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No, it would not be “wonderful” if Blair said sorry

John Rentoul

Richard Nixon 003 300x180 No, it would not be wonderful if Blair said sorryMy friend Stefan Stern repeats the old fantasy of the opponents of the Iraq war on Labour List today: that all Tony Blair has to do is to apologise and all will be right with the world again.

He expresses it in a reasonable and respectful way, which is refreshing enough these days, but I reasonably and respectfully disagree. The reason Blair will not apologise for the Iraq decision is not because he is in denial, or because he has received legal advice not to, but because it would be wrong to do so.

Stefan even says: “I do not think Blair lied about weapons of mass destruction.” Unfortunately he then falls back on the formulation that people such as Clare Short and Lord Butler think is terribly clever, namely that Blair “misled himself”. Let’s ignore that, and accept that everyone in Government, intelligence and Parliament acted in good faith.

In any case, Blair has already said, “I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong”, even though, as David Kay said in America, it was the intelligence services that owed the President an apology for getting it so wrong.

So for what does Stefan want Blair to apologise? Presumably he wants him to say sorry that the occupation was handled so badly and that so many people have died in the civil disorder since the invasion.

I think that the American and British people, through their elected representatives, do owe an apology to the the people of Iraq for making such a mess of their liberation. But Blair doesn’t think that. He thinks it was worth getting rid of Saddam to avert worse horrors (to simplify the argument best expressed in his memoir, A Journey).

In any case, for Blair to say “sorry” would be seized on by the feral beast of the media as an admission of guilt. The comparison with Richard Nixon says it all. Nixon broke the law. There would be nothing “wonderful” about the carnival of hate an apology would unleash.

Blair is not going to do it, and nor should he.

Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

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  • mightymark

    What you mean is that you don’t like the answers. Now you could for instance have chosen to explain why you disagree with them. That would have been more interesting and, who knows, maybe advanced the sum of human wisdom in the matter (!). That is what people do who want to debate intelligently. They don’t throw their toys out of the pram as you have done because others refuse to debate on their terms.

    I don’t doubt for one moment by the way, that “crux of the issue” for you is “quite simple”. That is your problem.

  • Andrew Braithwaite

    I would have been happy to explain why I disagreed if you would have provided me with an answer to the questions raised. Unfortunately, from a debating perspective, you decided against providing an answer instead you decided to prevaricate and widen the discussion.

    You speak of “widening the sum of human wisdom in the matter” which I find hilarious given that you cannot even answer a simple question.

    What is the problem with a little yes or no

  • mightymark

    Happy to resume discussion Andrew when you learn that you don’t have the right to dictate the manner of debate here any more than I do. If you have grounds to disagree you can easilly go ahead and state them any time.

  • Pacificweather

    For two reasons:human beings don’t change in 1000 years let alone 70 and politicians can only remember 10 years if something really politically important occurs. British foreign policy is designed to reflect the interests of the country ( as politicians see that). Has that changed since the 1920s? Are ordinary people more important to the than they were in 1920? Or course not. Home interests may change but not foreign policy.

  • TmWe

    “There would be nothing “wonderful” about the carnival of hate an apology would unleash.” I disagree.

  • mightymark

    If our foreign policy hadn’t changed since, lets not take 1920 but 1934, we would still be aiming mainly to defend the empire (India in particular) and starting again to worry about Germany. We don’t have an empire and don’t now – at least for military purposes – fear Germany. Would you like some more examples?

    Incidentally, when country A’s interests conflict with those of country B whose interests do you think country A’s foreign policy should represent?

    And your view on politicians memories contradicts what you say about the unchanging nature of foreign policy because if the latter is true it doesn’t matter that the Pols cant think more than 10 years back!

  • Rudehamster

    There’s no doubt that Blair should be arrested and tried for war crimes.

    He knew there was no evidence and yet, his god at his side, he pushed on. Then he ‘left politics’ rather than face the ignominy of being continually torn apart for his actions by his peers.

    Leaving politics and going straight into the arms of the Arabs he so lovingly cuddled up to over the years, his flagging bank account was boosted. No more of those embarrassing mortgage problems.
    He and Bush have scuttled off into their respective holes. Coining the revenue for their years of appalling decisions, whilst offering a mythical sky-fairy as their leading light.
    It’s pathetic and infuriating.

  • Pacificweather

    My grandfather fought in Afghanistan in 1873-4 and my nephew fought there in 2010-11 so my perspective on foreign policy cannot but be different to yours. Neither then nor now saw Afghanistan part of the empire. In 1843 and 1873 the threat was thought to be Russia, in the cold war the threat was though to be the Soviet Union and in Syria, yet again, it is Russia. So for 170 years foreign policy has not changed despite the fact that Russia has never attacked our interests and was our one of our allies in the second world war.
    When the interests of the people of country A conflict with the interests of the people of country B we struggle hard to think why that might be and we discuss the matter and do a trade deal. If country A invades country B that is not in the interests of either people but may have a political or economic advantage for a minority in both countries.
    It is not the fact that politicians have short memories per se, it is that they think that if they repeat an error it will have a different outcome this time. It is their memory of outcomes that is difficient.

  • mightymark

    Like the way you do the neat switch between Afghanistan (19th C and cold war) and Syria today – hardly the continuity I think you seek to show

    The causes of all three were different. Afghanistan 19th C was about the threat Russia constituted to Empire, in the cold war it was abuut the spread of ideology, Syria today is about the post cold war situation where the world is threatened by various kinds of irrationalism (religious fundamentalism, rampant nationalism) and dictators who may have WMDs – the situation loosed upon the world by the end of the cold war which while generally good manged to unleash a number of these pent up ideologies.

    If you think they are doing the world no harm and the powers responsible enough and powerful enough to do something about them should do nothing, you are entitled to think that but I don’t. I fear that letting these situations fester will be worse in the long run – i.e. yet more generations of your family and others will end up fighting even worse wars.

    You mention your preference for trade deals by way of foreign policy and I heartily agree. I suppose you do realise that that kind of thing makes up the overwhelming majority of foreign policy and diplomatic exchanges with war very much the exception. That alone should make you question the nonsense about wars having

    “a political or economic advantage for a minority”

    especially where the country in question is a democracy.

  • Pacificweather

    I like the way you believe you understand the causes of war. I wish I shared your confidence. At school they told me 50 million people died because an arch duke was killed by an anarchist. Now, if you believed that you’d believe anything. We have to face the fact that I am a sceptic and you are not or, at least, less of one than I am. You believe Britain is a democracy and I believe that democracy is the greatest fear of two thirds of the British people and the majority of politicians. Our views are irreconcilable but at least we can discuss them without rancour. If more people could do that there would be less trouble in the world.
    It is right, as you say,that true democracies are less likely to have a minority who want to take advantage of war for their own ends. Switzerland being the best example of this truism. Similarly, California has not been at war with its neighbours recently, despite being the home of defence contractors, but its profligate use of other people’s water could see that change in years to come (that is a foreign policy joke in case you wondered).


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