The Blair Peace Project: Serial warmonger’s call for new Iraq war will have opposite effect
Neil Clark is a journalist, writer, broadcaster and blogger. He has written for many newspapers and magazines in the UK and other countries including The Guardian, Morning Star, Daily and Sunday Express, Mail on Sunday, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, New Statesman, The Spectator, The Week, and The American Conservative. He is a regular pundit on RT and has also appeared on BBC TV and radio, Sky News, Press TV and the Voice of Russia. He is the co-founder of the Campaign For Public Ownership @PublicOwnership. His award winning blog can be found at www.neilclark66.blogspot.com. He tweets on politics and world affairs @NeilClark66
What it does mean is shifting the blame on to others and trying to rewrite history.
You might have thought that someone who launched an illegal, disastrous war against a sovereign state that has led to the deaths of up to 1 million people and who made claims before the war which proved to be false, might show at the very least a measure of contrition when the country in question is overrun by radical Islamist groups who had no presence in the country before the illegal invasion took place. But Tony Blair’s 2,800 word essay on Iraq and Syria and the Middle East is so full of distortions and ludicrous claims that it’s hard to know where to begin.
The man who repeatedly told us that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the buildup to the war in 2003 now tries to justify it on the grounds that another Middle East leader, President Bashar Assad of Syria, used chemical weapons in 2013 and that if left in power, Saddam would have gone back to using them.
If you’re confused by that, you’re not the only one. Even if it were to be conclusively proved that the Syrian government did use chemical weapons at Ghouta (and it most certainly hasn’t been) the fact remains that Iraq did not possess WMDs in 2003.
“Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction I suggest they wait a bit. I remain confident they will be found,” Blair said on April 28, 2003. Over eleven years on, we’re still waiting.
Now Blair is saying that while Saddam had “got rid of the physical weapons” it was likely that he would have gone back to them at a later date. So, in other words, a war which has cost the lives of up to 1 million people is justified not because Iraq had WMDs in 2003 but because Saddam might have developed WMDs later on. Talk about moving the goalposts.
The war was clearly not about the threat from such weapons as, if the ruling elites in US and Britain had genuinely believed that Iraq possessed WMDs, they would not have dared to invade the country. Iraq was attacked not because it possessed WMDs but because it did not – and the US and UK knew that it did not.
Blair then goes on to use the so-called 2011 Arab Spring as a justification for the 2003 Iraq war.
He hypothesizes that a Saddam-led Iraq in 2011 would have been caught up in the wave of protests sweeping across the Arab world and Saddam and his sons would have fought to stay in power.
So a war in 2003 is justified because eight years later, a leader who might still have been in power might have put down internal revolt with repression and the conflict might have spread and turned into a “full-blown sectarian war across the region.” That’s a bit like saying “let's launch a war with China now because if there’s a wave of unrest in the Far East in eight years’ time the Chinese leadership might respond in the same way they did in 1989 with the Tiananmen Square massacre and that the conflict might spread beyond China’s borders.”
In any case, we’re very close to a “full-blown sectarian war across the region” today without Saddam Hussein or his sons being in power – and precisely because of Blair's policies.
Galloway proved right
Blair also tried to muddy the waters about the rise of Al-Qaeda and similar radical Islamist groups in Iraq, and ignores the fact that such groups had no presence in the country before the 2003 invasion. It wasn’t hard to foresee that toppling a secular Ba’athist regime, which acted as a bulwark against Islamic fundamentalism, would give a big boost to religious extremists. “Like it or not the most likely alternatives to the secular regimes of Assad in Syria and Saddam in Iraq would be militant Islamic ones,” I wrote in the Spectator in March 2002.
I remember going to a public meeting at which the anti-war MP George Galloway warned that invading Iraq would destabilize the entire region for years to come. Galloway was proved right and his pro-war detractors wrong, yet now Blair and other supporters of the war want us to intervene again in Iraq against the radical Islamist forces that did not exist in Iraq prior to the toppling of Saddam Hussein. Instead of accepting responsibility for the current turmoil, the serial regime-changers have shamefully tried to pass the blame on to others. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is the latest fall guy. “The sectarianism of the Maliki government snuffed out what was a genuine opportunity to build a cohesive Iraq,” Blair says. His fellow NeoCon Liam Fox, a former British Defense Secretary, joined in the attacks, saying that the response of Iraq government forces to the Islamist rebels has been “pretty pathetic.”
Yet the warmongers who bemoan the fact that al-Maliki hasn’t been a strong enough leader do not tell us that the last Iraqi leader who was a “strongman,” Saddam Hussein, was forcibly removed by them and the governing apparatus of the country destroyed. The West did not want a strong Iraq, but a weakened, divided country that would never again be a regional power.
It’s been NeoCon policy to target and oust Middle Eastern leaders who have been opponents of Islamic fundamentalism – think of the campaigns against Hussein, Gaddafi and Assad – yet they want us now to blame others for the advances made by radical Islamic terror groups in the region.
Most grotesquely of all, Blair calls for more Western interventions to put right the damage caused by previous Western interventions. We have to do something about radical Islamists taking over in Iraq, yet for the past few years the Western elites have been doing all they can to topple a secular government in neighboring Syria which has been fighting against the very same radical Islamists.
Outrage is expressed, and rightly so, when pictures were posted which appeared to show the mass execution of Iraqi soldiers by ISIS/ISIL, yet there’s been silence from Western elite figures when soldiers have been killed by the same forces in Syria. The double standards are there for all to see. Why do we need air strikes to stop radical Islamists in Iraq, but air strikes against a government battling radical Islamists in Syria? Why are jihadists very bad in Iraq, but not so bad in Syria?
If governing elites in the US and UK had genuinely been concerned with countering Al-Qaeda and radical Islamists in the Middle East they would not have forcibly toppled Saddam, they would not have forcibly toppled Gaddafi and they would not have spent years trying to forcibly topple Bashar al-Assad. They would also not be closely allying themselves with Middle East states that do sponsor religious extremists, such as Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
But we’re all expected to ignore these contradictions and to rally behind the latest NeoCon “intervention.” “We have to act now,” Blair cries. The trouble is that there has already been far too much western action in the Middle East- whether it’s been the invasion of Iraq, the bombing of Libya or the support given to ‘rebels’ fighting to overthrow the government in Syria.
Blair’s claims have brought attacks from within the British establishment, including from those who supported the Iraq war. “I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has finally gone mad,” writes leading Conservative Party politician and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.
Johnson quite rightly ridicules Blair’s assertions, but his main concern seems to be – like many other establishment critics of the former prime minister – that he has ruined the case for further military “interventions.”
“The Iraq war was a tragic mistake; and by refusing to accept this, Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates – the possibility of serious and effective intervention,” Johnson laments.
While reading Blair’s essay makes the blood boil, we must look on the bright side. Blair the Serial Warmonger has become a huge asset to the anti-war movement, as there’s no one out there who can turn so many people off the cause of Western intervention.
Let's hope he’s hard at work on writing another essay.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.