Friday, 29 January 2010

Humanitarianism and the Iraq Inquiry

To the surprise of few, Tony Blair has made a robust case to the Chilcot inquiry for his decision to join the Americans in the invasion of Iraq. His presence reminds us of what we have lost. That we have learnt not much new should be no surprise to anyone. We have had several previous inquiries. But it is still useful to be reminded of two things: we've had lots of process discussion, but Blair has made clear that in the end this was a matter of his making a decision, whatever one's subsequent view of it. And we need Prime Ministers who can take decisions.

But the second point is the context of Blair's own experience, as set out in the 1999 Chicago speech, but also enacted in Sierra Leone and Kosovo, both of which would be illegal in the eyes of those who believe that any action not supported by China and Russia should never take place. I was not in no 10 at the time, so merely observed the debate from outside. But I personally was never entirely convinced of the way the WMD argument was deployed, while believing that Saddam should go not only because of the threat he posed to the region but also to his own people. At the time, I remember thinking that the strongest case made by Blair was a speech to the 2003 Labour spring conference where he used strong moral arguments to link the humanitarian to the WMD case. Blair's evidence to the inquiry that the aftermath planning was focused on humanitarian planning rather than unexpected Al Qaeda insurgency or Iranian-inspired terrorism was particularly interesting in this context.

When one remembers the 110,000 people who died as a result of the inaction in Bosnia of John Major and Bill Clinton or the million deaths as a result of the deplorable failure of the UN in Rwanda, it is to accept that we should never act to stop such murder, which is the corollary of what most of Blair's critics suggest. The real tragedy of the failings in the aftermath of the quick military victory, and the near-consensus in the West about what has resulted, is that it is likely to leave other genocidal leaders like Milosevic or Saddam to continue unfettered unless China changes the habits of a lifetime and opposes them.

This posting has been picked up by the keeptonyblairforpm blog


Ben said...

Hear hear.

I remember following the discussion and debate leading up to the war in detail. I remember some of his speeches and I am sure that Mr Blair used the word "Democracy" about twice as often as he said "Mass destruction". My overall impression was that the WMD issue was a lesser one than the humanitarian issue.

I still think that.

Who was it who said "If Rumsfeld was to say, 'free Tibet? What a swell idea! The 5th goes in next week' the free-tibet mob would change their bumper stickers for 'war is not the answer'".

BlairSupporter said...

Great post. Pity more people don't notice this about Tony Blair, of if they do notice it's a pity they don't appreciate it.

So consumed are they with the task of perpetuating their own propaganda that they have failed to ponder on their own failures, much less his successes.

I've used the post here at my blog. Hope you don't mind.