Friday, 8 July 2016

Blair's War in Iraq 2003 : An Ideological Fantasy and Resource War.

‘Iraq was always America’s war. Britain was a mere hanger-on, a tin-pot cheerleader to America’s reckless aggression. ..The true message of Chilcot is that, in foreign policy, lessons are never learned, merely repeated. British governments repeated its misguided interventionism in Helmand and Libya’-Simon Jenkins,The Guardian.

“Old Porteous’s mind, I thought, probably stopped working at about the time of the Russo-Japanese War. And it’s a ghastly thing that nearly all the decent people, the people who DON’T  want to go round smashing faces in with spanners, are like that. They’re decent, but their minds have stopped”.-George Orwell, Coming Up for Air ( 1939 )

Simon Jenkins increasingly comes across as an updated version of Old Porteous from George Orwell's Coming Up for Air, a bemused figure who claims we have all seen it before, there isn't really that much new under the sun, lessons on futile war are never learned and there will be probably more stupid misadventures.

All of that appears true given the recent British history of military intervention in the Middle East. However, the ever more recurring crises and demands for war, euphemised often as mere ‘intervention’, without even the word ‘military’ preceding it, requite explanation beyond the vainglorious nature of politicians.

Jenkins clearly remembers Thatcher’s Falklands War of 1982 as a template in this respect and his mind seems to have stopped with that and the end of the Cold War. Yet the Cold War ended in 1990 followed immediately by the First Iraq War, a resource struggle that heralded a new epoch of conflicts explicitly about the protection of oil supplies.

Jenkins, as an old fashioned moderate patrician Tory journalist, has rejected the oil factor on Iraq no doubt because he thought the explanation for wars based on grabbing resources would seem a bit too Marxoid for his tastes. In fact, it does not take a StWC or SWP ideologue to understand that the Second Iraq War was an oil grab.

The Far Left Exploit the Iraq War and Take Control of Anti-War Protests.

In 2003, protesters in London marched back then with “No War for Oil” placards, as if the grubby materialist motive emphasised this was a ‘war of choice’ only launched by sinister vampire capitalists who craved profits and salivated at the thought of this and doing so through a hideous and ‘premeditated act of mass murder’ ( Harold Pinter ).

However, the slogan ‘no war for oil’ presupposes that if the war could plausibly have been fought for other reasons-which it was as no war is ever fought for just one reason alone-then it might well have had the claim to be the 'moral' and 'just' one that Blair claimed it to be. But many anti-war types are cynical-in contrast to Blair.

Indeed it is usually because Blair is assumed to be the cynic, while anti-war leaders were the idealists and real humanitarians, the Iraq War opened up the beginning of a polarisation on the British left which has had its ultimate consequence in leading Jeremy Corbyn, a leading StWC voice, becoming Labour Party leader in 2015.

Yet the fact is the StWC were never that interested in what was at stake in Iraq because they would have been against any war anyway launched for whatever reason. Their entire purpose is  just to 'stop wars', by which they mean Western Imperialist Wars and then exploit outrage when invariably they fail to build up radical anti-capitalist parties.

The problem a number of anti-war leaders in Britain, from Galloway to German, had with the war, was not that Blair would fail or that they truly cared about civilian casualties or deaths. As the remnants of the old communist left, invigorated with a new sense of purpose after the end of the USSR, for them mass murder was never an issue.

The actual issue was that 'bourgeois imperialists' were bent on a war with the support of the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and a New Labour leader who represented the culmination of political forces that had expelled militant socialists and Trotskyists back in the 1980s. The Iraq War could galvanise the revolutionary left again.

Even so, the fact unsavoury 'anti-imperialist' ideologues claimed Iraq was a war for oil should not mean that the fact it was about oil should be dismissed, as it was by Blair in a Paxman interview just before the war started, as an 'absurd conspiracy theory'. What matters is how the oil factor is integrated into a broader geopolitical strategy

The Chilcot Report

Jenkins states the obvious when he points out the Chilcot Report pointed out the obvious as regards the fact there was a rush to war, no credible proof of WMDs, that Saddam provided no credible threat and was contained and that the war was clearly not one of last resort when all other diplomatic options had been exhausted.

The question of why Britain joined the Iraq War in 2003, however, cannot be boiled down only to ‘Blair’s Folly’. There is no evidence, and the Chilcot Report bears this out in fact, that the Iraq War was misguided. On the other hand, nor is there any evidence Blair was a ‘warmongering Bliar’ who made war gladly as a sadistic psychopath.

All the evidence points to a war Blair was genuinely uneasy about in the sense of whether it would ‘work’ or not but that it would be still a ‘moral’ war to remove Saddam Hussein. Morality would then appear to inhere within a determination to act-literally in Blair’s case-once the US really did decide to go in’. Hence ‘I’ll be with you, whatever’.

Blair’s thinking dovetailed perfectly with New Labour’s vulgar utilitarian outlook. ‘The people’ are not that interested in thinking about big questions or ethical dilemmas but in observing Great Leaders being bold enough to rid the world of tyrants and make the world better not just for the few but for the happiness of the many. 

In that sense, Blair was perfectly at ease with standing by a decision once he had made it. But he made it because he really did ‘believe’ getting rid of Saddam Hussein had to make the world better and that as the US and UK together represented forces of Global Good, there was no way they could ever make it worse.

Blair himself claims that nobody could have seen the way the Iraq war would pan out with hindsight. Yet that is precisely what the declassified documents and correspondence revealed by Chilcot disprove. Blair himself had fears before Iraq could disintegrate. By 2004 he was panicking that it could ‘fall apart’ if there was no reconstruction plan.

Blair feared if nation-building did not occur, then the war would be portrayed as an oil grab in the way some of his domestic anti-Iraq War opponents accused him. But Blair disbelieved oil as a motive, even claimed it was a conspiracy theory, on the spurious basis he could have 'cut a deal' with Saddam, as if he had that choice. 

The reason is Blair 'believed' that the oil in liberated Iraq would work in a utilitarian way for the mutually beneficial interest of Iraq and the West. 'Democratic Geopolitics' meant the increased supply of oil would bring prosperity to Iraqis and lower high prices in the rich consumer nations such as Britain.

It is often forgotten how this had become a great concern to Blair in the wake of the oil price strike of September 2000 by haulage companies. Supported by the Conservative Party under William Hague, it had threatened another Winter of Discontent under a Labour government that the tabloids would spin to his discredit.

If the Iraq War was a war of choice, it was one too for Britain's consumer choice and high octane economy to work into the future as 'business-as-usual'. It is geopolitics and the quest for energy security, along with 'Democracy Promotion', that has driven the recurring trend towards military intervention. 

This does not mean that Iraq was anything less than Blair's responsibility. It does mean, however, that 'the people' may well be getting the politicians they deserve unless they start to understand that our profligate consumerism comes at a price higher than that at the pumps and increasingly in blood through war and terrorist blowback. 

So it isn't not just vainglorious politicians causing wars through stupid choices. It is that the bad choices are made more rather than less likely by the overdependence upon fossil fuels and the role oil plays in fuelling the global economy. That seemed more the case then than since shale oil bought time and room for geopolitical manoeuvre.

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