Bush and Blair Aren’t Guilty of War Crimes in Iraq

But They Shouldn’t Be Rewarded for Failure

Nobel Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu recently withdrew from a conference because former Prime Minister Blair was also a speaker (and, unlike Tutu, receiving a lucrative fee). Citing the suffering caused by the Second Iraq War, Tutu called for the prosecution of Blair, former President Bush and other leaders as war criminals:

… those responsible for this suffering and loss of life [in Iraq] should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in the Hague [the international criminal court].

Tutu implicitly compared Bush and Blair to monsters such as: Serbian General Ratko Mladic, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, and Muammar Gaddafi’s son Saif.

Tutu is right — the Second Iraq War was a tragedy — but intent matters. While I truly admire Archbishop Tutu as one of the great moral leaders of our age, I disagree (with deepest respect) regarding Bush and Blair — they aren’t criminals. Tragedy resulting from an individual’s actions is regrettable, but isn’t in and of itself a crime. Intent, rather than the act, makes someone guilty. (In Latin, actus non facit reum nisi mens sit rea — “The act does not make a person guilty, unless the mind is also guilty”.)

Bush and Blair had legitimate reasons to be concerned about Iraq. Saddam Hussein: was a mass murderer many times over; viciously attacked three neighboring countries; attempted multiple times to acquire weapons of mass destruction; was loathed by his own population for his cruelty; and failed to cooperate with UN-mandated weapons inspections. Multiple UN resolutions condemned Hussein’s leadership. Not a single country bordering Iraq supported or approved of Saddam Hussein. When coalition troops first entered Iraq, they were greeted as liberators.

The Second Iraq War, however, was a fiasco. The coalition offended the peoples of Iraq and the Middle East, and spectacularly mismanaged Iraq’s occupation. The Second Iraq War (and the civil war it triggered) killed over 100,000 civilians and 4,500 coalition military personnel, and cost over $1 trillion.

The outcome of this incredible suffering and expense was replacement of a totalitarian anti-Iranian government, with an authoritarian pro-Iranian (anti-Western) government. Recent opinion polls show that 65 percent of Iraqis believe they were better off, or at least as well off, under Saddam. I challenge anyone to cite one positive outcome from the Second Iraq War — for the U.S. or the UK, let alone Iraq.

Let me repeat for emphasis: Bush and Blair’s policies in Iraq cost over $1 trillion, killed over 4,500 of our own service personnel, and anti-Western Iran was the only country that benefited. This wasn’t leadership by criminal masterminds — it was mismanagement by incompetent buffoons. Despite this spectacular failure, Blair received a prestigious faculty appointment at Yale University, and is paid as much as $500,000 per speaking engagement.

Leaders often face making difficult decisions, with limited information, under horrendous time pressure. We shouldn’t criminalize mistakes and failures. But that doesn’t mean we should reward gross ineptitude. I admire Archbishop Tutu for withdrawing from the conference to publicly highlight the insanity of rewarding Blair.

Blair is no criminal, but for the sake of decency, he should donate his speaking fees to charities helping people damaged by his policies. Morally, that money belongs to the people whose lives were destroyed in Iraq.

This piece is cross-posted from the Huffington Post with permission.

9 Responses to "Bush and Blair Aren’t Guilty of War Crimes in Iraq"

  1. Ariel Adam   September 26, 2012 at 2:55 pm

    If they aren't guilty, they wouldn't mind a trial then…

  2. benleet   September 27, 2012 at 11:12 pm

    Look at the Wikipedia report on Iraqi violent deaths since the 2003 invasion. It displays several studies. By reading and comparing you can make your choice of how many died, ranging from 100,000 to 650,000 to over 1,200,000. —- http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Casualties_of_the_Ir… —-The Lancet study had death certificates available from family members as proof of their numbers in 92% of cases, and they reached to 654,000 in June of 2006. Let an international trial consider it, as Tutu has proposed. Anyone who followed the lead up to the invasion knows what a pack of lies led to the invasion. Colin Powell calls his U.N. speech a blot on his personal history. The cost of the war was $3 trillion, not $1 trillion. In human terms the cost was extreme, and to blunder to such an extreme is criminal, in my opinion. Justice will be biased and patriotic, and the matter will rest. Do we care is another matter. Do we want to proffer incentive for a repeat? And do they really hate us as a result?

  3. Bruno   October 2, 2012 at 1:37 am

    ..intent? Their intent was based on proven lies..so if i kill neighbour and claim that he raped my wife while i know that is the lie..does that make me innocent? And you listed some monsters?..plenty of them around… but trials still going on, can we at least wait for the verdict, or those are monsters by default? or "our" monsters are not monsters because we always go with good intentions?..Millions died in the past century alone as a results of those "good" intentions..crime is the crime..good intentions or not…at least in the civilised society..

  4. Carl Sonntag   October 2, 2012 at 9:37 am

    You're kidding, right? By the standards of international law, B & B are war criminals and should be tried as such. They started a war based on bogus "facts" and are directly responsible for the deaths of countless Iraqis and thousands of American & British military personnel. How can you be an apologist for these 2 monsters?

  5. Raj   October 2, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    the intention was to invade Iraq for potential benefit to USA – the people of Iraq were never involved in the decision. so by your reckoning the intention was criminal and hence both B & B would be criminals
    R

  6. Mike   October 2, 2012 at 10:57 pm

    When you count the dead from the Iraq war and occupation, it's important to remember the baseline.

    In the late 1990s, UNICEF estimated that *half a million* Iraqi children had died as a direct result of the sanctions regime imposed at the end of the previous war. That's a million, in less than ten years. And that's just children – it doesn't count those adults murdered deliberately by Saddam's security forces, in the clampdown following that war or later.

    And those people were dying because Saddam declined to use the 'oil-for-food' programme to actually pay for food or medicines, preferring to hoard the money against the day when he could once more buy arms and other contraband.

    Net outcome: getting rid of Saddam has saved a huge number of lives in Iraq. Of course it's entirely speculative to say that there was a net gain, but it's easily within the bounds of possibility.

  7. John Carter   October 3, 2012 at 1:02 am

    Of course their guilty, don't be fooled by the above article…the writer is a paid "shill"…his article is full of misdirection and propaganda with a few emotional triggers…it's getting too easy these days to spot the shills!!!

    We ARE ALL waking up, its refreshing to read all the above comments who saw through the complete bias and fabricated article designed to remove the guilty from any blame…well done to all!!

    JC

  8. diatoo   October 3, 2012 at 7:16 am

    B6B are a case for the gallows, because they banded together to plan and to execute a war of agression or – to take a US euphemism _ a war of choice.

  9. bill g   October 4, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    The evidence at the Chilton inquiry in the UK was that Blair tailored the facts to fit the policy, not the other way around. Bush and Blair hoodwinked their nations and others for years. Remember the lies about Niger yellowcake uranium and the forged documents by CIA, MI5, etc. Both deserve jail for life, which is much more lenient than the torture and assassinations that they dished out.