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To be a part of it

Deploying different arguments

In a television interview, Tony Blair said that if it had been known for certain that Saddam Hussein possessed no “weapons of mass destruction”, some other rationale for invading Iraq would have been cooked up:

I would still have thought it right to remove him. I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.

Of course this is not really news, except that it is coming from the mouth of this particular horse; after all, six years ago, Paul Wolfowitz said that the alleged “WMD” were chosen as the justification for the war “for bureaucratic reasons”.

The Independent on Sunday‘s John Rentoul, who teaches “contemporary history” at Queen Mary, prefers to recount events in this way:

Blair wanted to get rid of Robert Mugabe, but he couldn’t. He wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein and so when the Americans decided to do it, Britain could have been part of it or could have stood aside.

He chose to be part of it. But if Saddam had complied with UN resolutions, then, because the British are more fastidious than the Americans in their interpretation of international law, he would not have been able to do it.

This is an admirably cheerful narrative, according to which Tony Blair, instead of standing near the wall nursing a tepid glass of white wine and glaring resentfully at the festivities, sociably and happily “chose to be a part of it” (it being the party game of invading Iraq). It furnishes me, at least, with the delightful mental image of Tony Blair in 2002 and early 2003 padding around in his socks at Number 10, singing to the tune of “New York, New York”:

I want to be a part of it —
Baghdad, Baghdad!

What do you want to be a part of, readers?

  1. 1  NomadUK  December 14, 2009, 8:11 am 

    Actually, I think that would have been ‘Baghdad, Iraq!’, as I believe the ‘New York, New York!’ line consists of the name of the city followed by the name of the state.

    The number of syllables is the same, so it works.

    As to Tony, I really don’t understand why his admission hasn’t already resulted in his arrest.

  2. 2  Roger Migently  December 14, 2009, 8:31 am 

    What do I want to be a part of? I want to be a part of a world in which Tony Blair, George W. Bush and John Winston(!) Howard have been arrested, tried and convicted of war crimes and crimes against humanity, along with, perhaps, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Feith for starters and then, for complicity, half of the Australian front bench at the time and anyone from the Blair Labor government you care to name. I toyed with the idea of their punishment being daily water “not”-torture but my good nature has the better of me.

  3. 3  WIIIAI  December 14, 2009, 10:44 am 

    Baghdad, Baghdad, the city so nice we carpet-bombed it twice.

  4. 4  sw  December 14, 2009, 3:32 pm 

    As a follower, not a leader, I’d like to be part of @1, @2, and @3. I’d like to be part of: a) an argument that the second “New York” refers to the state; b) the prosecution of war criminals Bush, Blair, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Yoo, and, yes, Howard; and c) a wry, yuletide sing-a-long.

  5. 5  John Fallhammer  December 14, 2009, 4:13 pm 

    Baghdad is actually in Baghdad Governorate, so that does work.

    John Rentoul. He’s a part. One of the smellier parts of a goat.

    Anyway, how was it the lottery advert went? “You’ve got to be in it to win it.”

  6. 6  Dan A  December 14, 2009, 6:09 pm 

    New news! The Iraq war was pre-planned and not actually about the WMD that didn’t exist! More at 10.

  7. 7  Tawfiq Chahboune  December 14, 2009, 7:08 pm 

    Parliament voted on the invasion after Blair said the following on 25 February 2003:

    “I detest his regime. But even now he can save it by complying with the UN’s demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully.”

    Let us just say that there is a gaping inconsistency here. No doubt Rentoul will find a way of exonerating Blair.

    This backs uo Wolfowitz’s claim that WMD was a “bureaucratic reason”. In any case, Blair seems to be unaware that it is illegal to go to war just because you feel like it.

    Obviously with his appearance before Chilcot a few weeks away, Blair is starting to make his excuses, but seems oblivious to the hole he’s digging for himself. Or perhaps he’s acting like a lunatic so as to claim madness so as to scupper any moves to indict him for war crimes.

  8. 8  Stan Halen  December 14, 2009, 8:11 pm 

    Or perhaps he’s acting like a lunatic so as to claim madness so as to scupper any moves to indict him for war crimes.

    That’s good but, fingers crossed, useless.

  9. 9  Tawfiq Chahboune  December 14, 2009, 9:19 pm 


    Apparently we’ve all misinterpreted Blair. See:

    Rentoul goes on to make the following extraordinary argument:

    “Asked by Britton if he would still have gone on had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction, he said: ‘I would still have thought it right to remove him.’

    “Quite. But the British would not have been able to join the Americans in doing so because there would have been no legal grounds for it, and Blair could not have persuaded Cabinet and Parliament on that basis.

    “So that headline should read:

    “Blair ‘would not have gone to war without Iraqi WMD’”

    See! No, didn’t think so. Apparently the argument by Blair’s supporters is that by saying that he was prepared to go to war without the WMD pretext, Blair is actually arguing that he would not have gone to war! Not long ago Rentoul admitted his “slavish admiration” of Blair. I’d say this goes beyond the call of duty.

  10. 10  Andrew Bartlett  December 14, 2009, 9:20 pm 

    Broadmoor then? Or Arkham?

  11. 11  Hey Zeus  December 15, 2009, 11:09 am 

    Arkham without a shadow of a dark doubt.

    I would like to be part of a studio audience watching Paxman have another crack at wrestling the truth out of that little weasel.

  12. 12  Andrew Bartlett  December 16, 2009, 2:24 pm 

    Re: Arkham: I’ve got the panels of a quite frightening, but as yet unwritten, Batman comic running across the mind’s eye.

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