Thursday, 7 July 2016

Chilcot's Philosophical Conundrum

Regarding the Chilcot report, the following philosophical point looms large in my mind. If there were actually weapons of mass destruction (WMD) but they were either a) in Iraq but undiscovered, b) moved out of Iraq, or c) destroyed (either deliberately or in conflict), there would be enough people unapprised of their existence to engender a mounting campaign of being deceived by Tony Blair.

So, do you think Tony Blair deliberately misled the British public with information he knew to be false?

I don't, actually - I think he believed it at the time, or at the very least played fast and loose with the element of doubt and the necessary caution that ought to have been employed.

Sometimes caution costs lives too though?

Indeed it can.

I wonder what those who are always banging on about the 'legality' of the Iraq war would have made of our heroic activities in both World Wars?

Yes it's a relevant question. Under the legal luminaries' pretext those wars would have been illegal too. I think it is evident from our observations of neighbouring Middle Eastern states in 2003 and before that Tony Blair and George Bush made a Dulce et Decorum est-type of decision that the intervention was their equivalent of Churchill intervening while Hitler was making plans for the Rhineland (albeit on a smaller scale).

But the two situations are hardly comparable are they?

No, and it is much easier to assert that with the benefit of hindsight. But every historical failure in preventing genocide contributes to the decision-making process. The failure in averting World War Two is one of the gravest mistakes in Western History, and it was clear that Blair and Bush were never going to make that mistake in the Middle East, especially not after observing the intentions (and in some cases, actions) of the neighbouring Middle Eastern countries. One only need think of Chamberlain's reaction to Hitler sending troops into the demilitarised Rhineland - it seems a fair point to suggest that if allied democracies had acted sooner they probably would have prevented the Holocaust.

What about Blair's claim that "The world is a safer place now"?

Yes, well, the statement is true in about the same way that the statement "Jeremy Cobyn is a UKIP politician" is true if you replace the words 'Jeremy Cobyn' with the words 'Tom Cruise' and the words 'UKIP politician' with the words 'short Scientologist'.

And what about Blair as a war criminal?

No, not a bit of it. Those who foolishly argue that Blair should be sent off to the Hague ought to consider the correlative effects if such action were taken. No future Prime Minster would dare sanction any intervention in the foreseeable future for fear of the same reprisals, and that would somewhat tie our own hands behind our back and make our enemies sit up and take note.

Fair point.

Thanks. In actual fact, we probably already have a comparable situation. One of the other main lasting legacies of the Iraq war is that no British government is ever likely to attempt an intervention process in that way and on that scale ever again.

But what about those elusive WMDs - do you think they were there or not?

Possibly. The real question you have to ask is, if they were there at some point and yet not found, how would we know about it? One cannot simply claim absence of evidence as evidence of absence. If they were there, then the almost unanimous belief in their non-existence must go down as one of the occasions in human history when the greatest number of people were mistaken.

I don't know if there were WMDs, but as regular readers of this Blog will be aware, I am not the sort of person who automatically trusts the consensual view either. I'm open to the idea that there were, because I have heard a positive claim for their existence, whereas on the other side we've only heard that a lack of satisfactory evidence for their existence is enough to rule out their existence (people do this a lot when the subject is God's existence too).

Really? Who made a positive claim fro the existence of WMD?

The positive claim for WMD was from a man who served under Saddam and openly testifies that he had WMD. That man is Georges Hormiz Sada: a retired general officer of the Iraqi air force and a born-again Christian. He has had a book published (called Saddam’s Secrets) in which he talks about Saddam’s plans to destroy Israel, his attempts to control the Arab world and how he aspired to command and occupy much more of it.

Mr Sada also talks about his own role in supervising the removal of WMD to Damascus in Syria because Saddam was worried that the Western troops would find them. There have been many other sources which expose Saddam’s complex concealment plans, and the media have nothing credible to say on this.

Hmm, but one man's word against a mountain of investigative analysis is quite meagre though.

It is, but that just takes us back to the philosophical conundrum at the beginning. I mean, it is more generally known, I think, that Saddam had a nuclear centrifuge - or at least it was in its incipient stages, which was found by US troops thanks to compliant scientists.

Moreover, there had also been emergent information about a plutonium-producing reactor in Syria which had been hit following an Israeli air-strike; it was a reactor being built by the Syrians with the help from expert North Korean engineers.

So this rather incriminates North Korea and makes them culpable for their actions in securing nuclear knowledge to rogue leaders.

It is quite worrying that America seems so impotent in the face of North Korea’s nuclear proliferation, and that they have faced no penalties for their criminal activities. That is perhaps the most trenchant argument against reticence when it comes to nuclear weapons in the international community.

The much derided doctrine of pre-emption still stands over counter-arguments – and it is supported by the realisation that once a country with a fanatical leader acquires nuclear capacity it is that much harder to do very much about it. Any exaggeration regarding Saddam’s capability does not detract from the fact that inaction was seen by Blair to have been too risky, and any misjudgement on the subject of WMD might have brought about a Middle Eastern catastrophe that was perfectly plausible with the knowledge they had at the time.

Don't get me wrong; I didn't believe it myself, even though the Middle East was (and still is) the most unstable region of its size in the world - because despite it being a horrible dictatorship, Saddam's rule did to some extent keep the genie in the bottle, particularly when contrasted with what is going on now.