Obviously, I can sympathize with his stance in 2002 and 2003. It was mine. His case for war was never as connected to the presence of WMDs as Bush’s, and more to the eradication of a tyrannical monster, and so he was less undermined by the falsity of the evidence he vouched for. But the denial here is phenomenal:
“When people say to me, you know, ‘Do you regret removing him?’ I say, ‘No, how can you regret removing somebody who was a monster, who created enormous carnage?'”
He added: “And if you look at what’s happening in the Arab Spring today, and you examine what’s happening in Syria — just reflect on what Bashar Assad, who is a twentieth as bad as Saddam, is doing to his people today, and the number of lives already lost, just ask yourself, ‘What would be happening in Iraq now if he had been left in power?'”
But the over 100,000 Iraqis who died were living in a country occupied by UK and US forces obligated by international law to keep order, not one governed by a despotic brutal dynasty whose record of slaughtering its own people is not in dispute. (And one twentieth as bad as Saddam? Ask the people of Homs.) And Blair’s argument that the Arab Spring proves that Iraq under Saddam could well have become another Syria if the Shiites had revolted again, while well-taken, nonetheless presumes some kind of Western responsibility to somehow minimize or direct forces of change we neither understand nor control. It’s a benevolent imperial impulse – without connections to vital national interests.
That was Blair’s error, as well as part of mine. What you see still in Blair is a refusal to think about unintended consequences. He retreats to an a priori moral defense of unseating a monster, without weighing the devastating ripples from that mighty fall. I remember thinking before the war started that it had to be worth it, purely because ridding the earth of a man who tortured children was so moral a thing it outweighed every other doubt. Self-righteousness blinded me to the extent my critical faculties were failing. I guess if Blair were to admit that, he would have to admit some responsibility for the mass slaughter and chaos the war fomented. That’s hard to do. But it tells you a lot about Blair that he cannot.
(Photo: Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with British soldiers on duty in Basra on December 17, 2006 in Iraq. By Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)