Blair’s 'mad' verdict on Iraq

Was Tony Blair right to say the current crisis in Iraq was inevitable? Emily Hohler reports.

"I have come to the conclusion that Tony Blair has gone mad," says Boris Johnson in The Daily Telegraph.

In an essay on his website about the disaster of modern Iraq, Blair said the invasion of 2003 was in no way responsible for the present crisis, in which al-Qaeda has "taken control of a huge chunk of the country and is beheading and torturing Shias, women, Christians and anyone else who falls foul of its ghastly medieval agenda". Blair believes that this was "always, repeat always" going to happen.

The truth is that before 2003, there was no al-Qaeda presence in Iraq, and that by invading, we destroyed the institutions of authority without knowing what would come next.

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Johnson voted for that war, naively assuming there was a plan. But if the invasion was a "misbegotten folly", that does not mean, as many are now concluding, that all intervention is always wrong. We helped cause the disaster in Iraq, but that does not mean we are incapable of trying to make amends.

It's "cowardly rubbish" to say that you supported the smashing of the regime and trusted that various others "wouldn't balls up the aftermath", says Hugo Rifkind in The Times. The aftermath is what happens.

Iraq was a "bad war, fought for bad reasons", and we should be "chastened" bythe way that so few of us managed to engage with why it happened. Actually, Blair's comments are "fairly sane and even almost right".

Iraq under Saddam was not so different from Syria under Assad. "There's no reason to presume it would have handled the Arab Spring very differently."

Blair's argument that the Arab Spring is unlikely to have "left an Iraq still under despotism unscathed" is plausible, agrees The Times. The nightmare in Syria illustrates that inaction can "also have terrible costs". Yet, Blair wasn't entirely right, says Rifkind.

Critically, the invasion of Iraq has made intervention "toxic". The events of the Arab Spring have happened with "the nastiest of nasty buggers" reckoning that they didn't need to worry about the prospect of "meaningful Western intervention".

Tony Blair's contribution to the debate shows "no concern for justice, reason or even national interest", says Simon Jenkins in The Guardian. Wishing the best for Iraq doesn't mean we have to intervene, nor does inaction "render us guilty". Yet doing something imposes obligations.We are in a state of moral confusion.

Iran, erstwhile "axis of evil", is our best friend now that we're "in a spot of bother with Iraq", while Syria's Bashar al-Assad is perhaps for the time being a "force for stability and order".

It must be appealing to certain politicians to "somehow turn ten years of disaster in Iraq into a final victory. That is why the causes and effects of 2003 must be nailed to the wall, time and again. Trillions of dollars were spent and tens of thousands of people died, for no good reason then and no good reason now."

Emily Hohler

Emily has extensive experience in the world of journalism. She has worked on MoneyWeek for more than 20 years as a former assistant editor and writer. Emily has previously worked on titles including The Times as a Deputy Features Editor, Commissioning Editor at The Independent Sunday Review, The Daily Telegraph, and she spent three years at women's lifestyle magazine Marie Claire as a features writer for three years, early on in her career. 

On MoneyWeek, Emily’s coverage includes Brexit and global markets such as Russia and China. Aside from her writing, Emily is a Nutritional Therapist and she runs her own business called Root Branch Nutrition in Oxfordshire, where she offers consultations and workshops on nutrition and health.