There’s some good news and bad news for Blair on the Iraq front:
A YouGov poll for The Sunday Times this weekend shows that 52% of people believe Blair deliberately misled the country over the war. Almost one in four — 23% — think he should be tried as a war criminal.
So while 77% of the population don’t think Blair should be tried as a war criminal, a narrow majority believe he misled the country. Just goes to show if you repeat something enough, it will be become received opinion eventually – regardless of the facts. No convincing evidence exists that Blair deliberately lied…
On that front, there are people, who you can find on the cobbles outside the Queen Elizabeth II centre, exuding a pathological obsession that a betrayed lover might develop. Blair lied, and a little piece of them died. Cohen nails them in his article Forget it – Blair will never be branded a war criminal:
“mainstream public opinion has never been interested in offering solidarity to the victims of Ba’athism and Islamism. Instead of talking about what happened to Iraq either before or after the invasion, it has remained stuck in the groove of spring 2003, endlessly scratching the record for a conspiratorial explanation for Britain’s decision to invade.
We are now enduring our fifth Iraq inquiry. Tribunals have called Alastair Campbell so many times he could imitate Sherman McCoy in The Bonfire of the Vanities and declare: “I am a career defendant. I now dress for jail, even though I haven’t been convicted of any crime.” They do not seem to know it but if they hold inquiries until the crack of doom, the war’s opponents will never convict him or the Labour leadership. Their central allegation that the second Iraq war was “illegal” is unsustainable and not only because no competent court has validated it.
I am growing old and grey waiting for John Humphrys or Jon Snow to show a spark of journalistic life and ask Nick Clegg, Philippe Sands and all the rest of them the simple question: “What do you mean by an ‘illegal war’?”
However vigorously they seek to parse UN resolution 1,441, the use of “illegal” demonstrates that Tony Blair’s lawyerly critics believe that the Ba’athist regime, which was guilty of genocide and under UN sanctions, remained Iraq’s legitimate government, entitled by law to treat the country as its private prison.
After the war, not even Saddam’s business partner Jacques Chirac went so far as to say that the Ba’athists should have their “illegally” stolen country restored to them. The UN, instead, recognised the occupation and the democratic government that followed and lost some of its bravest workers in the struggle for a freer country.
The inability to accept that a policy they honestly opposed still had moral virtues is producing levels of dementia unusually high even by the standards of British public life.”
While these bleaters continue with their calls for Blair to be branded a war criminal, a real war criminal is facing justice as a result of Blair’s actions.
“Chemical Ali” was sentenced to death today for ordering the greatest crime committed during the reign of Saddam Hussein.
The cousin of the former dictator earned his nickname in 1988 when he ordered an airborne poison gas attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja, killing more than 5,000 people, including many women and children.
Ali Hassan al-Majid is to be hanged for what is believed to be the single biggest gassing of civilians in history. It is his fourth death sentence for crimes committed as Saddam’s defence minister, interior minister, intelligence chief and governor of occupied Kuwait.
“I am so happy today,” said Nazik Tawfiq, 45, a Kurdish woman who lost six of her relatives in the attack. She came to court alone to hear the sentence, and fell to her knees and began to pray upon hearing the verdict. “Now the souls of our victims will rest in peace.”
Richard Beeston saw the aftermath of the gassing:
Even by Saddam’s ruthless standards the massacre broke new boundaries. Yet what was more shocking was the cynical response of the West. The US attempted to put the blame for this crime on Iran. Britain carried on business as usual with the regime in Baghdad. Saddam was shielded from any meaningful punishment.
He went on to invade Kuwait two years later and ordered the massacre of thousands of Iraqi Shia Muslims in 1991.
The failure of the West to respond adequately to this outrage made it difficult for George W. Bush and Tony Blair to make a moral case for overthrowing Saddam a decade later in 2003.
I find that not a failing of Blair, but a failing of those who now spend their days wishing for the conviction of those who freed Iraq, rather than those who tortured it for nearly forty years.