Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland until I return to the Murcia region of Spain in the Autumn for a month or so
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Saturday, 17 July 2004

"Mistakes were made, but no-one was to blame" - the Butler report summarised

I have delayed writing about the Butler report, not because I had not formed clear views about it, but because I found I had no time yesterday and for most of today (Friday) to blog about it.

The report concluded, amongst other things, that the intelligence reports that Iraq possessed WMD prior to the invasion were fatally flawed. It also concluded that the government had not knowingly deceived.

I have never believed that Tony Blair, much as I dislike his sanctimonious quasi-socialist Labour mantra, was a liar. I wrote as much when the British government published the now-discredited document about Iraq's alleged WMD capability in September 2002, amplified in a much lengthier article in my main website - scroll down to 3rd article - where I wrote this, in part:

"It is possible, I suppose, that Blair is a participant (willing or unwilling) in a grotesque plot to label Saddam Hussein as a dangerous tyrant in order to justify action against Iraq, so that 'the West' might gain control of the oil resources of the country with the second-largest reserves on the planet. Whatever I may think of Blair and his New Labour government, and my opinion of both is not particularly high, I have yet to conclude that he is a liar. Nor do I think he is completely mad - which I consider he would need to be to acquiesce in a military adventure purely for the purpose of securing oil supplies from a region which is already lacking in much political stability; the resources that would need to be devoted to maintaining control of a 'conquered' Iraq for any length of time would probably be immense."

My views in the rest of that article remain broadly the same, too.

I have always believed that the main justification for invading Iraq was 'regime change'. Of course the Labour government could not say this, whatever its senior members may privately have believed (and I have no personal knowledge to help me decide), because such a stance would have been political suicide within the wider Labour party and in the country as a whole. The only way the Labour government could obtain political support for its policy of participating with the US in the invasion of Iraq was to stress a belief that Iraq represented a danger beyond its borders, hence the 'deploy within 45 minutes' claim amongst others.

So far as I am concerned, this allowed the operation to go ahead and lead to Saddam Hussein being 'taken out' and that is all that I cared about. The fact that this might come back to haunt Tony Blair and his government was, and is, quite immaterial to me - I am no fan of him or his party, but I am quite happy to acquiesce in a policy which will achieve objectives I believe are valid if the only price to be paid is potential political oblivion for Tony Blair. Think 'useful idiots'.

The US administration was much less coy in accepting that removal of Saddam Hussein from power was a major part of its policy, because the political imperatives in the US are quite different. Nevertheless, President Bush has suffered a certain amount of 'flak' domestically for pursuing this policy. When his administration came to power I was glad that Gore had been defeated; as an outsider I have no strong views one way or the other about the merits of the Republican or Democratic parties, but I did form the view that Gore was not the right man to be President. Clinton may have been (and remains) a 'slime ball', but he was an effective President, just as I think Bush 41 was pretty effective, too. Gore may be physically quite big, but he would have made a 'small' President (in my view) and Bush 43 at the very least spared us that.

When he came to power I had no particular liking for Bush 43, or dislike for that matter, but his views on social issues have become increasingly odious to me so I should not be sad to see the back of him, if that is what happens this November. But he did get rid of Saddam Hussein and for that, at the very least, I continue to be grateful. If, like Blair, he pays a price for this in the forthcoming election then what do I care? Cynical I know, but that should be nothing new for a politician.

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