UK

Iraq Crisis Has US Neocons Responsible For 2003 Invasion Follow Blair In Rejecting Blame

17/06/2014 04:38 BST | Updated 19/06/2014 12:59 BST

Tony Blair’s utter lack of contrition for his role in the current crisis in Iraq made headlines over the weekend with London Mayor Boris Johnson calling the former PM "unhinged". Rather optimistically, Blair tried to reason that it was the failure to deal with the Syria crisis, not the US-led invasion that has resulted in the current maelstrom of violence blighting town and cities of Saddam’s onetime state.

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Across the Atlantic, a similar slight of hand has accompanied a lack of penitence, with the neoconservative architects and cheerleaders of the invasion – one that led to the deaths of 4,500 US soldiers and an estimated 100,000 Iraqis - taking to the airwaves to offer reasons for why their plan to spread democracy through military force has seemingly failed and what should be done next.

Most prominent was Bill Kristol, the right-wing pundit who was one of the loudest advocates for an invasion in 2003. He appeared on ABC’s This Week, blaming the current president for the unfolding crisis in Iraq.

"It’s a disaster unfortunately made possible, certainly made more likely by our ridiculous and total withdrawal from Iraq in 2011," said Kristol, adding: "President Obama said two days before Election Day, in 2012, al-Qaida is on the path of defeat, the war in Iraq is over. That was enough to get him re-elected, but how does it look today? Al-Qaida is on the path of defeat, the war in Iraq is over. Neither is true. It’s a disaster for our country."

This is the same Bill Kristol who predicted during the build up to the 2003 attack, "This is going to be a two-month war, not an eight-year war", having already reassured the country, "American and alliance forces will be welcomed in Baghdad as liberators."

Kristol was followed by the widely discredited hawk and former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, another fierce proponent of the 2003 invasion, who appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press calling for renewed US military involvement in Iraq. "We stuck with South Korea for 60 years, South Korea is a miracle story, but if we had walked away from South Korea in 1953—that country was a basket case," he said.

This is the same Paul Wolfowitz who in February 2003 said that "there was none of the record of ethnic militias fighting one another that has led to the bloodshed and permanent scars in Bosnia," adding: "We have no idea what type of ethnic strife may appear in the future, although as I have noted it has not been the history of Iraq’s recent past."

paul wolfowitz

Wolfowitz, Blair and Kristol: 'Nothing to do with us'

Then there was Paul Bremer, the US envoy to Iraq who was responsible for disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion, leading to nearly half a million young men losing their jobs – fertile recruiting ground for extremists – not to forget the subsequent need spend millions of dollars training a new army that has proved so ineffective in recent weeks.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Bremer argued that Obama was the main cause of the current situation, with the withdrawal of all American forces in 2011 leading to "predictable results". He added: "American action now would be considerably less difficult than later."

And of course there was John McCain, the onetime Republican presidential nominee and a long-time advocate for the war in Iraq, who reacted to news Mosul had fallen by demanding Obama sack his entire national security team, though he stopped short of advocating boots on the ground or offering any sort of strategy beyond blaming the White House. This is of course the same John McCain who in April 2003 said "there is not a history of clashes that are violent between Sunnis and Shias so I think they can probably get along".

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Other Bush-era officials that have called for fresh intervention include Andrew Card (on Fox News) and Doug Feith (in Politico), while historian Robert Kagan, who supported US intervention in 2003, offered similar sentiments on Monday in the New York Times.

So for many in the US that had a hand in deposing Saddam, it is Obama who is responsible for the current crisis in which al-Qaeda inspired ISIS militants inflict bloody retribution on anyone that fails to swear allegiance to their planned Caliphate. What's more, in no way can the rise of the militants be traced to America's invasion a decade ago that, as professor Juan Cole of the University of Michigan has argued, left a power vacuum and unleashed vicious sectarian bloodletting.

Perhaps the only note of reflection was delivered in Britain by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who voted in favour of the war in Iraq as chancellor of the exchequer in Blair's cabinet. He said it will be up to the Chilcot Inquiry to decide whether it was "a just war", but added that the invasion was unsuccessful in delivering "a just peace" for the Iraqis.

"You've got to distinguish between a just war and a just peace. Whatever arguments there were for war, and you know how I voted on this, the problem is the peace. The problem is the inability to deliver what might be called a just peace." He continued: "The problem in Iraq is that we have not been able to bring people together. The problem is the people don't see the fruits of prosperity, and the problem is that religious tensions remain strong.

"You can argue about a just war - and of course that is what the inquiry is going to be looking at. But you've also got to look at: did the peace deliver to the Iraqi people what they expected of it and they were promised? And of course the answer is the peace has been unsuccessful for so many people."

Fighting in Iraq