IT is difficult to exaggerate the sense of shock but not awe some of us felt when hearing Tony Blair say last weekend that he would have gone ahead with the invasion of Iraq even if he'd known that the Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) so trumpeted in the "dodgy dossier" didn't exist. He would, he said, simply have deployed different arguments to achieve the same result, the removal of Saddam Hussein. He deserved to go as he was a local menace and had gassed his own people. He was, moreover, uniquely evil.
There are quite a few things wrong with these arguments. Firstly, it flies in the face of the primacy of international law. Without it we simply return to the law of the jungle, the rule of the most powerful, the world of the Melian dialogue recorded in Thucydides' Peloponnesian War where "the strong do what they can, while the weak suffer what they must". This may have been the neo-cons' nostrum but it is not the basis on which the United Nations was constructed, and it is not the basis on which I served as a diplomat for nearly 40 years.
The above is from Ivor Roberts' "Blair reputation heads for history's dustbin" (Independent of London) and, just to be clear, we've covered this. The first time was December 12th, it was big in the Monday, December 14th Iraq snapshot and has been covered repeatedly since. We've covered it because it's big news. But try to find a mention of it at The Progressive or The Nation -- both of whom will shortly shut down for "Christmas." And let's address that real damn quick. If you don't believe in Jesus why the hell do you need to take weeks off at this time of the year for Christmas? Matthew Rothschild, for example, has made very clear he believes in no higher authority. So why does The Progressive need to shut down this time of year? Seems a bit hypocritical. But as they rush to take their "Christmas" breaks, note that neither The Nation nor The Progressive has covered Tony Blair's remarks. Despite the fact that both publications grandstanded on the Iraq War once upon a time. Despite the fact that both publications would have NO circulation were it not for the Iraq War. The Iraq War managed to give them (briefly) a sense of purpose. But they've WalkedOn, they don't have time for it today. They have time to take off for a religious holiday that they don't celebrate, in honor of a God they don't believe in, but they don't have time to cover Tony Blair's remarks on the Iraq War. They've got time to cover Oprah and they've got time to cover a new animated film, they just don't have time for the life or death issues. [And for those wondering about Hanukkah, (a) if you don't believe in a God, you don't celebrate Hanukkah and (b) Hanukkah began December 11th -- translation, Hanukkah hasn't prevented 'coverage' from either magazine.]
Tony Blair, Dominic Ponsford (Press Gazette) reports, is blaming the United Kingdom media. Citing Blair's interview in the Sunday Times of London, Ponsford quotes Blair insisting, "We've got a problem with the UK media. They don't approach me in an objective way. Their first question is how to belittle what I'm doing, knock it down, write something bad about it. It's not right. It's not journalism. They don't get me and they've got a score to settle with me. But they are not going to settle it." John Arlidge (Times of London) has the portrait of St. Tony of the Fan Rags, persecuted, misunderstood, victimized:
He added: "It's not true that nobody likes me! Reading the papers in Britain, you'd end up thinking I'd lost three elections rather than won them. There is a completely different atmosphere around me outside the country. People accept the work that you are doing, as it is. They don't see anything wrong with being successful financially and also doing good work."
Oh, Tony, it's not just England. You're hated around the world. And for good reason. As he will discover when he appears before the Iraq Inquiry chaired by John Chilcot next year. Hugh Cortazzi (Japan Times) observes:
The infamous dossier on which then British Prime Minister Tony Blair based his justification for war was thus at the very least exaggerated. It is clear from the evidence given to the inquiry that contrary to the conclusions reached by the so-called Hutton inquiry the document had been "sexed up."
It has also been confirmed that some civil servants were not convinced that in the absence of a further United Nations resolution the invasion was legally justified. The evidence suggested that Blair signed up to the invasion after a private conversation with U.S. President George W. Bush, who was determined to go ahead in the spring when U.S. forces were ready on the ground. Bush was not prepared to wait for further resolutions or reports from U.N. arms inspectors. The date of the invasion was thus dictated by the "need" to use the forces because they could not easily be kept waiting. Evidence has also confirmed what has been apparent to almost all observers that the planning for the occupation was at best a shambles. It was sketchy and often based on wishful thinking about how Iraqis would react.
Martin Ivens (Times of London) takes pity on drama queen Tony, "The thing to understand about Blair is that all the good things about him made him bad too: his virtues were his vices. Guile is a necessary political weapon; he used it well. Yet a reputation for cunning is self-defeating; the good Machiavellian hides his purpose. New Labour spin outlived its purpose: what is the point of spinning if everyone talks about the spinner? What if the spinning advances no agenda other than re-election? And sensitivity to public opinion is a weakness as well as a strength. Some unpopular causes were worth fighting for. Some colleagues, or rather his neighbour at No 11, should have been faced down, not placated." A more clear eyed appraisal comes from Chris Floyd (via Atlantic Free Press):
Since leaving office, Tony Blair has dipped his blood-smeared snout into various corporate troughs, amassing millions, while simultaneously becoming one of the great whited sepulchres of our day, making a great show of his conversion to Catholicism, his "faith foundation," and so on. He has even lectured at Yale Divinity School. But this holy huckster looks more haunted every day. The glaring, bulging eyes, the frantic rictus of his grin – indistinguishable from the grimace of a man in gut-clenching pain --- and the ever-more strident, maniacal defense of his war crimes give compelling testimony to the hellish fires consuming his psyche.
Next month, Blair will go before the Chilcot Inquiry, a panel of UK Establishment worthies charged with investigating the origins of Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq. Although the worthies have been remarkably toothless in their questioning of the great and good so far – the smell of whitewash is definitely in the air – the inquiry has at least performed the useful function of bringing the forgotten subject of Iraq back into the public eye, while collating and confirming, with sworn testimony, much of what we have learned in dribs and drabs over the years about the rank, deliberate deceit behind this murderous catastrophe. One choice bit that has emerged from the inquiry is the revelation that the centerpiece of Blair's case for immediate war – the claim that Saddam Hussein could hit Europe with WMD-loaded missiles on just 45 minutes' notice – came from unconfirmed, third-hand gossip passed along by an Iraqi taxi driver.
Allegra Stratton (Guardian) also stays clear of the Mists of Avalon and sticks to the reality Tony Blair long ago tore free from (or thought he did):
Echoing a speech he made towards the end of his time in office, where he lashed out at what he called "the feral beasts of the media", Blair said the British press have an agenda with him. He said: "They don't approach me in an objective way. Their first question is how to belittle what I'm doing, knock it down, write something bad about it. It's not right. It's not journalism. They don't get me and they've got a score to settle with me. But they are not going to settle it."
Since leaving office in 2007, Blair has been criticised for netting deals advising banks, companies and Arab governments as well as large sums for speeches. But he suggested he could do even more lucrative work if he wanted: "When leaders step down, they all do a certain amount of paid speaking and that is fair enough. If all I wanted to do was make speeches, let me tell you, I could make five times the number," he said. "I got out of politics early enough to have a second act in life. Why shouldn't a politician be able to do that? Others do. Nobody says Bill Gates is bad for moving from business to philanthropy. Why shouldn't a politician do a business model when they change their life?"
"I love my life as it is!" insisted Tony to John Arlidge. Then why the non-stop whining, Tony? Me thinks thou doest protest too much.
Bonnie reminds that Isaiah The World Today Just Nuts "Super Model President" went up Sunday. We'll close with this from Iraq Veterans Against the War:
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