Only those suffering from selective amnesia will not recall the nauseating lengths to which Tony Blair went in promoting the case for the invasion of Iraq, how he used 10-year-old information gleaned from the internet, and some student’ dissertation, to argue that Saddam Hussein was quite capable of lobbing a missile at Britain within 45 minutes.
Prior to the US-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, well over a million people took part in a mass protest in London - people fully aware at the time that the events of 9/11 had no link to Saddam Hussein (something George Bush promoted and later denied) and that he posed no military threat to the West. Likewise, the many who marched to Hyde Park that day were right in believing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction—a fact that was proved within months—and that any war in Iraq would fully destabilise the country (ex-president George Bush Snr. in fact cautioned Dubya that invasion would lead to destabilisation). And you would have been in a minority had you not realised the link between the intended war and the fact that beneath the sands of Iraq lay huge oil resources.
Three years after the invasion, with 650,000 Iraqis dead, the country’s infrastructure in total tatters, the country racked by a civil-war that threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands more Iraqis, global terrorism far more of a reality than before the invasion, Blair has admitted that the whole damned episode is a ginormous cock-up.
Interviewed by David Frost on Al-Jazeera on Friday night, Blair sent a shock-wave through Westminster when, responding to Frost’s querying whether the Western invasion of the country had "so far been pretty much of a disaster", Mr Blair said, firmly: "It has."
However, rather than locating the problem in the invasion, the toppling of Saddam, the setting up of a stooge pro-Western government, Blair continued: "You see what I say to people is why is it difficult in Iraq? It's not difficult because of some accident in planning, it's difficult because there's a deliberate strategy - al Qaeda with Sunni insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other - to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced by the will of the minority for war."
And who trained Al-Qaeda? British and US special forces, Mr Blair. And what has always been the will of the majority in Iraq, Mr Blair? That the Western occupying armies get the hell out of Iraq.
Notwithstanding the carnage engulfing Baghdad and British-controlled Basra, Blair maintained that British troops were not ready to cut and run.
"We are not walking away from Iraq," he said. "We will stay for as long as the government needs us to stay.” Or rather British and American forces will stay until the country’s oil wealth is secured for Western interests.
"And the reason for that is that what is happening in Iraq, as in Afghanistan, as elsewhere in parts of the Middle East, is a struggle between the decent majority of people, who want to live in peace together, and those who have an extreme and perverted and warped view of Islam, who want to create war.”
One wonders whether Blair gets his political weltanschauung from the same sources as his war-mongering counterpart across the pond. Nowhere do the politics of oil enter the equation – the real reason for the invasion.
Jut one day after the Frost interview and Blair was back-pedalling – for sure his telephone hotline buzzing all night with concerned messages from the jingoistic fraternity in Washington and the oil cartel at home – and his spokesman adamant that his apparent concession was a "straightforward slip of the tongue" – perhaps the kind is slip Mr Bush is so famous for! Blair’s spokesman continued: "He doesn't think that a democratically-elected government in Iraq is a disaster; he doesn't think that getting rid of Saddam was a disaster, but he does acknowledge there are difficulties, and he doesn't try to downplay those."
We wonder just what “difficulties” Mr Blair is thinking of. That in securing the ‘world’s richest prize’ people have to be killed and democratic elections – as in Iraq – have to be subverted. What, the elections were democratic, Mr Blair? Then why did all candidates first have to be cleared by the White House?
How can an election be construed as legitimate when it is carried out under foreign military occupation and when the country is apparently ruled by, and the election will be officially run by, a stooge government installed and kept in power by the army of occupation? Where the democracy in holding an election that is to be orchestrated from the US Embassy and which will be under the ultimate control of US forces? Where the democracy and freedom of expression when a raging civil war prevents large sections of the population casting a vote and when the election is so tailored as to bring into being a new assembly responsible for drafting a Washington–vetted constitution and selecting a government that will be allowed to exist only so long as it functions under the conditions of military occupation?
Toppling Saddam was not a disaster? The very reason Saddam was not toppled in the wake of the first Gulf War - when the US prompted northern Kurds and the southern Marsh Arabs to rebel against Baghdad, offering they would come to their aid, and then sat back as Saddam annihilated them – was exactly because it was recognised an unstable Iraq was not in US interests, that it was safer to keep Saddam in power. Saddam might have been an utter bastard, but as far as Washington was concerned in 1991 he was holding the country together. This is not to say that we, as socialists, believe Saddam should have been left in power, but it is instructive to point to glaring changes in US policy.
As socialists we do maintain that it is dangerous to listen to leaders of any party and from any country, regardless of their flower cant, and insist that anything they say is taken with a pinch of salt and that workers should organise against them and in their ilk and in our own interests. The concept of leadership has emerged with class society and will end when we abolish class society, when we abolish the profit system and all that goes with it. The master class have been allowed to lead because of their control over the means of living and by virtue of their control of the education system and their monopoly of the media and other information processes.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The greatest weapons we posses are our class unity, our intelligence, our ability to question every corrupt word that is uttered by politicians, and to imagine a world fashioned in our own interests. Leaders perceive all of this to be a threat and so will do anything to keep us in a state of oblivion, dejection and dependency – not least of these methods is to further lie to us at every opportunity. Our apathy is the victory they celebrate each day. Our unwillingness question everything they say, to unite as a globally exploited majority and to confront them on the battlefield of ideas is the subject of their champagne toasts.
When it comes to commenting on Iraq, on would have thought that Blair would have learnt his lesson and kept his ill-informed mouth shut. For over 3 years he has lied incessantly about Iraq. It is staggering that anyone in Britain still finds anything he says believable. Just to remind visitors to this blog of some of his untruths we’re listing a sample few of his Iraq-related porkies. If you think anything Blair says is trustworthy, consider the following:
1) "The assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt … that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons" (Tony Blair’s foreword to the dossier on Iraq, 24 September 2002)
Fact: After over three months of inspections, the UN weapons inspectors reported on 6 March that "No proscribed activities, or the result of such activities from the period of 1998-2002 have, so far, been detected through inspections”.
2) "There is no doubt about the chemical programme, the biological programme, indeed the nuclear weapons programme. All that is well documented by the United Nations." (Tony Blair, 30 May 2003)
Fact: The UN had found no evidence of any on-going programmes since the mid-1990s. Dr Hans Blix said on 23 May that "I am obviously very interested in the question of whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction and I am beginning to suspect there possibly were not."
3) "The reason why the inspectors couldn't do their job in the end was that Saddam wouldn't co-operate." (Tony Blair, interview on 4 April 2003)
Fact: Hans Blix told the Security Council on 7 March 2003 that "the numerous initiatives, which are now taken by the Iraqi side with a view to resolving some long-standing open disarmament issues, can be seen as 'active', or even 'proactive'".
4) "the UN has tried unsuccessfully for 12 years to get Saddam to disarm peacefully." (Tony Blair, interview in the Independent on Sunday, 2 March 2003)
Fact: In 1999, the Security Council set up a panel to assess the UN's achievements in the peaceful disarmament of Iraq. It concluded that: "Although important elements still have to be resolved, the bulk of Iraq's proscribed weapons programmes has been eliminated."
5) "We have already found two trailers, both of which we believe were used for the production of biological weapons" (Tony Blair, press conference in Poland on 30 May 2003)
Fact: Government experts believed that the trailers were used for the production of hydrogen for artillery guidance balloons - a system, incidentally, sold by the UK to Iraq in the 1980s.
6) “There is some intelligence evidence about linkages between members of al-Qaeda and people in Iraq." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons Liaison Committee, 21 January 2003)
Fact: In early February, a classified British intelligence report, written by defence intelligence staff in mid-January and presented to Tony Blair just prior to his 21 January presentation at the Liaison Committee, stated that there were no current links between the two, and that Bin Laden's "aims are in ideological conflict with present day Iraq".
7) "As the Foreign Secretary has pointed out, resolution 1441 gives the legal basis for this [war]" (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 12 March 2003)
Fact: Resolution 1441 was secured on the British assurance that it did not authorise military action, even if the UK or US believed it was being violated by Iraq. Britain's UN ambassador Jeremy Greenstock informed the Security Council on 8 November 2002 that "There is no 'automaticity' in this Resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion".
8) "On Monday night, France said it would veto a second Resolution whatever the circumstances." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)
Fact: President Chirac said that France would vote against any resolution that authorised force whilst inspections were still working. Chirac said that he "considers this evening that there are no grounds for waging war in order to ... disarm Iraq.
9) "The oil revenues, which people falsely claim that we want to seize, should be put in a trust fund for the Iraqi people administered through the UN." (Tony Blair to the House of Commons, 18 March 2003)
Fact: Britain co-sponsored a resolution to the Security Council, which was passed in May as Resolution 1483, that gave the US and UK control over Iraq's oil revenues.
10) "Our aim has not been regime change; our aim has been the elimination of weapons of mass destruction" (Tony Blair, press conference, 25 March 2003 )
Fact: UN weapons inspectors were reporting Iraq's "proactive" cooperation, and were offering that Iraq could be confirmed as fully disarmed within three months if that assistance continued. If Mr Blair's aim was the elimination of prohibited weapons, why terminate the inspection process just when it was most effective?
Today, meanwhile, Gordon Brown is in Iraq and no doubt the trip will be used as a damage limitation exercise in the wake of Blair’s unwitting confession. Brown’s remit? To visit and placate British troops who may have thought this was Blair saying they were going home, and announce at least £100 million in new aid for reconstruction. For what it’s worth, the figure is peanuts. On July 18th of this year US government's top auditor told Congress that the new Iraqi government would require at least $50 billion in aid just to rebuild the country's oil facilities and electrical grids to pre-invasion levels. Brown’s £100 million would not cover the damage that is done to Iraq as a direct result of the ongoing civil war each week.
This piece is also posted here.