Why then, do attacks like these generate such anger against Bush and Blair? On Question Time last night, Denis MacShane argued that this anger was unjustified and that our anger should be direct instead exclusively towards those who perpetrate these attacks. It would be easy to totally dismiss this for the diversionary "don't blame Tony" spin it so clearly is and I am sorely tempted to do so. But, despite the fact that MacShane has a particularly detestable motive for making this point, there is a kernel of truth contained within his spin. Reading the views of some on Comment is Free, for example, you'd think that Blair himself had killed every one of the estimated 650,000 Iraqis who have died since the start of the invasion (those who wish to dispute that figure can rebut it by presenting the official coalition death toll statistics. Oh wait, there aren't any). MacShane has a point in that some of those who opposed the war seem not to be able to recognise that the people who carried out these attacks also have a moral responsibility for their actions. Whatever the circumstances, there are some actions which are always morally unacceptable and yesterday's indiscriminate attacks on civilians fall squarely into that category.
The suggestion that this alleviates Blair and Bush from any responsibility for what is happening in Iraq is, however, ridiculous. There are many reasons; here is just one of them. I call George W.Bush to the stand:
We are fighting the terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan and in other parts of the world so we do not have to fight them on the streets of our own cities.It's called the flypaper theory (in itself a monumentally stupid notion as the attacks in London last year demonstrated) and the imperialist hubris behind such an attitude is truly sickening. The idea that the entire world is Bush's battleground to do with as he will, that other countries must endure whatever privations the President of the United States deems necessary in the "war" on terror is beneath contempt.
Iraq was a country held together by a brutal dictator, one which would quite obviously face enormous challenges when that dictator was removed from power. Even in the most benign of circumstances, the period after Saddam's removal would have been beset by instability. And into that sea of troubles, George and Tony decided to export their "war" on Sunni fundamentalists, a war which had absolutely nothing to do with secular Iraq.
(And no, pointing out that Saddam's Iraq was secular does not mean I think Saddam was great. How often does it need to be said? Do you support the immediate military invasion of North Korea? If not, does that mean you are a supporter of Kim Jong-il and approve of the suffering he imposes on the people of North Korea? It's a facile argument and I'm long since sick of it. MacShane tried this one too and it's pathetic.)
Bush and Blair deliberately exported the "war" on terror to Iraq. Blair might not be so quick to admit it but that is what he signed up to when he agreed to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with Bush at their meeting in Crawford Texas more than four years ago. It was not their fight but Iraqis are now dying for it in their thousands. And yet these same people, the very people who have shown such callous disregard for the consequences of their actions for people in far away lands, now have the audacity to accuse those who wish to bring them to account of not caring about the future of the people of Iraq. They are, as I said, beneath contempt.
MacShane, like too many New Labour careerists, continues to insist that that sort of behaviour is not worth getting angry about. We've come a long way indeed since New Labour boldly proclaimed that they intended to apply an ethical dimension to British foreign policy.
Tags: News, Politics, Iraq, George Bush, Tony Blair