Sunday, June 17, 2007


Does Rawnsley Documentary Reduce Blair's Iraq Culpability?

The 'Blair's Legacy' industry continues to grind out analyses, the latest being Andrew Rawnsley's three -parter beginning next Saturday on Channel 4. The article by Rawnsley today suggests the series will be well worth watching; it sums up his thoughts on Iraq and, some might say, offers arguments to plead in mitigation against the verdict that it was all Blair's fault. We discover that:

i) Blair was very worried about US lack of preparedness from well before the invasion took place. Sir David Manning, his foreign policy adviser was despatched to Washington in 2002 to press the need for post invasion planning. Manning attests that Blair "was deeply concerned that the American plans 'had not been thoroughly thought through'".

ii) Blair told Peter Mandelson that 'Look, you know, I can't do everything, That's chiefly America's responsibility not ours.'

iii) Sir Jeremmy Greenstock, sent as special envoy to Bagdhad, tells the programme that:

Blair would cry 'What on earth are the Americans up to?' There were moments of throwing his hands in the air: "What can we do?" He was tearing his hair over some of the deficiencies.' The failure to prepare meant that Iraq quickly fell apart. Greenstock adds: 'I just felt it was slipping away from us really, from the beginning. There was no security force controlling the streets. There was no police force to speak of.'

We see that Blair was awake to the dangers and warned repeatedly in exactly the areas which could have prevented the Armageddon which is consuming the country. So is his culpability thereby reduced? A little maybe. But from a longer perspective he:

i) should have been much more wary of making his and the UK's future hostage to another leader to the extent that he did.

ii) he was blinded by Bush's aura of power as the leader of the world's hyper-power and trusted the most dysfunctional US administration ever to have the necessary competence to lead the invasion and secure the peace.

iii) leading on from the above, he should surely have divined that the locus of power and authority had shifted, soon after the invasion, to Cheney and Rumsfeld, the true incompetents behind the disaster?

We hear that Blair so profoundly despaired of the situation in Spring 2004 that, according to Mandelson, he was 'ready to walk away it all'. My view has always been that he should have resigned as soon as WMD proved a chimera, but a resignation a year later would certainly have helped his reputation, if not, ultimately, the fate of the benighted country which has become the victim of his several misjudgements.

The question that remains (and which can, of course, never be answered) is 'would the situation in Iraq be even worse today if the rest of the world had allowed the US to go it alone?'. What Mr B's many critics seem to get is that the invasion would have happened whatever Britain had said. Our influence has never been great enough to stop America doing what it likes...
for 'get' please read 'forget'
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