Comment at end
17th February, 2010
I have pasted below an interesting post from Conor’s Commentary. Describing his blog as “about politics, education, Ireland, culture and travel”, Conor Ryan is a Dublin-born writer and consultant and was a former adviser to Tony Blair and David Blunkett on education. He is now based in Bath in the South West of England. With its emphasis on Tony Blair’s humanitarianism, and links to prove it, this post highlights, intentionally or not, how Britain’s political Left has lost its way.
The critics of Tony Blair count only bodies when they look at Iraq. They see, and register nothing positive. Even dead soldiers are counted by those of the Left, many of whom wouldn’t spit on a soldier if he were in flames. The fact is that to lose only 179 soldiers in a war which lasted for six years is testament to our troops and the handling of the war. As for those who died on the ground, numbers are hotly disputed. One thing we can be sure of – many, if not most of those killed were victims of the insurgents and not western troops. Odd as it seems the lost Left do not seem to notice these insurgents and their car bombings when they do their often exaggerated body-counts. Nor do they ever cast their minds back to the good ol’ days when they, presumably, were out in Iraq helping free Iraqis from Saddam’s 30 year reign of terror. If they could in all honesty recall such an unlikely period in their lives, they might remember to thank Mr Blair for finishing the job. Strange that they seem to have forgotten all of that. Isn’t it just?
Conor Ryan cites the negligent examples of John Major and Bill Clinton in Bosnia and of the UN in Rwanda. It seems that the Left, and even the Right and Centre would prefer that Blair had been John Major Mark II. He wasn’t, and isn’t, and a free Iraq is the result, without a genocidal leader. And perhaps one day soon Afghanistan too will close the book on its bloody history. When that day comes Tony Blair’s name will figure high. True victories for humanitarian interventionism.
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.
Tags: 1999 Chicago speech, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Chilcot Inquiry, Conor Ryan, Genocide, humanitarian interventionism, Iraq, Kosovo, Milosevic, prime ministers, Rwanda, Saddam, Sierra Leone, take decision, Tony Blair, true humanitarian