Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Fantasies and Foreign Policies

I've been reading through some of Blair's speeches and statements from 2003 on the invasion of Iraq. Even now, it is striking to see just little he understood of the consequences of the action he had committed himself to. In an article printed in the Arab press just after the invasion began, he wrote:
[W]e are doing all that is humanly possible to minimise civilian casualties and finish this campaign quickly. Military conflict, sadly, always leads to the loss of civilian lives. Mistakes will be made. But the missile attacks on Baghdad witnessed on TV have shown the effort taken to target Saddam's regime and apparatus of power and oppression.As
As the fourth anniversary of the invasion looms into view, the idea that the coalition has managed to "finish this campaign quickly" is ludicrous indeed.

He went on:
I want all Iraqis - Arab, Assyrian, Kurd, Turkoman, Sunni, Shiite, Christian and all other groups - to share in the fruits of this new, prosperous Iraq, united within its current borders. An Iraq free from tyranny, fear and repression, where thousands each year are no longer forced from their homes or imprisoned, tortured or executed. A country Turkomanmen are not raped in front of their loved ones and where people can speak their mind without fear of having their tongues cut out.

It is this terror and poverty which has led to four million Iraqis fleeing their country. I know, having spoken to many Iraqi exiles, of their wish to return home. I share their dream of seeing an Iraq truly at peace with itself, with its neighbours, and the international community.
Iraq is a very long way from that utopian future today. The U.N. has just announced that there were more identified deaths in Iraq last month than in any other month since the invasion. Sectarian tensions threaten to rip the country apart. The coalition continues to imprison Iraqis for long periods without charge or any form of legal oversight. Women are being increasingly targeted by religious extremists and by kidnappings gangs who exploit them as sex slaves. Every day, corpses are found showing signs of torture and then execution; drilling holes in kneecaps and other body parts seems to be particularly prevalent. And a new exodus is under way, especially among the middle classes. As a consequence, Iraq is increasingly without the expertise it so desperately needs.

And it is getting worse. Even the heads of the CIA and the DIA do not deny it.

The other day, someone asked me if the misrepresentations and the exaggerations and the lies which led to this war would have somehow been more acceptable if post-invasion Iraq had turned out the way Blair imagined it would. Might I even, I was asked, have supported the way Blair manipulated us into the war if I'd thought it would result in a positive outcome?

It is an interesting question in its own way but it isn't one which ultimately needs an answer in context of this specific situation. For me, an average International Relations graduate who had studied the first Gulf war as well as terrorism and low intensity warfare, Blair's vision was always a spectacularly dangerous fantasy. The idea that the result he expected could have been created by this war led by these people from these countries was a non-starter from the very beginning. It simply was not credible. And the real experts were saying exactly the same. As such, the question, interesting though it is, has always been a moot point.

As I've said many times before, it gives me no pleasure to have been proved right. I make the point to emphasise that Blair's "judgement" was not only wrong but obviously and predictably wrong. That misjudgement, a fatal one for uncounted numbers of people, ought to have been enough to force him out of office in disgrace. And that's without even considering the misrepresentations and the exaggerations and the lies which he used to justify this folly.

And yet still he is Prime Minister. Future generations will, I fear, look back on this sorry state of affairs with considerable astonishment and more than a little condemnation. Some intelligent commentators already say that this is the worst foreign policy disaster since Suez. Perhaps they are overly mindful of the need to avoid hyperbole but they are mistaken; Suez was a cakewalk compared to this.

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sam_m said...

"the way Blair manipulated us into the war "
Hey. He didn't manipulate "us". He manipulated the Parliamentary Labour and Conservative Parties into supporting the War.

The problem for "us" is that in 2005 sufficient of the electorate voted for his party to return him to power. They gave him the green light on what he'd done before. That's the problem you have to address, not him, them.

They have tarred "us" with their brush in the eyes of the rest of the world.

CuriousHamster said...

That's a fair point. Huge numbers "us" were not fooled. I just meant "us" as in the United Kingdom. As you say, we've all been tarred with Blair's brush in the eyes of the world.

The fact that he was returned to power, albeit on the smallest share of the electorate in modern British history, is a sad reflection of our society. It is ironic that a man who once said "Education! Education! Education!" had to rely on the gullibility of a small section of the electorate to maintain power.

I suppose the fact only the Labour war party or the Conservative war party could become the next government under FPTP didn't help much. With democracy like that, who needs dictatorships?

sam_m said...

What's us gonna do 'bout it then?

Antipholus Papps said...

We will come to look back on these dark years in much the same way the Germans view the 30s. This country is a disgusting puddle of bovine consumer retards. And I'm not sure Blair's going anywhere. Civil Contingencies and all that.

CuriousHamster said...

sam, that is the big question and I wish I had an answer.

I write this, I speak to people, and it might make some tiny difference.

I also write to my Labour MP occasionally but the replies I get are polite but discouraging. No matter what I ask, these replies are always a straightforward regurgitation of "the message" Downing Street has decreed on that topic. It's hard to discern any sign of independent thought whatsoever.

I would recommend signing up for National Service. Going to plug that shortly in a post. If past experiences of BB projects is anything to go by, it'll be well worth joinging up.

CuriousHamster said...

AP, I'm reminded of an old quotation.

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men”
- Plato

At the same time, it is worth remembering that only 22% of the electorate voted for New Labour. There are many people in this country who do care. That is, perhaps, some small sign of hope for the future.

sam_m said...

If signing is your thing, go

sam_m said...

Hmmm. Something got dropped between "preview" and "publish" there. I'll try again.
If signing is your thing, go