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Tuesday, 27 October 2015 06:33

Tony Blair's Non-Apology Apology for Iraq War Should Be Lesson to Jeb Bush

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MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT

aaaaaaaaaaaaatblairProtestors at a UK Iraq War inquiry in 2010 respell Tony Blair's last name to emphasize that he is a liar. (Photo: Chris Beckett)

In a highly qualified "apology" for the Iraq War - offered in an interview with Fareed Zakaria on CNN - Tony Blair grudgingly admitted that the war may have been partially responsible for the unleashing of ISIS. 

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Many British news outlets, such as the Guardian US, speculate that Blair was savvily using preemptive public relations to insulate himself from the expected criticisms of the upcoming publication of the UK Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War:

Did Tony Blair’s statements about taking Britain to war in Iraq constitute an apology? As far as Britain’s national newspapers were concerned, they certainly did not.

Most of the editorials and commentaries view his CNN interview as a spin operation ahead of the publication of the Chilcot report, which is expected, wrote the Guardian’s Richard Norton-Taylor, to be "damning."

The Daily Mail accused the former prime minister of weasel words in "an apology of sorts." The Daily Mirror thought he had delivered a "half-hearted apology" that "will bring no comfort to families whose loved ones never came home."

Blair, while acknowledging that the accusations that Iraq's Saddam Hussein was amassing weapons of mass destruction were false, doesn't concede that he knew that they were false as the Bush administration and the UK used the lie to feverishly market the war. In the lead-up to the war, UN inspectors repeatedly declared that their inspections showed that Hussein no longer had weapons of mass destruction. Yet, in 2015, Tony Blair still doesn't admit that the US and the UK had planned to go to war with Iraq regardless of any concessions that might have been made by Saddam Hussein.

This fact was confirmed in the "smoking gun" Downing Street Memo, which was leaked more than ten years ago. Journalist and scholar Mark Danner wrote in a June 2005, New York Review of Books article:

What the Downing Street memo confirms for the first time is that President Bush had decided, no later than July 2002, to "remove Saddam, through military action," that war with Iraq was "inevitable"—and that what remained was simply to establish and develop the modalities of justification; that is, to come up with a means of "justifying" the war and "fixing" the "intelligence and facts…around the policy." The great value of the discussion recounted in the memo, then, is to show, for the governments of both countries, a clear hierarchy of decision-making. By July 2002 at the latest, war had been decided on; the question at issue now was how to justify it—how to "fix," as it were, what Blair will later call "the political context." 

In an 2002 email (released publicly just this year) from then Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W. Bush, it was revealed that Blair pledged his support to a war on Iraq a full year ahead of its commencement. The Daily Mail, which on October 17 broke the story on the newly unearthed 13-year-old Powell email, noted:

A bombshell White House memo has revealed for the first time details of the ‘deal in blood’ forged by Tony Blair and George Bush over the Iraq War.

The sensational leak shows that Blair had given an unqualified pledge to sign up to the conflict a year before the invasion started.

It flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

He told voters: 'We're not proposing military action' - in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals.

Truthout's William Rivers Pitt also covers these documents in a recent Truthout commentary asserting that the massive death toll resulting from the invasion of Iraq amounts to a war crime.

Blair is trying to get the PR upper hand by offering what he hopes will be perceived as an apology, while not really backing off his conviction that the removal of Saddam Hussein was the right thing to do. As The Telegraph reported on October 26:

Mr Blair, who as Prime Minister ordered British troops into Iraq in 2003, told CNN that he regretted failing to plan properly for the aftermath of President Saddam Hussein’s removal. But he said that he would "find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam."

This brings us to the dwindling candidacy of Jeb Bush and his continuing defense of the Iraq War. Like Tony Blair, he blames faulty intelligence - allegedly poor intelligence agency work - not "fixed facts" for the false oaccusations of weapons of mass destruction. Like Tony Blair, he is unapologetic about the removal of Saddam Hussein. Like Tony Blair, he insinuates that the current spread of ISIS is due to other factors, as The Washington Post recounts:

"Of course you can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015," he told Zakaria, referring to the late Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. "But it’s important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring, which began in 2011, would have also have had its impact on Iraq today and, two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq." The Islamic State, which has seized large swaths of Iraq and Syria, is also known as ISIS, ISIL and Daesh.

In short, both Blair and Jeb Bush (as well as many other of the presidential candidates) still defend the Iraq War. The only difference is that Tony Blair, for posterity, needs to offer a mealy-mouthed explanation that he characterizes as an apology - but does not really qualify as one. Furthermore, Jeb Bush directly blames the Obama administration for not waging more war in the Middle East.

Jeb's position is much closer to Blair's than how you might first perceive Blair's CNN statement on ISIS's origins. After the CNN interview, according to the Guardian US, a spokesperson for Blair walked back Blair's qualified ISIS admission. The spokesperson's "clarification" of what Blair meant on CNN could come from Jeb Bush's campaign statements:

"He did not say the decision to remove Saddam in 2003 ‘caused ISIS’ and pointed out that ISIS was barely heard of at the end of 2008, when al-Qaida was basically beaten. He went on to say in 2009, Iraq was relatively more stable."

Blair is attempting to justify a terrible betrayal and a massive loss of life, which created a powder keg of chaos, by employing what Stephen Colbert famously called "truthiness." Again, it's not very different from the position of Jeb Bush, except Jeb doesn't extend a strategic "apology" on behalf of his brother.

What Blair, Jeb and George W. Bush (along with Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, et al.) have in common is a belief that they can - given the power of their perception of US military and economic might - ignore reality and create new "facts."

As Greg Grandin recalls in his new book, Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Read of America's Most Controversial Statesman (which will be featured as the Truthout Progressive Pick of the next week and available with a contribution at that time), Kissinger wrote what could be the credo for the Bush family (and Tony Blair):

There are two kinds of realists: those who manipulate facts and those who create them. The West requires nothing so much as men able to create their own reality.

This quintessentially embodies how the George W. Bush administration sold the war in Iraq and how his father sold Operation Desert Storm. It also embodies the militaristic worldview espoused by Jeb Bush (and some of the other presidential candidates).

As Grandin recounts, it was probably Karl Rove who unabashedly stated in 2004:

We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors.

The problem with the likes of Tony Blair, Jeb Bush, his brother, Karl Rove and their fellow "masters of war" is that having these "actors" of history in power leaves only a trail of bloodshed dripping down a pillar of deceit.

Not to be reposted without permission of Truthout.