Blair admits terrorist blowback
The crowning achievement of Blair’s premiership is that, by engaging in
military action against
Prime Minister Blair has finally
acknowledged that his military interventions in the Muslim world have made
“Removing Saddam and his sons from power, as with removing the Taliban, was over with relative ease.
“But the blowback since, from global terrorism and those elements that support it, has been fierce and unrelenting and costly. For many, it simply isn’t and can’t be worth it.
“For me, I think we must see it through. They, the terrorists, who threaten us here and round the world, will never give up if we give up.
“It is a test of will and of belief. And we can’t fail it.”
It is never easy to be sure what
Blair means, but this seems clear enough: British intervention in
Blair justified military
Blair justified military intervention
And it’s not as if Blair wasn’t
warned in advance. In February 2003, the
British intelligence services warned him that the risk of a blowback of this
kind would be increased by taking military action against
We know this from the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) report Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction – Intelligence and Assessments published in September 2003 , Paragraphs 125-128 of which are concerned with terrorism. On 10 February 2003, the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) produced an assessment entitled International Terrorism: War with Iraq, in which, according to the ISC report, it
“assessed that al-Qaida and associated groups continued to
represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that
threat would be heightened by military action against
The JIC also
“assessed that any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents finding their way into the hands of terrorists, not necessarily al-Qaida.”
Blair didn’t tell the House of
Commons about either of these warnings on 18 March 2003, lest their enthusiasm
for military action against
After the US/UK invasion of
“We judge that the conflict in
“It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.
months after this assessment was produced by the JIC, the
In his valedictory speech, he has finally done so.
Maintaining the cause
You might have thought that, having admitted the existence of such a causal link, Blair would draw the obvious conclusion that the cause – British military intervention in the Muslim world – should be ended. After all, if the cause were eliminated, it is reasonable to assume that the effect would disappear, if not immediately, then eventually.
But, the Blair mind doesn’t seem to work in that way. “I think we must see it through”, he says, because “the terrorists, who threaten us here and round the world, will never give up if we give up”.
It appears that
There is, dare I say it, a win-win alternative. If we don’t spend money and blood invading and occupying Muslim countries, we won’t need to spend money protecting the British homeland from terrorism emanating from the Muslim world in response. And blood will not be spilled on our streets when the protection proves to be inadequate.
You will search in vain in Blair’s
valedictory speech to find any mention of
the utterly unanticipated and dramatic. September 11th 2001 and the death of
3,000 or more on the streets of
we should stand shoulder to shoulder with our oldest ally. I did so out of belief. So
He then went on to admit that there had been a terrorist blowback.
Peter Mandelson and Alistair
Campbell acted as media ambassadors for Blair on the day of his speech, but
they gave two very different explanations for Blair deciding to take military
On BBC’s Question Time, Mandelson stated categorically that Blair’s reason
think the Prime Minister was wrong in sticking with the
This is a strange argument for Mandelson to make for several reasons.
First, as Menzies Campbell pointed
out, it amounted to saying “my ally right or wrong”, which forced Mandelson to
qualify his position, since being a poodle of the
Second, as Kenneth Clarke pointed
out, Blair never used this reason at the time, which meant that Mandelson was
saying in effect that Blair had been less than candid about his reasons for
“Saddam Hussein is a tyrant
who tortures and murders his own people. He poses a threat to the safety and
stability of the
Third, all the evidence is that
Blair believed in the project of overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime every bit
as much as President Bush. The famous
memo to Blair on 14 March 2002 from Sir David Manning, his Foreign Policy
adviser at the time, leaves very little room for doubt. Reporting on discussions in
“I said [to Condoleezza Rice] that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States .”
Blair’s differences with Bush were
tactical and nothing more – he needed to have regime change dressed up as
disarmament in order to manipulate press, Parliament and public opinion in
Britain into supporting military action.
For details, see my pamphlet
Another point: it is by no means
certain that the
(It is strange that Blair and
Mandelson, presumably with Blair’s agreement, have taken to emphasising that standing
shoulder to shoulder with
On BBC’s Newsnight the same evening, Alistair Campbell told a very different tale about the decision to take military action: it was a humanitarian intervention to get rid of Saddam Hussein. His riposte to those who said that the decision was wrong was to say:
“Had your view prevailed, Saddam Hussein would still be there.”
to which Polly Toynbee of The Guardian responded:
“600,000 people are also not there.”
“There were all sorts of people who died before that, and you never saw them. You couldn’t get in there.”
So, the invasion was a humanitarian intervention to get rid of the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein and save Iraqi lives?
When I hear the invasion justified in those terms, I always remember Blair telling the House of Commons on 25 February 2003 :
“I detest his regime – I hope most people do – but even now, he could save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”
In other words, Blair would have been content to have Saddam Hussein’s “murderous regime” remain in place, if it had disarmed. Or so he said, and who am I to say he was lying.
A second point: since military action inevitably results in death and destruction, and may make matters a great deal worse, military intervention for humanitarian purposes can be justified only in extreme circumstances to prevent actual, or imminent, killing on a grand scale. It cannot possibly be justified because of killing that took place in the past, since it would simply add to the past death toll.
In March 2003, killing on a grand
scale was not going on in
Military action for humanitarian
intervention couldn’t possibly be justified in March 2003. The effect has been to add – massively – to
the death toll in
Here is account of the Saddamist hell from which Bush and Blair rescued Iraqis:
“It’s difficult to decide which is more frightening: car bombs and militias or having to leave everything you know and love, to go to some unspecified place for a future where nothing is certain.”
This is from a blog 
by “Riverbend”, an Iraqi woman, whose family has decided to leave
Gordon Brown has also been defending
the decision to take military action against
This makes a modicum of sense until you recall that 11 out of the 15 members of the Security Council were opposed to the military action, and wanted UN inspection to continue. The Straw/Brown argument is that the US/UK took action to enforce the will of the Security Council – against the will of the Security Council.
14 May 2007
Labour & Trade Union Review