Magazine article The Spectator

Mr Blair Is Being Timid in Not Joining the Nations Now Resisting the Hawks of Washington

Magazine article The Spectator

Mr Blair Is Being Timid in Not Joining the Nations Now Resisting the Hawks of Washington

Article excerpt


The Prime Minister is right. The whole credibility of the United Nations is at stake this week. If the Security Council buckles under the US blackmail to which it is now subject over Iraq, we can discount the organisation as an independent force for international order.

Among Spectator readers there are still one or two of us who, prey to instincts we flatter ourselves to call Conservative, mistrust proposals for ruinous and dangerous military adventures. In a way we dare think consistent with remaining Tories, we doubt not America's goodwill but her judgment in world affairs. We find ourselves stumped for words at the cheating to which our Prime Minister and his new friends on the Right have stooped in their arguments for war. Nobody would call the hawk's mind open, but the door of his intellect does seem to have been hospitably open to a bewildering series of opposing arguments.

First we were told that the point of cleaving to Washington was to steer America away from unilateralism. Then Tony Blair announced that Britain's support was essentially unconditional.

We were told the UN inspectorate was in Iraq to find weapons (and shown pictures of jeeps racing from site to site) - then, when they found little, that the inspectorate had never been there to search. The Foreign Secretary said that if nothing was found, that proved it must be hidden. Lewis Carroll would have enjoyed that.

We were told invasion was to be justified as self-defence - then, when this failed to impress focus groups, that the motive was humanitarian.

We were told Saddam would never show his weapons - then, when he showed some, that this only proved he must be hiding more.

We were told Osama bin Laden was probably dead but al-Qa'eda remained linked to Baghdad - then, on the emergence of a bin Laden message which Washington pretended proved a link, that Osama was alive after all. The message made plain (as some of us always argued) that al-Qa'eda despised Saddam but hoped to muscle in on Muslim anger at America. Our government ignored the point.

We were told Colin Powell would present conclusive evidence of Iraqi non-compliance - then, when Mr Powell's presentation proved inconclusive, that proof was a needle in a haystack, and what should be sought was a change in Saddam's 'attitude'.

We were told the aim was to oust the whole Iraqi regime and that (as with Augusto Pinochet) there could be no haven for monsters; then that it would be 'great' (Tony Blair's word) if Saddam found a safe haven somewhere.

Finally we were told that, in international law, Resolution 1441 already justified an invasion - and then that a second resolution was, after all, to be sought - and then that if this was vetoed 'capriciously' (Mr Blair's word) the veto would not count.

How irrelevant, how silly and how shameless the debate is going to look in ten years' time. Life being short, we might do best to spend no further exasperated passion on the ebb and flow of this martial tide. The US President wants his war; the President usually gets his way. Maybe that is all there is to be said.

But my ears have pricked up twice in recent weeks. There might yet be something new to consider.

They pricked up first at an essay written by Andrew Tyrie. The Conservative MP for Chichester made a suggestion hitherto unvoiced in a debate which has taken American hegemony as a given. Many, including me, have implied that America will push the world around because America can. …

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