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Tuesday 2 February 2010
Letters: Blair's self-delusion
Blair's self-delusion led us into chapter of shame in Iraq
The most galling aspect of Tony Blair's testimony at the Iraq inquiry has been ignored. His "I would do it again" hubris was a self-delusion. Britain did not "overthrow" Saddam; at best we temporarily "liberated" Basra. British participation was not necessary for the American-led campaign to oust Saddam, as the Americans made contemptuously clear before the invasion. Blair's "calculus" was solely one of whether he would or would not stand shoulder to shoulder with the US, knowing they were determined on regime change.
Absent from Blair's testimony was any reference to (let alone compassion for) the sacrifices of British troops. In truth, he could not say they suffered and died in a good cause.
Far from deposing a tyrant, Britain handed over control of Basra to Shia militias, some with links to Iran. Troops retreated to the relative safety of barracks, before finally withdrawing from Iraq. There was no honour in British participation or in their withdrawal. It is a chapter of shame almost unequalled in our history. And hundreds of young soldiers paid the price.
And this arrogant fool said he had no regrets.
Morality has some relevance to international relations, but the national interest has more.
Blair's choices weakened the United Kingdom by demonstrating to the world just how militarily weak we had become under his leadership.
His choices damaged our relationship with the US by coupling us with an incompetent incumbent who has now been rejected. Obama's colonial heritage will always present us with a difficulty, but being defined as Bush's poodle is an unnecessary hindrance.
Blair's decisions damaged our relationship with Europe through Atlanticist attitudinising that did at least have the advantage of destroying their author's job prospects. His choices damaged our relationships with the Muslim world, both within and without our borders, through the patronising racism of our approach.
And his choices, from the sanctions to the invasion, have done irreparable damage to the Iraqi people. His choices gave al-Qa'ida enormous traction within Iraq, where it had been marginalised by Saddam, and Blair ensured that Iran became the pre-eminent regional power.
His morality is as irrelevant as his motivations. He got it catastrophically wrong.
Evidence supports the view that Tony Blair and George Bush acted in good faith based on a conviction that Saddam should be deposed, albeit with scant examination of the history, facts and likely outcome. Blair then secured the compliance of the Cabinet, Parliament, Civil Service and military to act independently from the UN. The result was an impetuous act of vigilantism.
What was missing was any effort by any of these four bodies to exert their authority over Tony Blair to ensure a proper examination of the history, facts and likely outcome together with a scrutiny of the wisdom of operating outside the United Nations. I await the inquiry's recommendations on this with interest.
The toothless Chilcot inquiry was told by Tony Blair that he had "no regret" about Britain's part in the Iraq wear and its consequences. If there had been lawyers on the team, they would have asked Blair whether he did not have any regrets about the casualties.
Who can ignore the hundreds of thousands who lost their lives, the wounded civilians, the dead soldiers (British and American), the wounded soldiers, including those so seriously wounded that their lives have been wrecked as the result of the stupidity of Blair?
One leader of a country cannot go to war simply because he doesn't like another leader, or regime, or merely because he thinks the other leader might have, or develop, weapons of mass destruction. Potentially devastating weapons of mass destruction actually exist in Iran, North Korea and many other nations, but there is no legal right to invade for such a reason.
Bush, Blair and Brown and their henchmen must still be made to stand trial in an international tribunal , as a warning to future national leaders.
Neil C Olive
Newtownards, Co Down
The Iraq Inquiry began with Sir John Chilcot meeting the families of the fallen, and he saw to it that they were properly represented when The Man Who Took Us To War came to be interrogated.
It seemed to me that Sir John offered Mr Blair the opportunity, at the conclusion of his evidence, to acknowledge them too, but instead hubris won the day, and he extolled his own statesmanship, foresight and judgement. Doubtless, his advisers have reminded him of his tactlessness and we can expect a well-rehearsed and deeply heartfelt, "Of course, we must always remember those... etc," statement soon, but it will come too late.
What can we do about it? Not much, but we can at least decline to buy his impending memoirs, and give ourselves the satisfaction of diminishing the fortune that he expects to make from them.
It has become a fashion to call for Tony Blair's prosecution over the Iraq war. But there are no crimes he can be charged with. Those who believe the war was an act of aggression need to remember that the International Criminal Court cannot initiate prosecutions because the crime remains as yet undefined.
The 2003 war is unlikely to fall under any of the proposed definitions, because its purpose was consistent with the "purposes of the United Nations". Its aim was to implement the disarmament of Iraq as required by numerous UN resolutions.
Coalition forces have some culpability for many civilian deaths, but the main attacks against civilians have been committed by al-Qa'ida and other Iraqi militias. The UK government might have been slow to respond to some of the allegations of illegality but it has conducted investigations consistent with the requirements of international humanitarian law, which means that Blair could hardly be charged with war crimes.
Reader in Law, University of East London
Though I have a beard, I am neither "shaggy-haired" nor a "hippie", and I do not "rant" ("The irresistible pull of a fading star enjoying his comeback show", 30 January).
Joshua Wilson claims that I shouted that Blair was a "serial liar" but was forced to "sit down sheepishly" after receiving no support from the audience. In reality, I announced that Blair was a "serious war criminal" and that I was going to attempt a non-violent citizen's arrest. As I was escorted from the room by the security guards, a member of the audience told me he agreed with me (as do 23 per cent of the British public, according to one recent poll).
Police refused to arrest Mr Blair, then picked me up and carried me out of the building.
George Monbiot has created a "bounty", claimable by those attempting peaceful arrests of the former PM. Having witnessed the consequences of Mr Blair's sanctions and bombing policies in the slums and children's wards of Basra, I shall continue my own attempts.
St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex
Is it possible that if Germany had been invaded "illegally" in the mid-1930s and Hitler removed, the perpetrators would have been severely censured over the thousands killed, although the reality would have been millions saved?
I did not back the war in Iraq, but I am incensed by the number of people who so self-righteously judge those who had to make such dreadful decisions.
Halifax, West Yorkshire
I still do not understand how one can be certain that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction but not know where to look for them.
A E Baker
Thirsk, North Yorkshire
You cannot fight against cancer
I was heartened by the words of Dr Bruce Sizer (letters, 28 January). I was diagnosed with stage III ovarian cancer a year ago. After chemotherapy and surgery I was clear. Unfortunately, three months later, at my first follow-up, the cancer had returned. I am now on second-line chemotherapy.
At no time have I regarded myself as "battling against the disease". I am very lucky to have a loving family and many good friends who give me wonderful support. I find the best way to cope is to make the most of the good days. Living with cancer is not easy and I know that sooner or later time will run out. When it does, I hope I will not be regarded as a "failure". Well done, Dr Sizer, for your excellent letter.
As a cancer sufferer, I agree with Dr Sizer that the concept of fighting cancer is a nonsense. I have expressed similar sentiments for some time. This is a cruel and random disease. What must I do to "fight" it?
I have had the treatment, I take the advice and remain as positive as I can, which is not always easy. Unfortunately, my type of cancer (lung) is one of those that Dr Sizer rightly says has a generally poor outlook. As a GP friend said, "Lung cancer is a bastard malignancy".
But it does not help me to keep on hearing that from the medical fraternity, or to see the pity in the eyes of "those who know", so please could Dr Sizer and his colleagues just let us all feel that we have some chance?
A tale about tails of tough glass
Toughened or hardened glass is described in my 19th -century text, Chemistry as applied to the arts and manufactures (letters, 30 January). It was invented by a Frenchman called De La Bastie. He found that if very hot glass is quenched in a cooling bath, as opposed to the normal process of gentle annealing, it makes the glass hard and tough. The process was modified by James Powell, of Whitefriars glassworks, to make hollow items such as beakers.
But the glass is under severe internal stress, which explodes in fragments if the item breaks. This phenomenon was used in the Victorian parlour trick of "Prince Rupert's Drops", tear-shaped pieces of glass produced by dripping molten glass into water. If the tail is broken off, the drop disintegrates with a loud crack.
Michael K Baldwin
Is it possible to provide Lord Ashcroft's UK address so I could write to ask him the status of his residency ("Reveal Ashcroft's status, officials told", 1 February)?
J M Parsons
Wages of war
If I were jobless or a subsistence farmer in Afghanistan, with little or no money, I would quickly sign up with the Taliban in anticipation of the largesse that will be made available if I "return to the fold" (report, 28 January). Only people with full bellies and a roof over their heads could dream up a scheme like the one put forward by Gordon Brown. It would be an administrative nightmare, and easily abused.
Stephen Nash (letters, 26 January) again raises the nonsense that a 30-year cool period in global temperatures can be predicted from multi-decadal oscillations. The basis for this theory is a study of North Pacific sea temperatures which contains only a little more than 90 years of data. Can anyone seriously think that a 60-year cycle can be seen with any certainty in such a short period?
Graham P Davis
No class act
Jenny Macmillan (letter, 27 January) rightly points out that "private schools are able to offer small classes, because parents are willing to pay for them". This explains how they can provide small classes, but not why. Presumably, they know small classes are better for pupils. Yet when state schools and their teachers complain about their large class sizes, they are patronisingly told by politicians that "class sizes don't matter", and that a good teacher should be able to teach a large class.
Reader in British Politics, Cardiff University
A bite of the world
Glenis Willmott's campaign to change food labelling on processed foods (letters, 28 January) may be difficult to put into practice. For example, if a sandwich contains chicken from Thailand, lettuce from New Zealand, tomatoes from Kenya, butter from France, and flour from Egypt, would producers have to list which part of the sandwich comes from which country?
I didn't see stars
Shame on you for your "100 Years of Movie Stars" (28 January). As an avid movie-goer for 65 years, I was surprised that the most handsome star, Gregory Peck, and the most beautiful star, Ava Gardner, were not included in your list.
West Horsley, Surrey
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