Tony Blair’s partial apology for the Iraq war (Report, 26 October) shows how little he has learned from his adventures in international relations. Removing Saddam Hussein is the problem and is the cause of the rise of Isis. Saddam’s justification for his brutal regime was that he maintained control of an otherwise ungovernable state. His removal and the emergence of Isis is testimony to the accuracy of his judgment.
The removal of the equally brutal Gaddafi from Libya, and the subsequent disintegration of that state, is further testimony to the misjudgment of European politicians. The removal of a dictator, before a stable replacement is available, simply creates a vacuum which destructive elements quickly exploit.
Assad kept the lid on Syria, until overflow from the disintegration of Iraqfractured his regime. The influx of refugees into Europe, from both Syria and Libya, is the continuing consequence of democratic politicians failing to appreciate the inappropriateness of introducing democracy into states with no established record of the peaceful transfer of political authority.
• Tony Blair apologises, among other things, for the inaccuracy of the intelligence information about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But the fact is that by the time the war started, the highly regarded UN weapons inspector Hans Blix hadn’t found any such weapons and didn’t believe he was going to.
Twelve and a half years on from the march via which over a million of us tried to give Blair a get-out-of-jail card, it still troubles me that a prime minister who until that point had been among the most sure-footed this country had elected in generations either could not or would not see that it was entirely in Saddam’s interests both to have destroyed his weapons of mass destruction and to be maintaining some uncertainty as to whether he had done so.
Saltaire, West Yorkshire
• Sadly, the rise of Isis was a relatively milder consequence of the Iraq war. The wider consequence was the creation of a religious war across the whole of the Middle East. Before Iraq, al-Qaida was not attacking Shia or Kurd. Its targets were the west. Sunni and Shia have always been on opposing sides but there were no conflicts in the Middle East based on this religious division.
As Martin Chulov (The crucial point: a partial acknowledgment that without the war there would have been no Isis, 26 October) quite rightly states, the Iraq war stoked these divisions, destroying the country, favouring Shia, oppressing Sunni and generating the chaos of a civil religious war. This division has now broadened into Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Lebanon, and the Middle East is on fire as Sunni and Shia fight a religious war that is every day becoming a single international conflict with the US on one side and Russia on the other.
Holywood, County Down
Martin Chulov’s reference to Abu Ghraib resonates in Syria. I was in Damascus when events at Abu Ghraib surfaced and while meeting with Bouthaina Shaaban, media adviser to president Bashar al-Assad, I voiced my concern about the many young Syrian men who seemed keen to go to Iraq to fight. More young lives lost, I felt. “They have seen what happened in Abu Ghraib,” she said, “and they have to go.”
• The main outstanding issue about the Iraq war is how and why it came to be that when British forces landed in Iraq their stated purpose was to find and destroy weapons of mass destruction, but when they departed their stated achievement had been the overthrow of the Iraqi regime which, incidentally, posed no threat to the security of Britain or its military allies. That goes well beyond mere apologetics. When the Chilcot inquiry has shed some forensic light on this issue it should be easier to make a final judgment on the war and Britain’s role in it.
• Tony Blair’s pre-emptive strike against Chilcot and the publication of the Chilcot report, still, I believe, leave one key aspect of the affair unanswered. Let me recount an incident that took place in Italy in May 2003.
While eating out one evening, I was able to prevail on other diners to make space for an American family. Once all were seated I engaged in the sort of conversation one has in these situations; talk touched on the invasion of Iraq. The father, a notable US academic, stated quite firmly that it was Blair who persuaded the American intellectual elite that it was right to launch the war on Saddam Hussein.
Ever since that moment I have watched for anything that focuses on this aspect of the affair, and I believe that Chilcot did not consider Blair’s role in influencing US public opinion; why should he, when accountability is restricted to the “line management” within a nation state? The publication of the dialogue between Blair and Bush may go some way towards addressing this, but is unlikely to reveal the ultimate spin.
It seems that it is this triangulation for which Bush was grateful, and for which the US right continues to show gratitude to Blair through channelling generous lecture fees to him. Blair will continue to prevaricate with qualified apologies and regret for things that are peripheral to the main point. Only an international inquiry, dare I say an international court, is able to properly consider Blair’s role in propping up the intellectually weak US argument for war.
• There is one problem with Tony Blair’s qualified mea culpa: Britain did not overthrow Saddam. Neither did it to any significant degree slaughter the civilian population, bomb cities, destroy infrastructure or desecrate holy places. In fact the UK did virtually nothing in the Iraq war after the initial seizure of Basra except hand it over to pro-Iranian militias and retreat to the safety of its barracks at Basra airport, there to await relief from US forces. Blair’s comments are an arrogant repetition of the lie that the UK made any difference at all to either going to war or in determining the outcome. From the outset of hostilities Blair’s war aim was the avoidance of casualties. The best (or worst) that can be laid at Blair’s feet is that he gave moral cover to the US, which made it contemptuously clear that it would proceed with the war no matter what the UK did or didn’t do in support. Blair should admit it: the UK’s participation in the Iraq war was an irrelevance. He should then sleep sound in the knowledge that the only war crimes he was guilty of are hubris and cowardice.
• It seems Tony Blair is still at it – twisting and turning as usual. He says he apologises for “the intelligence being wrong” but what he really should say is: “I apologise for the intelligence being correct but we ignored that and told the general public and parliament a totally different story to suit our intentions.” Why is there still a need to listen to him?