Opinion: Iraq War, one year on

Just over ten years ago, I was one dot in a crowd of one million people in London calling for the Labour government of Tony Blair to stop the Iraq war. We all knew that Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator who was much-hated in his own country but we knew equally well that the case for invasion of Iraq (it was never a ‘war’) was a gigantic deceit, cooked up by the Blair and Bush governments for their own purposes. We knew that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction. We knew that far from being a friend of Al Qaeda and the Islamicists, Saddam was their sworn enemy and near the top of their death list. But these were ‘inconvenient truths’.

As I walked alongside Charles and Sarah Kennedy, Donnachadh McCarthy and Simon Hughes at the front of the Liberal Democrat contingent in the march, I thought to myself: “Wow! This is the biggest gathering of humanity in the UK since the Isle of Wight Pop Festival in 1969:and we haven’t even got Jimmy Hendrix or Joni Mitchell as a ‘draw’ . How can they ignore something as huge as THIS?”

The bottom line was, the Blair/Bush agenda was so-fixed-in-stone that they would have ignored something twice or three times as big. They were totally prepared for both the massive slaughter of the innocents which took place in the immediate invasion period, and also the perpetual drip drip drip of casualties caused by suicide bombers and insurgents – and the Coalition ‘policing actions’ in the ten subsequent years. They were equally prepared for the homicide of ‘truth’. In fact, they were busy mixing the poisoned pills.

Let us not forget, this was not just a British protest. Somewhere between six to ten million people demonstrated in more than 60 countries and 800 cities. There was even a demonstration of scientists, among the penguins on the Antarctic ice. All around the world, leftists marched alongside conservatives, Quakers marched with Muslims, Sikhs and Catholics. For hundreds of thousands of participants it was the only demonstration they had ever been on. Yet all for nought.

Just before the march, Tony Blair declared publicly that that unpopularity was “the price of leadership and the cost of conviction”, adding that there would be “bloody consequences” if Saddam was not “confronted”. It is a great shame that no one has yet convicted Tony Blair and that his arrogance and narcissism was never confronted before the slaughter began.

Almost nowhere on that march, or in the rally that followed it, was there even the slightest degree of support for Saddam Hussein and precious little global ‘anti-Americanism’. Just a common revulsion at a war of aggression based on lies, warped ‘intelligence’, and the opportunistic manipulation of the ‘war on terror’ for other ends. The Bush administration and the Murdoch press all railed against us that we were the puppets of some extremist conspiracy. Forces of darkness even bust a gut to try to stop official Lib Dem participation in the event. Thankfully, they failed. Whatever falsehoods they peddled at us, the mums and kids, the grannies, the doctors, dentists, university professors and and unemployed all knew otherwise. We were not experts on Iraq: we just knew in our guts that their evil proposition, based on total dishonesty would simply draw open the gates of hell.

A month later, the great majority of Labour and Tory politicians, with a handful of honourable exceptions, ignored the demonstrators, the glaring facts and the obvious hideous consequences of their decisions and voted to back the ‘war’. Hundreds of thousands of lives later, Iraq remains a violent and traumatised country riven by ethnic, religious and tribal rivalries. Anyone who assisted the invading forces as an interpreter still walks in fear of their lives. The only thing which can be said for the authoritarian yet devoid-of-authority government of Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki is that it is not as bad as that of the corrupt Karzai regime which ‘the West’ are still trying to prop up in Afghanistan.

Today, cowardly politicians are lining up to cover their rears and those of those who went before them, through preventing the publication of documents requested by the Chilcot Inquiry regarding British participation in the war. What have they to hide? We who went on that march have nothing to hide. We wear our badges of that day with pride.

Ed: Apologies. The title of this post should have been ‘Iraq War, ten years on’ . I have not changed it because by now the links will be embedded across the web.

* Councillor Tony Dawson is Lib Dem Shadow Cabinet member for Health and Adult Care on Sefton MBC . He is a former NHS middle manager and whistleblower who, in 1991, won a Judicial Review in the High Court against the NW Regional Health Authority for their improper dismissal of him.

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36 Comments

  • Well said, Tony.

    It is still a source of great shame that a so-called radical party of the left took us to war in Iraq on the flimsiest of pretexts. There is also a great sense of pride that the Lib Dems opposed this unjust and unnecessary war and we should continue to remind people of that fact.

    We must continue to be vigilant and oppose interventions in countries whose regimes we don’t like on the pretext of ‘saving’ them.

  • Geoffrey Payne 19th Feb '13 - 1:29pm

    It was Lib Dem opposition to the war in Iraq that got me active in the Lib Dems again. Since then I think we have all struggled about whether the west should intervene in the Middle East. I think it was a mistake to intervene in Afghanistan as well. And we have recently seen the blowback from Libya in Mali and Algeria – that intervention too probably did more harm than good. We ought to be debating this a lot more in the party – we seem to have stopped being an internationalist party I guess because as western power declines and our ability to effectively intervene declines with it, it is increasingly becoming more difficult to work out what role we should have in the world.

  • Geoffrey Payne 19th Feb '13 - 1:30pm

    And before anyone says it, of course Mali and Afghanistan are not in the Middle East – I should have said Asia and North Africa.

  • Richard Dean 19th Feb '13 - 2:25pm

    I am surprised that the main complaint against the war seems to have been the rather childish one that someone told us lies. The impression seems to be given is that this is more important than the nasty true facts about Saddam’s regime and its potential if it was not restrained in some forcible way.

    Yes there were big protests, but democratic states really can’t start wars if most of the population don’t either positively approve or else don’t mind. It seems unwise for a party that prides itself on being democratic to be so I-was-right about it when the operation of democracy produced “the great majority of [democratically elected] Labour and Tory politicians … voted to back the ‘war’”

  • Should the title of this be “one decade on” ?

  • daft h'a'porth 19th Feb '13 - 3:14pm

    @Richard Dean
    These ‘nasty true facts’ (as opposed one assumes to the ‘nasty false facts’), why not publicise those instead? Without truth, democracy is reduced to empty noise and posturing.

  • I make these points as someone who remains unhappy about the way in which intervention in Iraq was handled, but it seems to me that the opening paragraph of this article repeats a number of assumptions:

    – Why, other than the fact that it is preferable if you are a partisan, was it never a ‘war’ but an invasion?

    – What personal gain did Blair attain from entering into a war that was so unpopular? Did the other 12 EU states (as of 2003) or 38 states that joined the UK & US in the ‘coalition of the willing’ also derive some personal benefit?

    – The claim that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction is a little revisionist. To say ‘we knew it at the time’ contradicts most intelligence reports and historical precedent. You’ll recall we couldn’t possibly have known that he did not have them because he either threw out UN sanctioned inspectors or obstructed their work.

    – ‘Far from being a friend of al Qaeda’ – I would suggest Saddam’s ties to/knowledge of Abu Musad al Zarqawi or Abdul Rahman Yasin in Iraq undermine this point

    I’m not saying the UK/Blair went about things the right way, but as a country and (for the most part I imagine) as a party, we signed up to the notion of a responsibility to protect. There are many good reasons why the UK/coalition should and could have intervened more effectively, but I think it cheapens the argument and our moral position to begin by saying that ‘we knew Saddam was a murderous dictator’ without hinting at what alternatives there might have been.

  • I think it is probably wrong to state “We knew that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction”. Whilst it is plain that the information available was “sexed up” , it did still point to WMD’s existence. We now know he didn’t have any WMD but I think it is going to far to state we “knew” then. This doesn’t make the case for war any more strong, but I think this history is damning enough without the need for any revision.

    @Geoffrey Payne
    Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan was a source of threat to the West and was a base for terrorists including those responsible for 9/11. Whatever the wrongs of the way the conflict there has been prosecuted I would caution linking the two as the validity of the justifications used to were poles apart (even if one feels they were both insufficient).

  • @Simon – Robin Cook would have seen pretty much all the available information over the years and he said:
    “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term—namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam’s ambition to complete his weapons programme is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?”

    Though in fact there was very little of anything found after the invasion

  • @Hywel
    The use of the word ‘probably’ would mean that nothing was certain, I’m also not sure that I would agree that a WMD needs to be able to be delivered against a strategic city target to be classed as one. The people of Halabja were the victims of chemical weapons delivered by shell – I would have called them WMD as did most of the international community. The ability for strategic delivery was of course relevant when challenging the dodgy dossier as that made out that strategically deliverable WMD were able to be launched at short notice.

    None of this makes the case for war stronger…..

  • David Allen 19th Feb '13 - 4:05pm

    I remember that as I marched, I thought Saddam almost certainly did have WMD. I thought Blix would probably find it, if given time. I thought that when he did, war might well have followed, but equally, Saddam might have just been forced to hand over the WMD, and/or to resign and run away. I thought Bush and Blair were racing toward war just to secure the regime change they clearly wanted, and to avoid the risk of a messier but far less bloody outcome. And I thought that was a terribly immoral rationale for starting a war.

    Well, I was wrong on all of those points, of course, except for the last one. But I think I was making reasonable deductions from the information available at the time.

  • Alex Sabine 19th Feb '13 - 4:11pm

    @ Geoffrey: How do you define internationalism?

    You lament its waning in the Lib Dems by citing the problems with intervention in Afghanisatn and Libya, which were major multi-national missions with broad coalitions of support. That doesn’t make them wise, of course; but in what ways does your interpretation of internationalism differ from isolationism?

  • Richard Stow 19th Feb '13 - 6:08pm

    So why don’s Lib Dems campaign for Blair to be prosecuted at the international court as a war criminal?

  • Stuart Mitchell 19th Feb '13 - 6:43pm

    This is a very slanted article.

    “We knew that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction.”

    We knew no such thing – in fact we knew that he had used such weapons in the past.

    “A month later, the great majority of Labour and Tory politicians, with a handful of honourable exceptions, ignored the demonstrators,”

    139 Labour MPs voted against the war – rather more than a handful! Yes, Parliament “ignored” the demonstrators (just as your coalition ignored all those student fees protesters), but since polls at the time consistently showed majority backing for the war, Parliament was hardly acting anti-democratically. At least Parliament had a say in the matter.

    Of course we are all wise after the event, but that doesn’t mean we should distort what happened at the time.

  • Why is the Chilcott committee taking so long to report on the war – they stopped taking evidence years ago?

  • A few points.

    In the day following September 11th 2001 one of my colleagues opined that someone had punched the biggest bully in the school yard and that someone else was likely to get beaten up as a result. That’s by far the best explanation I’ve ever heard for the reason we (as one of America’s gang) went to war in Iraq. It was the obvious candidate – we all knew that the coalition could easily have completely defeated Saddam in 1991 but stopped short for fear of the consequences of further Iraqi conscript deaths – it was turning into a turkey shoot along the road to Basra and America feared the backlash. Iraq (2003) was therefore a war that could be won and would restore American self esteem by lashing out at somebody they could beat.

    I was surprised that no chemical/biological weapons were found at all after the 2003 invasion. I was expecting there to be a few left knocking around, but that’s not the point. The point is that it was obvious that the claims being made about WMD by our government were grossly over-exaggerated and spun to the point of being irrational. The 1991 war left Saddam’s armed forces severely depleted and ineffective. The imposition of the no fly zones and weapons inspections were doing their job very effectively. Never has the UN been more successful, yet never has the UN been more vilified. The arguments advanced for the war were delusional. I remember haranguing a member of the cabinet (who happened to have the misfortune of being at the same party as me) about his voting intentions on the war a couple of months beforehand because it was obvious that the war was going to happen regardless of what was happening with the inspectors. The whole thing was nuts. The claims being made by our government were absurd and didn’t stand up to five seconds scrutiny. ‘They’ve got shells they can fire within the space of 45 minutes – which could be used to deliver chemical weapons’ – yeah, well so does every army in the world. Or as the Sun put it:”Brits 45 Mins from Doom”.

    So, if Clegg had been leader rather than Kennedy would the Lib Dems have opposed to the war? I know what I think.

    9% of Tory MPs voted against. 35% of Labour MPs voted against (the wishes of their leadership).

  • Tony Dawson 19th Feb '13 - 9:36pm

    Stuart, those who say that ‘Parliament had a say’ are defiling democracy. Parliament ‘had a say’ on the basis of deliberate deception by people that the MPs had a right to trust. What sort of a ‘say’ is that? I apologise for the ‘handful’ error in the article as printed: I was referring to the handful of Tories. In a way, the vote showed the extent of the Tory ‘takeover’ in the Blairite project as much, if not more, than any laxity in banking regime regulation.

    ‘Certainty’ is a difficult thing to define. I am sure there were people who were ‘certain’ that Labour would win the recent Bradford by-election. Although Blix and co were given the the ‘run-around’ by Saddam’s regime, they never felt that there were WMDs as Blair & co described them . NB this did NOT, in the UK definitions being used at that time, include weapons for internal use, nor indeed was this particularly relevant: Saddam had commited genocide on the marsh Arabs after GW1 without the need to resort to any sophisticated weaponry when the ‘west'(sic) both saw it coming, saw it happening and watched it when they could well have stopped it. We wanted a ‘buffer’ against Iran at the time and what price a few hundred thousand more Arab lives? We have never collectively cared about such: our governments not at least.

    Saddam was at the top of all Mid East Islamist death lists for decades. Anyone who believes the propaganda to the contrary has a serious problem with truth and understanding.

    Returning to ‘certainty’, I am not totally a fan of US/UK intelligence but I know what it is capable of. The deliberate hyping up of the ‘dodgy dossier’ and a lot more besides was precisely because our intelligence community did NOT come to the conclusions that their political masters wanted. Those who did the hyping ‘knew’ they never would do. I am not ‘certain’ that Steve Way hasn’t got WMB stashed in his bathroom, but I am not going to wipe out his wife and children on the off chance. Not tonight, at least.

    The question is raised above as to why Blair wanted to run an ‘unpopular’ war. You assume that he thought it would unpopular afterwards. I know of no greater believer in his own propaganda than Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. But, more seriously, as a total narcissist, Blair’s principal source of narcissistic supply had long migrated from the fickle electorate. He derived his ‘feed’ from more ‘high class’ sources: Bush, Murdoch, various ‘international business people. Why will he never be prosecuted? To the victor, the spoils as well as the right to write the history.

    As for Afghanistan, the idea that it was a serious threat to the West after the identification of the training camps is frankly laughable.threat there, much more so than when relocated to densely populated areas of Pakistan. It was totally ‘containable’. I have spoken with an Afghan chief whose dad offered up Bin Laden’s head on a plate to the West – and had the forces to deliver. He was ignored. Remind yourselves who set Bin Laden and the Islamists in Afghanistan in the first place. It was our governments.

    And now? Afghanistan has never been a real ‘country’. It was just a name given to a conglomeration of ungovernable and uncolonisable tribal areas, most of whom do not call themselves ‘Afghans’ at all. Large swathes of it are now essentially under occupation by people who are considered by those occupied as being as much ‘occupying aliens’ as a re the US and UK ‘advisors’ training them. The occupiers are also completely corrupt. They are the ‘Afghan Government’.

  • Tony Dawson 19th Feb '13 - 9:39pm

    @Richard :

    “Why is the Chilcott committee taking so long to report on the war – they stopped taking evidence years ago?”

    It’s known as the Hillsborough-Mid Staffs approach. :-(

  • @ Geoffrey Payne
    My point was not about the prosecution of the Afghanistan intervention but the reason for intervening. The Taliban regime were openly hosting AQ and had made it plain they would continue to do so. Unlike Iraq there was no isolation approach that could be used and no UN inspectors to ensure compliance (even if the Taliban had indicated they would comply with stopping the supply and training of terrorists in their areas of control). Most importantly there was a major attack that led to thousands of deaths with clear roots to the country. Therefore the case for intervention was clear, and it’s initial phase was successful. The problem of what / who replaced the Taliban was where things fell apart.

    There is a tendency to link the two conflicts, probably due to the some similarities on their failings. But if we go right back to the reason for intervention they are quite different animals. Both could, and should have been prosecuted better once the decision to intervene had been taken. Only one should have been considered seriously at all.

  • “I was surprised that no chemical/biological weapons were found at all after the 2003 invasion. I was expecting there to be a few left knocking around, but that’s not the point. ”

    I expected some to be planted if not actually found!

  • @Hywel
    I must admit the lack of a planted find late in the search has disappointed the conspiracy theorist in many of us… Perhaps there is time yet !

  • Brighton Beach 20th Feb '13 - 11:13am

    Syria, Mali, Libya … anyone? All happened/happening with Lib Dem support! Having seen the Lib Dems in ‘coalition’, as opposed to opposition, how do people think the Lib Dems would have voted if they’d been in ‘coalition’ at the time of the Iraq war??

  • Geoffrey Payne 20th Feb '13 - 1:35pm

    @Steve Way – my point is that regardless of whether there was a good reason the mission in Afghanistan had no chance of success and therefore should not have been carried out. But as I also said in my reply to you, there are always similarities and differences when you compare countries, so I am not saying the 2 conflicts are the same. But what is true as we now know is that the west is hopeless at trying to run other people’s countries, particularly where culturally the people are very different to us. The people in both countries are just as oppressed, in some cases even more so than before. In neither country is there a popular uprising in support of western style democracy.

  • @Geoffrey Payne
    “the mission in Afghanistan had no chance of success”

    I think that is only true of you look at what the current stated aim of the mission is. The mission at the time was to stop Afghanistan being used for large scale training and provision of terrorists and to remove the Taliban regime. Seen in that light it was a “success”. Of course mission creep and poor planning for the immediate aftermath of the initial conflict has led us to the current situation but I do feel that had the emphasis remained on Afghanistan, rather than the ill judged invasion of Iraq, a greater success would have been in reach.

  • @Geoffrey Payne
    “the mission in Afghanistan had no chance of success”

    I think that is only true of you look at what the current stated aim of the mission is. The mission at the time was to stop Afghanistan being used for large scale training and provision of terrorists and to remove the Taliban regime. Seen in that light it was a “success”. Of course mission creep and poor planning for the immediate aftermath of the initial conflict has led us to the current situation but I do feel that had the emphasis remained on Afghanistan, rather than the ill judged invasion of Iraq, a greater success would have been in reach.

  • Matthew Huntbach 20th Feb '13 - 2:47pm

    Tony Dawson

    The question is raised above as to why Blair wanted to run an ‘unpopular’ war. You assume that he thought it would unpopular afterwards.

    It was not unpopular. At the time it happened, opinion polls showed the majority of the population supported it.

    Those who said “How can they ignore something as huge as THIS?” were acting in a rather arrogant way in ignoring the fact that the opponents were not representative of the population as a whole. Just because those who were opposed were more certain of their views and more willing to be vocal about them does not mean they were in the majority.

    We forget what a huge risk it was for the Liberal Democrats to have opposed this. Saddam Hussein was one of the world’s most brutal dictators. We heard echoes of this in the Syrian uprising, when there were voices calling out over Assad “How can you in the west stand by and let him carry on with his cruelties?”. We have also seen the naivety in the early days of the “Arab Spring” when this was hailed as such a liberation and supposed it would result in freedom, whereas now we can see the much of the opposition to the dictator is just as brutal, and less rather than more liberal when it comes to accepting diversity and protection of minorities.

    I suspect that Blair genuinely felt that once Saddam was overthrown a democratic and freedom oriented government would quickly arise. Had this happened, those of us who opposed the invasion would have been ridiculed, held up as defenders of a cruel dictator and opponents of the freedom which his overthrow led to.

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th Feb '13 - 6:40pm

    Matthew: “It was not unpopular. At the time it happened, opinion polls showed the majority of the population supported it.”

    Quite. Even a year later, a BBC poll found that 48% supported the war (versus 43% against), despite the fact that by then, a large majority were already convinced that the intelligence evidence had been either exaggerated or fabricated.

    In Iraq itself, again a year after the war, a large majority of Iraqis were glad that the war had taken place and felt that their lives had got better since. Only 15% wanted the coalition forces to leave immediately.

    So at that stage, most people in Iraq and Britain still saw the war as a success of sorts. Things changed drastically over the following years, but there’s a case for arguing that the war itself was reasonably successful – it was the aftermath itself that was such a disaster, and has since led people to distort the history of what actually happened in 2003.

    Regarding various comments on here about Tony Blair’s supposed criminality, suffice to say I find it pretty sickening that liberals are so happy to ditch the principle of innocent until proven guilty when it suits them.

  • @Matthew Huntbach :

    “I suspect that Blair genuinely felt that once Saddam was overthrown a democratic and freedom oriented government would quickly arise. ”

    I confess, I do not think that Blair has ever genuinely felt anything. Or that his thought (as opposed to ‘feeling’) would have permitted him to arrive at that conclusion even if only partially-well advised. The ethnic and religious tensions in the non-country of Iraq were only held apart by brutal dictatorship. The vacuum created by the overthrow without sensible follow-through was, sadly, pretty inevitable in what it generated. Everything about Blair fits the bill of ‘successful narcissist’. I do recognise that his incredible level of self-deception also projects the semi-hypnotic power to ‘take in’ a lot of people. Personally, I think the man is morally totally-hollow. And the more he professes his religious/moral basis for action the more it has made me tend to disbelieve him. Rory Bremner’s glazed-eyes take-off of the man is, if anything, an understatement.

    A long look at the history of ‘worthy interventions’ by ‘external powers’ whether ‘western’, communist, imperialist, whatever, generates an almost random variation of outcomes: almost invariably those who embark upon these enterprises make their decision in a maximum of two dimensions when the true status of the situation in which they are intervening is governed by a multiplicity of factors, only analysable via multiple-order differential equations.

    There are no moral answers to why ‘we’ (sic) are intervening in some dictatorships and not in others. Why have we not invaded Uzbekistan? or North Korea? or Saudi Arabia? Our governments do these things based only upon whether there is a 3:1 or greater chance of achieving a relatively ‘quick fix’. Of course, even at this level of certainty, they get it wrong almost as much as they get it right.

  • @Matthew Huntbach:

    “It was not unpopular. At the time it happened, opinion polls showed the majority of the population supported it.

    Those who said “How can they ignore something as huge as THIS?” were acting in a rather arrogant way in ignoring the fact that the opponents were not representative of the population as a whole. ”

    I would hope that wars (or invasions) generally should not be embarked upon by referenda, especially referenda carried out in atmospheres dominated by dishonest hysteria whipped up by vicious media barons. :-) The proponents of demonstration rarely profess to be a majority, at least in the short term. They just think that they are right and that, to some extent, the government will prefer the status quo to acting in opposition of even a reasonable-sized minority, especially when the majority of the ‘majority’ are not really that bothered really but ‘assume that the government would only be doing this if it was right’. This is what often happens in decision-making in all sorts of walks of public life.

    Of course, being a Liberal Democrat and asserting Liberal values against the trend can be considered an act of gross arrogance (even treachery) if you want to. ;-)

  • I don’t consider whether the war was popular or not to be relevant, especially given the widespread hysteria and gross distortion of the case for the war by the government and the media. What matters is that our government weighs up the likely costs and benefits of something as critical as going to war in a serious minded, objective and evidence-based approach. They did nothing of the sort.

  • Matthew Huntbach 21st Feb '13 - 3:30pm

    Tony Dawson

    I confess, I do not think that Blair has ever genuinely felt anything. Or that his thought (as opposed to ‘feeling’) would have permitted him to arrive at that conclusion even if only partially-well advised. The ethnic and religious tensions in the non-country of Iraq were only held apart by brutal dictatorship.

    Yes, I agree. At the time I felt the invasion was so foolish that I felt there MUST have been some intelligence work done beforehand that would cause the Saddam replacement to pop up, peace to happen quickly, and opponents to the war made to look foolish. I am not at all happy that we got it right, given what getting it right entailed.

    Nevertheless, my own judgment on Mr Blair is that he was a very foolish man, not an evil man. I don’t believe he endorsed the Iraq invasion knowing what we now know it would lead to. He had already seen other interventions work. He had seen communist regimes fall quickly in Europe and replaced quickly by something resembling liberal democracy. He was an optimist, he though the same might happen in Iraq. It didn’t.

    You ask why not invade other countries with cruel dictators, but answer it yourself: “whether there is a 3:1 or greater chance of achieving a relatively ‘quick fix’”. Look, if I had control of a large military force (as the UK PM has), and I knew there was a cruel dictator, and I felt due to other factors that sending that force in might depose him, my first thought might well be “Yes, let’s do it”. My second, third and fourth thoughts would all be on the lines “don’t be daft”.

    I’m afraid, however, that I don’t follow the Trot political line which is “Find out what the USA wants, and whatever it is, we want the opposite”. So as Saddam turned from US friend to US enemy, the Trots turned from people who denounced his cruelty to people who admired his indefatigability. It’s rather pathetic isn’t it? Particularly as there’s no longer Moscow gold to pay them to act like that.

  • Stuart Mitchell 21st Feb '13 - 8:58pm

    “I confess, I do not think that Blair has ever genuinely felt anything… Everything about Blair fits the bill of ‘successful narcissist’. I do recognise that his incredible level of self-deception also projects the semi-hypnotic power to ‘take in’ a lot of people. Personally, I think the man is morally totally-hollow.”

    Oh come off it Tony. You haven’t got the faintest idea what Blair feels about anything. What do you know about him that you haven’t learned from the media? A media you tell us we shouldn’t trust.

    We keep hearing about the lies and distortion of the Blair government, but how much of a stickler for the facts are you? I’ve already mentioned the “handful” of anti-war Labour MPs who actually numbered 139. Where do you get your figure of “hundreds of thousands” of lives lost in the Iraq conflict? All the credible published estimates are far less than that. Why not make a job of it and count the casualties in millions – that would sound even more dramatic. You also gloss over the fact that the vast majority of those deaths were the result of Iraqis killing other Iraqis. Nor has the rate of slaughter been remotely “perpetual” as you suggest, in fact most of it took place during a brief period in 2006/2007. Why do you think the amount of violence plummeted after that, and has stayed at low levels ever since?

    Steve is absolutely right when he talks about the “hysteria and gross distortion” perpetrated by the government and media of the time – but does that excuse all the hysteria and gross distortion of the anti-war lobby, ten years on? As someone pretty much in the middle on this – on balance I was opposed to the invasion, but could nevertheless see that there were positive aspects to it – I find it pretty depressing that there is still so little calm and rational discussion about Iraq even after all this time.

  • Ed Shepherd 21st Feb '13 - 9:49pm

    I opposed the Iraq War but I cannot see what Tony Blair could be convicted of. He was the leader of a democratically-elected government that conducted an open, democratic vote to carry out the war. I am unaware of a Prime Minister being convicted of any crime (presumably some kind of “waging aggressive war” charge) in those circumstances. He’s not even the head of state, just “first among equals”. I cannot see who could be charged of a crime in those circumstances. If the Prime Minister was guilty then presumably so would all the hundreds of MPs who voted in favour. It would also leave many civil servants and military leaders open to prosecution. After all, “just following orders” is not a defence to such charges. It’s not as if Tony Blair was a brutal despot in a one-party state who gave orders for an invasion. In fact, the opposition in Parliament voted for the war by a larger percentage than his own party did.

  • Matthew Huntbach 22nd Feb '13 - 12:27am

    Steve

    So, if Clegg had been leader rather than Kennedy would the Lib Dems have opposed to the war? I know what I think.

    It seems to have been forgotten that Kennedy had to be kicked into taking an active stand against by his party. It was not he who took the initiative to come out against the war, it was the democratic mechanisms of the party. But at least he showed willingness to listen to his party.

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    I think that the best outcome from the referendum would be that the UK remained intact, but adopted a federal structure. Scotland / Wales /...
  • User AvatarJUF 15th Sep - 9:56am
    I think that the best outcome from the referendum would be that the UK remained intact, but adopted a federal structure. Scotland / Wales /...
  • User AvatarJUF 15th Sep - 9:46am
    @TJ Also, there is still the small matter that 59 million people out of 65 million haven't been able to express their wishes, not have...
  • User AvatarDenis Mollison 15th Sep - 8:58am
    In early 2012 we had the opportunity to set out what we mean by a federal UK and have it on the ballot paper. But...