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Behind the words

February 02, 2010

Hello again,

Last Friday Tony Blair was questioned about his decision to support the invasion of Iraq. Reports subsequently spoke of his appearance at the enquiry in theatrical terms,...

... describing his performance as though he were the member of a cast in a Shakespearian tragedy.

What struck me more forcibly was how his legal mind was visibly at work. The practised barrister can hide behind words that seem to lead to a logical conclusion, but which in fact merely mislead. Such was the effect of Blair’s carefully chosen phrase: the calculus of risk. This he claimed changed radically after 9/11. We can only speculate, he suggested, about the horrors that would have ensued had Iraq been able to supply terrorists with WMD. But there were no WMD. It was alarming to see how quickly other ‘rogue’ states were implicated in this scenario: North Korea, Iran, Libya.

In justifying his decision, Blair implicated Iraq in 9/11 by association, yet Iraq had nothing to do with that attack. Moreover, the terrorists used no sophisticated weapons; instead they exploited loopholes in the West’s own security arrangements, managing to train as pilots, to travel freely and ultimately to hi-jack planes. None of this needed input from Saddam Hussain.

Having constructed this specious post hoc justification, he never once discussed the horrors visited on the hapless Iraqis by the bombings and the subsequent lawlessness in the country, which resulted in countless defenceless victims. Blair voiced his fears that the terrorists who perpetrated 9/11 would not hesitate to murder tens of thousands of civilians if they had the chance. He did not hesitate to slaughter hundreds of thousands but we will probably never know exactly how many Iraqis lost their lives. He claimed that ‘we’ were safer because Saddam had been removed. But not one jot of regret did he show for the victims of the terrorism that was unleashed in Iraq as a result of the war.

Blair showed the same contempt for truth as he did in government. His trademark then as now was spin. And what was depressing about the whole Iraqi episode and the Bush/Blair strategy is that it totally ignored the real running sore of instability in the Middle East, the Israeli/Palestine issue. However desirable it may have been to remove Saddam, there must have been less costly ways., not only less costly in human life but also in the further destabilizing of the region. If Iran really is trying to develop nuclear weapons, it may well be doing so in fear of an Iraqi-style invasion.

So what did we learn last Friday? That Blair still believes that his own self-delusions can be foisted on the rest of us. And ultimately that he has a second rate mind. The roots of terrorism, the causes of instability in the Middle East, how the West can interact with Islamic Sates: these are complex issue that require careful analysis but they also require solutions that encapsulate a basic respect for the lives of others. He showed himself incapable of clarity of understanding and totally lacking in respect for human life.

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