Last night I noted a post on Free Frank Warner that claims Tony Blair has abandoned the moral high ground because he won’t make the end of Saddam’s atrocities a major justification for the liberation of Iraq.
Today he writes
In President Bush’s Sept. 12, 2002, speech to the United Nations, Resolution 688 was the first U.N. resolution he cited as evidence that Saddam Hussein was an international outlaw.
That was the resolution ordering Saddam to stop repressing the Iraqi people. And when the Security Council adopted U.N. Resolution 1441 on Nov. 8, 2002, that new resolution cited Resolution 688 as one of several U.N. orders Saddam had failed to comply with.
“Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal,” Bush told the U.N. in his 2002 address. “The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it.” Then he went on to challenge the U.N. to enforce all its resolutions.
The point is, the removal of Saddam’s regime was justified on several grounds, including Saddam’s failure to stop repressing his people, his failure to comply with other terms of the 1991 cease-fire, and his failure to cooperate fully with U.N. weapons inspectors. And each of these failures is listed in Resolution 1441.
Although I didn’t recall that Bush first cited UN Resolution 688 or the contents of 688, I am very aware that Bush repeatedly made the case that Saddam’s inhumanity was a threat to more than just Iraqis. In other times and places, he and Blair both brought the issue up.
My disagreement with the post isn’t that I think the humanitarian cause wasn’t justification, and it isn’t that I think Bush and others didn’t bring it up. My disagreement with the post is that I don’t think Blair has abandoned the moral high ground. While not as big of a Blair fan as many seem to be, I do believe that he has an articulate manner and presents himself in a way that appears more openly honest than George Bush does.
I don’t believe that his sticking to what was the major point in the months leading up to the invasion, weapons of mass destruction, means that he’s ignored the other very valid points.
Bush and Blair, in my humble opinion, backed themselves into a corner of sorts by overplaying the WMD angle. I believe this happened primarily because that was the angle most likely to gain international support, and, despite willingness to go in alone if necessary, they certainly wanted as much international support as they could get. Despite the UN resolutions and the facts of the matter, the court of public opinion thinks the war in Iraq was about the WMDs.
Perception has a way of making things real, but I don’t believe that it was about the WMDs. To be honest, I think the war in Iraq has been going on since August, 1990. The US involved itself directly in 1991, and, despite a lengthy ceasefire, it’s been going on ever since. We decided to finish it. Blair has responded to their position in a corner by arguing (correctly, I believe) that they remain right about the threat of WMDs and ties to terrorist and security issues. Bush has responded by pretending that they aren’t in a corner.
I DO believe that we did the right thing. I also wish, however, that Bush would acknowledge the fact that some of his justification wasn’t as ironclad as he claimed it was, and that things have been harder than we expected in the post-invasion phase. I wrote about this in September.
Weapons of mass destruction gave Bush, Blair, and the other leaders of the coalition of the willing a lot of political cover in the aftermath of 9/11. They played the card repeatedly. I’m not convinced that they leaned on intelligence agencies any more than normal, and I’m not convinced that they intentionally ignored signs that Iraq might not have the WMDs after all. But there’s no doubt, despite UN resolutions and the public knowledge of Saddam’s atrocities, the WMDs were an overriding factor in the decision to invade, at least in the mind of the public.
In conversation with a Liberal friend of mine over the past year, I’ve stated repeatedly that I don’t think the administration made a very good case for war. He counters that they made an excellent case for war, as proven by the polls showing support in the months before and after the invasion. What I really mean is that I don’t think they made the RIGHT case for war, at least not very well.
Warner is absolutely correct that the humanitarian crisis in Iraq, by itself, could have justified regime change. But, despite bringing the subject up many times and despite the pseudo-legal grounds of UN resolutions, it was the WMD case that caught the public imagination and it was the WMD case that was made most strongly.
Not only do I NOT believe that Blair has abandoned the moral high ground by refusing to bring up the humanitarian issue, but I believe that he is actually walking the straighter and narrower of the paths available.
Go read the Warner post. He makes many good points and is certainly someone to be taken seriously.