A Faulty Truth
It has been close to eight years since the Iraq war started and even today it elicits just as much passion and emotion as it did in the summer of 2003. But a lot has changed in those eight years, the war which so many Americans backed close to a decade ago is now one of the most unpopular conflicts since, well, Vietnam. But unlike the Vietnam conflict the war in Iraq was never fully viewed as the United States' war alone, it was always the US and UK war on terror. In those heady days of 2003, George W. Bush and Tony Blair each created the perfect environment in their respective countries for the war not only to be justified but generally backed by the majority of their people. The only problem is that of hindsight.
A few months into the conflict it was clear that there was no enriched uranium in Iraq and claims of weapons of mass destruction never existed. That was when things went sour. This week Tony Blair took to the stand in England as he sought to justify his decision to go to war and in the highest profile question and answer session since Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama went head to head two years ago. It was the moment people around the world had been waiting for and as such it turned out to be a supreme disappointment. The questions were basic at best and a master orator like Blair handled them with consummate ease. He never seemed perturbed or ruffled and eventually seeing him in front of the camera answering questions about the legitimacy of the war was like seeing question time in the House of Commons. The only problem was that eight years ago the House of Commons failed to ask the right questions as well.
Interestingly when it was finally announced that Blair would give evidence to commission, most viewed it as possibly the last time the former PM would have to account for the reasoning behind his decision to go to war. The commission was given six hours to interrogate him and what should have been nothing short of a roast eventually petered out into a walk down memory lane.
Blair remained unrepentant for his actions, claiming that if he were in the same position again with the information that he had, he would have made the same decision. And while that did not 'shock and awe,' it was a slap in the face of the United Nations, yet again. When the UN was bypassed for the war against Iraq, Bush and Blair played it cool, they talked of the importance of getting the timing right and why that led to them unilaterally acting against Iraq without proper UN approval. They made it seem like a one off, it would never happen again. But this time Blair cleared out the issue beyond doubt that it was more than just a one off, but an attitude that any perceived enemy of theirs would be dealt with swiftly, with as little reliable intelligence as possible and of course without a UN resolution because obviously that is for wimps who actually care for the law.
While that may be a little harsh of Blair it remains true, after hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost including a few hundred British soldiers this was the ideal opportunity for him to apologise for the flimsy reasoning behind the war. It may not have soothed everyone's feelings but would have gone a long way to restoring his tarnished image. But seemingly that was not on his mind, he decided to defend his decision and stand by them through thick and thin, in a way his performance was rather heroic, if only his actions and intention were.
What proved to be the most frustrating aspect of his testimony was how smug he was through it all. He never once looked under pressure and for the most part spoke with a smile on his face. It was like looking at a man on death row who was happy to be there, except unfortunately the enquiry would not lead to death row. It would just lead to another report or dossier no one would read and whose outcome people knew from the beginning all along.
It left one fuming, that the man who went into an illegal and immoral war could sit in front of millions of people and continue to tell them how little he cared for the UN system. He stood and looked people in the eye and said he did not have the requisite evidence to go to war and yet he still did. He looked people in the eye and said he would do it all again, if the information was the same. Then right before our eyes he talked of Iran and the threat it posed and expected us to believe him. After one faulty, problematic, expensive and draining war he moved seamlessly into what now seems like his second war. His claims that Iran is a threat to peace in the area are not un founded, but that is only if their rhetoric is to be taken seriously. To prove they are producing or going to produce weapons of mass destruction will take more than another faulty report.
Worryingly Blair had the world's attention when he made his claims against Iran, one only hopes the decision makers were either not listening or they understood how eerily similar his words about Iran were to his rhetoric against Iraq when he was still in office. As the middle east envoy for the Quartet Blair has done nothing of note, but he certainly found time to wage war against Iran. If only he did his basic reading properly he would have understood that meaningful foreign policy in the Middle East will only come around once both Iran and Hamas are at the table. Waging a war against them would be more than a step back, it would be a disaster. But that is not to say that Iran has not given reason for the west to get worked up. But their strategic importance means they have an important voice, it would be in Blair's best interests not to drown out that voice with bombs and mortars. They tried that in Iraq and look where that got them.
When the history of the 21st century is finally written, there will be a fair amount to say on Tony Blair. If someone like the recently deceased Howard Zinn has his way with the writing of it, then Blair better not read it. If only he had found a way to apologise for the war, if only he had looked down and said 'sorry', then maybe history would have been kinder than it should have towards him. But he chose what must be for him the moral way, he decided to stick to his decisions through thick and thin and while that may have worked for Britain during his decade in power, it did not work so well for the rest of the world.
(R) thedailystar.net 2010