There is a widely held view, prominent within the British media that Labour backbench rebellion against the Iraq war in 2004 was predominantly based on our rejection at the time of the “dodgy dossier.” Parliament gives voice to this red herring through the over concentration in the chamber on the past and future roles of weapons inspectors and the need for greater clarity on shared intelligence on chemical and nuclear weapons.
Yet for me, at the time one of many anti-war Labour MP’s, weapons of mass destruction were always less concerning than the weapons of mass distraction employed by Bush and Blair to try to excuse their warmongering and their ulterior motives.
At the time, I was also a member of the Labour friends of the Middle East and our own discussions over what was occurring were always far more expansive, and our concerns far more plural.
Those concerns, as they always had been were about the continued fragility of the Middle East states, and the concern that constant interference by the West in the affairs of these states could only lead to further unrest.
These States themselves of course were created on borders drawn up and imposed by “outsiders” undermining local self-determination and preventing any internal Arab solution being found.
So let us now be clear on the real cause of the current bloodletting in Iraq and Syria, let us place the blame squarely where it should rest. The blood indelibly stains the hands of both Tony Blair and George Bush Jr.
I personally recall in 2004 being interviewed under caution by Special Branch officers after a transcript of a meeting between President and Prime Minister came into my possession via my political assistant. The document you may recall was given back to number 10 as its disclosure at that time, in my view, would have placed British Troops engaged in the “theatre of war” in danger.
The two spooks interviewing me were keen to ask questions on my view of President Bush, mostly because I had already admitted discussing the document with colleagues from the Democrat Party in the States. I told them that in my view President Bush was the most dangerous man on the planet and that despite his own well documented claims, the true axis of evil existed far closer to his home than he had suggested and were in fact resident within the Whitehouse. The two officers were aghast, how could a member of the UK Parliament hold such “extremist” views? Well perhaps if they are reading this today they will understand far better the basis for my concerns.
As Isis (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) continues its offence against ill prepared Iraqi troops to build a Sunni based Islamic State which recognises no borders, the true cost of the West’s illegal occupation of Iraq becomes ever more apparent. Do we never learn? I thought by now that world history would have helped us prevent such mistakes not simply continue to repeat them. It really is very, very simple; any military occupation of any country will simply act as a recruitment agent for the forces rallied against you and any puppet regime placed in power by any evacuating army will always fall over simply by being labelled from the start as contaminated goods.
Tony Blair of course thinks differently, in a recent 3000 word essay he dismisses the claims of those of us who believe his war on terror simply made a bad situation a critical one, he says about the current crisis in Iraq that “We have to liberate ourselves from the notion that we have caused this” and there he goes again trying to “liberate” notions this time instead of nations! Which I guess is an improvement but it doesn't hold true. Despite the loss of well over 1m troops, insurgents and civilians in Iraq and of course also in Afghanistan since Bush and Blair’s wars began, my former Party Leader still wants us to hold on to the premise that without his involvement it could all have been worse! Open civil war, the use of chemical weapons by all sides, rape used as a war weapon, hundreds of thousands of children dead and dying through hunger and disease, neighbours killing neighbours, ancient cities flattened, villages wiped out and the numbers of fundamental extremists increased tenfold and he suggests it could have been worse! It just doesn't ring true.
What is true of course is that the enforced borders and invented nation states such as those of Iraq established by the British Empire in 1921 and Syria, a 1922 creation of French/British making which also formed the lands of Lebanon and British controlled Palestine, are going to be continuously challenged and fought over by local tribes and faith based militants.
This will continue until such a time that the Middle East is shaped in a form acceptable to those living in theMiddle East rather than that only acceptable to Western governments still intent on manipulating their own imposed regimes for their own ends.
It is also worth remembering when trying to work out what has gone wrong in Syria, before 1945 that the French Mandate created different States in Aleppo, Damascus, Alexandretta, Apatite, Greater Lebanon and Jabal Al Druze, and that borders in Mesopotamia were also redrawn ignoring the views of those in Kurdistan who were to be denied autonomy for decades to come. And yet now we try to preach to the dispossessed the language of unity!
The answer to the current crisis in the Middle East is not to be found looking down the barrel of guns either in the hands of Western Soldiers or those sold or gifted to Al Qaeda by Western Governments, it is to be found internally through negotiation (enforced if necessary with Arab peace keeping forces on the ground) and through the continued involvement of the Arab League Council. My current belief, uncomfortable as it may seem both to the West and to those of us who seek co-existence and secular nations is that the days of Iraq as a nation state could now be numbered and that will inevitably leave us with separate Sunni, Shia and Kurdish States.
At the moment the need to stop the bloodshed is of course far greater than any desire for perfect multifaceted Muslim nations, but if there is a hope of fixing Iraq’s damaged democracy and creating an Iraq and a Syria where Kurds, Shia and Sunni Muslims and Christians can live in peace together then the UK and the USA need to learn its lessons of the past and in future keep our distance.