Blair should take responsibility for Iraq. But he won't. He can't
Robert Fisk – The Independent September 3, 2010
Has this wretched man learned nothing? On and on, it went during his BBC interview: "I would absolutely...","I definitely...", "I believed absolutely clearly...", "It was very, very clear that this changed everything" – "this" being 11 September 2001 – "Let me state clearly and unequivocally", "The Intelligence picture was clear...", "legal justification was quite clear", "We said completely accurately... "Because I believed strongly, then and now...", "My definitive view in the end is..." You would have thought we won the war in Iraq, that we were winning the war in Afghanistan, that we were going to win the next war in Iran. And why not, if Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara says so.
And I hereby abandon all further reference to Lord Blair of Kut al-Amara, with its unhappy reference to Britain's humiliating military defeat in 1915 Mesopotamia. He must be re-created Lord Blair of Isfahan. Having conquered Saddam, he wants to conquer Ahmadinejad. "I am saying that it is wholly unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons capability," he told poor old Andrew Marr. It was necessary for the Iranians," quoth he, "to get that message, loud and clear." Thus did our Middle East peace envoy prepare us for war with Persia. But I rather fear the Iranians got his "message" a long time ago: if you want to avoid threats from the likes of Lord Blair, you'd better buy a bomb pdq. After all, what he didn't announce was: "I am saying it is wholly unacceptable for North Korea to have nuclear capability." And we all know why.
Sometimes, Blair sounded like the Israeli foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman. He and his Israeli boss believe Ahmadinejad is worse than Hitler – which takes some doing – and Lord Blair, as we know, is no appeaser. Oddly, however – since he's supposed to be our peacemaker between the two sides – "Israel" and "Palestine" were two words that went totally unmentioned, even though Blair blurted out to the Chilcot inquiry that there had been "phone calls" with Israelis during his decision-making conference with Bush over Iraq. Marr missed out there. What on earth were Blair and Bush talking to the Israelis about as they prepared to take us into this catastrophe?
It was all so very schoolboyish. Yes, "people" disagreed about the war. "People always want to look for a conspiracy." And – my favourite – "this debate will go on." But it's not a bloody debate – it's a bloody, blood-soaked disaster, for which Blair should take responsibility. But he won't. He can't. So Iraq's descent into butchery was all the fault of al-Qa'ida, of "the external involvement" of al-Qa'ida and Iran.
Iraq was "destabilised by the same external forces that destabilised Afghanistan." Alas no. The men shooting and bombing and killing Brits and Americans in Iraq were largely Iraqis, the very men – and occasionally women – whom Messrs Blair and Bush thought they were liberating from Saddam. "People are driving car bombs into crowded suburbs," Lord Blair said at one point, as if this was some kind of folkloric tradition, an odd tribal habit that had nothing to do with our 2003 invasion.
"How can you not feel sorry about people who have died?" Lord Blair remarked of the victims. What we wanted to hear was "I feel sorry for the people who have been killed." Even that might have come a tad nearer an admission of guilt. "We haven't caused this," Blair said in an unguarded moment. Not my fault, Guv! I noticed, too, how Marr stuck to the minimum 100,000 figure for Iraq's dead, rather than the half million or million statistic which haunts our former prime minister. Thus Blair was able to refer to the "hundreds of thousands of people who died under Saddam". It was the old story. Blair wasn't as bad as Saddam. And Blair's nicer than Hitler, more sympathetic than Stalin, kinder than Genghis Khan. Nope. This whole mess had nothing to do with Lord Blair. "You have to have the courage to do what you think is right." But "thinking" is not good enough. I hope the air-raid sirens in Isfahan are in good working order.
Last updated 05/09/2010