Tony Blair dreads the publication of Chilcot. I and others warned him. In late March 2003, I wrote to Tony about Iraq:
Our involvement in Bush’s war will increase the likelihood of terrorist attacks. Attacking a Muslim state without achieving a fair settlement of the Palestine–Israeli situation is an affront to Muslims, from our local mosques to the far-flung corners of the world. A pre-emptive attack of the kind we have made on Iraq will only deepen the sense of grievance among Muslims that the Western/Christian/Jewish world is out to oppress them. This will provide a propaganda victory to Osama Bin Laden and can only increase his support and the likelihood of more acts of terrorism.
In the Commons you repeated that it is an article of faith to you that Britain and the USA should have a common foreign policy. Fine when there is an American President such as Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Carter or Clinton: disastrous when it is a right wing fundamentalist Republican such as Bush.
The vote on the Iraq war was the foulest episode of the Blair government. It was the whips who won it for Tony. The 139 Labour MPs who voted on a severe three-line whip against British involvement werepeacenik’s wars 131
not enough. There were 80 other Labour MPs who had indicated their worries by their support for amendments and Early Day Motions. They were bribed, bullied and bamboozled into voting for war, or abstaining. I wonder if Tony and the whips ever dwell on the thought that 179 British lives would not have been lost if they had told the truth and desisted from bellicose bullying.
Later Tony pontificated on the merits of ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’ military interventions. He exulted in the merits of deploying ‘hard power’. Experience proved otherwise.
It was the ‘hard’ choice to back Bush’s war in Iraq and to invade the Helmand province. Hundreds of British soldiers and an uncounted number of Afghans have been killed and little has been gained. It was ‘hard’ of Israel to invade Lebanon. It was ‘soft’ to call for a cease-fire. According to a Labour minister that would have been a ‘meaningless gesture’. Not for the children buried alive at Qana, the thousand killed and the millions whose homes were bombed to rubble.
It was ‘soft power’ to use our brilliantly effective troops to save hundreds of thousands of lives in Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Bosnia. If we had not over-committed ourselves in Iraq and Afghanistan, we could have embarked on ‘soft’ peacekeeping missions in Darfur.