The sight of former British prime minister Tony Blair being pillioried and harassed by a prosecutorial Parliamentary committee as if he is a common criminal, is really enough to make you wonder whether Britain today is living in the real world.
Because if it was living in the real world, it would have recognized that the country’s commitment to unseating Saddam Hussein was a vital element in ridding the planet of a regime that posed a grave threat to global stability and a terrifying menace to Iraqi citizens.
The charges against Blair, that he conspired with the Bush Administration in concocting evidence of Sadaam’s weapons of mass destruction, and that the invasion resulted in needless loss of life, are spurious. Sadaam did have biological and chemical weapons, and even ballistic missiles that were ferreted out of the country even as the invading coalition forces were approaching Bagdad.
But even this seems besides the point. Hussein is dead and Iraq, the locus for so much instability in the region, is free of his tyranny. His henchmen are dead. His Ba’ath Party, which suckled on Nazi ideology and was the Middle East’s most apparent successor to the Nazis, is in retreat. Iraqi democracy, while still fledgling and uncertain, remains a force for hope in the region. While it might be true that 179 British soldiers died in the Iraqi campaign and many thousands of Iraqi citizens were killed in the internecine warfare which erupted in the wake of the invasion, these all should be regarded as the price of preserving freedom and protecting our homelands from emerging threats. With hindsight, this will become clear. History has demonstrated that it is better for democracies to go to war when they have the advantage and lose what they must, than suffer the prospect of debacles and huge casualties in the future. The problem is that leaders rarely have the opportunity to prove or justify any of it since the event they sought to avoid never takes place. Hence we have Tony Blair in the dock today.
Watching Blair brought to task for decisions on national security he made seven years ago, one has to wonder whether the same treatment would ever have been meted out to early 20th Century prime-minister Herbert Asquith or his Foreign Secretary Sir Edward Grey for their folly in committing England to a series of alliances which entangled the country in a continental conflagration leading to the needless death of nearly one million young British men in the First World World War. Or perhaps the British should have held an inquiry into how Neville Chamberlain’s government brought war and destruction down, not simply upon Britain, but the rest of the world in the late 1930s, through an obsequious appeasement of Adolf Hitler.
For all the noise about Blair’s malfeasance, the real motivations behind this show trial are not being spoken aloud. For what is really going on in London, is not so much the repudiation of the Blair legacy, as a rejection of the Trans-Atlantic Alliance. The most important connection between the world’s two largest democracies, the vital hub of Western civilization itself, is under assault from those who see Britain’s future and security tied not to the United States but to Europe. Putting Blair in the dock is just another means of emphasizing that the relationship is ending and with it, perhaps the long term future of Western liberal democracy.
As for Blair, he should realize that his prime ministerial career was rare, not only for its longevity, but for its largely scandal free run. But he is learning now that even the most pristine reputations can be savaged by critics and historical revisionists who are bent on revenge and dismemberment of political reputations and not necessarily on any governing truth.