During Tony Blair’s interview on the BBC Today programme this morning, I was listening for some hint of uncertainty in his views on Iraq. He’s making too much money out of his foreign affairs expertise to acknowledge that he might have made any mistakes.
Blair stated that if Saddam Hussein not been removed from power by the Allied invasion, Iraq would now be suffering a similar “Arab Spring” civil war to that in Syria. He didn’t have much to say about the eight thousand people who’ve been killed in Iraq this year; or the implications this places on his theory that much greater bloodshed was avoided by the invasion.
Mention must be made of the controversial Lancet Iraq invasion deaths survey: of between 426,369 and 793,663 killed. President Bush stuck with the US estimate of 30,000. But even the most vehement critics of the Lancet survey reckoned that many more were killed than the President Bush estimate.
The Iraqi Government Health Minister Ali al-Shemari said: ” 600,000 … is an exaggerated number. I think 150 is OK.” The “Iraq Family Health Survey” of 9,345 households across Iraq and estimated 151,000 deaths due to violence.
We’ll never know even roughly how many people died in the Iraq invasion. But to justify toppling the government of another country by saying that this level of killing is somehow “better” than what might have happened if the invasion hadn’t taken place, seems fatuous. But this is the Tony Blair view of the world.
Blair also cited the people of Afghanistan as “really wanting their democracy” – turning out for the elections despite the threats of violence. He brushed off a suggestion that the West might be “imposing its values on Afghanistan”.
Which is what this is really all about.
And the reality is that, despite the USA’s missionary zeal to impose democracy on savages across the world, not all societies are ready. In some countries, democracy offers nothing more than the transfer of power to a different sort of regime: in Afghanistan, the Taliban; and in many otherwise stable Arab countries, Islamist extremists.
Blair was on the radio this morning having been invited to the Rwanda genocide commemorations. Over a one-hundred day period in 1994 during the Rwandan Civil War, Hutus killed between half and one million Tutsi and moderate Hutus – some 70% of Rwandan Tutisis.
But with nothing threatening their national interests, the USA refused to help, France and Belgium sent troops who it seems ended up helping the Hutus; and true to usual form the UN were pathetic.
Tony Blair implied that had he been in power, he would have deployed troops to Rwanda – citing the UK’s intervention in Somalia. He’s now low-profiling it on Syria, but was very strongly advocating military intervention there too.
The trouble is… Blair still doesn’t seem to understand the implications of deploying the very large numbers of troops that these open-ended stabilisation missions require, with their weapon systems, and air and logistical support. Plus the reality that there are no military solutions to political problems.
Unless there’s a clear and achievable political aim with equally clear and achievable military objectives to support that, all that’s achieved are the incalculable sorts of casualty figures we’ve seen in all these campaigns. But our politicians don’t think it through before deploying. We know this from all the pre-Iraq invasion revelations – which I hope the Chilcott Report will make plain for us all.
Thereafter, you’re dealing with the added burden and complication of a population traumatised by war, which is another huge subject… So my heart goes out to the Rwandan people.
But Tony Blair’s suggestion that he would have intervened in Rwanda is both laughable and rather sickening. On his own? To do exactly what? Force everybody to love each other? After-the-event wisdom isn’t often as self-serving this.
In reality, with no British national interests at stake, not even Tony Blair would have done anything to help those poor people.
The Heart of Darkness falls across us all.
Background – Iraq invasion death toll:
The Lancet did two Iraq death surveys. The second in 2006, calculated with 95% certainty, that a range of between 426,369 and 793,663 deaths were deemed due to violence; from gunshot (56%), car bomb (13%), other ordnance (14%), air strike (13%), accident (2%) and ‘unknown (2%). 31% of these excess deaths were attributed to Coalition actions, 24% to the actions of others and 46% to ‘unknown’. The headline total is unverifiable, but the percentages are interesting… The discredited UK ORB survey estimated over 1m.
Lest anyone write this off as did Bush who said “It’s not credible’, with methodology that was “pretty well discredited”, the Ministry of Defence’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir Roy Anderson, called the study “robust” and said its claimed methods were “close to ‘best practice’ in this area, given the difficulties of data collection and verification in the present circumstances in Iraq”, in an internal memo on the day the study was published, dated 13 October 2006.
Amid much criticism, other experts including a Red Cross demographer, supported the study. Interestingly, the same cluster methodology was used by the US government in Kosovo and Afghanistan. The Iraq survey’s 47 clusters of 40 householders is almost three time larger than the average US political survey…