Blair-Bush & Iraq: It’s not just the quagmire but the Lawbreaking & Deception

By Juan Cole

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair is complaining that he is unfairly blamed for causing the current mess in Iraq and that if Saddam had still been in power it would be just as unstable.

He is, perhaps deliberately, missing the point. His invasion of Iraq was illegal and based on deception and propaganda. That was what was wrong with it. A quagmire that is the fruit of illegality and fraud is the worst.

The UN Charter allows of only two legitimate grounds for war. One is self-defense. Blair was not defending Britain from Iraq when he invaded and captured Basra.

Blair gave the opposite impression to the public. He delivered a bizarre speech in which he said that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction against Europe in as little as 45 minutes. It is not even clear what that assertion could possibly have meant. Iraq had no delivery system for getting chemical weapons to Europe, and you couldn’t have hoped to obtain so much as a sandwich in Baghdad in only 45 minutes. Saddam in any case had no such weapons. British officers scratched their heads and supposed that Blair had misunderstood some briefing he received.

Blair had wanted to misunderstand the briefing. The British ambassador in Washington during 9/11, Sir Christopher Meyer, revealed that the Bush crew wanted an immediate war on Iraq in September 2001. Blair was afraid that if the Neoconservatives left Bin Laden and his training camps in Afghanistan alone and ran off to Iraq, that al-Qaeda would be free to hit London next. So he did a deal with the devil and persuaded Bush to hit Afghanistan first, with the promise he would support an Iraq war later. The ambassador also revealed that the Neoconservatives were worried that the grounds on which they wanted to hit Iraq could also be invoked against Israel (ethnic cleansing, weapons of mass destruction, wars of territorial aggression). They needn’t have worried. Fairness is not a feature of american foreign policy discourse.

The other grounds for war is a resolution of the UN Security Council designating a regime a threat to world peace. The UNSC declined to so vote with regard to Iraq.

The UN Charter was designed to prevent more Nazism and wars of aggression. Undermining this edifice of law encourages militarism and aggression.

Some argue that a third grounds for war should be added, prevention of an obvious genocide. This principle can be debated, but there was no genocide going on in Iraq in 2002, and the Bush-Blair invasion and occupation significantly increased mortality rates. The Saddam Hussein regime did kill people. But many of those died in the Iran-Iraq War, in which Reagan and Thatcher backed Iraq, the clear aggressor. To then use the casualties of that war as a basis for invading Iraq in 2003 is Orwellian.

Blair’s smarmy Christian crusaderism and hatred of Islam drove him to justify the wicked means by what he saw as noble ends.

In summer of 2002, the head of MI-6, British intelligence, visited Washington to consult on the budding war. He was appalled at the atmosphere of intrigue and deception and reported back to London that the intelligence was being fixed around the policy. In intelligence circles, analysts and field officers who tell the executive what it wants to hear, despite the contrary known facts in the field, are called weasels. Sir Richard Dearlove was warning Blair that elements of the CIA and the Pentagon (the ‘Office of Special Plans’) had turned weasel. Deerlove did not realize that Blair himself was a weasel. Blair suppressed the memo.

Blair denied that petroleum was a motivation in the war. But we now know that BP vigorously lobbied him in fall 2002 to make sure it got oil bids after Saddam was gotten rid of, afraid that two Texas oil men in the White House would cut them out of the deal. As it turns out, burning petroleum is destroying the world and inflicting extreme weather events like enormous floods on the UK and it should be outlawed, much less fighting wars to get the poison out of the ground.

Bush and Blair met in winter 2003 and discussed how to bait Saddam Hussein into providing them with a legal cause of war. They considered flying planes over Iraq with UN insignia, in hopes a trigger-happy Iraqi soldier manning an antiaircraft battery would shoot it down. The whole enterprise was false and low in every way.

Blair’s Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, warned him in spring 2003 that there were no grounds in international law for a British invasion of Iraq, and that he and his government officials could face a trial at the Hague if he went through with it. Blair hid the memo, quite dishonestly, from his cabinet. He then pressured the poor man to revise his opinion. Even so, some ministers resigned over the naked act of aggression.

Blair’s version of the Labour Party was a surrender of Labour principles to billionaire backers like press lord Rupert Murdoch, who ministers say was a ghostly presence at all cabinet meetings. Murdoch wanted the Iraq War, convinced it would bring more petroleum online (the international embargo of Saddam’s oil would end if he was overthrown). Murdoch predicted $14 a barrel (Brent crude is $113 now). Murdoch’s tabloids routinely hacked into people’s private telephone messages, and used this intelligence to get scoops and possibly to blackmail people. Murdoch threatens politicians with bad press if they defy him.

The only satisfying part of this sordid destruction of British democracy and the domestic and international rule of law is that Murdoch had taken a younger Chinese wife, who developed a thing for Blair, breaking up Murdoch’s marriage (Blair denies an affair but they secretly spent weekends together).

It was this pattern of sneakiness and outlawry in Blair’s conduct and more especially in his prosecution of a war that deeply harmed both Iraq and the UK that was objectionable, and is the reason for which the subsequent catastrophe so sticks in the craw.


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19 Responses

  1. It will be interesting to read a biography of Tony Bliar in a decade or two with some likely similarities to the story of and, hopefully, the ending of Icarus. Suggestion to librarians: File it in the biography section under “Villains.” He probably won’t be in the same league as Hitler and Stalin unless the current conflagration spreads.

    And, what do his prominent role in international affairs and post-premiership payoffs say about how this world is run?

    • Given the thought processes of the masses and the people who manipulate them, Tony Bliar’s future may follow a path similar to Henry Kissinger’s. They have a lot in common.

  2. Not surprisingly, David Brooks is blaming Obama for the crisis in Iraq and Syria: “The same voices that warned about the hasty Iraq withdrawal urged Obama to strengthen the moderates in Syria. They were joined in this fight by a contingent in the State Department.”

    The “same voices” were those who promoted the war on Iraq, and the “contingent from the State Department” most likely included the neocons who helped to create the crisis in Ukraine.

    “What neocons want from Ukraine crisis: Special Report: The Ukrainian crisis – partly fomented by U.S. neocons including holdovers at the State Department – has soured U.S-Russian relations and disrupted President Obama’s secretive cooperation with Russian President Putin to resolve crises in the Mideast,” reports Robert Parry. – link to

    • One might call these creatures “Orcs,” and be close to the mark. Scratch and snap and screech and claw, eat human flesh or each other if that’s all that’s available, thrive on darkness, butchery and despair, in groveling service to the All-Seeing Evil Eye of NSAuron…

      And to think that once they too shared human genes… Eeeewww…

    • A very informative article. Recent neocon moves from Syria to Ukraine back to Iraq.

      They were coming out of the woodwork on the Sunday morning news shows.

      “Apocalypse Now” or very soon if Obama doesn’t start bombing. Peter King had on his most serious face.

  3. Fun pix on CSPAN, some reactionary Republican legislator lecturing Hagel on his Constitutional role vis-a-vis Congress, how the White House was supposed to have given notice of the Bergdahl initiative to those very serious, very concerned Constitutionalists. Peppery response from Hagel, to which the Honorable Representative from Florida replies, “We are a nation of laws, sir, and you need to start respecting the rule of law.” Britain was supposedly the source of our tradition of “rule of law,” no?

    One version of the charade: link to

    How much cognitive dissonance and hypocrisy can we stand, here, and there? Apparently quite a bit…

  4. Mr Cole, your support of the Libya airstrikes was just as illegal and unconstitutional as the UK’s role in Iraq War. That needs to be noted.

  5. Everyone is to blame…including the participants in the butchery of each other…the world leaders don’t have a clue of what to do…dr cole..sure would like to see your ideas on what actions can be taken that might go to solving the disasters in Syria and Iraq….

  6. Important people like Tony Blair do not lie. Everything they say is 100% true. How do we know it is true ? Because they state it with complete conviction. There is absolutely no hesitation or uncertainty ever. Regret or remorse is only an option that the weak and ordinary people succumb to. The thousands upon thousands that died do not matter. They lacked importance. None of them were billionaires or Tony Blair quality politicians/ world class leaders. The MSM had nothing to say about them and neither does Tony Blair. Tony Blair has never ever given them a second’s thought. His own contributions to the world are much more valuable than all the petty contributions of the million or so that died under the Iraq invasion. If a million people were murdered and Tony Blair doesn’t care about them… then how could it possibly have mattered anyway ?

  7. Prof. Cole – I rely on this blog as the most credible source of Middle East analysis and thank you for providing the service. I’m very curious to hear your opinions not only on how this latest mess will play out, but on how you wish it would play out. It seems to me – with the caveat that I have no idea what I’m talking about – that Iraq as a country is a flawed idea. Wouldn’t everyone be better off if it were broken into Shia, Sunni and Kurd nations? I assume that’s either over-simplistic or somehow not in Halliburton’s best interest but … please enlighten us. How practical would it be to do that, who would interfere with it being done, and why?

  8. Anyone delusional enough to have faith in our national political and military leadership needs to read this to get in touch with reality: “How to Evolve an Exit Strategy From America’s Foreign Policy Shambles: Polk Report” by FRANKLIN C. SPINNEY and WILLIAM R. POLK – link to

  9. Blair is one of the most nauseating, soulless and vile creatures to have blighted earth since the Borgia popes. I’d make an exception in his case to my opposition to capital punishment. George Bush I think suffers pangs of conscience, but Blair seems to exhibit nothing but a waxen mask of indignation.

  10. Anyone with lots of patience can find more on Blair’s misbehavior in various newspapers and magazines from 11-12 years ago. Now half-forgotten, there was a British scientist who knew how false the evidence was and exposed a fair amount of the obvious nonsense to the BBC. The scientist left the government and eventually committed suicide. The BBC producer who finally did a big story on the phony claims by Blair eventually lost his job. I wish I remembered the names of the producer and the scientist. They were both brave men. But there’s still more to tell, on both sides of the Atlantic.

    At some point we have to move on. But if the pro-war faction gets going too much, some more shit could easily hit the fan. There are still stories that have not been told.

    In 2014, the real question is how many people really get that the times have changed and it’s absolutely necessary to focus clearly on global warming, how we must deal with it, and how to deal with the many repercussions, including population disruptions due to things like droughts, floods, etc. and the growing cynicism in many capitals as politicians (and even wealthy businessmen) try to angle for the best advantage going forward. A great deal of that cynicism can be found here in the United States and can only damage our future.

    But the Middle East will continue to require attention. Here’s just one problem that needs more focus: what happens when the flow of oil finally stops? In fact, what happens when the flow drops to 50%?

  11. “Blair … delivered a bizarre speech in which he said that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction against Europe in as little as 45 minutes. … Iraq had no delivery system for getting chemical weapons to Europe”
    Weren’t there thought to be some missiles capable of reaching Cyprus?

    Blair’s “hatred of Islam” ? I can’t recall any evidence of that.

    But you miss the wider point. It has often been asserted in the last few days that “there was no terrorism or al-Qaeda in Iraq in 2003, before the invasion”. But neither was there in Syria.

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