Monday, 14 December 2009

white lies

Earlier this week former Prime Minister Tony Blair admitted that he would have gone to war with Iraq even if he had known that there were no WMDs in the country. He said that he would have used different arguments to justify the war. Essentially Blair has admitted that he lied to the country in order to commit us to a war which he knew would be difficult to sell to a public who rightfully saw no direct link between Iraq and the 9/11 attacks, or indeed any actual threat from the regime.

In the build up to war, the main thrust of the arguments centred around the fear that Iraq was hiding Weapons of Mass Destruction which could be used against Britain at very short notice. In less than an hour, it was reported, Iraq could fire dangerous weapons at us. This claim was questioned at the time and now it has been shown to be little more than a convenient argument. It probably wasn’t true and even if it was, it was only a shallow justification, not the actual motivation for the war.

Blair said that the real reason for going to war was the removal of Sadam, who had, after all, used chemical weapons against his own people. I do not debate that Sadam’s regime was evil and deserved to be removed, but I was not aware that Britain still claimed to be a world police force. I thought our national ego had significantly deflated after we lost the empire. Apparently Blair still harboured delusions of grandeur about Britain’s place in the world. Delusions he clearly did not feel were shared given his refusal to be honest about his reasoning for the war.

If we were to follow Blair’s rather arrogant train of thought all the way to the end of the line, we would end up trying to justify war with just about half of the world. If Blair sees it as Britain’s job to remove oppressive dictatorships, we should probably think about attacking most of Africa. Robert Mugabe is just one of many dictators who are just as bad as Sadam was in 2003. How about the rest of the Middle East? Surely Iran and Saudi Arabia are just as bad as Iraq was. Perhaps the reason Blair didn’t go to war with either of those countries is that they might actually have WMDs.

Like a playground bully, Blair went to war with a country he knew he could defeat. He could make himself and his country (but mostly himself) look like a great, moral man who it willing to go to war in order to protect people and spread liberal western democracy. Whether the people wanted his protection or his democracy is up for debate.

We may of course be missing an elephant in the room here. Blair did not go to war with Iraq on his own; like a loyal dog, Blair followed Bush. I don’t know what Bush’s justification was, I’m not even sure Bush knows what his justification was. Either way Blair was not so much the playground bully as the sidekick who tries to look big and impressive by following the bully wherever he goes.

Whatever his motivation, what’s clear is this; Tony Blair lied to the public and the House of Commons in order to justify a war which would otherwise have been unjustifiable. It is highly doubtful that Blair would have been able to get the support of the Commons or the public without the scaremongering that accompanied the false assertions about WMDs. Blair’s lie has cost lives of hundreds of British soldiers, fighting for a cause which was unjust and unnecessary.

Blair’s confidence that the war was just and the removal of Sadam was for the good seems rather shallow. If he actually believed that his cause was just, why did he not use that to argue for the war, rather than hide behind the probably false assertion that Iraq had WMDs? One has to question whether or not this new claim is little more than another convenient argument to make Blair look like a moral man when actually he went to war for far more selfish reasons.

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