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Tony Blair is not a War Criminal.

At times I sit alone on an island. The whole world says one thing and I say another. The war in Iraq and the statement that Tony Blair is a War Criminal is one of those things.

History shows that Iraq didn’t have WMDs. Not much more can be said about that. However hindsight is always 20/20.

The events leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom will always be murky. I don’t know what really happened and nor does a single person reading this. If they say they do then they are a liar. The people that know the truth are a small inner-circle within the Bush administration and the Blair trusted team. They know the truth and what they say in public is roundly derided because people do not want to hear their versions of the truth. Most people have made up their mind already without seeing any of the real evidence.

Now I know millions of people protested at the time, they made their opinions well and truly heard. However I put it to you/them that it is easy to protest on an issue when you are not responsible for the safety of the country. It is easy to say the invasion is unjust when it is the populist thing to say. It is easy to call Blair a war criminal knowing that in retrospect what we were there looking for were not found.

To call Blair a war criminal then unless you are a bit doolally, then you have to believe that he (or someone working for Blair and with his authority) deliberately faked the intelligence that was used to justify the invasion. If the intelligence was just faulty then Blair is not a war criminal. If anyone reading this can honestly say that if they were in a position where they had the intelligence that Iraq was ready to basically nuke us and they had a chance to go in and stop it and they wouldn’t then I do shake my head is disbelief and pray they never become PM and they’ll be a weak PM.

The PM is responsible for the safety and lives of everyone living in this great nation. The President is responsible for many more lives in his nation. If they basically came out and said, ‘We understand that Iraq is about to basically wipe us out but we are not going to do anything because we are only 95% sure of this,’ then I’m pretty sure everyone would be up in arms and calling for a rebellion to overthrow the PM and President.

If MI5 had intelligence that the 7/7 Bombers were about to strike but were only 95% sure of said attack would they be right to allow the attack and loss of life? If the FBI/CIA knew about 9/11 but were only 95% sure of the date and identities of the attackers would they be right to let them get on with it?

If you overheard your next door neighbour saying that he was going to kill his wife or she was going to kill her husband would you stand idly by or would you call the police? If you heard that a pedophile was grooming your kid would you stand idly by or would you go round and confront them (and lets be honest you would do them over). What if you were wrong and the information you received was inaccurate? Are you a criminal for protecting your daughter from someone you genuinely believed was going to cause her harm?

Tony Blair and President Bush were responsible for over 350million lives when they made their decisions. The population of the UK and America is essentially their family. Do you not think that this might actually be quite a pressurised situation? How would you like having to make a decision that will affect millions of lives and if you make the wrong one then millions can and will die?

Intelligence is what it is. It can be great, it can be good, it can be misleading and it can be wrong. I have no idea whether the intelligence on this issue was accurate or not. History will say it wasn’t but who knows what happened in the weeks leading up to the invasion.

I don’t profess to know what happened in the weeks leading up to the invasion but I personally am willing to give the decision makers leeway in the decision making process. The only justification in my mind despite what happened for calling Blair and Bush war criminals is if they deliberately falsified information and do you know what, I don’t know if they did or didn’t.

As a rule I am an innocent until proven guilty guy and I like that. I was a foreman of a jury that found a man not guilty of ten counts of sexual assault against his step-daughter. He may well have done it but the evidence wasn’t there to convict. The evidence isn’t there to say that Blair and Bush went out of their way to change the intelligence. Some say (most Lib Dems for instance) firmly believe that they did but they don’t know – they believe – two very different and distinct things.

So here we are. Hindsight is glorious and is in shiny HD. If we knew what we did now then no doubt we would not have invaded. However – and for this part we’ll assume the intelligence wasn’t faked – however if the exact same scenario came up again then whoever is in office will have to make a very difficult decision. Do they risk the lives of everyone or do they stop a potential attack?

It is easy to be sanctimonious when you are not responsible for anything. However when you are responsible then everything is very different indeed. The Lib Dems as a party hold the moral high ground on this issue as in retrospect they were right but they had nothing to lose. If Charles Kennedy was PM at the time then would he have heeded the warnings or ignored them as he didn’t believe the intelligence?

No-one can know for sure but I think it is more than fair to say that when you have to make the difficult decisions they are a lot easier in opposition. Look at the Tuition Fees fiasco. The Lib Dems if in opposition could have torn a new hole in a minority Conservative government on this and held their ground but as we all know they were not in opposition, they were in government and therefore they had to make the decision.

This is one thing that personally has hurt me in the recent months. It has become clear that many Lib Dems would prefer to be idealist but in opposition so they didn’t have to make the hard decisions. What is the point of that? We live on Planet Earth and it isn’t a Utopia.

So to round up this ramble. If Blair and Bush deliberately lied then the war criminal moniker is fair and just. However we do not know if they did or didn’t and therefore in my opinion is wholly unfair and unjust. Let me just repeat that – we do not know one way or another what really happened. We can all have an opinions but we do not know.

I have a feeling this might be my most unpopular ramble yet. Defending Tony Blair is not exactly cool, certainly if you are a Lib Dem but I think it needs to be said. We do not know what happened but most people believe they do know for a fact what happened and those people are deluded fools.

See. I’m not just a Lib Dem stooge…

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  1. Mr Monnery,

    I’ve just started up a new blog. Thought you deserved linking there. If you have any concern over being associated however indirectly with a “war cri…” please let me know. I am still setting it up to be blunt, but I HAD to get it online today of all days.

  2. Like you, Chris, I’ll start as I mean to go on.

    Tony Blair is NOT a war criminal.

    Presumably this piece by Gwynne Dyer represents your opinions too? Hard to tell, the way it is written.

    Yes, Alan Watkins is a fine writer. I give you that.

    Perhaps since you are keen on Mr Watkins, you can help me with this.

    I’ve been interested for some time as to who first coined the term “war criminal” – the misnomer against Blair? Perhaps you can help with this?

    I assumed it was someone like Noam Chomsky. But it may have been a ‘fair-minded, non-judgemental’ Liberal Democrat ‘know-all’, sorry… type.

    Who knows?I certainly don’t. Perhaps Mr Watkins does, if you don’t. I think the origins of this as regards Blair deserves a post at my site. Especially following the Big Questions debate today where the idea of trying Blair for “war crimes” was firmly trounced.

    By the way –

    In case you forget –

    Tony Blair is NOT a war criminal.

  3. chris chris

    Just to confirm in case you had any doubts…

    By Gwynne Dyer, December 17, 2009
    Alan Watkins is my favourite British journalist. Well into his 70s now, each week he still produces an elegant and knowing column, usually about British politics. And with a casual understatement that you might easily mistake for irony, he has for the past six years regularly referred to former prime minister Tony Blair as “the young war criminal.”

    That may seem a bit harsh, for never has an alleged war criminal seemed more sincere, more open, even more innocent. As he said about his 2003 decision to involve Britain in the American invasion of Iraq in his resignation speech four years later: “Hand on heart, I did what I thought was right.” But EVERYBODY does what they think is right.

    They may mean pragmatically right, or morally right, or even ideologically right, but one way or another people will find ways to justify their actions to themselves: even Pol Pot believed that his actions were justified. When people’s choices lead to the deaths of others, they must eventually be judged by more objective criteria than mere sincerity. That is now happening to Tony Blair.

    Yet another public inquiry in Britain is now looking into the origins and consequences of Blair’s decision to attack Iraq, but it will not find him guilty of anything. It is what Conservative Party leader David Cameron called “an establishment stitch-up.”

    It is headed by a retired senior civil servant, Sir John Chilcot, who sat on another inquiry in 2004 that found the intelligence used to justify the invasion “badly flawed” but somehow could not find anyone to blame for it. The other members of the Chilcot inquiry are a former ambassador, a baroness who was appointed to the House of Lords by the Blair government, and two historians, Sir Lawrence Freedman (who wrote speeches for Tony Blair) and Sir Martin Gilbert (who once compared him to Winston Churchill).

    Yet the mere existence of the Chilcot inquiry has so shaken Blair that he has made an extraordinary admission. He admitted on December 13 that he would have invaded Iraq even if he had known at the time that the “intelligence” about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq was wrong.

    “I would still have thought it was right to remove (Saddam Hussein),” he told BBC interviewer Fern Britton. “Obviously, you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He seemed completely unaware that he was throwing away the only justification for his actions that might stand up before the International Criminal Court (ICC).

    Now, I realise that you must be wondering why I am devoting all this space to a discredited ex-leader whose country once played a minor role in the invasion of a middle-sized Arab country. The war is mostly over now, the dead cannot be brought back to life, and we have lots of new things to worry about.

    Former president George W. Bush, the main author of the Iraq war, will never face a commission of inquiry about his actions, and Blair will have an easy ride when he faces the British inquiry early next year. Each man is doomed to go on justifying his decisions forever, for any alternate course of action would be too painful. So what’s the point in our raking over their choices and motives now?

    The point is that there is a law, and they deliberately broke it. Since 1945, it has been a crime to invade another country: that was the main charge brought against the Nazi leaders at Nuremberg. The new rule was written into the United Nations Charter, principally at the behest of the United States, and there are virtually no exceptions to it.

    You have the right to defend yourself if another country attacks you, but you are not allowed to attack another country on the grounds that it has a wicked ruler, or follows policies you disapprove of, or even because you think it might attack you one of these days. No unilateral military action is permitted, and even joint action against a genuinely threatening country is only permissible with the authorization of the UN Security Council.

    The United States is a very different country now than it was in 1945, and under the junior Bush administration it announced a “national security” doctrine that directly contradicts this international law, arrogating to the US government the right to attack any country it suspects of harbouring evil intentions towards the United States.

    It’s just the sort of thing that Britain would have declared when it was top dog in the 19th century, had there been any international law against aggression back then. But this is the 21st century, and Britain is no longer top dog, and there is a law now. There is even an International Criminal Court to enforce the law, although it never takes action against the leaders of rich and powerful countries.

    Tony Blair will never face the ICC, and even the Chilcot inquiry will be gentle with him. But he started a war on false pretenses—there were no WMD—and at least 100,000 people died. He has now admitted that he would have started it even if he knew that the WMD didn’t exist (as he probably did). He is a war criminal.

  4. chris chris

    That Blair is a war criminal is now beyond doubt. His confused answers and denial of all legal advice received prior to the invasion clearly demonstrate the decision had been made much earlier than he cares to admit. How much he was paid to turn to Bush will never be known.

    • Channel 4, like much of the media has its own agenda. They’re not on the same agenda, of course, or for the same reasons, but mostly they are on an agenda to disparage the most successful Labour Prime Minister EVER. That’s ever, ever.

      You do your “case” if that’s what it is, no favours to suggest that “for money” Tony Blair took this country to war.

      You should not transfer the motives that might inspire you onto other, far greater men.

      Btw, Tony Blair is NOT a war criminal. But I DO give you this – in some eyes there IS doubt.

      That pervious sentence is called understanding the limits of one’s knowledge and ability to judge. You should try it.

  5. Very impressive and honest article, Mr Monnery, and especially so coming from a Lib Dem.

    I know a fair bit about the Liberal Democrats, but that’s another story. Except to say that this exculpation of Blair is very welcome from your quarter.

    It is exactly the argument I have been making at my blog since I first took an interest in Tony Blair, the reasons for and hatred of Blair.

    None of us punters, including me, was a fly on evey wall, or was in a position to know what was needed at the time of the Iraq invasion.

    That’s why we elect politicians. To know as best they can and to decide.

    It is my fervent hope that in their present position of some power, more Liberal Democrats will come round to understanding that political decision-making over issues of war is not easy and not just a case of relying on one’s high-horsed certainties – morally and ethically. It is usually more a question of taking the least worst option.

    It’d help if the commentariat were halfway interested in the alternative likely outcomes if we had not taken on Saddam Hussein at that time.

    But like the people who waved their various placards at the Inquiry yesterday, thinking in those terms is for the politicians.

    ‘Unknown unknowns’ are better left to someone else. Those someones that we can then blame when we are SURE they got it wrong.

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