Saturday, 12 December 2009

On Tony Blair's new found "honesty"

I have refrained, thus far, from commenting on the Iraq War Inquiry. The reasons are quite simple.

The war itself was an illegal act of aggression, as defined in General Assembly Resolution 3314, and as such violates article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter and principle 6 of the Charter of Nuremburg. Those opposed to the war from the very beginning know this, and it is a fact steadily beginning to permeate the public consciousness. However, inquiries conducted by officialdom into the crimes of the powerful are not capable of such insight.

The Hutton Inquiry was just one example of this predictable whitewash. Even the Watergate Scandal, which led to the resignation of Richard Nixon as President, was a cause for heavy skepticism. No doubt, despite sensational coverage of the fact that "the government "misled" the country over the reasons for going to war" (which we knew already), little to nothing will come of the verdict. We are not going to see Bush and Blair in the dock for war crimes any time soon.

However, one thing that I did wish to comment on was Tony Blair's recent interview with Fern Britton. The latest installment of Fern Britton Meets, which will be broadcast at 10pm this Sunday on BBC One. According to BBC News, Blair tells the show that "it would have been right to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein even without evidence that he had weapons of mass destruction."
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.

I can't really think we'd be better with him and his two sons still in charge, but it's incredibly difficult..

That's why I sympathise with the people who were against [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, you know, in the end I had to take the decision.
We are to believe that "the threat to the region" posed by a man who had "used chemical weapons on his own people" was "the thing that was uppermost in my mind."

In response, Menzies Campbell of the Liberal Democrats declared that "if Mr Blair had told his cabinet what he is now saying, he'd have found it very difficult to keep all of them" and "he would not have obtained the endorsement of the House of Commons on 18 March 2003 if he had been as frank with the House of Commons then as he appears to be willing to be frank with the BBC now." Carol Turner of the Stop the War Coalition said, "it's such arrogance, isn't it? To assume that the public, which was so overwhelmingly opposed to the war at the time will somehow accept that, oh, it's fine - he tailored his arguments to the circumstance."

What I would add here is that, in matters of war, politicians and military leaders always tailor their arguments to fit the circumstances. In Hitler and his choice, Winston Churchill once declared that "one may dislike Hitler's system and yet admire his patriotic achievement," with the hope that if Britain were defeated "we should find a champion as indomitable to restore our courage and lead us back to our place among the nations." Yet, with the Nazi invasion of Russia, he declared that "Hitler is a monster of wickedness, insatiable in his lust for blood and plunder," explaining that "if Hitler invaded Hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Moreover, it must be remembered that Blair's concern in going to war wasn't that Saddam supposedly had WMD, nor that Saddam posed a threat to the region and his people. No, the motives for this war were the same as those for every imperial war of the past century; access to strategic resources and markets.

The value of Iraqi oil fields is no secret, as is the desperation to tap into that potential wealth demonstrated by the Oil-for-Food scandal. Thus, there should be little surprise at yesterdays revelation that "joint venture between the UK's Shell and Malaysia's Petronas oil companies has won the right to develop Iraq's giant Majnoon oil field" after "44 companies took part in a bid for 10 fields in the second such auction since the invasion in 2003." As "Iraq's known reserves of conventional oil rank behind only Saudi Arabia and Iran," this "is an opportunity without precedent anywhere else in the world." From which we get today's announcement by Iraq's oil minister that the country's "oil capacity could reach 12 million barrels per day."

What we see, then, is that Tony Blair has developed no greater honesty or integrity. Rather, with the WMD argument long since blown out of the water and the motivations for war back in the spotlight, he is once again tailoring his arguments to suit the circumstances.