Posts Tagged ‘Tony Blair’

Overshadowed to some extent by the recent furore over Brexit, this Wednesday the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war will finally be released to public gaze.

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Social media comment on Blair has been savage.

Predictions of its contents have varied from assumptions that it will prevent any serious re-examination of the decision by obfuscating on the key facts, to speculation that it’s criticism of British Government behaviours will make very painful reading indeed, both for MPs, MPs advisors, and civil servants.

As the Guardian reports, there is a very strong likelihood that a number of MPs will use the report to conduct a very rare parliamentary process to impeach Tony Blair for his role in launching the war, which would see the former Prime Minister theoretically jailed, but would more likely be an inglorious and embarrassing end to Blair’s public career, and a permanent blight on his legacy. There might well be cross-bench support for such an action, given that Blair is viscerally detested by the left-wing of the Labour Party (and has been criticised by its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for his role in the invasion), the Lib Dems were the only major party (at that time) to oppose the Iraq invasion, and the SNP will take any opportunity to embarrass Labour. A Tory or two might join in just to enhance the embarrassment factor.

What will not be happening, despite being thoroughly warranted in our view, is any appearance by Tony Blair (and George Bush, and John Howard) at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, as the court has ruled that it can only try cases based on the conduct of a conflict, not the decision to go to war itself.

This bizarre circumlocution will see the very real prospect of individual British soldiers and commanders being dragged before the court, but not the men who sent them to Iraq. Perhaps one smart move arising out of all this mess would be to reconsider the role of the court.

The ICC  has begun a preliminary examination of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.

In the statement, the office of the prosecutor at the ICC said: “We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK. A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation. As already indicated by the office in 2006, the ‘decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the court’s jurisdiction’.”

The prosecutor’s office said the ICC was looking at introducing a “crime of aggression” which would cover illegal invasions but that “has not yet crystallised and in any event, will not apply retroactively”.

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Meanwhile the slaughter generated by the insane decision to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein with no clear idea of how to replace him or what “success” might look like continues to wreak its toll, as the power vacuum left behind continues to stoke the fires  of internecine hatred in what was always an artificially-constructed country which should have unquestionably been divided into a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia state, with Baghdad as an international city housing a confederated EU-style parliament of sorts.

To add to the approximately 500,000 Iraqis who have died violently since the invasion, a further 125 innocents (including 25 children) were blown to pieces overnight in an IS attack on a Shia community in the Karrada neighbourhood, likely to be in retaliation for the loss of Fallujah to government forces, less than an hour down the road from the capital. At least 147 people were wounded.

As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches, the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.

ISIS promised an uptick in terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad assault came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan at a border crossing near Syria, and suicide attacks in aChristian area of northern Lebanon.

Last month, a gunman shot up a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people before he was killed, and an attacker killed a police commander and his partner in France.

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Bangladesh and Yemen and there are news reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Jordanian attack. Experts believe the group might have conducted the attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.

Omar Mateen, the killer in Orlando, and the attacker in France both pledged allegiance to ISIS.

A second bomb exploded Sunday at an outdoor market in the Shaab neighbourhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, police said.

Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighbourhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite.

Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, thinks the attacks will worsen and said that is ISIS’ game plan, essentially, to generate instability.

Screen Shot 2016-07-04 at 11.06.21 am“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Fallujah and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”

It’s hard to say “when and where they are going to strike,” he said of ISIS.

“This is a very, very difficult time. It is a very risky time, just because the political fissures are so great within Iraq that they are so easily exploitable by ISIS and its fellow travelers.”

Such attacks, like the one in Baghdad will serve to drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular the Shiites.

“The wedge was already there and its fairly easy for them to exploit this,” he said.

There is no question, of course, that the divide between Shia and Sunni has been going on for centuries, but what is rarely said is that on occasions in the past both of the major Islamic factions have lived together peaceably for long periods as well. The invasion of Iraq set off a chain reaction of events that has now embroiled almost the entire Middle East in sectarian conflict, as well as seeing major attacks on the West.

One satisfactory response to Chilcott would be a commitment from all political leaders in the West to abjure from military interventionism and adventurism in the future, and for them to concentrate, instead, on the growth of inter-cultural confidence building and civic structures in countries that a struggling with massive problems and the difficulties of transitioning to a post-colonial environment.

Don’t hold your breath. It’s so much simpler to just bomb the shit out of somewhere. And the pretty fireworks look so impressive on TV.

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The Guardian reports that the Mayor of London (and probably Britain’s most popular Conservative politician, a possible replacement for Prime Minister David Cameron) has issued a strong condemnation of the former prime minister’s views on the Middle East.

Boris JohnstonBoris Johnson, (seen left) said the former prime minister is unhinged in his attempt to rewrite history and is undermining arguments for western intervention in Iraq, the London mayor claimed in an extraordinary personal attack on the former Prime Minister. (Photograph: Stuart C Wilson/Getty)Blair took to the media over the weekend to make the case for a tough response to the extremist insurgency in Iraq, insisting it was caused by a failure to deal with the Syria crisis rather than the 2003 US-led invasion which he helped to instigate.His intervention was met with widespread criticism from Labour figures and others as extremists posted pictures apparently showing the killing of dozens of Iraqi soldiers by jihadist fighters.

In his condemnation of Blair the London Mayor accused the ex-Labour leader of having sent British forces into the bloody conflict in part to gain personal “grandeur”.

Exactly echoing what we said a couple of days ago, Johnson said in his Daily Telegraph column that Blair and then-US president George Bush had shown “unbelievable arrogance” to believe toppling Saddam Hussein would not result in instability which resulted directly to the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis and hundreds of British and American troops. In fact, the figure of Iraqi losses is well over 500,000, according to a range of impeccable sources.

He suggested there were “specific and targeted” actions that could be taken by the US and its allies to deal with latest threat – as Barack Obama considers a range of military options short of ground troops.

But he said that by refusing to accept that the 2003 war was “a tragic mistake”, “Blair is now undermining the very cause he advocates: the possibility of serious and effective intervention.

“Somebody needs to get on to Tony Blair and tell him to put a sock in it, or at least to accept the reality of the disaster he helped to engender. Then he might be worth hearing,” Johnson concluded. And he is exactly right.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

Unhinged? You be the judge.

 

As to whether Blair is actually unhinged, we couldn’t possibly say. But there is something about the messianic glare that overcomes his eyes when he is defending his position that we find quite disturbing to watch.

The row over the events of 11 years ago came amid suggestions of serious atrocities being committed in the militants’ advance.

Taking on critics in an eight-page essay on his website, Blair rejected as “bizarre” claims that Iraq might be more stable today if he had not helped topple Saddam.

The former premier – now a Middle East peace envoy – said Iraq was “in mortal danger”, but pinned the blame on the sectarianism of the al-Maliki government and the spread of Syria’s brutal three-year civil war, not on the instability created by the West’s invasion of Iraq.

“The choices are all pretty ugly, it is true,” he wrote in a push for military intervention – though not necessarily a return to ground forces. “But for three years we have watched Syria descend into the abyss and as it is going down, it is slowly but surely wrapping its cords around us, pulling us down with it. We have to put aside the differences of the past and act now to save the future. Where the extremists are fighting, they have to be countered hard, with force. Every time we put off action, the action we will be forced to take will be ultimately greater.”

Former foreign minister and United Nations Depity Secretary-general Lord Malloch Brown urged Blair to “stay quiet” because his presence in the debate was driving people to oppose what might be the necessary response.

Clare Short, one of a number of MPs who quit Blair’s cabinet over the 2003 invasion, said he had been “absolutely, consistently wrong, wrong, wrong” on the issue, and opposed more strikes.

First ever cover of the New Yorker in 1925. Now published 47 times a year, it has a fine literary tradition.

There is a curious tradition in America where journals and newspapers of all kinds “endorse” (or support) one or other of the leading candidates for President.

For example, there was an amused titter the other day, for example, when a leading Utah newspaper (Utah being the “Mormon” state) came out against Romney calling him untrustworthy. Ooops.

This endorsing of candidates is a phenomenon seen around the world, but it is engaged in somewhat desultorily in other democracies, and rarely to any great effect.

Probably the only time of any great note recently in the non-US English-speaking world was when the Sun newspaper under Rupert Murdoch switched from the Tories under John Major and backed Labour’s Tony Blair. But in general, it rarely means anything much except in the USA.

The New Yorker is an august production, with a fine tradition of both political cartooning and political comment, as well as a diverse range of articles on other topics. It is not, however, it must be said, hugely influential any more, although it is highly respected. Although its reviews and events listings often focus on the cultural life of New York City, The New Yorker has a wide audience outside of New York. It is well known for its illustrated and often topical covers, its commentaries on popular culture and eccentric Americana, its attention to modern fiction by the inclusion of short stories and literary reviews, its rigorous fact checking and copy editing, its journalism, and its single-panel cartoons sprinkled throughout each issue.

It is a shame, really, that it is less influential than in the past, because it has just delivered one of the finest pieces of political writing I have come across in a very, very long time. It is well-researched, sparsely written, convincing and relevant. And sure, it endorses Obama, and I have made no secret of my passion for having the President re-elected.

But that is not why I suggest you read it.

In a world bedevilled by sound bites and the dumbing down of politics it stands out as principled, erudite, and yet easy to understand by all and sundry.

What an example it sets for us all. Honestly, if anyone can find a comparable piece of writing endorsing Romney I promise I will republish it. I strongly urge you to read this whatever your political persuasion.

http://www.newyorker.com/talk/comment/2012/10/29/121029taco_talk_editors?mbid=nl_Weekly+%2827%29

The final paragraph gives you an insight into its quality.

The re-election of Barack Obama is a matter of great urgency. Not only are we in broad agreement with his policy directions; we also see in him what is absent in Mitt Romney—a first-rate political temperament and a deep sense of fairness and integrity. A two-term Obama Administration will leave an enduringly positive imprint on political life. It will bolster the ideal of good governance and a social vision that tempers individualism with a concern for community. Every Presidential election involves a contest over the idea of America. Obama’s America—one that progresses, however falteringly, toward social justice, tolerance, and equality—represents the future that this country deserves.

Yup. What he said.