iraqinquiry.org.uk


"Tony Blair’s testimony to the Iraq inquiry will change few minds. Those hoping to put the former British prime minister in the dock for launching an illegal war will have been confounded. Mr Blair gave a predictably robust defence of his actions. There was, to be sure, the odd concession. Mr Blair now thinks he would not – contrary to a statement he made recently in a television interview – have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction. He admitted that he had erroneously denied that military planning was under way at a time when it was. But he was largely unrepentant.

As expected, the question of legality dominated proceedings. But it was always going to be a dead end. Questions of international law are not capable of determination as if they were domestic criminal or civil matters. Of more moment was the grilling Mr Blair received on the process by which he took Britain to war, and whether the planning and execution were adequate. Mr Blair talked a lot about judgment. But it is precisely Mr Blair’s judgment that is at question. The war in Iraq was a Suez-scale foreign policy disaster. This is not just a question of the legality and the non-existent WMD. It is how so many cock-ups were allowed to go unchecked. Mr Blair was unable to lay to rest the impression that he gave George Bush a blank cheque. In the post-conflict phase, Britain clearly accepted responsibilities as co-occupying power without having the power to drive events. The government failed to prepare for the violence that followed. It was scarcely heartening to hear Mr Blair observing that were Britain to find itself involved in a similar military adventure in future, it would be advisable to prepare for the worst".


"Blair Holds his Ground on Iraq." Leader in the Financial Times, 30-31 January 2010 in www.ft.com


"While I have tried hard to be fair to each of the policy options and to make the strongest case for them that I could, there is a strong central argument running through the book: through our own mistakes, the perfidy of others and Saddam's cunning, the United States is left with few good policy options toward Iraq, and increasingly, the option that makes the most sense is for the United States to launch a full-scale invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam, eradicate his weapons of mass destruction, and rebuild Iraq as a prosperous and stable society for the good of the United States, Iraq's own people, and the entire region....The moment we face is reminiscent of another in early 1938. At that time, Britain and France were unquestionably stronger than Nazi Germany....Britain and France almost certainly would have defeated Germany in 1938. By waiting until 1939, France was crushed and Britain came very close to following. In retrospect, there are few who doubt that Britain, France, and the entire world would have been much better off had England and France steeled themselves and resolved on war in 1938."

Kenneth M. Pollack, The Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq, 2002.

In his wonderful essay, titled 'In defence of Comrade Zilliacus,' George Orwell states of the ostensible subject of his opus, a notorious British fellow-traveler of the post-1945 period that:

"I do not claim for Mr. Zilliacus that he is honest, but at least he is sincere. We know where he stands, and, he prefers to hit his enemies rather than his friends".


Much the same I think can be said of Mr. Anthony Charles Lynton Blair and his critics as it concerns the former's support of the George W. Bush's policy of toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein. Let me be quite clear though: I was from the very first, opposed to the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. The effort and the hazards involved seemed to me to be incommensurate with the potential gains that were supposed to derive from the exercise. Something which posterity has very much proven to be the case: to put it mildly. Regardless of this fact though, the point is that Tovarish Blair, like Tovarish Zilliacus before him, has if nothing else, the courage of his convictions. Unlike his faint-hearted bien pensant critics, Mr. Blair did not change course between 1997 and 2003. If the policy of liberal interventionism and militarist Wilsonianism was correct in Kosovo in 1999, then it was correct for Iraq in 2003. As the wonderful Perry Anderson noted a few years back in the London Review of Books, all of the reasons that 'right-thinking', post-enlightenment cosmopolitan liberal elites contended made the war in Iraq illegitimate and illegal, could similarly be made (and were made by some of us at the time) about the American-lead intervention in Kosovo in 1999. AKA: the war did not have sanction of the United Nations, nor was the war 'legal' in any commonly recognized sense in International Law. And, as for the alleged 'genocide of the Albanian-speaking inhabitants of Kosovo, the numbers involved were by any count, much, much less than the number of Iraqis killed by the Baathist regime in the 1980's and 1990's. The chief difference between the two cases, appears to be that it is one thing to support Muslims in Europe being attacked / oppressed by Slavic Christians, it is another thing entirely to support the overthrow of an horrible regime which happens to be Muslim, and, which oppresses its fellow Muslims. That it would appear is something which could not be countenanced, much less supported. As for the other arguments against Mr. Blair: that he was blind-eyed to the potential problems involved and that he did not truly believe in the supposed weapons of mass destruction being held by the regime in Baghdad. Well as per the first, in Mr. Blair's defence, it could be argued that a good many, highly-intelligent people, people who later on distanced themselves from the whole Iraqi debacle, people like George Packard, Thomas Friedman, Fouad Ajami, Michael Ignatieff, David Rieff, Timothy Garton Ash, Kenneth Pollack, et cetera, et cetera. And, concerning the issue of weapons of mass destruction, it would appear that it wat not merely the Bush and Blair governments who believed in the reality of WMD in Iraq: it appears that almost every serious commentator and intelligence agency of note, believed in the existence of WMD in Hussein's possession.

To conclude, allow me to state once again, that I am not now, nor was at the time of the invasion of Iraq, an adherent of the policy. I thought then, and think now, that the entire policy was misconceived from start to finish and undertaken (in the case of the American Administration) for dubious ends and using dubious rationales. However, in the case of ex-Prime Minister Blair, these variables do not entire matters. Whatever his many other faults, it does appear that he was an sincere adherent to the mis-guided belief that overthrowing the Hussein regime, would make the Near and Middle East a safer place. Just as he thought that intervening in Bosnia and then Kosovo were necessary and good things also.
Say what you will of the man, but, at least he was and is consistent and has the courage of his convictions.

2 Comments:

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