Rather than give the UN weapons inspectors time to complete their task, Blair followed the Bush Junta into a war to occupy Iraq, liberate it from its oil and secure a US military presence in the heart of the Middle East. Faced with the costs of war and the continued opposition to his decision, Blair decided to address his critics. He was his usual humble self. In spite of his critics being proved totally correct by subsequent events, Blair insists he was right. Such fanaticism is truly scary.
Blair asserts "a large part of the public want to move on." How he discovered this fact is left unspoken. Equally unspoken is the fact he also knew a large part of the public did not want war. He ignored them. Just as he is ignoring the public over GM crops, the privatisation of the railways and a host of other issues. All of which is hardly an inspiring record for a self-proclaimed "listening" government.
But, apparently, Blair wants us to forget about the lies and destruction. He wants us to "move on." Just as the Bush Junta wanted us to forget the cosy relations the Reagan Whitehouse had with Saddam in the 1980s. Just as, undoubtedly, Saddam would want us to forget his crimes against humanity and "move on." As Blair reminds us, Saddam's Iraq produced "300,000 remains in mass graves." He failed to note that these deaths occurred when Saddam was being supported by the west and in 1991 when the US preferred him to a popular revolt. And, least we forget, Saddam had over two decades to clock up that number. Blair managed over 10,000 in less than a year. So if we cannot "move on" for Saddam, we cannot "move on" for Blair.
Blair's attempts to provide rationales for his aggression were varied but, ultimately, nonsense. For him, September 11th was decisive, "a declaration of war by religious fanatics who were prepared to wage that war without limit. They killed 3000." Since then, Blair and Bush have killed (at least) four times that number of civilians (and tens of thousands of Iraqi conscripts). Blair claimed that these fanatics wanted to "cause such hatred between Moslems and the West that a religious jihad became reality; and the world engulfed by it." He and Bush then helped them by bombing Afghanistan and invading Iraq.
Somewhat contradictory, Blair claimed that removing Saddam meant "the dangers of the threat we face will be diminished" while, at the same time, admitting that the terrorists will "redouble their efforts." He stated the obvious that the "war is not ended" and pointed to the terrorism in Iraq. He somehow failed to note that this is the result of his and Bush's invasion and can hardly be used to justify it. He also failed to note that his actions have increased terrorism and the terrorist threat against the UK. By why let facts get in the way of the sermon?
Blair asserted that the terrorists "know full well, a stable democratic Iraq, under the sovereign rule of the Iraqi people, is a mortal blow to their fanaticism." Yet he did not mention the opposition of the US and UK governments to direct elections in Iraq, an opposition the US has admitted is due to concern that the wrong people would win. And how "stable" and "sovereign" will Iraq be as long as it is occupied? Particularly given that the US seeks a permanent military presence there.
For Blair, states "that proliferate or acquire WMD illegally are doing so precisely to avoid containment." Yet Saddam had no WMDs and he received most of his 1980s cache and equipment quite legally: he bought them from the west. And what of the UK and US and their WMD? Blair fears "rogue states" yet what else would you call states which ignored the UN and invaded another country on the basis of hyped and phoney intelligence? Why does he not take a stand and end UK weapons industry and use the money wasted in war and preparing for war for socially useful activities?
Finally, Blair justified future invasions and war when "so many comforts seem unaffected, and the threat so far off, if not illusory." So he has publicly admitted he will bomb civilians based on an illusory threat. This should come as no surprise as he has just done so.
Understandably, given all this, many people want Blair to go and go now. Who can blame them? He is a shit. But is getting rid of him enough?
Far from it. Blair did not and could not go to war by himself. He was the head of the state and its war machine. Only the naive would think the decision to invade was simply the product of his or Bush's insanity. The fact is that a substantial portion of the ruling elite, particularly around the oil corporations, wanted to invade Iraq. It fitted in with their interests, their desire to secure and extent their powers and profits. Interests of state and imperialist pressures caused the war, not individuals.
So personalising this war is wrong and results in drawing the wrong conclusions. No matter how smug and obnoxious he may be, Blair, like Bush, is simply a figurehead of a system which promotes war by its very nature. Replacing Blair without changing the system or, at least, building a social movement which can effectively resist war, will not change much. It will simply mean demanding that some other politician find a real job and stop destroying our lives in the interests of big business.
Making history or just repeating it?
The politics of opposing personalities promotes the idea that changing the personnel will change the system. "Believe your political leaders or not, as you will," said Blair. "But do so, at least having understood their minds." Yes, we need to understand why Blair acts as he does (just as we must understand non-state terrorists like Bin Laden). We must understand how power corrupts and why a nominally "Christian" and "socialist" leader could act in such evil ways. Unless we understand the root causes of Blair's actions, we will simply be blaming an individual for how the system works.
For anarchists, the root problem is electioneering. Plenty of people are urging us to vote for them. Yet Blair is the product of the tactic of electioneering. Labour was once a left-wing party. Over time it, as anarchist predicted, adjusted itself to the realities of power. Blair is the logical end product of such tactics. Why expect doing the same thing to have a different result? If in doubt, look at the Respect, the latest front of the Socialist Workers Party. It has rejected numerous socialist principles in the hope of getting as many votes as possible in forthcoming elections. In that sense it is different from Old Labour. That used to wait until after being elected to betray its principles.
So is there an alternative? Of course, but we need to rely on our own strength and build it ourselves. Marches are not enough. If they were, the invasion and occupation of Iraq would not have happened. The only genuine alternative is a anti-war movement which combines marches with direct action. It must have real roots in the workplace and community. It must fight the causes of war, not just the symptoms. It must fit the system, not merely demonise its figureheads.
That means shifting power in society away from the top and into the grassroots. It means reclaiming control over our own lives. Last month Blair put it bluntly: "We can't end up having an inquiry into whether the war [in Iraq] was right or wrong. That is something that we have got to decide. We are the politicians." A better argument for anarchy could hardly be found. Leaving decisions to politicians is, as Blair proves, a bad idea. Like the Tories, New Labour is about empowering the state and big business at the expense of the people.
Instead of limiting ourselves to changing who misrules us every few years, we need realise that we have the power to change things for the better. Real peace and justice do not come from above, from the politicians. They come from below, by the action of the people. We need to build organisations in our communities and workplaces by which we can resist the powerful until such time as we can get rid of them once and for all. It means using direct action and solidarity to make real change possible. It means rejecting the dead end of electioneering in favour of constructive activity where our power really lies -- in our streets and workplaces.
Only then can we realise the great dream and hope the oppressed have always wanted and the recent revolt in Argentina vocalised: "All of them out!"