Iraq

People are still getting Blair wrong on Iraq

Blair has “admitted” he would have liked Saddam removed from power regardless of the WMD argument. However, this was noted even prior to the war.

Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity. It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.

The moral case against war has a moral answer: it is the moral case for removing Saddam. It is not the reason we act. That must be according to the UN mandate on weapons of mass destruction.

But it is the reason, frankly, why if we do have to act, we should do so with a clear conscience.

In the end, Saddam’s non-compliance with UN resolution 1441, documented by Hans Blix, was the trigger for war, but Blair’s admission he would have still thought it right to remove Saddam in the abscence of WMD is hardly an admission making Blair more open to accusations of “war crimes” (as some argue) since:

a. Blair’s public/private views on the removal of Saddam for humanitarian reasons do not remove the failure of Saddam to comply with 1441.

b. What Blair said was “I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments, about the nature of the threat.”, not “I would have invaded Iraq even if the cabinet and parliament had opposed the war without the WMD argument”. Watching the full interview from about 22 minutes puts the quote in the correct context.

Ken Macdonald in the wake of the revelations in argues that the problem was Blair’s intoxication with power. His Times article contains the following nuggets of wisdom:

Who is any longer naive enough to accept that the then Prime Minister’s mind remained innocently open after his visit to Crawford, Texas?
[…]
“Yo, Blair”, perhaps, was his truest measure.

The poodle view of Blair is an old myth about Blair. Bob Woodward’s 2004 book Plan of Attack, which followed the Bush camp’s run up to war, showed Blair was not “turned” by Bush. Blair had a strong view on Saddam Hussain already, and early statements in Parliament before Bush was around show this. Here is Blair in 1998.

It would be a mistake to believe that Saddam Hussein was maintained in power by the love and affection of the Iraqi people. He is maintained in power by a ruthless dictatorship, which comprises, in particular, a special Republican Guard of 26,000 people, who are not immune to using murder, torture and whatever barbaric behaviour comes to hand to keep him in power. The reason why sanctions are there is to ensure compliance with UN resolutions, and sanctions have to remain until there is compliance.

[…]

we will do what we can to assist opposition groups in Iraq and to look at ways in which we can undermine Saddam Hussein in any shape or form. Most people would be delighted if he were to fall. If we had had to take military action and, as a consequence, he had fallen, we would have been delighted at that, too. The problem with saying that we should have set some sort of military objective to remove Saddam Hussein—I know that my hon. Friend was not suggesting that—was that there was not the authority to do so; nor would it have been possible without a massive commitment of ground as well as air forces. We will do what we can to assist opposition forces in Iraq and to undermine Saddam Hussein in any way we can.

Given Saddam’s continued obstruction and non-compliance with UN resolutions, and a partner willing to remove Saddam in the wake of a changed security situation post-911, it is completely unsurprising that Blair should say he would still have preferred to remove Saddam Hussain’s boot from the neck of the Iraqi people.

As for the second statement, it is interesting to note how strongly myths stick in the popular mind about Blair. Ken McDonald is professor of law and QC, yet even he couldn’t discover that the “Yo Blair!” is a myth. Bush actually said “Yeah, Blair, what are you doing?”.

Still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest

UPDATE: I note Norman Geras has made the same point about the media’s projection of dictatorial powers onto Blair he did not possess at the time of the decision to liberate Iraq.

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