By WILLIAM SHAWCROSS
Wall Street Journal May 5, 2005.
LONDON -- Politics is all local, especially at election time. But the
"Little Britain" manner in which Tony Blair's enemies have exploited Iraq
before today's election is a real disgrace.
In their extreme zeal to try and prove that "Blair lied," his critics
amongst the Conservative Party and the Liberal Democrats -- and all the
left-of-center, fashionable bien-pensant writers, actors and intellectuals
of London -- resolutely turn their face against the realities of Iraq and
of the Middle East itself. Listening to the tone of the debate, you would
think that there were no Iraqis out there and that "Iraq" was merely a code
word for some appalling new kind of politically incorrect abuse. You would
think that George Bush and Mr. Blair invented the threat from Saddam.
Entirely missing from the debate is the fact that Saddam had used WMD
against his own people as far back as 1988, had tried to expunge another
member of the United Nations from the map, had murdered hundreds of
thousands of his own people, and had consistently refused to cooperate with
U.N. disarmament inspectors throughout the 1990s.
In 1998, President Clinton, the darling of many of those who loathe Mr.
Bush (and now Mr. Blair), warned that "If we fail to act [Saddam] will
conclude that the international community has lost its will. He will then
conclude that he can go right on and do more to rebuild an arsenal of
devastating destruction. And some day, some way, I guarantee you he'll use
the arsenal." None of Bill Clinton's admirers in Britain quote that today.
Charles Duelfer, head of the Iraq Survey Group, shows in his devastating
final report that since 1996 Saddam had successfully subverted both
international sanctions and the U.N.'s Oil for Food program to build up his
regime again. Charles Kennedy, the leader of Britain's Liberal Democrats,
says that we should have put our faith in the Security Council. He cannot
have looked at the extensive covert transactions, detailed in Mr. Duelfer's
report, undertaken by sitting members of the Council in direct violation of
the resolutions they themselves had passed.
Of course it would have been better if we could have got a second Security
Council resolution. But President Jacques Chirac, Saddam's closest ally in
the West, decided to stop that. Mr. Duelfer uncovered one Iraqi
intelligence report which said that French politicians had assured Saddam
in writing that France would use its
U.N. veto against any U.S. effort to attack Iraq. In March 2003, France
threatened to do just that.
Anyone who pretends -- as many of Mr. Blair's opponents do -- that Saddam
could have been controlled by the principled resilience of the Security
Council in 2003, is deliberately ignoring history. Moreover, the sanctions
which contained Saddam -- and indeed, also profited him -- had devastated
Iraq's people. Opponents of Western policy toward Iraq used to emphasize
that before March 2003. Now they never mention it.
Mr. Blair's position in March 2003 was not dishonest, it was just
unenviable -- stuck between the rock of his own party's intransigent
leftwingers, and the hard place of
U.S. determination. When they attack him, Mr. Blair's enemies ignore all
the benefits that have flowed -- with pain and blood -- from the decision
to invade. Quite apart from not lauding the removal of one of the worst and
most destabilizing of modern tyrants, Mr. Blair's critics rarely
acknowledge that eight million Iraqis voted in January in the freest
election that ever took place in the Arab world -- thanks to Mr. Blair, Mr.
Bush, Australia's John Howard, Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, and others. Why
are British leftists so silent about the horrors of the terrorists in Iraq,
who torture union leaders and murder democrats?
Are they not pleased that for the first time in any Middle Eastern country
(or indeed almost anywhere) almost a third of elected MPs are women? Why do
they not place themselves squarely on the same side as Sheikha Lameah
Khaddouri, the Iraqi woman MP who was shot repeatedly in the face last
week, becoming the first of the 89 new women MPs to be murdered? Why do
they ignore the fact that another of Saddam's mass graves was found last
Why do they not listen to Iraq's new president, the Kurdish leader Jalal
Talabani? He says that Iraqis "wonder in amazement" at the debate over Iraq
in Britain today. "Britain should be proud that the liberation of Iraq has,
in our eyes, been one of your finest hours. History will judge Prime
Minister Blair as a champion against tyranny. Of that I have no doubt."
I can think of many, many reasons to vote against Mr. Blair's New Labour
party today. But it is really depressing that his role in liberating Iraq
(and previously Sierra Leone, Kosovo and Afghanistan) is just the subject
of vulgar abuse by Little Englanders. To them anti-Americanism is far more
important than solidarity with Iraqis trying to build a new society.
Martin Gilbert, Winston Churchill's official biographer, has written that
Messrs. Bush and Blair may be remembered as the new Roosevelt and Churchill
for their courage in facing down one of the great international threats of
our time. Many of Mr. Blair's opponents, on the other hand, will be quickly