If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Friday, 21 January 2011

Iraq was never a threat ...

... if you read between the lines:

"Saddam's regime is a brutal, oppressive military dictatorship. He kills his opponents, has wrecked his country's economy and is a source of instability and danger in the region," he wrote.

"I can understand a right-wing Tory opposed to 'nation-building' being opposed to it on grounds it hasn't any direct bearing on our national interest.

"But in fact a political philosophy that does care about other nations - eg Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone - and is prepared to change regimes on the merits, should be gung-ho on Saddam."

This is from a note written by Tony Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, in April 2002, immediately before his visit to George Bush's ranch in Texas.

Paraphrase: the reasons for dealing with Saddam are that he is nasty to his people and a danger to the region. Right-wing Tories would be opposed to an invasion because it wouldn't benefit the UK. We care about other nations (unlike those nasty Tories) and are prepared to change their governments if we think it would be beneficial.

The comment about the 'right-wing Tories' is revealing. He is trying to argue that the invasion was purely to help those poor Iraqis under Saddam's regime, even though there was no benefit to Britain's national interest.

That's not what he said at the time.

Answer to Parliamentary question, Sept 2002:
Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…
Radio interview (on No 10 website, page deleted):
So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change - that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.
There's a clear implication in all of this, that while Saddam was a brutal dictator, the reason for toppling him was that he had weapons of mass destruction, i.e. that he posed a threat to our national security. Bush always said that the purpose of invading Iraq was regime change. Blair consistently said that the UK's reason was not regime change. Now it seems it was regime change after all, and that Iraq was never a threat to the UK. It had "no bearing on our national interest", in his own words.

An interesting line from the New Labour Book of Disingenuous Political Phrases:

"A political philosophy that does care about other nations" = helping people by bombing them back to the Stone Age.

Incidentally, an excellent summary of the questions, Blair's answers and the evidence around it in the Independent today. According to Subrosa, Blair had to consult lawyers before returning to the UK, to be sure he was not about to be arrested. A little discomfort, then. It's a start.


  1. "Iraq was never a threat ...
    ... if you read between the lines"

    You don't even need to read between the lines.

    They never did find any supposed WMDs, did they?

  2. Pleasing as it is to watch HiImtony wriggling, I am far more concerned about the needless and ongoing loss of life in Afganistan.

  3. @Joe: I was thinking more of Blair's justifications rather than simple reality. As you know, the two are not the same.

    @Nikos: agreed, although seeing him wriggling is good, being as it is the nearest we will see to an appearance at The Hague. Afghanistan is a whole other issue.

  4. I've still got a feeling that, where possible, one should interfere when other countries are killing and oppressing more of their own people than we do ours. I may be wrong.

    I've never supported Labour. I supported the war. I assumed, (correctly), that the justification was a useful lie to persuade parliament and the people. Can I change my mind now? Do I want to? I dunno. Maybe I should keep quiet.

  5. I agree to an extent. The Second World War came about as a result of our desire to step in when an ally (Poland) was invaded, although you could argue that this decision was ultimately one of self-interest. But I am troubled by the idea that we have the duty to sort out the problems of the rest of the world. I'd prefer us to sort out our own problems first.

    I supported the war, reluctantly, at the time, because I believed that a British Prime Minister would not lie to Parliament. Most people interpreted the '45 minutes' claim as being a direct threat to the UK, and Blair made no attempt to correct that impression. I think my visceral loathing of Blair comes from the fact that I feel I was tricked; that my very reluctant support for military action was a result of his lies and deceit. Simply put: he had decided to follow Bush into the invasion in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, and nothing anyone said would change that. Weapons inspectors were ignored, the Cabinet were sidelined, Parliament and the people were fed with spun stories that Blair knew were not supported by the intelligence, his own Attorney-General's advice was first ignored and then 'corrected'. I get the impression that he was prepared to go to any lengths to follow Bush to war, including circumventing all the usual democratic checks and balances to get his way. And all because he thought what he had decided was 'the right thing to do'.

    And what is a 'useful lie'? Even if the war was the right thing to do, how can that justify a lie to Parliament and the people? If Parliament and the people don't want to go to war, then we don't go to war, however 'noble' the reason. It's called democracy.


Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...