February 10, 2003
By Stephen Gowans
A careful reading of the transcript of a February 7th BBC Newsnight Town Hall Meeting http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/2732979.stm
raises questions about whether British Prime Minister Tony Blair really believes Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.
It also suggests:
- Britain intends to press ahead with war on Iraq, whether explicit authorization is obtained from the UN Security Council or not;
- Blair doesn't particularly care whether his own people are opposed to war;
- The US-UK alliance intends to pursue more wars after Iraq.
Does Blair really believe Iraq has banned weapons?
"For you to commit British forces to war there has to be a clear and imminent danger to the country - what is it?" asked Jeremy Paxman, the moderator of the Town Hall meeting.
"The danger," replied Blair, "is that if we allow Iraq to develop chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they will threaten their own region, there is no way we would be able to exclude ourselves from any regional conflict..." [my emphasis].
Blair's reply is significant in a number of respects. First, he doesn't say that Iraq has banned weapons, as the Bush administration does. Instead, he presents Iraq's possessing weapons of mass destruction as something that could happen, and that must not be allowed to happen, not as something that has happened.
Moreover, Blair's argument is very different from Washington's. If Baghdad acquires chemical, biological or nuclear weapons it could threaten its neighbors, argues Blair, and if so, Britain would have to intervene.
Note that there is no direct threat to the UK implied in the Prime Minister's answer. The threat, instead, is to Iraq's neighbors, or more broadly, to the region, and therefore, presumably to one of Britain's major sources of oil (hence Blair's conclusion that Britain would have to intervene in the event of an Iraqi attack on a neighbor.) But Blair makes no attempt to portray Baghdad, as the Bush administration has done, as a potential arms supplier to terrorists.
Instead, in Blair's estimation, Iraq is only a possible threat, and to the country's neighbors, not to the UK directly.
An unauthorized attack is authorized
Paxman asked Blair to make an explicit commitment to seek another UN resolution authorizing the use of force before launching an attack.
"We've said that that's what we want to do," replied Blair.
That would have seemed to be enough, but for Blair, words mean whatever he intends them to mean.
Paxman sought clarification. "But you haven't given an explicit commitment that those are the only circumstances under which British forces will be used."
"What I've said is this," Blair explained. "Those are the only circumstances in which we would agree to use force."
And then he added, "expect for one caveat I've entered."
The caveat is that if a second UN resolution authorizing an attack is vetoed, an attack will go ahead anyway.
This is like Blair saying he would never cheat on his wife unless she allowed it...with one caveat. If she didn't allow it, he would do it anyway.
Paxman shot back, "But Prime Minister, this is, you say, all about a man defying the wishes of the United Nations. You cannot have it both ways."
Blair's reply: "If there is a breach (of the first resolution, Resolution 1441) and we do nothing, then we have flouted the will of the UN."
So, in other words, Blair and Bush must flout the will of the UN to avoid flouting the will of the UN.
Public backing: Preferable, but not necessary
Blair's not particularly concerned about whether his own people are opposed to war, except insofar as their opposition is a public relations problem to be dealt with "by persuasion," or propaganda by another name. Indeed, Blair's appearing at the Town Hall was part of an effort to make the case for war to the British people, not to listen to their concerns.
But with arguments like, We must flout the UN to avoid flouting the UN, and We will only attack if we receive authorization from the UN, unless we don't receive authorization, in which case we'll attack anyway, it's doubtful he's making any headway.
Headway or not, public opinion, like the absence of a second UN resolution, won't stand in the way.
"If there were a second UN resolution, then I think people would be behind me," Blair told Paxman. "I think if there is not, then there is a lot of persuading to do."
Blair didn't say, "If there is not, we won't go to war." He would never say that.
Perpetual war, perpetual fear
It was clear from the moment George W. Bush uttered the words "axis of evil" and Bush insiders starting talking about a war against terrorism that would last generations, that Afghanistan wouldn't be the only country to be subjected to a Washington-led, London-backed course of regime change attended by high-level bombing and the inevitable slaughter of civilians. The same fate would be visited upon a host of other countries. And the case for war would follow the pre-emptive attack doctrine enunciated by US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfled, borrowing from the Nazis. Countries not under Washington's thumb would be targeted as hostile countries that could attack the United States or furnish weapons of mass destruction to terrorists.
The doctrine, which depends on keeping the population in a high state of anxiety over terrorist threats to maintain support, is no different from a common thug mugging whatever passer-by is weak enough to put up little resistance, while justifying the attack as a pre-emption against a possible future attack by the passer-by. If you follow the reasoning to its logical end, security can only be achieved once you've wiped out everyone else; that is, by pursuing a perpetual war.
Blair is clearly following this script, as evidenced by his saying, in response to Paxman's question about when the war-making would end, that "we're going to have to deal with each of these countries," those countries being whichever country Washington orders to disarm or to purge its leadership.
If it wasn't already clear, the transcript shows the British Prime Minister to be an unctuous liar given to uttering Orwellian absurdities who has clearly aligned himself with Washington, not international law or British public opinion, both of which he clearly holds in contempt.
His transparent sophistry and outright lies, from his equivocation about a second UN resolution to his attempts to wriggle out of his lie about UNSCOM inspectors having been booted out of Iraq (to say they were withdrawn, says Blair, is to split hairs), shows the British Prime Minister to have so little regard for the intelligence of his own people that he believes they'll fall for anything.
Apparently they won't. Contempt for Blair, the man ridiculed as Bush's poodle, as the Right Honourable Member from Texas, and Mr. Vice-President, who Nelson Mandela dubbed Washington's foreign minister, is widespread.
And the contempt is well-deserved. Blair is a lickspittle, a brazen liar, and a phoney Christian who makes a show of his devotion to the Prince of Peace while making war and ordering the slaughter of civilians. Humanity would be well-served were Blair, and the system that pushes such contemptible human beings to the fore, knocked from their lofty perches, and replaced by something better.
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