Tony Blair: Traitor or Fool?

I’ve just seen a report on Channel 4 news about Tony Blair’s second appearance before the Iraq War Inquiry.

During the session, Mr. Blair reiterated his belief that the removal of Saddam Hussein was a good and necessary thing and that while he felt regret for the lives lost on all sides, it didn’t change his fundamental attitude towards the war and its outcome.

I wasn’t in the least bit surprised by this as Mr. Blair hasn’t shown any indication of self-doubt nor has he accepted even the possibility of his having made a mistake. Furthermore, in a written statement to the Inquiry, Mr. Blair stated that the removal of the Hussein regime was a moral act that transcended international law and that military intervention was often a moral requirement of the civilised world.

A typical messianic attitude.

This last strikes me as particularly hypocritical as Mr. Blair never argued for the removal of Robert Mugabe or for the liberation of Tibet, or for the removal, by force if necessary, of Russian troops from Georgia. Instead, he limited himself to simple platitudes about Human rights and the right of sovereign nations to independence. In all of these cases, and in a great many others, the argument has always been that nations must behave toward one another pragmatically and that the West isn’t the policeman of the world. Obviously, part of this argument stems from the fact that both the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China are nuclear powers.

The fact that the cases above involved countries that are of  little to no military, political or economic interest to the West, I believe, also played a large part in the lack of any punitive action. As stated in my previous post, when faced with a choice between adhering to moral principles and making money, most governments will come down on the side of economics every time.

A cynical attitude? Yes, but one based on the actions of western leaders from both sides of the political divide since the dawn of Human civilisation. Money has always trumped morality.

During his testimony, it became clear that Mr. Blair committed the U.K. to war even before the U.N. weapons inspectors had finished their work, telling George W. Bush that Britain would stand by them in the event of war. Now, some might say that this is exactly what a good ally would say and others that such a statement simply helped to convince the Bush administration (which was leery about committing the U.S. to going to war alone because that brings up memories of Vietnam for the general public and would therefore be politically unacceptable) that they didn’t need to wait and that pushing for a second U.N. resolution was something to be done simply for show. In any event, it’s yet another example of Mr. Blair forgetting, or not caring about, the fact that he was supposed to be working for Britain’s best interests, not those of the U.S.

From 2001 on, it seemed as though Mr. Blair was working as the American prime minister instead of as ours. One example is the (now thankfully defunct) 2003 extradition treaty between the U.K. and the U.S. The main thrust of this revised treaty was that the U.S. would no longer have to provide prima facie evidence of a crime having been committed; they would simply have to ask for someone and they’d get them. This treaty was supposed to have worked both ways which would have allowed the U.K. security services to finally question the many U.S. citizens they suspect of having provided funds for the I.R.A. over the last 30 years,  however while the U.K. parliament moved quickly to ratify this treaty and make it law, Congress in America just couldn’t seem to find the time to do the same.

Now that’s all well and good, but for some reason the Blair administration decided to proceed with the extradition of British nationals under the terms of this treaty, which I find confusing as it is my understanding that, under international law, treaties between nations do not become legally binding unless and until said treaty has been ratified by the legislative body of all of the treaty’s signatories. In other words, we would have been well within our rights to do what our new coalition government has done: suspend this treaty until the U.S. congress ratifies it into American law and levels the playing field for American and British citizens alike. Mr Blair and his administration chose not to do that effectively reducing us to the status of second-class citizens in our own home.

If that’s not treason, then what is it?

Also it must be stated that the U.S. rush to war with Iraq is one of the main reasons for the subsequent disastrous occupation that followed in which looting was rampant and massive amounts of weapons and explosives were cached ready for use by insurgents. The Iraqi army was not defeated, they simply put up a token fight to buy time for the insurgency to prepare. During all of this, there were many disturbing statements being made by top officials in the Bush administration, about how they expected to be greeted as liberators and that Iraqi democracy would immediately come into being. They clearly didn’t know or care that Iraq has almost no history of democracy and that, as I stated in my previous post, most people in Islamic countries tend to pay more attention to their religious leaders than their political ones. Most notable was a statement by then Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld, who said that he expected the coalition army to be “in and out in a couple of weeks.”

These frankly, naive or ignorant (take your pick) statements should have made the Blair administration nervous about what they were getting our troops into. They should have double-checked to make sure the U.S. had a post-invasion plan and they should have made one for themselves in any event just in case.

The fact that during the last Gulf War a fifth of British casualties were caused by friendly fire incidents perpetrated by U.S. forces should also have made them think twice, especially since such incidents in Afghanistan would seem to suggest that the U.S. military hasn’t changed any of its procedures or attitudes. Granted, there’s a great deal of confusion inherent to any battlefield, but we British have managed to almost stop blue-on-blue incidents through the implementation of strict rules of engagement which require our forces to hold their fire until they have:

  1. Checked to see if the target is a legitimate one as defined by Queen’s Regulations, the Articles of War and whatever operating procedures are governing the particular operation they’re on.
  2. Checked to see if their weapon fire will hit the target and only the target. If they’re not positive they are under standing orders to “bring the weapons home.”

It should be noted that the above rules of engagement were quoted to a T.V. reporter by an R.A.F. pilot on duty in Iraq.

U.S. forces it seems, are still operating under the doctrine of force protection, implemented after the Vietnam War and which requires them to put their own safety first. This strikes me as cowardice masquerading as strategy; surely soldiers are supposed to protect other people, not themselves?

All of this should have made Mr. Blair ask some searching questions of his American colleagues and yet all we got out of him was one rousing defence of the U.S. after another.

Are Mr. Blair’s religious beliefs playing any role in this constant groveling?

A devout Catholic, he has frequently stated his belief that America is a force for good in the world and that any missteps by the U.S. are easily compensated for by the benefits the U.S. brings to the world.

The question is what are the benefits? What is Britain getting out of this alliance anymore?

Aside from an increase in Islamic fundamentalist terrorism, it’s difficult to see why Britain shouldn’t start distancing itself from the U.S. as we did during the Vietnam War. The atrocities committed by the U.S. in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib and the fact that the Americans seem to regard the law as a flexible construct to be used only when it suits their purpose and tossed aside when it does not (the justifications used by Dick Cheney for waterboarding for example) seem to indicate that our two nations no longer have anything moral in common.

That being the case, maybe we should get well clear of the U.S. while we can before people start tarring us with the same brush.

It is obvious that time hasn’t cooled Mr. Blair’s fervour either. During his testimony he called on the West to stop its “wretched posture of apology” toward Iran and be prepared to use force to deal with the current Iranian regime.

“At some point, and I say this to you with all the passion I possibly can, the west has got to get out of this wretched posture of apology for believing that we are responsible for what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing.

“We are not … they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they will carry on doing it unless they are met by the requisite determination and, if necessary, force.”

I agree that al-Qaeda would still be committed to a global jihad, but I simply cannot accept that our actions over the last decade in the Middle East haven’t contributed to the anti-western hatred felt by Muslims the world over. It’s obvious to everyone, except Mr. Blair, that our actions have stoked Muslim anger and that by refusing to acknowledge this, we’re simply making things worse.

Tony Blair has always struck me as a particularly intelligent man and yet when I listen to him make statements like the one above, I have to wonder if that first impression was completely wrong. It’s clear that I was swept up by his smooth talking and optimistic rhetoric and that if the British electorate had known then that he was himself a religious fundamentalist like George W. Bush and Osama bin-Laden we’d have never voted for him.

Now I begin to understand how the people of 1930’s Germany were swept away by Hitler’s rhetoric and promises. It sounded all so good at the time and we’re only now realising just how badly we’ve been duped.

But duped by whom?

Does Tony Blair truly believe, as he seems to, that America is the ordained of God?

Does he truly believe that they can do no wrong and that we should all think, feel and be like them? That we should at all times and in all cases do as they do?

Or has he himself been duped? By his religion, which requires total obedience to what the Vatican says is the will of God? By the Americans whose optimism is, I can tell you from my own – admittedly limited – experience,  enthralling and extremely appealing?

Or could it be that he really is that stupid?

Is Tony Blair a traitor or a fool?

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