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Calvin Freiburger

Tony Blair: America’s Ally, Britain’s Pariah

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Posted on February 1 2010 4:55 pm
Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College. He also writes for the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.
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Last week, NewsReal’s John L. Work reported on the Chilcot Inquiry’s questioning of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair over his support for the Iraq War.  Today, Andrew Neil writes for the Daily Beast about Blair’s performance at the hearing, and the political fallout from his refusal to back down:

Even his many critics concede that Mr. Blair turned in a polished, assured performance, after his shaky (contrived or not) start. The collection of Establishment worthies that make up the Iraq inquiry barely laid a glove on him. But he changed few minds or made any new friends—and it wasn’t just his media critics he failed to convince: Post-performance polls show that the British public was not convinced either.

One poll published Sunday shows that eight of 10 still think he has lied about Iraq, seven of 10 think the war was illegal, and six of 10 think it has increased the terrorist threat Britain faces. These are damning judgments, and not just because they show that Iraq remains the biggest blight on Mr. Blair’s premiership. They are bad news for his ruling Labor Party, too, because, unlike America, where attention is now more focused on Afghanistan, Iraq remains a huge issue of controversy and concern in British politics.

Neil asserts that Blair’s claims to have been motivated primarily by the threat of weapons of mass destruction have been all-but discredited, because, not only did the pre-war intelligence turn out to be faulty, but also because Blair was sympathetic to Iraqi regime change prior to the United Nations’ final efforts to resolve the crisis diplomatically.

All parties acknowledge that what we found in Iraq did not match what we expected to find.  However, as Discover the Networks’ extensive file on the issue reveals, we also know that the international pre-war intelligence consensus was made in good faith, that we found some WMD evidence, that Saddam Hussein was willfully deceiving the international community about his capabilities, and that there is reason to suspect additional WMD material was moved out of the country shortly before the war.  Whatever particular flaws the Chilcot Inquiry may have highlighted, it is hard to see how they could detract from the totality of the evidence.

As for Blair’s supposed belief in toppling Saddam regardless of the WMD situation: there were other legitimate reasons for believing Saddam’s Iraq posed an external threat, not the least of which was the regime’s well-established ties to international jihadist groups, or perhaps the fact that Saddam tried to assassinate President George H.W. Bush.  If Neil thinks Blair’s premature support for regime change is scandalous, one wonders what he thinks of the fact that President Bill Clinton endorsed the idea of Iraqi regime change in 1998, also “long before the U.N. process to deal with Saddam had been exhausted.”

It should not surprise us to learn that any serious leader would have given serious thought to forcibly ousting such a dangerous man as Saddam Hussein at any time between the first and second Gulf Wars, and regardless, the fact remains that Blair never actually acted upon such impulses until after the U.N.’s last stab at diplomacy predictably proved useless.

Lastly, the implication of calling Blair dishonest is that he had ulterior motives of some kind.  But what?  Is he on Halliburton’s payroll too?  Consider Neil’s description of Blair’s current predicament:

Mr. Blair will not say sorry and the British public will not forgive him. As a result, he is a stranger in his own land, and such is the dark Iraqi cloud that still hangs over British politics, he could remain a stranger for the foreseeable future, perhaps for the rest of his life. It would certainly seem to rule him out playing any role in the upcoming spring general election campaign, and the bellicose line he trotted out against Iran at the inquiry will surely inhibit his effectiveness as Middle East peace envoy.

This doesn’t sound to me like a man reaping the spoils of some dark scheme; rather, it sounds like a man willing to put his very reputation on the line for the sake of defending free men and women in his native England and abroad—a man who has paid the price, yet refuses to abandon what he knows to be right.  Andrew Neil might see fit to smear him as someone who doesn’t even regret “the loss of British lives” in the war, but in my book, Tony Blair is a hero.

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Hailing from Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, Calvin Freiburger is a political science major at Hillsdale College.  He also blogs at the Hillsdale Forum and his personal website, Calvin Freiburger Online.

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