By Robert Fisk in daily The Independent in Britain today:
Tony Blair’s at it again. He apologises – but not for the war, only for the “intelligence”. There are “elements of truth” – whatever that means – in the view that his and George W Bush’s 2003 Iraqi adventure might have caused the rise of Isis. There are some, I suppose, who might also say that this wretched man started a regional war that has totally obscured the tragedy of the Palestinians, who continue to endure the longest military occupation in modern history – one that Blair did nothing to end after he was sent outrageously as a “peace” envoy to Jerusalem. Perhaps he would agree that there are “elements of truth” in this suggestion, but I doubt it.
I have been infuriated by Blair’s failure to own up to the catastrophe. No doubt the dark shadow of the Chilcot report brought his midget apology, although Chilcot may well hide the truth and thus cast only sunlight on the man. What I found so appalling in his CNN interview, however, was the assumption that the Middle East is a place of inherent instability.
I am minded of this because of an article by the Palestinian Rami Khouri in which he comments on an article by Henry Kissinger. Khouri remarks that Kissinger’s view of the Middle East “seems to have no place for – or is simply blind to – the nearly half a million [sic; billion] men and women, mostly Muslims, who live [there] and shape its societies and states … These people all seek the same thing that Kissinger presumably seeks for Americans: a stable, decent society where citizens can live in peace.”
Khouri acknowledges the “non-state actors and ethno-sectarian nationalisms” that have emerged. I would have said this in blunter language, but he rightly spots the US tendency to see the Middle East in terms of religious or ethnic groups (Shia, Sunnis, Maronites) waging existential wars “in an urban wasteland defined by armed gangs”.
I rather think that’s how Blair sees the Middle East. He sees territory, but he doesn’t see people. The mere fact that he could drag out the rotting corpse of Saddam Hussein shows what the problem is. Yes, Saddam did use gas “against his own people”. But when he was doing that, George Bush Snr was giving him military assistance in his war against Iran. And when we staged our 2003 adventure, most of those who were subsequently killed were not Saddamites or anti-Saddamites but “tens of thousands” (as CNN coyly states) of innocent civilians. By defining these people as Sunnis and Shia or Maronites, we demean them, forcing them into a box with labels – and very often into wooden boxes, too.
It does no good to ignore, as Khouri says, how American and other foreign powers’ policies contributed to the problems that shattered the superficial calm which, barring Arab-Israeli wars, defined the region for years after the Second World War. But we do not see the people, we see policies – which is why Blair chose war. That’s what wars were to Kissinger. That’s why he made peace between Iran and Iraq all those years ago, and sacrificed the Kurds.
That’s what the Americans did when they bombed Iraq again and again between 1991 and 2003, long after we had freed Kuwait from Saddam’s clutches. And that’s what we did when we invaded Iraq in 2003. And still it goes on. Did Isis start in Iraq or Syria?
I suspect that what we fail to do is take responsibility for our actions. We don’t plan, because we have no long-term plans. Churchill started planning the British occupation of a conquered Germany in 1941, even before the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. But when the first US tanks crossed the Tigris river in 2003, neither Blair nor Bush had thought ahead. They were too busy with intelligence reports with “elements of truth” in them.
German brands TV confession ‘damage limitation’ in wake of Powell memo leak. TONY BLAIR’S weasel words justifying the invasion of Iraq were dismissed yesterday as more of his infamous spin as he dramatically admitted some responsibility for the rise of Islamic State (Isis): here.
Tony Blair’s apologies over Iraq War are ‘spin operation’ ahead of Chilcot Inquiry report, says Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister says the delay to Sir John Chilcot’s review being released is a ‘scandal’: here.
Tony Blair uses CNN interview to cover for his lies on Iraq: here.
FELICITY ARBUTHNOT charts how Blair conspired with the US to invade Iraq while feeding the British public a very different story: here.
By Patrick Cockburn in British daily The Independent, 25 October 2015:
Tony Blair apologises for Iraq War: The former PM’s mind has been paralysed by what happened in 2003
Blair has an arrogant inability to admit he was mistaken
What is striking about Tony Blair’s latest comments about his role in the Iraq War is how little he had learnt about the country in the 12 years since the invasion. …
He conflates two events that should be looked at separately. He says that he does not apologise for removing Saddam Hussein: one could argue that most Iraqis wanted this to bring an end to Saddam’s disastrous rule at that time. But the US and Britain then went on to occupy Iraq and it was the war against the occupation, waged separately by Sunni and Shia, that destroyed the country and enabled al-Qaeda to gain its first foothold there.
It is difficult to understand Mr Blair’s position, because here is an intelligent man whose mind seems to have been paralysed by his experiences in 2003. His comments on Iraq and other events in the Middle East since that date are consistently ill-informed and partisan.
This is in sharp contrast to his understanding of the problems of Northern Ireland about which he writes knowledgeably and lucidly in his autobiography. It is as if Iraq turned his political strengths to weaknesses: his self-confidence turned into rigidity and an arrogant inability to admit he was mistaken and to avoid such mistakes in future.
It was evident from the first days of the invasion that President Bush and Mr Blair might get away with the invasion, but if they tried to stay in the country they would be in trouble. The reason they did so had nothing to do with the greater good of the Iraqi people, but because they did not want Iran, the greatest Shia power, to benefit from the fall of Saddam Hussein. But this was always going to happen because any election in Iraq would bring to power the Shia who made up 60 per cent of the population.
Iraqis say that sanctions destroyed Iraqi society and the invasion destroyed the Iraqi state. There have been claims since that if there had been a post-invasion plan in Iraq then all would have been well, but this is patronising nonsense. The only Iraqis who welcomed the occupation were the Kurds, who were not occupied. Moreover, all the states neighbouring Iraq, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, did not want the occupation to succeed. Any insurgency inside Iraq was always going to receive arms and money from outside.
The state in Iraq that the US and Britain claimed to be rebuilding was delegitimised from the beginning in the eyes of Iraqis because it was so openly a foreign creation. The same was true in Afghanistan where the great strength of the Taliban was the contempt and hatred felt by so many Afghans for the government in Kabul. British forces were sent to Helmand in 2006 with same lack of understanding of the dangers, just as they had been sent to Basra in 2003, and with the same disastrous results. Actions that were supposed to show the US how effective Britain was as an ally achieved exactly the opposite result. …
It is not just that he made mistakes then, but he went on making them. In his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry some five years ago, he was lauding the successes of the Iraqi government of the day, though everybody in Iraq knew it was dysfunctional, kleptocratic and sectarian.