Monday, 1 February 2010

Why I still despise Tony Blair

Last Friday appearance by Tony Blair at the Chilcot Enquiry reminded us all what a slick operator Blair is. I nearly put "questioning by" but "appearance" is more appropriate to what happened if not the defining characteristic of Tony Blair.
We could forgive hubris, we could forgive dazzling displays of wit and panache at Prime Minister's Question Time if the substance of Blair's Premiership was not so disastrous. I'm not saying he achieved nothing worthwhile and three terms of election must indicate some success but there are two things I cannot forgive him. The war on Iraq is one - not because it was illegal, not just because lies or exaggerations were made to justify it, not even because it was so botched in its execution but because it was the direct choice of two men - one riding the coat tails of the other. Blair might have imagined himself to be steering Bush by yanking on his coat tails but when you look at all the important steers that should have been made and weren't, then its clear Blair was caught up in a Nantucket sleighride and he carried all of us along with him. Blair failed, for example, to get the Americans to plan for the aftermath of invasion. The Americans probably couldn't even conceive that they were about to visit the cradle of civilization so little wonder they failed to stop the looting of a museum containing such precious artifacts. More importantly, Bush should have been steered away from war with Iraq altogether and made to focus on repairing relations with the country who due to successive failures of engagement by the West, has drifted into an entirely more dangerous prominence in the fraught Middle East - Iran. No doubt the allies thought that once Iraq was under their control they would have a platform for dealing with Iran and as we know, they never fully had command even of Iraq. Watching Blair justify attacking Iraq on the grounds that Saddam Hussein,even without Weapons of Mass Destruction, was a danger as a sponsor of international terrorism reminds us of how he got his way - it was smooth and plausible but it is what was not said at the time or on Friday that should have given the lie to Blair's dragging us with him in Bush's wake.

My second and biggest objection to Blair is that he destroyed even more thoroughly than Thatcher, the role of Parliament and true democracy. Ironic when you listen to the amount of bleating about restoring democracy that was made by America in this and every other war they have been involved with. Sure, during a war, some decisions have to be made in the secrecy of or with the swiftness afforded by Cabinet without the benefit of Parliamentary debate and sometimes, Presidential style, decisions must be made on the instant by the Prime Minister but in the same way terrorism has been used and abused to reduce our civil rights, so Blair grasped the reigns of power ever closer to himself. That is his biggest crime.
The war was illegal in terms of UN resolutions but so was the dealing with the Serbs and their genocide in Kosovo so I would not dispute that sometimes you cannot wait for everyone to agree before acting to stop evil. Tony Blair argues that enough was achieved in Iraq and enough potential bad averted that his decision to go to war was justified. The Iraqui civilian deaths, the British and American military deaths, the looting and mayhem, the insurgencies and regional instability are all a price worth having paid to depose a dictator (of our making), make sure there were no WMD's and prevent state sponsored terrorism. Personally, and this is only reading between the lines and trying to weigh the mass of information that has washed around the subject, I don't think Saddam Hussein was still much of a threat, his worst had been done and he was in that overblown phase of dictatorships where there are enough internal threats including the loose cannons in one's own family to have kept Saddam busy. He certainly had nothing to do with 9 11 as we should have helped Bush to see.

We have an election coming up and I would be happier if I could be sure that any particular party would restore the power of true debate (that is debate with some power attached) and democracy to the House of Commons - even if it was Conservatives. However, I hear that in my neighbouring constituency of Skipton, the Conservatives are replacing a disgraced (expenses scandal) MP who is at least a local resident with a helicopter candidate - a crony of David Cameron so I guess its going to be same old same old from the Conservatives.
The words Devil and Deep Blue Sea come to mind.