Tony Blair: We Invaded Iraq to Change the Region

The Guardian reports on the contents of an upcoming Beeb interview with Tony Blair, in which he suggests he would have invaded Iraq even if he had to offer a different reason for it, other than WMD. (h/t Steve)

Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public.

The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

“If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”.
Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.”

What I find really interesting from this story, though, is his further admission–that he supported the invasion because without removing Saddam, it would have been hard to change the region.

“This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region. Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have been very difficult to have changed it in the right way.”

I really really really hope Fern Britton went on to ask him whether he thinks the catastrophic war against Iraq has, in the end, “changed [the region] in the right way.”

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43 replies
  1. qweryous says:

    I found this reminiscent of a certain stubbornness, coupled with certainty that allows ignoring the obvious; thereby disastrous consequences that many others foresaw……
    From the Guardian article:

    “I think sometimes people think my religious faith played a direct part in some of these decisions. It really didn’t. It gives you strength if you come to a decision, to hold to that decision. That’s how it supports your character in a situation of difficulty.”

    Most “really hard” decisions involved a “downside and an upside either way”, he added.”

    I also wonder what was the desired end result of the change that he envisioned :
    …”it would have been very difficult to have changed it in the right way.”

  2. bobschacht says:

    Unfortunately, if the regional change winds up being “good” in some sense, that should not justify the invasion. There’s always that “end justifies the means” thing.

    I think it more likely that in the short range, the change will be considered “good” (despite the thousands of Iraqi dead), because we will (remember, this is short range) leave a “friendly” regime in control, and our major oil companies have all the contracts for Iraqi oil, and a threat to Israel will have been neutralized.

    But it won’t be long before Maliki’s government is deposed, the oil will be nationalized, and whoever is in power in Washington will be blamed for “losing” Iraq.

    Bob in AZ

  3. GulfCoastPirate says:

    Hi all. Thought I’d check in and see what was going on and wish everyone a happy holiday season.

    So let’s see, the last three threads:

    Another neocon admits he lied
    A Democratic Senator has his mistress do his divorce settlement

    and

    A Democratic Senate is fixing to throw the regular citizen under the bus in favor of Wall Street

    Am I missing anything?

    I guess all that ‘hope and change’ business last fall was just a bad dream. I’m beginning to think it’s about time for Ron Paul. If I took my three iron to DC and picked up a couple baskets of balls which I started hitting in random directions how long would it be before I hit an honest person? Would I run out of balls first?

  4. alabama says:

    This isn’t just arrogance, it’s insolence. The man actually thinks he’s wiser today than he was during his turn as that lapdog in the bush.

    How do these people happen?

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Mr. Blair has the same problem as Shrub and Deadeye. If he admits he would not have gone to war, he faces ignominy and, if enough other damaging evidence comes to light, the potential for personal liability. So he has to stick to the script.

    Unlike here, these sorts of disclosures can still harm his chances for EU or UK employment and harm the chances that his Labor Party will remain in office after the next election. It calls into question the government’s credibility about its continuing participation in the Af-Pak war, too. (Funny how the Afghan war has morphed into a two-country campaign.)

    • kindGSL says:

      I think it also harms his chances of getting away with being a major war criminal, he is ever more likely to do jail time.

    • Mary says:

      I wonder if he put it to the Pope that way when he made his very public conversion – “I would have found a way to kill lots of Iraqis no matter what basis I had to make up” ?

      It may hurt him some re: employment in the UK, but he’s still got his slots at JP Morgan Chase and Zurich Financial (advisory) and teaching gigs at Yale – as well as his 6 figure speaking fees. Then there’s his slot as Middle East Envoy for the UN (where I guess he explains that if WMDs won’t work, he’ll find other excuses to decimate Muslim families, just give him a sec).

      In a weird – 6 degrees – way, Roman Polanski was going to be directing a movie that was purportedly based on Blair.
      http://www.variety.com/article/VR1117975536.html?categoryid=13&cs=1
      The Ghost.

      The recent Polanski focus of the DOJ triggered this op-ed from Harris, the author of, The Ghost.

      http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/30/opinion/30harris.html

      Cue the “small world” jingle.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    How odd for a Labor Party politician to brag about reinstituting colonialism as his country’s foreign and economic policy.

    • skdadl says:

      Blair hasn’t been Labour in any serious sense for a long time. From the beginning, the rebranding to New Labour warmed Mrs Thatcher’s heart, and while I think that the alliance with Bush was something of a match of cynicism and ambition and greed, I also think that Tony went seriously odd somewhere in there. I don’t mean just the turn to the church, either; he and Cherie are, well, odd, occultish.

      By the time of his last election (2005), he was hated by a lot of Brits, but they just weren’t ready to make the turn to the Tories then. Unfortunately, they probably are now, and Brown has never been able to overcome the anger that’s been building for a decade. If he’d challenged Blair sooner and harder, and very openly on Iraq, he might have had a chance.

  7. QuickSilver says:

    Many Britons worried that if he were elected, Tony Blair would return the Elgin Marbles to Greece. Instead he lied his country into war.

    Why is anyone surprised that the source for the pre-war claim that Iraq could attack British troops with chemical weapons (in 45 minutes!) was a taxi driver, who supposedly overheard two people talking in his back seat?

  8. Rayne says:

    Nice to see you, GCP. And you would run out of balls, even if you bought the ginormous bucket of shag balls at the caddy shack.

    “change the region” = improve access to oil, participate in a proxy war, encourage business through profiteering.

    In keeping with the golf theme, I’d say bogey-par-par for Blair.

    • GulfCoastPirate says:

      Rayne wrote:

      ‘“change the region” = improve access to oil, participate in a proxy war, encourage business through profiteering.’

      Didn’t The Who sing a sing about this a long time ago?

  9. perris says:

    If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?”

    the problem with that question is the word “if”

    we know as a fact blair DID know there were no wmds

    since that is now public record he MUST tell us he would go to war even if he had that knowledge since indeed he did

  10. earlofhuntingdon says:

    This is not a former prime minister engaging in a hypothetical debate with a journalist, just to stay in the news or defend his record from Monday morning quarterbacks.

    Mr. Blair’s evidence for WMD’s was faulty, at best. At worst, it was concocted as a politically potent, knowingly false excuse.

    He and Mr. Bush did invade Iraq for reasons other than a credible belief that it possessed, and that it could and would use weapons of mass destruction on other countries.

    • Leen says:

      And we have not seen one person not one held accountable for any of the false pre war intelligence. What was the point of those investigations into this intelligence? Phase I and II of the SSCI. I know Senator Pat Roberts did everything in his power to divert and delay the findings. But since then nothing has been done with those findings. No one held accountable.

      Did I miss it was someone held accountable for those Niger Documents? The thugs who fixed the intelligence around the invasion agenda ARE ABOVE THE LAW

    • Ishmael says:

      “He and Mr. Bush did invade Iraq for reasons other than a credible belief that it possessed, and that it could and would use weapons of mass destruction on other countries.”

      Wolfowitz said as much in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in 2003, when he told Vanity Fair that “For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on”.

      I have long wondered why Blair was so supportive of the US invasion, and I do think he is being (somewhat) honest when he says the reason was “Changing the region”. Just speculating of course. But when the UK was humiliated in the Suez Crisis in an attempt to remove Nasser and re-establish British influence in the Middle East in Egypt, Iraq and Jordan, it was the last time that Britain tried to use its military forces without the express support of the US. The US (and their new allies, the Saudis) were very opposed to the action and threatened to sell British bonds and crash the pound. Blair, who was a Clintonite “Third Way” type at one point, saw a chance to expand British influence in the Middle East, and banish the ghosts of Suez, but this time with the US as a partner instead of France and Israel.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Interesting hypothesis. I still think it was straightforward, old-time colonialism. It was the oil.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            You’re right, they were two sides of the same coin. Ownership and control of transshipment of goods through Suez was inseparable from the oil in the neighboring Middle Eastern countries. In 1956, at the height of a period of colonial wars in Algeria, SE Asia, East Africa, it was also essential to cram down the legitimacy of “native” leaders in, eg, Egypt, Cuba, Vietnam, Algeria, and any attempt by them to seize assets (whether compensated or not) owned by foreign corporations.

      • perris says:

        Wolfowitz said as much in the immediate aftermath of the invasion in 2003, when he told Vanity Fair that “For bureaucratic reasons we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction, because it was the one reason everyone could agree on”.

        that wasn’t it, the didn’t know what the public would buy and they all thought weapons of mass production would do the trick

        they knew any other reasons were no starters, for instance;

        “we want his oil”

        or

        “we want to remove him from power”

        none of those would fly, nothing would fly but a threat that didn’t exist so they created that false threat

  11. Leen says:

    “change the region”

    Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi people dead
    Tens of thousands injured
    Millions displaced

    All based on wanting to “change the region”

    If this were happenning to Americans or Israeli’s the MSM would be all over it.

    No need to wonder why people around the world hate us. They have very good reasons

  12. skdadl says:

    Please excuse the OT, but … : Michigan border guards beat and arrest nice Canadian writer who saves kittens in downtown Toronto:

    Peter [Watts], a Canadian citizen, was on his way back to Canada after helping a friend move house to Nebraska over the weekend. He was stopped at the border crossing at Port Huron, Michigan by U.S. border police for a search of his rental vehicle. When Peter got out of the car and questioned the nature of the search, the gang of border guards subjected him to a beating, restrained him and pepper sprayed him. At the end of it, local police laid a felony charge of assault against a federal officer against Peter. On Wednesday, he posted bond and walked was taken across the border to Canada in shirtsleeves (he was released by Port Huron officials with his car and possessions locked in impound, into a winter storm that evening). He’s home safe. For now. But he has to go back to Michigan to face the charge brought against him.

    The charge is spurious. But it’s also very serious. It could mean two years in prison in the United States, and a ban on travel in that country for the rest of Peter’s life. Peter is mounting a vigorous defense, but it’s going to be expensive – he’s effectively going up against the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, and he needs the best legal help that he can get.

    Why would they be hassling a Canadian who is returning to Canada?

    • PJEvans says:

      Some people commenting on this elsewhere are using the ‘you have to grovel before law enforement’ theory.
      (There is a loud and long thread on this over at Making Light. It was pretty much the sole topic yesterday.)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      According to that excerpt, the Border Patrol assaulted a traveler for asking what they were doing in searching his car. Ms. Napolitano seems to have inherited a team staffed by teenagers, bikers and chain gangers.

      The felony charge is a standard prosecutor’s response to police excess. It “justifies” the excessive behavior. It hides police brutality behind the traveler’s claimed “aggression”. It puts the traveler in an expensive, high-risk, defensive posture that lowers the odds he or she will sue the government for assault.

      Control, de-escalation, resolution patterns of policing have given way to Al Capone-style baseball bat “heroics”. Every milquetoast challenge to authority is seen as an existential threat. Janet Napolitano has some ‘splaining to do. Will she be made to do it?

      Meanwhile, in friendly Canada, I see that Paul Kennedy, three weeks away from being ex-chairman of the police complaints board, has come down with another decision. The RCMP tasering of a 15 year-old girl was “excessive”. The girl was tasered after being pinned down by three officers on her stomach, on the floor of a detention center (not an uncontrolled street corner or shopping mall). Her hands were already handcuffed behind her back. The officer shooting her with 50,000 volts was not certified in the taser’s use.

      The US seems to be as successful at exporting its violence and guns as it is exporting its movie stars and popcorn.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I should add that tasering excesses are an international phenomenon, not something peculiar to Canada.

        • Ishmael says:

          At least Tasers are still a prohibited weapon for individuals in Canada. The Kennedy Report is really something – if that report, along with several other judicial inquiries into Taser abuses against mentally ill offenders and other vulnerable groups like prisoners and young offenders, not to mention Taser itself warning police not to use chest shots, does not lead to the abolition of this dangerous and unreliable weapon in Canada, nothing will.

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            Yes, his inquiries and the Braidwood inquiry should be models for assessing and setting limits for the use of weapons against the public. The idea of assessing use of weapons before or after the fact, except by reference to the manufacturer’s own promotional materials, seems about as likely to catch on down here as naked ice hockey. Tasers are available here over the counter, like buying aspirin or a flash light.

      • skdadl says:

        I see that you noticed that Paul Kennedy is also losing his job at the end of this month — excuse me: I mean, the government is not extending his term. He’s got a lot of company these days — yesterday, eg, was Peter Tinsley’s last day as chair of the Military Police Complaints Commission — Tinsley’s attempts to investigate reports of prisoner transfers to abuse in Afghanistan and the government’s moves to block him were the spark for Richard Colvin’s testimony and the further investigations of the Commons committee. We’re learning to say that these people have been “Keened,” a reference to Linda Keen, former president of the Nuclear Safety Commission, who was just a little too keen about, y’know, nuclear safety for the Harperites.

        It’s become SOP for the government to stonewall any watchdog who’s actually doing her/his job properly until they’ve run out the clock on the appointment. In our country as in yours, few good deeds go unpunished in the public service.

    • Leen says:

      Jesus Mary and Joseph what is happenning in Canada.

      They held up Amy Goodman recently and told her to be out of the country in two days. Kept asking her if she would be talking about the “Olympics in Canada” for heavens sake

      Held up Medea Benjaman and Col Ann Wright a while back also.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        Those were Michigan-based US Border Patrol guards, not Canadian, working under the auspices of Janet Napolitano’s department, who assaulted, arrested and had charged with a felony a Canadian visitor who was leaving the good ole’ US of A, and who had the temerity to ask a border guard what he was doing rifling through his trunk.

        Needless to say, the border guard had authority to search a vehicle leaving the United States. Whether he and his mates had the discretion or authority to react quite so violently during a conversation with a traveler is a question I’d very much like Ms. Napolitano to answer and explain.

  13. Mary says:

    More OT small world

    Russia makes out big time in the Iraqi oil auctions
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091212/ts_nm/us_iraq_oil
    (Mr. Blair – would you still have supported the war if you knew it meant strengthening Russian interests and giving Russia more strategic control in the area?)

    Bulgaria, “eager to prove its loyalty” is going to adopt an abused stray dog from the pound take a GITMO detainee and … well, no one asks what they are going to do with them after they take them.
    http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20091212/ts_nm/us_bulgaria_guantanamo

    Elsewhere – Cuba has detained an American non-uniformed illegal enemy combatant USAID worker. Apparently she was providing material support to those seeking to overthrow Cuban government distributing cellphones, laptops, etc.

    Obama has vowed that, no matter what Cuba does to the American detainee, he ain’t looking nowhere but forward. He is expected to give a speech later explaining reality – that while the rule of law sounds like a great idea, all truly great nations and leaders know that now and then you have to pick up a few civilians and torture them, just to show you can.

    Meanwhile – the Phillipines have been living out Yoo’s law review article on the benefits of just letting the Executive declare martial law and ignore the rule of law.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091212/ap_on_re_as/as_philippines_massacre
    Martial law ended in Philippine massacre

    The Philippine president lifted martial law late Saturday in a southern province where 57 people were massacred in the country’s worst political violence

    The opposition said President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made the move to pre-empt possible censure by the Supreme Court. The court had ordered the government to comment by Monday on at least seven petitions questioning the legal basis for last week’s proclamation, which allowed police and soldiers to make arrests without warrants

    That would be the Supreme Court in the Phillipines – who apparently didn’t get Yoo’s message that they are supposed to shut up if the President wants to disappeare a few civilians

    • bmaz says:

      Really, it was a fucking brilliant plan – what could go wrong? Start an illegal war, against a country that had done nothing to us, lie, misrepresent and defraud to gin up the causus belli, bankrupt the US in the process and kill and/or cause the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis – all in order to substantially strengthen Iran and Russia. Mission Accomplished!

      • bobschacht says:

        Well, at least if Russian oil companies out-bid American ones, then when Maliki’s government gets overthrown after we leave, and nationalize all the oil companies, our Republican friends won’t be able to blame Obama for who lost Iraq and all the oil.

        Bob in AZ

  14. tatarewicz says:

    Blair is still not telling the whole truth. The sole reason American and British forces were used to depose Saddam was to stop him from encouraging Palestinians to blow up Israelis by the bus load in an attempt to get back lands stolen by Zionist terrorists. By fighting Israel’s enemies Blair and Bush would be assured of generous Jewish financial support in their parties’ election campaigns as well as by the media that Zionists control. I wonder what Blair’s response would have been had the interviewer been allowed to ask: Was the attack on Iraq as well as that on Afghanistan solely for the purpose of ensuring Israel’s security and dominance in the Middle East and consequent continued generous campaign support for your Party from the Israeli lobby?

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