Features

Forget Chilcot. Here’s the inquiry we really need

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

It might actually be better if Sir John Chilcot’s report is never published. I for one can no longer be bothered to be annoyed (though I used to be) by the increasingly comical excuses for its non-appearance. We all know the real reason is that the Iraq war was the product of lies, vainglory and creeping to the Americans, but they don’t want to admit it.

I suspect Sir John and his colleagues would be more hurt by a patronising acceptance that they are a hopeless embarrassment than by any more anger. Instead of publishing the report, we could send Sir John home, abandon the whole thing and have another inquiry into why it wasn’t published, also lasting many years. I doubt very much if, when Sir John’s epic actually falls heavily from the press, it will give much comfort to the relatives of the dead, here or abroad. Those of us who can remember Lord Hutton know that those responsible will deceive themselves about the Iraq war, and everything about it, till they die.

I will not believe they have understood what they did until two things happen: when Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the Foreign Office lawyer who resigned in a lonely protest against the illegality of the war, heads the honours list with a damehood and a GCMG; and when Anthony Blair gives every penny he owns to charity, including all those blasted houses, and goes off to spend his remaining years in a Trappist monastery, along with Alastair Campbell, who will be good at helping him keep his vow of silence.

I know perfectly well that justice of this kind happens only in daydreams. And, having opposed the Iraq adventure from the start, I seem to be far more relaxed about it than almost anyone I know, though they all say they were against it now. The strange behaviour of so many sensible people in 2003 could be the real point. It is a Trotskyist fantasy to imagine that Mr Blair is going to be hauled off to the Hague to stand trial for war crimes. And it was a Trotskyist fantasy to imagine that a large march by those who are against any western-backed war, anywhere, ever, would change the government’s mind back in the days of WMD.


The national puzzle is this: why did so many mainstream, reasonable, informed and sensible non-Trotskyist people readily accept the most transparent twaddle as fact? I remember them doing it, even if they can’t. Many of those who did have slight doubts took the odd view that, once it had started, they had to rally to the colours, as if 2003 were 1940 and Saddam really was Hitler. Actually, the more it went on, the more it was everyone’s duty to denounce it and to understand the various follies which caused it.

What we really need is not Chilcot, but an inquiry into how we, the British educated classes (perhaps above all in my trade of journalism), are so easily talked into wars. The overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, one of the greatest politico-socio-economic mistakes of the past 50 years, was wildly popular at the time. Those responsible face no threat of being arrested for war crimes by waiters in fashionable restaurants, as happened to Mr Blair. As for Syria, the speed with which the BBC and most commentators became convinced of the need to overthrow Bashar Al-Assad (most of them having hardly heard of him a month earlier) was astonishing. There’s a similar keenness for worse relations with Vladimir Putin, once again based on a strategic and historical grasp so feeble that it makes me, a jobbing scribbler, feel like a mixture of Metternich and Macaulay.

It is not the weapons of mass destruction and the fake 45-minute warning we need to worry about, let alone the United Nations. It is the weapons of mass self-deception, and the 15 minutes or so it regularly takes to turn the honest British journalist (and his readers) into Churchillian enthusiasts for red war. Somehow we need to find a treatment for Munich Syndrome. This is the belief that all foreign tyrants are Adolf Hitler, that the calendar is permanently stuck at September 1938, and that we in Britain stand shoulder to shoulder with the USA, mighty in the cause of freedom.

I blame history teaching, and TV’s relentless obsession with the Hitler era: the current version of the second world war that is still wildly propagandistic and unreflective. When, for instance, I recently researched Britain’s sacrifice of her Empire’s life savings in 1939 and 1940, vast secret shipments of gold and bonds to America until there was nothing left, I was astonished to find how little material there was in mainstream histories. And it is also very hard to find anyone in today’s politics or media who is familiar with the far more relevant story of Suez. This was actually the first outbreak of Munich Syndrome, as poor Anthony Eden, probably unhinged by amphetamines, persuaded himself that Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser was Hitler, while he, Eden, was Churchill. It was not so, and the delusion destroyed us forever as a great power. But no lesson was learned. It was first forgotten, then overlaid by the counter-myth of the Falklands, a war we very nearly lost and only needed to fight in the first place because of Margaret Thatcher’s shortsighted and cheapskate defence and foreign policies.

How odd it is for me to say this. I am probably one of the last people living who knows that ‘battleship’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘warship’. I grew up in the thrilling shadow of the Royal Navy. I was taught songs at my prep school so patriotic that they would probably be illegal now, and I meant every word of them as I sang them. I still do genuinely love my country, above all things for being free. I just don’t love costly, dangerous wars of choice.

But it is blatantly obvious to me that this country’s problems began when it started going to war for sentimental, idealist reasons instead of for hard cynical purposes. Lord Palmerston, often wrongly portrayed as a jingo, did his greatest single service to his country when in 1864 he wisely betrayed a solemn promise to Denmark and left her to the mercy of Bismarck and the Habsburgs. Nobody really cared then and everyone has forgotten about it now. If only his successors had had as much sense in 1914, we might still be a great and wealthy power instead of a disarmed debtor nation ruled largely from abroad.

Peter Hitchens is a columnist for the Mail on Sunday.

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Show comments
  • tenbelly

    Hitchens, one of the very few competent journalists left.
    The rest are mostly trash and mostly working for the BBC.

    • nibs

      Exactly. He tells uncomfortable truths, so is invited less and less to speak. Instead they run to the likes of Douglas Murray, Aaronovitch etc, all of whom are gung-ho for any war in the middle east which might further the chaos and mayhem. Then they will bleat about the “migrants” from these destroyed countries.
      Peter Hitchens I salute you.

      • Dr. Heath

        When Pat Buchanan published ‘Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War’, Peter Hitchens was keen to affix his seal of approval to Pat’s thesis. Yes, Churchill was apparently a psycho warmonger and poor, wee Adolf was surrounded, as is poor, ickle Putko today, by brutal enemies waiting to pounce. I refer you to Peter’s Daily Mail article of 19 April 2008 [Was World War Two Just as Pointless and Self-defeating as Iraq?] and suggest that you get to know this chap better before ‘saluting him’. Me, I’d cross the street to avoid him or anyone else who serves as an apologist for a man who’s carpet-bombed one of his own cities. That would be Grozny, for anyone who’s puzzled by this Putin reference. The pictures of the slit trenches with the bodies of thousands of civilian dead from Grozny are also informative.

        • southerner

          Could you kindly direct me to where Mr Hitchens ‘serves as an apologist’ for President Putin. Specifically I mean.

          • Dr. Heath

            The Spectator, 7th March 2015. Got that?

          • southerner

            Yup read that. What in that article led you to assert as fact that Mr Hitchens was an apologist for Putin? Specifically I mean.

          • Dr. Heath

            One really has to be a supremely odious species of cucking funt to argue that Russia was ‘stripped’ of its “empire” in the process of seeing the USSR dismantled and re-constituted as the Confederation of Independent States or the Russian Federation. Releasing the inmates of a concentration camp does not in my view equate to a criminal affront on the dignity of the goons or their master.

            In short, I can’t think of anything in the article which wasn’t obviously the sort of barefaced lie or barmy assertion of the sort that trolls and other forms of paid shill deposit, like excrement, all over the internet. If you feel like explaining to my that my opinion is invalid, please don’t waste your time.

          • southerner

            You asserted as fact that Mr Hitchens was an apologist for President Putin (and included in that same sentence reference to the “carpet bombing” of Grozny I am sure for deliberate effect).

            I asked the basis for that assertion twice now and you still have not provided me with an explanation.

            So it’s just as I thought. You made it up.

          • Dr. Heath

            You again. Why don’t you learn to read?

          • LyovMyshkin

            Why don’t you answer his question directly instead of trying to rely on sappy, moralistic cant.

          • Dr. Heath

            A reference to an April 2000 newspaper article in The Independent is moralistic cant? You can’t read either, then.

          • LyovMyshkin

            Not that, sir. It’s your references to Grozny that smack of the typical cant that leads the West into ‘humanitarian interventions’. It’s cant because there is no context or nuance, just an act presented as unadulterated evil and I think that’s misleading.

          • Dr. Heath

            Yes. I reckon you’re a troll of some sort. How are reports of the destruction of Grozny, or my reference to those reports, cant? Your command of English, Leo Mouse, is very poor.

          • LyovMyshkin

            There’s nothing more revealing of a persons lack of confidence and intellectual skill than the IMMEDIATE resort to claiming those who disagree with them to be ‘trolls’. Thank you – once again – for a big laugh.

          • southerner

            Please stop listing references to articles. If you don’t want to answer me don’t reply but you clearly don’t know how to debate.

          • Andrew_Nichols

            Dresden-like appearance of Grozny after Putler had succeeded in turning it into a waste land.

            Yeah – It looked like Fallujah after Uncle Sam sent it back to the stoneage in revenge for the killing of some mercenaries..and Gaza after the various Israeli turkey shoots. Noone has clean hands.

          • Kennie

            You are fully entitled to your opinion, even though it is wrong.

          • Peter Hitchens

            Indeed, it does seem from this sort of language that it might be a waste of time to contest your opinions with you using facts or reason. But for the benefit of third parties I can only repeat my suggestion that they read what I actually write rather than accept this person’s description of it.

          • LyovMyshkin

            I wouldn’t call him an ‘apologist’ he’s called him a ‘sinister tyrant’ but he has been outspoken in his condemnation of Western support for the Ukraine ‘putsch’. Look on his blog.

            There’s also this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeO44STvnJw

            (I’m not condemning him, I think his view is more nuanced and sensible than most)

          • southerner

            I didn’t. I think you meant to address this to “Dr Heath”.

          • LyovMyshkin

            I meant it for you to attempt to clarify Hitchen’s position on the issue, if you’re interested.

          • southerner

            Thanks I am grateful but actually “Dr Heath”made the assertion so it is for him to support it when asked not for us to disprove.

          • LyovMyshkin

            Fair play.

        • MickC

          If one wants to get to know someone, crossing the street to avoid them seems a strange way to do it.

          And understanding another’s motivations does not constitue being an apologist for them.

        • LyovMyshkin

          Fine words but wait until you’re dealing with a fractious, violent and unmanageable separatist Muslim faction within the UK. It won’t be long.

          • David Brown

            yes -Enoch Powell predicted civil war in England see youtube
            maybe it will happen first in France given the size of its Muslim population. The demographic time bomb is ticking

          • Leon Wolfeson

            …Before your far right do something else terroristic and blame Muslims? Yea, I expect that too.

          • LyovMyshkin

            Fascinating contribution, son of the wolf. Thanks for your insight.

          • David S

            Something else? Name one far right terrorist outrage in the UK in the last 20 years. Then go to Aldgate station.

          • Shorne

            In April 1999, David Copeland, a neo-Nazi, planted a series of nail bombs over 13 days, causing explosions in Brixton, Brick Lane (in east London), and Soho (in central London). His attacks, which were aimed at London’s black, Bangladeshi and gay communities, resulted in three people being killed and more than 100 being injured. Copeland was a former member of two far right political groups, the British National Party and the National Socialist Movement.
            British far-right activists supplied funds and weaponry to Loyalist terrorist groups in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Since the end of the conflict, some members of Loyalist groups have been orchestrating a series of racist attacks in Northern Ireland,including pipe bomb and gun attacks on the homes of immigrants. As a result, Northern Ireland has a higher proportion of racist attacks than other parts of the UK.

          • Innit Bruv

            David Copeland. April 1999. Dickhead.

          • Leon Wolfeson

            Oh right, so because a far right person killing someone isn’t labelled terrorism..

          • monsieur_charlie

            Yes, I spent today visiting Worcester Cathedral, a beautiful and absolutely stunning example of England and the English at their best. Sadly, I also got to thinking about how long will it last like this .

        • LyovMyshkin

          “When Pat Buchanan published ‘Churchill, Hitler and the Unnecessary War’, Peter Hitchens was keen to affix his seal of approval to Pat’s thesis.”

          It’s a fine book. What, exactly, is your argument against it?

          • Dr. Heath

            The argument is best laid out in Christopher Hitchen’s review of the ‘book’. Are you a Nazi, by any chance? A Russian Nazi? There seem to be a lot of them on the internet, though obviously not quite as many as can be found in Putler’s cabinet.

          • LyovMyshkin

            C. Hitchens (the lesser brother) favourably received David Irving’s work, too. It doesn’t matter what he thinks to be honest – if that sort of worship appeals to you then so be it. I’m interested in the particulars of the debate not whether a useless intellectual celebrity does or does not support the theory.

            I suppose if we were debating “Hitler’s War” and I told you about Christopher Hitchen’s review of the book then you would be convinced?

            Pathetic. Thanks for the laugh.

          • Well, by the time Churchill became PM in 1940, the war had already started in France 6 weeks from falling.

          • LyovMyshkin

            Indeed. What’s your point? If you’ve read the book you’ll know that that fact in no way contradicts Buchanan’s claims.

        • Peter Hitchens

          I advise readers to google the article (not, as it happens, published in the Daily Mail) to see what I actually said, rather than accept this (let’s be polite here) misleading caricature of my view on the 1939 crisis, and of my view of Vladimir Putin, a person whose frightening repression of opponents I was one of the first to notice and describe, and whom I regularly describe as a sinister tyrant. The interesting thing about Chechnya is not the Russian savagery, but the West;s attitude towards it. When it was being perpetrated by Boris Yeltsin, who sold the country to the West, nobody minded. When it is done by Putin, who asserts national sovereignty, it’s excoriated. Similarly, Yeltsin was able to get away with shelling his own Parliament. Putin is (rightly but inconsistently) denounced for lesser offences. As so often with neo-conservatives, the outrage is phoney, and is not deployed for the ostensible reason.

          • Dr. Heath

            I stand corrected.

          • Kennybhoy

            No you don’t.

          • Peter Hitchens, my hat is off to you. I described this article in Correlli Barnett’s term of “speaking in broadsides”. Bravo. As for Russian realities, well….it is a long story.

        • monsieur_charlie

          Try looking at a map of the world (the political world) with Russia at the centre. It may put things into perspective for you.

        • Kennybhoy

          Och well said sir! 🙂

      • Kennie

        Yes, I try to read Hitchens every week in the mail on Sunday (but includes his blogs for all week). He is one of the very few remaining, real journalists and gives his honest opinions.
        I’m afraid that sort of thing is not much wanted nowadays. The Westminster crowd prefers the journos who give in to the threats of press controls (aka Leveson) and usually find ways to silence the few who don’t.
        As for UK going to war, try Con Coughlin in the DT. Every time he does a column for the DT, he is urging the UK to go to war, with Syria, Libya, anybody he can think of. Some really should try to stop that mad Irishman from drinking.

        • Fraser Bailey

          Yes, Coughlin is an idiot in that regard. But I read his book on Khomeni and Iran recently, which seemed to be a pretty good history of all that.

      • Andy M

        They’d do well to go to Douglas Murray – who is someone most consider to be the ‘heir to Hitchens’, but not the runt of the litter, Peter. Rather, the late, great Christopher Hitchens.

        • goodsoldier

          You sure are a nasty wretch. I hope you aren’t married and don’t have children. You would spread misery all around.

          • Andy M

            Ah bless… Someone has a chip on their shoulder over The Hitch and Douglas Murray.

    • freddiethegreat

      Have you noticed how quickly journalists are to scream about any ostensible censorship, yet are invariably self-censoring? Attitudes to Israel being an example. Anything positive must be eliminated.

      • LyovMyshkin

        No. Haven’t noticed that.

  • AJH1968

    Wars paid for in blood and treasure by the lower orders; treated with contempt, not dissimilar to the contempt that Obama reserves for the United Kingdom. I think in many ways we are still paying for the wars in Iraq, Libya and of course Obama’s
    Cairo speech (which in my opinion unleashed a Pandora’s box of misery on the
    world). Even our efforts in Kosovo and the Balkans against our fellow Europeans
    did not endear us to the RIP, on the contrary, it also alienated us against the
    Slavs (our fellow Europeans). Now the Western elite wants us to throw stones at
    the Russian bear in he’s own backyard instead of trying to forge a like minded
    alliance against those who have always hated us, who hate us now, and who will always hate us. We need to know our enemy. I for am grateful for a journalist who does not conflate virtue signalling with journalism.

    • Reluctant Mlungu

      Very well said, sir. Tragically few observers have even noticed the deep sense of betrayal that the insane intervention on behalf of ‘Kosovo’ has left in the minds of millions of central and eastern Europeans.

      • freddiethegreat

        Mlungu!

    • cartimandua

      That’s silly. there was a war on our doorstop and it was spreading.

    • Damaris Tighe

      There’s a poem by Kipling, isn’t there, about ‘Tommy’, the fodder of the British army. And then, interestingly, we have another Tommy from the ‘lower orders’ who has the temerity to take on the establishment & is now suffering mightily for it.

      • blandings

        Hi

        • Damaris Tighe

          Hi! (Sings in mock n/spiritual voice, “oh happy day … oh happy day …)

      • AJH1968

        Have you ever read Pakenham’s the Boer war (sorry if I spelt the name wrong), he often refers to the spirit of ‘Tommy Atkins’. I always think of the other Tommy and ponder the line ‘no good deed goes unpunished’. History will judge him more kindly dare I say.

        • AJH1968

          Read one of Fergus’s poems the other day, brilliant! I do miss him.

      • dwarfpoo

        Tommy from the “lower orders, they are for sure making him suffer, so very wrong.

    • PaD

      So just who are these ‘Western elite’…names/organisations countries of residence…I take it they are actual people who live somewhere?

  • runningdog

    Thank you Mr Hitchens; an excellent commentary with which I wholeheartedly agree. One favour please. Would you give me the first lines of those “songs . . . so patriotic that they would probably be illegal now”. I’d like to bone up on them and teach them to my grandchildren.

    • Peter Hitchens

      One which sticks in my mind was (To the tune of what we then thought was Purcell’s Trumpet Voluntary, though it now turns out to have been by Jeremiah Clarke): ‘Britons, sing, that all the world shall know we are free! Trumpets, fling the challenge o’er the boundless sea! I think the next line began ‘Islands blest, behind the shield of the rolling main…’, but that’s where the memory fades. You couldn’t possibly sing it now, but with the dusk falling on the Devon landscape outside the windows, round about 1960, and a steam-hauled express chuffing by on the other side of the valley, it seemed perfectly reasonable.

      • runningdog

        Noted with gratitude. Now; to Google . . .

      • Lawrence James.

        Purcell ( plus Dryden, I think ) did two excellent pieces in the 1690s: ‘Britons strike home’ (‘revenge your country’s wrongs’ ) from ‘Bonduca’ and ‘Fairest isles all isles excelling’.’Hearts of Oak’ is wonderful and ‘Rule Britannia !’ too: I sang both in school in the 1950s. Could we restore the second verse of the National Anthem – ‘frustrate their knavish tricks’ &c ?

      • davidshort10

        I think my old school song would probably be banned now. It included the line “Nation full of heroes, lion-hearted, true to breed’.

    • Uusikaupunki

      ” I vow to thee my country” is probably banned now. Too patriotic.

  • LancashireLad

    the Iraq war ii could not have happened if it were not for supporting media, the media could not have promulgated the message without the support of journalists and the journalists would not have jobs without a supporting public
    So its the public’s fault that journalists write lies, the media broadcast them and the public believe them? Or could it be more complex than that?

    • cartimandua

      Media peddle sentiment not as they should various answers to the worlds problems.
      They have long had a knee jerk adolescent rejection of any authority.

  • Jack_H

    An excellent piece,Chilcot hardly matters now and by the time its been redacted there will be little flesh on the bones.The greatest legacy will be that when Historians look back on the period they will see the second Gulf war as the point when the Baathist party was felled in the Arab world.The only credible force in the Arab world capable of taking on Islamic fundamentalism was dealt a hammer blow from which it will never recover.When Assad goes it will be extinguished………a short sighted decision made by shallow vacuous politicians more bothered by vanity than patriotism.

    • cartimandua

      Well their brains were and are melted with cultural relativism.
      Saddam by the way got religion and saw himself the proper leader of the Sunni world. He kicked women out of work and made it legal to kill them.
      He would have gone after the Gulf states and got into it again with Shia Iran and have loose ex Soviet WMDs to do it with.

      • Jack_H

        I suspect Saddam’s motives were cynical.He didn’t have WMDs.

        • freddiethegreat

          He actually DID – and used them several times. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they still turned up. Forget Scud missiles – think 120mm binary shells. You can fit 4 or 5 in a wheelie bin – and there’s a lot of desert there.

          Edit: Not that I believer the Bliar.

        • Zalacain

          He didn’t have WMD’s but didn’t like admitting it as he was more scared of Iran than of the USA.

      • Kennie

        My word, what foresight you have. Or are you trying kids story books?

      • goodsoldier

        Saddam had made an appointment with A.Q. Khan for March 2003, which had to be cancelled.

  • Otto von Bismarck

    An excellent piece, though I disagree with your analysis of Suez as causing the end of our status as a Great Power. By 1956 we were totally reliant on our reputation, for we were without the means we once had to back it up. Suez revealed to the world just how hollow our true capability was, but the decline had happened in the previous decade. By some point or another, our true weakness would have become apparent. It was inevitable that we would be eclipsed by the Americans and the Soviets.

    • Peter Hitchens

      This is all perfectly true, yet also misleading. The Navy that took part in Musketeer was still a British Imperial Navy (my father, though serving in a stone frigate at the time, had sent 30 years voyaging the planet in it). After Suez , it became a NATO navy and an adjunct of the USN (whose Sixth Fleet aggressively shadowed British warships during Musketeer, and whose chief of operations, Arleigh Burke, actually discussed the pros and cons of opening fire on British ships in a fraught conversation with John Foster Dulles). Some other event might have brought this about. But it didn’t. Suez did. I am amazed how few people, who regard themselves as informed, have read Keith Kyle’s magnificent book on this event, and are largely ignorant of the era in general.

      • Otto von Bismarck

        Is this the real Peter Hitchens? I certainly hope so! If it is, I’m very honoured you chose to reply to me.

        I see your point, and I sense you’re hinting at the wider picture that Britain’s relative decline was certainly hastened by the political subjugation of Australia, New Zealand and Canada (followed by the UK not long after) into the American sphere of influence in the immediate years after WWII. That certainly did undermine the ‘imperial’ aspect of the armed forces, and thereafter we all found ourselves in the American military alliance as entirely separate partners of Washington. The best example of divide and rule if ever there was one. A great shame of course, and I’ve always felt that the Imperial Federation League was a regrettable missed opportunity (yet another casualty of WWI I fear).

        As for Suez, our position was clearly untenable in anything other than the short term. Attlee had even favoured a British withdrawal not long after he came to power in 1945 only to be stopped principally by Bevin as well as several other figures in his Cabinet. The writing was on the wall, though our exit was clearly more humiliating than it ought to have been. I’ve always thought King Hussein of Jordan put it aptly when he remarked “What a tragedy, that Britain finally fell off its pedestal, particularly around here”. I haven’t read Keith Kyle’s book on Suez, but I’ll certainly give it a read.

        • Lawrence James.

          It was the United States that urged Britain to maintain its vast military complex in Egypt to provide bases for USAF bombers to launch attacks against industrial targets in southern Russia. By the early 1950s these became redundant and America was preparing to hustle Britain out of the Middle East and make it Washington’s sphere of influence. Its hegemony has been somewhat shaky of late.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Peter, what IS the difference between a battleship & a warship?

        • blandings

          Damaris,
          A battleship is the largest and most heavily armed warship, designed to secure supremacy over an enemy fleet. All other warships are ancillary or support or escort craft. The most spectacular confrontation of battleships was at Jutland in 1916.
          Nelson’s ships of the line were, if you like, battleships of their time. His frigates were not and would not fight in the line.

      • Damaris Tighe

        Sorry – see you’ve already answered this question!

    • Lawrence James.

      The two heaviest blow was the surrender of Singapore which showed that we could no longer defend our empire; within months US troops were being hurried to Australia to defend the dominion against an expected Japanese attack.Indian independence deprived Britain of the Indian army which had been the mainstay of imperial power in the Middle East.Contrast the shilly-shallying the of Eden’s Suez campaign with the swift and condign operations in 1882 which led the installation of a puppet administration.. Incidentally, then we had plans to provide the conquered country with a government. In 1956 there were none – just like Iraq.

      • Otto von Bismarck

        Very true. Singapore dented our soft power, Indian independence our hard power. You need both in order to effectively govern a far flung empire, as we discovered with Malaya.

  • cartimandua

    In Libya Gadaffi was about to murder 1.5 million people. He was also going back on his promise not to get WMDs and supplied the IRA.
    With Iraq it was about what vast amounts of Soviet WMDs could “leak” into Iraq.
    It was not about what he had. It was what he could buy.
    Russia has forgiven Iraq 12.9 billion for arms sales.
    Since 2001 the G20 has spent billions helping Russia clean it up.
    There were always reasons beyond the humanitarian and since they cost British lives too right there should always be.

    • Peter Hitchens

      A perfect example of what we are up against.

    • freddiethegreat

      He trained and aided the ANC financially, and ended up dead in a sewer. Entirely appropriate, regardless of the bigger picture

  • cartimandua

    There were hard cynical reasons for these wars. They were WMD proliferation risk and oil.

    • LancashireLad

      I agree with half of your analysis

    • David Brown

      What threat did Libya and Iraq pose to us either economically or strategically ? The only person who might be suspected of gaining over Iraq was Blair who cynically calculated that he would be rewarded by being given a high paying consultancy fee from American companies after he left office,

  • Lawrence James.

    Good until the final paragraph. If Britain had engaged in the war between Denmark and Austria/Prussia that latter would not had a walkover. A naval blockade would have choked the overseas commerce of both powers and naval bombardments would have damaged their ports. ‘Rule Britannia’ was true in 1864. The inhabitants of the German states might have though twice about Bismarck’s policy of unifying Germany through foreign wars; after all many German states sided with Austria in 1866. As it was, Prussia and all it stood for triumphed: ‘Shut up, pay up and be a soldier’ was a popular reaction in Bavaria to unification.
    As for 1914, Hitchens is mistaken to believe that the ‘sentimental’ reasons for fight had any substance. They were pure propaganda: Britain was fighting to defend her Empire and naval supremacy, both of which would have been jeopardised by a German victory.

    • Peter Hitchens

      Not so. We had comfortably won the naval race with Germany by 1911, by outspending her. As Adam Tooze describes so well in ‘The Deluge’ we then *lost* that naval supremacy to the USA , which then bullied us into breaking our Treaty with Japan, which led inexorably to Singapore in 1942 and the loss of empire. Whatever we defended or saved by entering war in 1914 (I have no idea what it was) we lost naval supremacy and empire as a direct result of doing so. Douglas Newton’s excellent but largely unnoticed ‘The Darkest Days’ explains (among other things) how important the fictional obligation to Belgium was in dragging us into war. Barbara Tuchman’s ‘the Guns of August’ is excellent on the role of Henry Wilson in binding us to France and Russia without the knowledge of the Cabinet or Parliament . The general belief in 1914 was that our involvement in the war would be largely Naval. The idea that we would have to become a major continental land power would have seemed absurd to them. By 1864, German domination of the continent was inevitable. We would have done much better to recognise that then, rather being forced to do so at Maastricht and since.

      • Lawrence James.

        I agree with your account of the loss of naval supremacy. Iam uncertain how inevitable German unification looked in 1864 and no one then could have foreseen the ugly form it would take. I was only inevitable after the French surrender at Sedan in 1870; if Napoleon III had had better generals the future of Europe would have been very different.
        Between 1909 and 1914 the Cabinet War Committee had two choices. Britain could fight alongside France and Russia or stay neutral. Neutrality would assist a Central Powers victory and a peace dictated by Berlin: the French navy would pass into German hands, Belgium ( plus the Congo ) and sundry French colonies. Look at what they ( and the Turks ) demanded from Russia in 1918.In defeat an embittered France and Russia would make mischief for Britain in Africa and Asia, as they had before the ententes.To maintain its place as a global, maritime power and secure its empire, Britain had no choice. Even if the cabinet had wobbled on 3-4 August, Britain was pledge to resist any German warships that approached the Channel which was boubnd to lead to a fight.

        • Peter Hitchens

          Not sure how inevitable it *looked*, but I’d say that it was. The great unifier of Germany was Bonaparte. not Bismarck, and one unified Germany would dominate Europe. the only question remaining was how this would happen (Koestler writes interestingly about the unequal Franco-German rivalry in the opening pages of ‘Scum of the Earth’.

          As in all such analyses, you hugely overestimate the importance of Britain to Germany or Russia. As long as we stayed out of continental quarrels, neither really cared about us . The naval race we’ve discussed. ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, ‘The Battle of Dorking’ and ‘When William Came'( a book the French care more about than we do, presumably because they rather enjoy fantasising about a German occupation of Angleterre) are amusing yarns, but bear no relation to reality. What was the material contention between us? The ‘Great Game’ , according to ‘Towards the Flame’ was pure play-acting on the Russian side) . Our only real direct rival , with whom we had already clashed several times, was the USA, which was bound to challenge us on the oceans and especially in the Pacific. Germany’s interest was always ( and still is) Mitteleuropa and beyond into Ukraine and the Caucasus. The point about the Brest-Litovsk treaties was that this was what Germany really wanted, not that they were prototypes for a Western European settlement.

          • Lawrence James.

            Russia certainly cared about Britain and vice versa. In 1854 Britain had helped checkmate her ambitions in the Black Sea and beyond, in 1877 it had threatened to go to war again when Russia seemed on the brink of seizing the Straits and the Anglo-Japanese alliance help Japan to scotch Russian ambitions in the Fair East. Even after the 1907 entente Russia was stirring up trouble for Britain in Persia and protesting about Britain building two battleships for the Ottoman navy which would have given the Turks naval supremacy in the Black Sea.
            Certainly a peace dictated by Germany after winning the war would have produced annexations in Central Asia: Turko-German armies were converging on Baku in the autumn of 1918 and Britain was rushing reinforcements to Persia.
            That leaves the question of what Germany would have extracted from France. From what I can recollect from reading FO extracts from the wartime German press, there was strong pressure in the Reichstag and newspapers for a surrender of French colonies in Africa: before the war Germany had been negotiating with Britain to permission to buy the flyblown Portuguese colonies in Africa. And then, most important of all, German would have demanded a portion of, if not all of the French navy. The balance of seapower would have swung against Britain.
            Britain would have been friendless in the world dominated by an aquisitive German empire. We were, therefore, completely justified in declaring war in 1914.

          • Peter Hitchens

            Britain was ‘friendless’ during its entire period of world supremacy. It was only when we started to acquire ‘friends’ such as pre-1914 France and Roosevelt’s USA, and today’s EU, that the trouble began. Russia obviously had a marginal interest in Britain, just as Britain had a marginal interest in Russia but was principally concerned with Germany, Austria -Hungary and Japan. I still can’t think of a single good reason why Germany would have desired a war of choice with Britain, had we not allied ourselves with Russian despotism against her. As for naval rivals with channel ports, we seem to have happily survived centuries of having the French in this position. Indeed, I grew up in Portsmouth near the ruins of ‘Palmerston’s follies’, the huge fortifications built to preserve that city from a mooted French attack in the 1850s. It never happened, but the French, right up to and beyond Fashoda, were genuinely hostile to us.

          • Lawrence James.

            This doesn’t hold water: Britain had friends throughout the 19th century. France and latterly Piedmont/Sardinia backed us in the Crimea; France supported us wars against China,and Austria-Hungary was supportive against Russia in 1877.During the Fashoda crisis ( when orders were issued for the shelling of Toulon and Algiers ) France was as isolated as Britain, for her alliance with Russia was only activated if she was attacked by two powers.I agree that our entente with Russia was harmful because we were forced to concede post-war Russian control over Constantinople and Straits and under the Sykes-Picot deal control over Kurdistan.
            As for the rest of yr article, I heartily agree.We have been fools to trust the United States and provide mercenaries for her clumsy and fruitless empire-building in the Middle East and Asia.

          • Peter Hitchens

            France was, from time to time, our ally. She has never been our ‘friend’ . I don’t think countries have friends myself, as is well illustrated by the ‘special relationship’ with the USA, a tragic national misunderstanding. I’ve never been able to work out what we were doing in the Crimea.

          • Lawrence James.

            There were confluences of objectives; there could never be close friendship between France and the nation that frustrated the ambitions of Louis XIV and Bonaparte and effective evicted the French from North America and scuppered their plans to dominate the Nile. As for the Crimea, we were there to block Russian expansion into South-East Europe and deny her a springboard from which to bully Turkey and edge into the Middle East. In the process we proved that the Russian army could not fight a modern war. Fifty years after the Japanese did the same.

          • Peter Hitchens

            Funny that those backward Russians, having destroyed modern Bonaparte, then held out against the Germans (v good at modern wars) for three long years, 1914-17. And defeated them in 1945. Also, I recommend a visit to Sevastopol, before they close it again. It was no easy job to capture it , nor was it when the German swung by in the 1940s. And i don’t recall Britain’s conduct of that war being terribly impressive, either -though of course it did result in the invention of modern nursing.
            Also funny that we were so concerned about Russian southward expansion in 1854 that we went to war, yet 60 years later *offered* Russia Constantinople. Inconsistent? Us?

            Anyway, you appear to have conceded my point about friendship. One of the most fascinating parts of WW2 is the amount of fighting we did against France, from Mers-el-Kebir onwards.

          • Lawrence James.

            You are right about Sebastopol: I too was there some years back.A Russian told me that the beastly Ukrainians intended to build an industrial complex on the site of Inkerman which had upset Russians who have preserved the battlefield in memory of their dead and our dead, which seems decent. Read Orlando Figes ‘Crimea’ which will, I think, make you revise your views: our army and generals did rather well and his account of the Charge of the Light Brigade overturns the myths that have been perpetuated by historians in search of a ‘moral point’. Vichy was nasty: yet our campaigns against it in Syria and Madagascar were brief but vital side-shows. And we did promise Syria and the Lebanon independence and were welcomed as liberators which enraged de Gaulle and added to his pot of grudges and grievances. The French can be used, but they are untrustworthy and prone to bloodthirsty excesses, eg various revolutions and the Algerian war.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            “Britain was ‘friendless’ during its entire period of world supremacy.”
            Check Britain’s allies at the Battle of Waterloo, 1815.

          • Labour Mole Catcher

            Still, Hitchens is not a Japanese fantasist with a strong sense of inadequacy and strong urge of having to show off (mainly for the benefit of his own Mum and Dad and his Japanese mates)!

      • MickC

        With respect, I disagree. We may well have won the naval race by 1911, but that was against a Germany without a port on the Channel.

        Had Germany achieved a victory against France, it would almost certainly have claimed a Channel port, as well as being rather flush with money from the vanquished countries.
        Britain would then face the largest army in Europe just across the Channel, with access to a port, and the money to engage in another naval race, if it so chose. And of course, without immediate allies. Hardly a pleasant prospect .

        Britain’s involvement in the Great War probably had much more reason to it than our involvement in the Second World War, which seemed to be done out of pique rather than proper consideration of national advantage.

        However, both wars effectively bankrupted Britain, but even without them it is difficult to see how the Empire (actually more of a trading system than an empire as commonly understood) could have survived in any meaningful form.

  • David Brown

    i agree with this – it was actually Goering while waiting trial at Nuremberg who said of course we lied the German people into war. The British and Americans do they same. The man on his farm has nothing to gain , All he hopes is if he is lucky to one return to his farm.
    The British people where lied into war in 1914 , the King told Lord Grey to come up with a pretext. Before Germany had gone through Belgium.
    As for this satirical inquiry that has lasted longer than either World Wars and will probably last longer than the so called thirty years war. Its mission is not to seek out truth but as defending lawyers do in fraud trials create a huge mountain of paperwork to confuse the issue.

  • Dickon Whitewood

    I’d also be interested in the difference between a ‘battleship’ and ‘warship’, if you have the time Peter? I did have a look on google but couldn’t find a satisfactory answer.

    • Roger Hudson

      A battleship was originally one designed to be part of the ‘ line of battle’ in a fleet on fleet battle.

    • Peter Hitchens

      Extraordinary, but you illustrate my point. Any English schoolboy of my generation (though very few girls) would have known this. A warship is any ship of war. A battleship is a specific type of very large surface warship, heavily armoured and carrying guns of exceptional power and range. Britain has not had any battleships since HMS Vanguard was scrapped in 1960, but still has a few dozen warships. The US Navy still has a few battleships in mothballs. None has been built anywhere since the 1940s.

      • Dickon Whitewood

        Thank you (both). As you rightly say, history at my school was entirely focussed on the rise of the Nazi party and Hitler to the detriment of almost all else, save perhaps the odd lesson on subjects such as the Tudors and slavery in the lower years. A narrative of British history, to give the student some idea of how and why this country came to be, simply did not exist. Instead we jumped around time and space with no explanation of how anything related to each other and why any individual period was important outside of its immediate setting. The result is that many of my generation (20-30) simply don’t appreciate the importance of history or its continued relevance. I wonder whether this is the reason that so many of my generation view traditions and restraints as something simply to be dumped, as they do not appreciate the processes that led to their formation?

        • Giambologna

          This is an interesting observation, and one that I think rings true. Coming from the same generation, the history curriculum was ridiculous, wholly dedicated to WW2 and the Tudors up until GCSE, and then one or two additional topics on continental Europe for A Levels (Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain for me), and all muddled up. History of Art meanwhile was at least taught as a continuous narrative, which lifted some of the fog from my eyes. Anyone my age who hasn’t made a personal effort to learn would probably struggle to know which of the Battle of Agincourt or French Revolution came first (or even that they occurred). I don’t see how this is ‘progressive’..

          • Pioneer

            I think it is entirely “progressive”. You are not supposed to have any sense of who you are. All values are equal, etc….

        • freddiethegreat

          A good book is William Shirer – “The fall of the Third Empire”.

      • Jack_H

        If memory serves me right,after the Battle Of the River Plate no sea battle was won without air superiority,the age of the Big Gun Battleship was finished.

        • Uusikaupunki

          Your memory serves you incorrectly….There were many sea battles in which air power served no part, excepting reconnaissance perhaps….battle of Matapan, North Cape, Bismarck v Hood and Prince of Wales, to name a few.

          • Jack_H

            Thank you,you are correct…………but I’m so pedantic that I must just point out that Bismarck would be disabled by torpedoes dropped by Swordfish aircraft and Prince of Wales would herself succumb to bombs dropped from Japanese aircraft……apologies!

          • Uusikaupunki

            I am talking about the battle in which “Hood” was destroyed.
            I am so pedantic that I will point out that that was before the German battleship was disabled…. of course other, Pacific sea battles without the benefit of air “superiority” are available, mostly night actions, with huge casualties on both sides.

          • Jack_H

            Splendid stuff……..I wish I could buy you a pint!

            Sadly I can just give you one up vote 🙁

          • Uusikaupunki

            Thanks mate…! 🙂

      • David Booth.

        Easier still- A battle ship is always a warship but a warship isn’t always a battleship.

      • Uusikaupunki

        Great article Sir! I was probably one of the last visitors to walk the decks of Vanguard while she was still comissioned…. toured “X” turret (where gunnery sequences for “Sink the Bismarck” were filmed). A beautiful ship.
        Strange she never fired a shot in anger but her turrets and guns did, in WW1. Having been removed and stored from battlecruisers converted to aircraft carriers. The old Royal Navy never threw anything away! They came in handy when building Vanguard .

        • freddiethegreat

          The USS Iowa (Launched, I think in 1973) was used to shell Hisbollah in Lebanon in the early ’80s.

          • Uusikaupunki

            USS Iowa (lead ship of her class) was launched in 1942… HMS Vanguard was the last battleship of any nation to be completed..c 1945

  • carl jacobs

    The Second Iraq War was intended to foreclose the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iraq under Saddam Hussein. If Iraq had achieved nuclear capability, the US would have been required to insert itself between the Gulf states and an aggressive Iraq seeking territorial expansion behind its nuclear shield. The US would have had to do this in order to prevent the entire region from falling to Hussein’s influence or direct conquest. The US would also have had to manage a tense and highly volatile nuclear stand-off between Iraq and Israel with Iraqi units close to the Israeli border. The entire outcome was a nuclear exchange waiting to happen. There were a couple of ways to avoid this outcome. One was to assert “Iraq will never get those weapons.” Otherwise known as “Cross your fingers and hope.” The other would have been to strike Iraq if it ever became nuclear-capable. And by strike I mean “Attack with nuclear weapons.” None of these options appealed to the Americans. So they chose the least bad option and fought the war.

    The problems in Iraq today were caused not by the war but by the fact that the US didn’t know what to do with the conquered nation after the war. It didn’t have any doctrine for nation-building. It didn’t have any relevant experience. It didn’t have anyone responsible for the mission. It didn’t have anyone who even wanted the mission. Its post-war planning assumptions were naive to say the least. The post-war effort would be long and fraught with mistakes. In that situation, the political will to sustain the effort was essential. That will collapsed with the economic crisis in 2008 and the election of Obama.

    But the war itself was strategically sound. It had to be fought. The geostrategic consequences of not fighting that war were immense.

    • thescottishpastor

      I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense. Hans Blix begged for more time to continue his search for WMD. He was of the opinion that he wasn’t finding any WMD because there probably wasn’t any to be found. The war happened because Dick Cheney et al wanted an e target to hit after 9/11. That 9/11 was nothing to do with Iraq bothered him not at all. As to Blair’s stupidity in joining in, Robin Cook says in his autobiography that Blair promised Bush, the summer before the war, that we would be there alongside the US no matter what. Cook surmises that he did this because above all things Blair wanted to be seen as a main player by the US. Sheer vanity. That’s why the UK went to war. Appalling.

      • Lawrence James.

        This an anecdote: during one war-planning meeting, a sceptical civil servant, reminded Blair that TE Lawrence had warned the government in 1920 to ‘keep out of Iraq’. ‘Who was TE Lawrence ?’ was the Prime Minister’s comment. Can anyone confirm this: perhaps in our grandchildren’s time the Chilcot report will confirm or deny this.

      • David Brown

        Blair hates England which is why he and the Scots mafia had a gay time covertly opening up England to unprecedented levels of mass immigration. He wanted to back the US over Iraq as he cynical calculated that he would be rewarded by American companies . Same reason as he pushed the human rights act so the law firm Matrix which his wife is a partner in , would profit from.

    • Tom M

      Well it would appear that all that has happened is that “Iraq” has been exchanged for “Iran” in your assessment.

    • MickC

      Still at it I see, Carl!

      And no reply yet to my previous response to these points on another column.

      • carl jacobs

        MIckC

        It is a capital error to assume that a lack of response indicates an inability to respond. There are many reasons that a response may not be forthcoming. The last few days I have hardly felt like posting at all. Life intervenes, you see. I have a wife and kids and a job, and I am taking classes for Grad School. I have a certain amount of time for this activity and it can be easily de-prioritized.

        As to your previous comments. Your first comment was that “There is no evidence Saddam was seeking nukes.” That comment was so ahistorical, that I didn’t think it required a response. To be honest, I reacted like I would to someone who said “9/11 was a False flag operation.” There are those who will take that assertion seriously, and they won’t listen to me. There are those who know better, and they won’t need to listen to me. When an opponent so obviously hands you the advantage, you don;t continue the argument.

        Any good defense lawyer will tell you that you have to know when to end a cross-examination.

        • MickC

          I hope your family are well, and that your job and classes are successful.

          I have never seen any credible evidence that after the First Gulf War, Saddam was seeking nukes. If I had, like Keynes, I would change my opinion. If there is any, perhaps you could refer me to it.

          No, of course 9/11 wasn’t a false flag operation. My views are evidence based. However, yours appear to be “possibilty” based, and you have not answered my criticism of the situation you posited. No matter, we will obviously never reach a consensus.

    • freddiethegreat

      A round of applause for Israel for bombing the reactor, and let’s pray that Iran is next on their list.

    • Kennybhoy

      This.

  • thescottishpastor

    Superb article by one of the few journalists who goes wherever the truth takes him. We need more articles by him. And, if anyone from the BBC is reading this, please give him a programme on BBC 1 or 2. Many people would tune in.

    • Kennie

      Yes, the usual truthful article by Peter Hitchens. Just one thing puzzles me…..in the picture leading this article, why has Hitler got 3 arms?

      • Margot5000

        You should have gone to S***savers!

    • Fraser Bailey

      As you are well aware, nobody possessed of intelligence or judgement with regard to history or current affairs will ever be given a show on any of the BBC’s mindless and myriad channels.

    • goodsoldier

      If P. Hitchens had a programme (or better yet a channel) on the BBC, it would be worth paying the license fee.

  • UncleTits

    There is an influential group, particularly in your profession, for whom Adolph Hitler is a valuable political tool and they will not think twice about destroying anyone who diminishes his popular caricature. David Irving knows a thing or two about that although I can’t seem to find you defending his freedoms anywhere on-line.

    As for the Falklands, it was Labour’s defence cuts that emboldened the Argentines who were preparing for that invasion before Thatcher even took office. Best off getting your facts straight when congratulating yourself in public.

    • freddiethegreat

      Re the Falklands: someone pointed out that with the Democrats under Spineless Jimmy and the Labour party on the other side, Galtieri and Co felt they had nothing to fear, and that nobody would oppose them. Probably the dogs of Isis and other places feel the same now.

    • Mow_the_Grass

      Got to David Irving – and then knew that I had a real live f*ckwit on the line.

      • UncleTits

        And your disagreement is what? Please…

    • Gilbert White

      Same with Ethelred the Unready if he had not diverted resources into producing intricate anglo-saxon artifacts instead of longships the Vikings would not have dared to invaded.

  • DennisHorne

    The simple facts are men love fighting and if you ask the army you get the wrong answer.

    The Falkands war made no sense whatsoever but Thatcher wanted to man up. Naturally the bravery vaporised when China wanted Hong Kong. Sometimes it’s just better to lose.

    My father and both brothers left these distant NZ shores to fight for a country they had never seen, their English mother long dead, her mother having died on a sailing ship getting here, and I wonder — when I look at the mess Britain is in — if you’d not be better off run by the Germans. Maybe you will be yet.

    • Observer1951

      A silly statement on Hong Kong. The lease on HK expired and back it went to China, this had been known and agreed between UK and China for years.

      • Mortimer O’Faherty

        Wrong: only the New Territories was held under lease; HK Island and Kowloon were held in perpetuity. Mr Horne’s point is entirely valid.

        • freddiethegreat

          I still call the whole thing illegal. The occupation regime on the mainland is not the China that made the deal. HK properly belongs to the Republic of China, not the Reds

        • Observer1951

          Hong Kong Island and Kowloon were developed as a integrated whole with the New Terrotories with regard to transport and overall infrastructure. Therefore the Terrotories could not be split with the end of leasing. It was agreed to the two systems development for the next 50 years post lease end.
          Sent from my iPad

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            Only a blinkered apologist for Margaret Thatcher (a lady who had no iron when it came to dealing with the Chinese Communist government) would assert, without the benefit of expert evidence, that the NT could not have been split from the rest of HK. Integrated transport and overall infrastructure? Try that with the people of Alsace Lorraine, or of Slovakia, or of the former republics of the old Soviet Union.

          • Observer1951

            Spare me the Thatcher comment you have no idea about my background or how I vote. The comparison of HK/NT to Alsace is crazy. How many times was Alsace won and lost between France and Germany. Let’s agree to differ
            Sent from my iPad

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            Your reference to the frequency of the splitting of Alsace now from France, now from Germany, shows all the more the emptiness of your excuse – integrated transport and infrastructure – for the failure of HMG to split the NT from the rest of HK. (BTW, I couldn’t care less about your background or how you vote.)

          • Observer1951

            An empty response and of course you make assumptions about how I vote why else would you make reference to my excuses for Thatcher.
            Sent from my iPad

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            My response is empty? How so? You have excused craven British Government policy on HK by relying on a superficial, disingenuous notion – also peddled by Thatcher and her cronies (to disguise their cowardice) – that transport and infrastructure systems once integrated cannot subsequently be split. And, please Mr 1951 or whatever your name is, I really don’t care if you vote or how you vote. Why don’t you stop thinking that anyone is interested in you personally, and instead deal with the argument?

          • Observer1951

            But you haven’t dealt with my reply re Alsace and the moving French German border. This is really getting tedious now and your resort to ad hominem indicates its time to go. Looking forward to crossing swords again in the future!
            Sent from my iPad

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            I have replied to your point about Alsace – see four comments up. To reiterate, the fact that a border – in this case that of Alsace – can change so frequently shows how easily integrated transport and infrastructure systems can be split (and re-integrated again).

          • Observer1951

            Oh dear, you do pursue a point don’t you. Don’t you understand the concept of the break in a discussion when people agree to disagree? Have a glass of wine, go to bed and call it a day.
            Sent from my iPad

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            Is it that you can’t cope with your point about Alsace transpiring ironically to further demolish your integrated transport and infrastructure excuse for contemptible British Government policy on HK? How convenient for you that you seek to close this discussion while at the same time having the last word.

          • Observer1951

            This is the last word!

            Sent from my iPad

          • goodsoldier

            I don’t know which of you I agree with, but thank you for the discussion. I think you offer a service by discussing this online, even arguing and furious, is still better than no opinion, or saying nothing, as is how they educate in schools these days.

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            Thank you for your kind remarks.

        • Sponsz

          It is true that HK Island and the tip of the Kowloon peninsular were ceded in perpetuity, the lease only applied to the New Territories. HK is a very small and crowded place (I lived there for 30 years) and by 1997 it would have been quite impossible to split it, and for the island and southern Kowloon to survive on their own. Nearly all the fresh water comes from reservoirs in the NT and China itself, all China would have needed to do would be to turn off the taps. Not to mention food, electricity and so on.

          Another thing; in 1982 the UK was still capable of defeating Argentina, but a military confrontation with China on its own territory was a non-starter. In discussing rights and wrongs we should not lose sight of what is possible/impossible.

          As for freddie’s comment, perhaps Mrs Thatcher should have tracked down the descendants of the last Manchu emperor and offered Hong Kong to them!

          • Mortimer O’Faherty

            Was there an expert, official, published report into the issues you raise, especially water supply, and an examination of the relevant options? I have searched for, and found no such report. On your other point, the raison d’etre of mutual possession of nuclear arms is that military confrontation would have been as much a non-starter for the Chinese as for the British.

      • Gilbert White

        Why bother let the guy live with delusional?

  • King Zog

    Wow. Harsh. But true.

  • Skyeward

    What a f’ing good article right down to the very relaxed view those few of us against the war from the beginning take of the post-mortems. And yes, journalists should be first in line for Hitchens’ inquiry, starting with those employed by the Grey Lady.

  • Precambrian

    “why did so many informed and sensible people accept transparent twaddle as fact?”

    Perhaps they were called something-phobic if they disagreed.

  • What a great article! Why are left wing liberal progressives violent, imperialistic warmongers? They are everything they claim to be against.

  • Mortimer O’Faherty

    Very sound article. Obviously, Blair’s New Labour bears huge responsibility. However, so also does the Conservative Party, which supported and fawned upon Blair. It’s hard to know who is best served by Chilcot’s ass-licking delays: Blair or his Tory heirs?

  • Chet Carter

    Very good article. All the more ironic it being published in the house magazine for neo liberal interventionism in countries abroad.

  • Augustus

    Al Qaeda in Iraq Under Saddam
    -FrontPageMagazine.com | Thursday, March 13, 2008

    Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Osama al-Magid, a former police officer in Iraq (1992- 2003)

    “FP: Can you talk about Al Qaeda in Iraq before and after 2003?

    Al-Magid: I have discussed some points about Al Qaeda being in Iraq for many years before 2003. This seems to only be a surprise to Americans, but everyone in Iraq knew Al Qaeda was being protected by Saddam in Iraq. The Al Qaeda people had their own mosques in Nasiriyah and only Al Qaeda could go to the mosques. One of their mosques was near the Saddam hospital that Private Jessica Lynch was being held as a prisoner. Americans do not understand how much they helped the Iraqis when they removed Saddam.

    FP: As a Muslim yourself, what are your views of Al Qaeda and jihad in general?

    Al-Magid: Al Qaeda and groups like them are cowards and criminals. Even by saying this I am putting myself at risk because people who support Al Qaeda are living in America, and they consider that what I am saying is to be an Apostate. The penalty under Shari’a Law for Apostasy is of course death, and there are no boundaries for Al Qaeda as we all saw on Sept. 11th, 2001. There are many brave Muslims living in America who do condemn Al Qaeda, but their voices are seldom heard.”

    • LyovMyshkin

      I can’t fathom the amount of idiocy, ignorance and willful denial it takes to believe this sort of obvious and ludicrous propaganda. Even managed to throw Jessica Lynch in there (another ludicrous piece of war propaganda).

    • BillBill

      This propaganda is ludicrously obvious yet the NYT and many influential people took in tales of this level of mendacity as a reason to invade Iraq.

      Everyone should read at least one of the two good books written about conman and charlatan Ahmed Chalabi who was the NYT’s key source on Iraq.

  • DennisHorne

    In the long term wars don’t seem to solve anything. Except perhaps civil wars, which in any case don’t determine who is right, but who is left — thereby solving the problem entirely.

    Some disputes have easy answers. Wouldn’t the cost of resettling the Falkland Islanders in, say, Scotland, have been more elegant than killing and maiming men? A windswept estate for each islander would have been cheaper too.

    • BillBill

      Exactly right. And let’s move all white people to Wales so we don’t upset the new locals; divide France into two; remove all Christians and Jews from the Middle East and give over half of the USA to Mexico. Encourage all the Ukrainians to flee to the EU so that Russia can take over the shell.

      Let China have what it wants in Southeast Asia; let Pakistan have Kashmir; let the Strongest African tribes rule what they want; let Salafi Islam rule any territory more than 35% Muslim and ensure that Taiwan goes back to its rightful owner.

      Then raise a monument to the glory of hyper rational thinking and all the lives saved from war.

  • Leon Wolfeson

    Overthrowing someone who was murdering people en-mass; Mistake. Right.

    As you ignore our constitution, ignore Torynomics, etc.

  • Here’s several posts I made a long time ago about this issue that casts a different light on events. The fact that the media hasn’t considered these facts doesn’t make it unlikely.

    Ever since Bush and Blair embarked on their mission to get rid of Saddam, the BBC has pursued an anti-war coverage, and maintained it to the present day. Much has been made of the ‘illegal’ war, and the UN, the French and Germans, ALL who voiced opposition to this war, were presented as the moral voice of reason and justice. Robin Cook, Claire Short, and Glenda Jackson have never had it so good.
    When Saddam’s WMD’s couldn’t be located, this enforced the voices of all those that had declared the wrongness of removing Saddam. Most would carefully add that Saddam was an evil tyrant (except George Galloway who praised the man) and deserved to be removed, but that it was not up to a foreign international force to do it.

    The only balance the BBC gave to counter this view was to present a few who
    maintained that the WMD’s would be found, or had already been removed to another country like Iran or Syria. and it was right to remove Saddam.
    However they made sure that every time there were sufficient voices to drown out and sneer at this suggestion.

    Missing from the equation was another view of events, that in light of certain facts should have been made apparent. Now I’m not a journalist, but most all of these
    facts are to be found on a BBC website, so it is not like they are unaware of them.

    1. The French, Germans and Russians had huge financial contracts with Saddam, that any war was going to put an end to.

    2. Many high-up officials in the UN and various governments, including Kofi Annan’s own son, have been involved in the ‘Oil for Food’ scandal, where they received huge quantities of oil worth billions of dollars, in exchange for protection and services for Saddam to keep his regime going.

    3. The same Hans Blix who announced in December 2002 that their was still a matter of 10.000 litres of chemi/bio nasties unnacounted for, but he didn’t think Saddam presented much of an international threat, was the same Hans Blix who was once director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from 1981 to 1997. He was in charge of overseeing inspections of the country’s
    nuclear programme. During that time, the Iraqis managed to hide an advanced nuclear weapons development programme from the IAEA. It was only discovered after the Gulf War in 1991. Which was why the US and UK did not want Blix leading the UN inspection team this time around.

    But the UN majority did – wonder why?

    As I say, I’m not a journalist, but can one begin to see another version of events that is screaming to be presented, and isn’t it the BBC’s sworn duty to present it?

    The problem for most people to understand the justification for it is that the media has gone to great lengths to avoid bringing those issues to the table that showed why it was right. If anything, the media stopped our forces going as far as it needed to in putting down the threat to our society that daily further encroaches on our lives.

    First I would suggest that people read the book ‘ The High Cost of Peace’ by Yossef Bodansky. He was the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, as well as director of research at the International Strategic Studies Association and a senior editor for the Defense and Foreign Affairs group of publications. The author of eight books on international terrorism and global crises, a former senior consultant for the US Depts. of Defense and State. He also predicted and wrote about 9/11 before it happened, by observing what was going on within the Islamic world.

    He shows in this book how Clinton’s zeal for peace was motivated by his desire to divert national attention away from his domestic scandals, and why his administration completely ignored the growing threat of militant Islamism. Also, what secret preparations Saddam ordered for the next war with, and terrorist
    strikes against, the United States and Israel. Saddam wasn’t the only leader within the Muslim world who was vying to be ‘the supreme leader’, but he had his hands on the reins. Taking out Saddam wasn’t only about getting rid of this direct threat, but also to send a message to the rest of them. We saw how Gaddafi, for example, immediately became a good boy once he saw what was happening to Saddam.

    The problem began with our media laying the focus on WMD as the necessary justification instead of what can still be deemed a weapon of mass destruction that
    lies within the Islamic mindset. Even today, following over 20,400 deadly terrorist attacks since 9/11, the ambitions of the Islamists have still not been properly identified by our media, and counter measures put into place. The problem for Bush and Blair in spelling out the real reasons for taking out Saddam was to allow the other regimes with similar ambitions to back down, like Gaddafi. If they would have stated that this was the purpose of the war, it would have been more likely to
    have them dig in their heels, rather than make themselves look weak in front of their followers. But this made it impossible to publicly ridicule the premise that the only legitimate purpose of the war was to get rid of WMD.

    Clinton knew that the media would attack him if he would have chosen to counter the forces of Islam the way Bush did, which is why he preferred to appease them, sending them billions, and only serving to empower and embolden them further. It’s a pity that our media made it impossible for Bush to finish the job, as in the long run for us to take control it will cost a lot more lives on all sides. Blair was not initially a proponent of war, and was making the same sort of noises as France and Germany. Then one weekend in the run up to the invasion, Bush had him come to Camp David for an ‘education’ on what was really going on in the world. When he returned, he was a ‘convert’.

    • PaD

      Truly educational..thanks

    • Gilbert White

      Beggars belief Robin Cook the real war criminal. You either have international laws or you do not you cannot pick and mix.

  • A real liberal

    When one reads real journalism these days, it makes one mourn the loss of a whole profession. Sold for a mess of pottage.

    • LyovMyshkin

      Agreed.

  • A new poster

    Keep up the good work Mr Hitchens. One of the few good opinion journalist around

  • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

    A photo that could be straight out the British royals family album.

    YES SCOTLAND

  • Tellytubby

    The worst thing we ever did as a country was get involved in the Second World War.

    • Joseph Clemmow

      Err, are you familiar with the works of Correlli Barnett? His ‘The Pride and the Fall’ series is easily the best work on British decline in the 20th century. We made far greater mistakes as a nation. Entering the Second World War was entirely necessary for our survival. All other considerations are secondary

      • MickC

        “entirely necessary for our survival”…open to debate at the very least!

  • Margot5000

    In one of my first tutorials at university, many centuries ago, I remember being told that communism and other beliefs are forms of religion. Why is it legitimate to be against a belief such as fascism and apartheid but not to be against a belief which calls itself a religion? They are all ideologies/belief systems/cults, call them what you will. Many have caused untold harm and many have worked sometimes for the good. At present one such ideology is causing harm wherever it pops up with only a few countries not being ruined by it. Should it not be viewed in the same way as fascism. Indeed most of Europe seems to view it in that light but are unfortunately being persuaded to view it in a benign way. An interesting perspective can be seen in the photos that are making the front pages today – those of the wife who was drowned and those of her sister in law in Canada who was saying she had applied to Canada for their entry (it proved to be she had actually applied for another brother). Photos of the sister would not instill fear in Europeans whereas those of the wife might well do so. The difference is a piece of cloth wound around the wife’s head. Those who deny that that piece of cloth has any significance should look at those photos and reflect. France truly knew what it was doing when that piece of cloth became illegal.

  • For me its got something to do with our principles. We seem to believe that a principle is something that is worth any consequences to pursue. Hence our democratic principles lead us to catastrophe in Libya, Syria and Iraq.

    In reality, sometimes autocratic stability is better than democratic chaos. This notion is offensive to us as it offends our principles. To stop us falling for these traps we should base our decisions more on hard headed pragmatism (what works) rather than head in the clouds principle (what we like to happen).

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Ah yes, the Hutton Report, aka the Hutton whitewash.

  • tolpuddle1

    Why do so many Brits support “humanitarian” wars ?

    Because they’re confident that other people will do the bleeding and the dying in such wars. And that it’s other people who will be maimed.

  • Purple Commoner

    And Hitchens and his fanboys are off…

  • Bayesian_Rationalist

    Good piece. It is fascinating how easily we can get dragged into thinking that war is the best option by an acceleration of media coverage against whichever government the United States and the British government don’t currently like.

    The one aspect of this article that lets it down is the denigration of people who are sceptical of military interventions on the Left as “Trotskyists”. Firstly, those who marched against the war in Iraq were almost certainly not all Trotskyists, and to claim that they were all against any western-backed war, anywhere, is patently false.

    Secondly, the reason we, thankfully, did not go into an ill-considered adventure in Syria is because the Labour Party, under Ed Miliband, voted against the intervention. A large part of this was due to the opposition to the war on the Left, so to claim that activism has and will achieve nothing is again, I think, false.

    If we set aside the animosity on both sides of the political spectrum, sensible people on the Right and the Left, who recognise the role we played in causing the current Ukrainian crisis, and our failures in Libya and Iraq, could work together on the issue of military interventionism.

    The question of the Iraq War was one of the few instances in which I agreed with Peter Hitchens over Christopher Hitchens.

    • Peter Hitchens

      The Trotskyist reference is a joke against myself, as I was a Trotskyist from 1968 to 1975, and so understand all too well the daft wishful thinking of left-wing Utopians. Trotskyism is in fact a shorthand for the attempt to have it both ways – longing for Utopia, denying that it would end in the Gulag, or longing for democracy in Iraq, and denying that it would end in gory catastrophe. That was my brother’s problem, and despite garnering the applause of so many American warmongers, he never,ever abandoned his admiration for Trotsky himself .

      If the left-wing protestors who marched against the Iraq war had understood their own ideas as well as my brother did, they would have supported the war. All the really intelligent leftists did support it. It was a Utopian project.

      • Bayesian_Rationalist

        Thank you for the reply. I’m in perfect agreement with you when it comes to Trotskyism.

        The only further point I would make is that not all the left-wing protestors were Trotskyists or even Utopians – I don’t think left-wing is synonymous with such labels by any means.

  • Joseph Clemmow

    I like P.H. But don’t be fooled by this article. The revisionist of the Second World War is far from new and was conclusive settled in the early 1990s. Hitchens line is exactly the same as David Irving’s and John Charmley’s. Charmley in particular argued this line a book called “Churchill the End of Glory”. He believes that Churchill’s alternative to appeasement was unrealistic and that his actions as Prime Minister in World War II were a failure. Charmley sees the resulting collapse of the British Empire, and the rise of the United States and the Soviet Union, as disastrous. Charmley appears to suggest that Britain should have negotiated with Nazi Germany in 1940, that it would have been possible to do so honourably and that it would have safeguarded the British Empire better than the alliance with the anti-colonial U.S. President Roosevelt did. Charmley retrospectively recommends “disengaging” from the war against Germany, and letting Stalin and Hitler whittle away each other’s power rather than risk Britain’s resources. Most historians find Charmley’s view of the situation of Britain in the Second World War implausible at best. Many historians argue that it is difficult to blame the fall of the British Empire on Churchill, as it was exceedingly likely to fall anyway. Scholars also find the idea of a truce with Germany unwise at best. Manfred Weidhorn gave a more general critique arguing: “Prudential (albeit immoral) as that solution might have been, the critics assume that [1] Hitler would deal; [2] the British Coalition government would let Churchill deal; [3] Hitler would be faithful to the deal; [4] Russia would have gone under; [5] America would keep out; [6] The British Empire still had a long way to go; [7] a Britain tied to Hitler would have remained democratic; [8] American hegemony is bad. As Langworth, Smith, et al. point out, most of these Charmley assumptions (1–3, 6–8) are dubious”.

    Mr Hitchens should take note

    • Peter Hitchens

      Mr Clemmow misses the point. The suggestion that anyone who os critical of the conduct of WW2 is arguing against *any* war against Hitler is invariably made to close off this argument (is this wilful? I am sure I have discussed this with him elsewhere). I would certainly not suggest that a 1940 peace with Hitler would have been tolerable. Churchill was plainly right to reject any peace overtures in the summer of 1940. It is his greatest single achievement to have prevented any such move. Nations that have declared war, which then lose that war, cannot expect kindly terms from the victor. Churchill knew (as we now tend to forget, because of the powerful myth that we lived in constant fear of Nazi invasion) that an actual invasion of Britain would have been a very difficult proposition, with the Royal Navy intact and the RAF still in being (not to mention following the severe. irreparable losses sustained by the already inadequate German fleet in the Norway invasion).Provided Hitler could not defeat Stalin, we were safe and in a position to recoup and rearm, though the USA exacted a very high price for allowing us to do so.

      The point of decision was far earlier, and Churchill played no part in it. He was left with the position which Chamberlain and Halifax had bequeathed to him. In March/April 1939, the Franco-British guarantee of Poland’s independence ( which seems to have resulted from an emotional spasm on the part of Halifax) altered the course of European history. This pledge, which we knew we could not fulfil, and which Germany knew we could not fulfil, but which Poland alone took seriously, ended Poland’s pact with Hitler, dating from 1934 and continuing up to the point when Poland shared joyfully ( as did Hungary) in the spoils of Munich. It might truthfully be said that it led directly to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and the consequent partition of Poland. It also gave Poland, or rather the unlovely Joszef Beck, the absolute power to decide when and under what circumstances Britain and France entered any war against Hitler.

      It is plain that Britain and France were going to have to take some sort of military action against Hitler sooner or later, or at the very least to conclude an anti-German pact with Stalin, which would probably have amounted to the same thing. We ended up in a compulsory alliance with Stalin for which we paid in very hard coin indeed. Hardly anyone would have chosen September 1939 (when the tiny British Army was still drilling with broomsticks) as the ideal moment, or the independence of Poland as the ideal issue. In the same way it was plain that the USA would be bound to be drawn into this. The question must be whether British and French diplomacy were competently handled, and whether the timing was right. And whether cleverer diplomacy and better timing might indeed have saved Britain from the accelerated decline which it has actually suffered.

      • Joseph Clemmow

        Before i post a broader reply, can i please draw Mr Hitchens attention to two significant books regarding this matter. First the crucially important ‘Diplomat in Berlin, 1933-1939; Papers and Memoirs of Józef Lipski, Ambassador of Poland’, gives a general view of appeasement from the Polish perspective, often neglected by historians of this period. Second is Ian Kershaw’s excellent ‘Making Friends with Hitler: Lord Londonderry and Britain’s Road to War’ which raises fundamental questions about Britain’s role in the 1930s and whether in practice there was ever any possibility of preventing Hitler’s leading Europe once again into war.

        I will post my full response to Mr.H soon

      • Mightypeon

        From a Russian pov:

        The Soviet Union saw Munich not so much as appeasement, but as an attempt to turn Hitler East against them, and thus turn him into the Soviet Unions problem. Stalin still tried to create an Anti Hitler pact, and send out very concrete proposals to do so, but the British and French response was exceedingly noncomittal. Faced with a possible two front war against Germany and Japan (One should not forget Kalkin Gol here, USSR and Japan fought a major land battle with 10s of thousands of troops on each side that was drawn out for months), Stalin sent some peacefeelers to Hitler while attempting to solve the problem of Japanese aggression militarily. Zhukov was given massive resources at Kalkin Gol, and decisvely won against the Japanese Imperial guard. This happened during the final negotiations of the Molotov Ribbentrop pact, and immensely strengthened the Soviet bargaining position.

        For Stalin/Stavka, the pact had the following clear advantadges:
        -It represented a German betrayal of Japan. The shockwaves from signing it led to the replacement of an Anti Soviet Japanese goverment with an Anti Western one. From a Japanese pov., they were actively engaged in fighting the USSR, and their fellow anti comintern member was dealing behind their backs just as encircled and mercilessly shelled Japanese troops prepared for their last stand in Mongolia.

        -It bought time to further increase the strength of the Red army.
        -It (temporarily) regained the lands lost to the Polish intervention during the Russian civil war.
        -It gave them a free hand to “settle issues” with Romania and Finland.

        The negative points were that the pact strengthened Germany, perhaps more then it strengthened the USSR, that it removed Poland as a buffer (Poland was however, vastly more Anti Soviet then it was Anti German, so from the Soviet pov. its use as a buffer was very limited), that it greatly reduced the morale of communists not in the Soviet Union and that it dealt considerable damage to Soviet-Western relations.

        Following the guarantees, the Soviets expected a quick defeat of Poland (correctly), and a slow drawn out battle between the British/French and the Germans (which was what everyone else also expected, turns out everyone was wrong). Germany would be blockaded, but could, as long as Stalin felt like that, counter this blockade with Soviet imports. This arrangement would have put the USSR in a very comfortable position, and it certainly looked forward to “kinetically renegotiate the MR pact” at a time of its choosing,

        Rapid German victory in continental Europe crushed Soviet planning, while the purges and the disastrous war with Finland reduced the might and the deterrence factor of the Red army.
        The rest is history.

  • new_number_2

    Britain hasn’t fought a necessary conflict since the Second World War and the conflicts it has fought were against national liberation movements to retain its colonies and so called “humanitarian interventions”.

    “Humanitarian interventions” are of course based on the imperialist and supremacist concept that Western powers are obliged to be the guardians of worldwide human rights and sovereign borders and international law should be no impediment to these enforcers of justice and saviors from atrocities.

    Western nations due to their obvious superiority can never be in the wrong, can never commit massacres and absolutely are never in violation of international law. Other countries can be stated as having done something illegal, but never Western nations. Everything they do – particularly when it comes to military intervention – is always aboveboard and completely legal.

    • kitten

      I detect a bit of sarcasm in that last paragraph.

      • new_number_2

        Is that your kitten in your avatar?

        • kitten

          It is. 🙂 Do you remember me telling you about them?

          • new_number_2

            I don’t think it was me you told. Have you got many cats then?

          • kitten

            No, it was someone else. I have rather a lot at the moment as we have kittens. 🙂
            One more week to go before the results of the Labour contest are in; as the polls are notoriously unreliable I’m remaining skeptical.

          • new_number_2

            Betting companies have already paid out on a Corbyn win weeks ago so it would be a massive shock if he doesn’t go onto win now. It would surely point to something dodgy in the voting process such as purging thousands of Corbyn supporters.

    • cartimandua

      Missing Pax Americana yet? Without it no one stops conflicts and millions migrate this way.
      tribal and Muslim people never had a culture which didn’t result in mass culls or migrations.
      Its “normal” for them.

    • BillBill

      Malaya, Falklands, Iraq1, arguable Afghanistan. Also several ‘liberation’ wars were fought because we wanted to leave certain colonies with good structures in place; debatable certainly but not cut and dried. Bosnia, etc.. There are surely others.

      It is a form of Western vanity to assume that it is the fount of all evil in the world. We are STILL so important yay!!

  • Since all wealthy countries are nowadays expected to share their wealth with poorer countries then Britain would have been no more wealthy in Peter Hitchens’ scenario than we are now. All countries – and all people within countries – must end up with pretty much the same level of wealth when the music stops. Therefore it really doesn’t matter how well or badly you play since the winnings are shared out at the end.

    • cartimandua

      And we are all living in shanty towns in Guatemala.

      • Good point. However, equality isn’t achieved overnight. After all, the people who are so obsessed with equality only took the reins a few decades ago. In a couple more decades full of BBC lying, Social Justice Warriors, wealth distribution to help the ‘vulnerable’, Foreign Aid, Jeremy Corbyn, mass immigration from the Third World, all topped off with bonus that it apparently falls to Europe to take in the people of the Middle East and Africa after they have messed things up for themselves and we should soon be on a par with Guatemala.

  • The Reincarnated Sausage

    The uncomfortable truth

    Great article

    Why did we destroy Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria?

    What was achieved?

    Who was really responsible for the little boy washed up on the beach in Bodrum?

    • cartimandua

      We didn’t and we are not responsible for people breeding themselves into conflict and mass migrations.

      • OldPete

        What a disgusting comment.

  • cartimandua

    The truth is that high birth rate failed state culture makes failed states.
    There are 100 million in the youth bulge of the MENA region and in every Muslim country there are more young people than jobs.

  • Rodney H Vincent

    Peter Hitchens you’ve nailed it.
    This article should be read by all our politicians, especially those responsible for the present Middle East disasters. The trouble is the latter have such a sense of their own righteousness that they would reject it out of hand.

  • cartimandua

    We are not now nor ever have been responsible for Muslim feckless breeding.
    That is what is behind the conflict in the MENA region.

  • Innit Bruv

    Far too much wallowing in past glories, far too much fetichising of the military.
    Peter Hitchens and Peter Oborne. Two of the best in the business.

  • First class article – as usual!

  • Randal

    Absolutely correct in almost every regard. Could have written it myself.

  • Sten vs Bren

    Very good article but when you say

    “it was a Trotskyist fantasy to imagine that a large march by those who are against any western-backed war, anywhere, ever, would change the government’s mind”

    and

    “why did so many mainstream, reasonable, informed and sensible non-Trotskyist people readily accept the most transparent twaddle as fact”

    you draw a false distiction betwen the marchers and the non-Trotskyists.

    The march was by many of the usual suspects but they were joined by thousands of … non-Trotsyists, marching for the first time. You know; ordinary people. You may have been foxed because when a non-Trot carries a placard distributed by your actual Trots, they look like a Trot.

    But it was all sorts.

  • Clive

    Lord Palmerston said in the Commons July 23 1863: “…I am satisfied with all reasonable men in Europe, including those in France and Russia, in desiring that the independence, the integrity, and the right of Denmark may be maintained. We are convinced—I am convinced at least—that if any violent attempt were made to overthrow those rights and interfere with that independence, those who made the attempt would find in the result, that it would not be Denmark alone with which they would have to contend. I trust, however, that these transactions will continue to be, as they have been, matters for negotiation, and not for an appeal to arms…” http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1863/jul/23/consolidated-fund-appropriation-bill

    That is hardly a ‘solemn promise’ to Denmark of British military support. In fact Palmerston may well have intervened militarily but Queen Victoria undermined his policy through manipulation of his cabinet. That was a lesson in not having a politically robust foreign policy.

    The Iraq War was an exercise in politically robust foreign policy in its conception. Here was a dictator involved with the development of WMD trying to be the ‘Sunni strongman’ of the Middle East. That is the foreign policy of ‘national interest’. He had also been murdering his population in the hundreds of thousands in which endeavour he had only been thwarted by the ‘no-fly’ zones north and south – for which much credit to John Major. That was the ‘humanitarian’ side of the policy. There was every reason to want to depose Saddam Hussein and the Americans in the form of Bill Clinton adopted a policy of regime change in Iraq without equivocation. GW Bush continued this policy.

    The ‘Queen Victoria’ in UK Iraq policy was the left of the Labour Party. They hated Tony Blair for removing Clause IV and for trying to follow the Blair-Clinton-Schröder ‘Third Way’ economically.

    Miltarily, the war was quite clinical. It achieved its objectives rapidly and with relatively few casualties. The aftermath was poorly managed in light of the history of such liberations.

    The history of such liberations from rule by strength is that they seldom result in stable government and they frequently result in internecine violence.

    Since WW2 this has happened in countless decolonisations by all colonial nationalities – Algeria; Vietnam; Nigeria; Uganda; Zimbabwe – the list goes on. Ethnic or religious divisions open because there is no main force to hold them closed. The people have not yet accustomed themselves to resolving these differences by politics rather than force. The USSR after its breakup gave rise to the Nagorno-Karabakh war; the Abkhazia / South Ossetia war with Georgia; the Chechen war and ultimately the second Georgian war and the Ukraine war. These wars have killed 300,000 people in Chechnya alone. Does anyone other than a few diehards in Russia wish the USSR had been perpetuated ?

    There were two polarities of political outcome for the Iraq War with the result anywhere along the line between. There was the UK/US left’s chosen outcome. That was that Tony Blair and GW Bush would be thoroughly discredited and all of their works discredited by association. At the other pole the UK and US gave a lesson to all dangerous dictators that the the world had become a small place in which they would be removed and prosecuted. They would be removed because it was in the interest of some major powers to do it and prosecuted because their behaviour had exceeded humanitarian bounds. That had already happened to some degree with Slobodan Milosevic and his cohorts. This would be a continuation of that ethos.

    If the internecine violence in Iraq had been headed off early by policies such as Petraeus managed later, it could have been a model for Middle Eastern arab democracy. Even as it was, it was flawed but later showed the merit of political dialogue over militaristic destruction. If they can just avoid manipulation by Iran – the downfall of Lebanon – and Saudi Arabia, they may well become pioneers in the region.

    In the event, the Left pretty much completely achieved their aim. There was a community of interest in the UK between the Labour left who hated Tony Blair for his ‘Third Way’ and a large section of right wing media who feared that Tony Blair had obliterated the Tories for a generation. In 2003 when the war happened, the Tories were on their second leader in opposition and looking every bit as unelectable as Labour do now.

    As a result of this political outcome, dictators have taken heart. Whereas Omar Bashir might have been dissuaded from his actions using the Janjaweed against the population of Darfur – albeit that was an older conflict involving desertification – he was encouraged. Incidentally for all of the ‘all about oil’ conspiracy theorists, Darfur contained Sudan’s block 6 for oil prospecting in which the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) had an interest. It hardly ever gets mentioned.

    And of course there were WMD in Iraq probably pretty much as Robin Cook described in his resignation speech only a day or two before the war started. He said …Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term – namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.

    It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British Government approved chemical and munitions factories…. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/2859431.stm and everything about that speech is designed to undermine the war. He was wrong about the chemical weapons and the UK. German companies appear to have been the only ones knowingly supplying chemical weapons to Saddam http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-companies-suspected-of-aiding-syrian-chemical-weapons-program-a-1014722.html.

    The chemical weapons he describes were found some time ago http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/16/world/cia-is-said-to-have-bought-and-destroyed-iraqi-chemical-weapons.html?_r=1 The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.

    The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war…

    The biological weapons have not been found but they degrade much more quickly, so that’s not surprising. David Kelly, who would know, was convinced of their existence right up to his death and believed military force was necessary to eliminate them http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2003/aug/31/huttonreport.iraq.

    Of course the Iraq War mythologies are so well established now that these facts are either denied entirely or dismissed as irrelevant.

    So what should the UK do with international conflict. Peter Hitchens advocates the ‘interests only’ model. The ‘humanitarian’ model is not for him. Personally, I don’t agree but the political aftermath of the Iraq War is such that I doubt many of the naturally risk-averse politicans we have in democracies will want to be involved in anything like a major conflict for the foreseeable future. They see a badly charred Tony Blair who had a well justified war in all political senses and look away with fear in their eyes.

    Suppose you want to take the ‘interests only’ model. Where is there an interest for us to pursue ? Against Bashar Assad ? How does he present any threat to us ? On top of that, the Russians are protecting him. Islamic State ? How do they threaten us ? They probably seek WMD but that whole line has been rehearsed and found lacking with Saddam Hussein. They leach deluded children from our population but so did the Spanish Civil War. Those children may come back and attack us but there is no evidence that they would not do that if we attacked IS – Quite the contrary.

    Our diplomacy has therefore become about assembling nations to participate in sanctions. It used to be that there had to be a threat of force to make diplomacy meaningful in the way of Clausewitz. We have lost any plausible such threat. Diplomacy is very little about ‘international law’ at these extremes. Those niceties are reserved for aficionados of the International Whaling Convention. The Kosovan war was similarly ‘illegal’ yet Elizabeth Wilmshust appears to have accepted it, presumably because all of NATO would have been acting ‘illegally’. Anyway she got the CMG which was I believe appropriate to her grade on resignation.

    Does it matter that we have little diplomatic sway in the world ? Probably not. Until recently, it was the German model. It saved them a lot of money in armed forces. It will probably mean the end of our permanent seat on the UN Security Council but that has been coming for some time anyway. The EU can have it and no doubt they will reach rapid agreement on all manner of urgent international disputes.

    The UK just lives in a rather different international world from that which it would otherwise inhabit.

    It was a pretty stupid way to get there, though.

    • MickC

      What were the objectives of the Iraq War which were “achieved”? Apparently a stable Iraq was not one of them.

      And I certainly do not recall the CIA displaying any WMD which they had purchased. Can you provide a link to such?

      • Clive

        The objectives of the war were the removal of Saddam Hussein and the prevention of the Iraqi regime from using WMD

        The link is in the comment

        You could argue that the UK is ‘unstable’. It is more likely to break up than Iraq, despite repeated and urgent prophecies to the contrary

        • MickC

          Instability actually means likely to violently break up, rather than just break up. But yes, the UK will break up, peacefully. No doubt there will be major disagreements, but no violence.

          Your links are to the New York Times only mention mustard gas, not quite the WMD people were led to expect….

          As for “unaccounted for”, that doesn’t mean there were any in an event.

          Btw, “the Left” may love the fiddly details, but I most certainly am not on the Left. However, before the State takes my country to war, and expends its blood and treasure on it, I expect solid evidence that there is a real threat to my country and its immediate interests.

          I have yet to see any, and moreover any explanation as to how the UK benefited from the Iraq War.

          • Clive

            Well, I already explained that in the removal of Saddam Hussein from power – a man who wanted and was moving toward WMD.

            On the fiddly details front, if all of the papers that were screaming ‘Bush & Blair lied: No WMD’ or words to that effect had instead been saying ‘Not the WMD we expected’ it would not have had quite the impact it did but that’s neither here nor there.

            Incidentally both of the NYT stories mention sarin. Nor were there just a few chemical weapons, there were 5,000 of one kind or another.

            Saddam Hussein told George Piro, the FBI special agent who interviewed him, that he expected to restart his WMD program http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/1576735/Saddam-Hussein-pretended-to-have-weapons.html
            …Mr Piro said that Saddam, who was executed in 2006, told him he intended to restart a weapons programme at the time, and had engineers available for chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

            It’s not as though you can make a mistake with WMD. Such a mistake could cost thousands of lives.

  • greencoat

    Hitchens etches his words in granite while others scribble in the sand.

    • ohforheavensake

      I’ve come to see The Spectator’s regular columnists as illustrations of the most common type of pub bore. LIddle’s the slobbering drunk: Young’s the aggressive drunk: Taki’s the nasty drunk; O’Neill’s the contrarian drunk; and Hitchens is the self-righteous drunk- the one who thinks the world would be so much neater, if only people switched their brains off and accepted that, in all things, he is the only possible source of truth.

      But they’re all drunks; all professional peddlers of all the common or garden varieties of gin-fuelled incoherence. To go back to your metaphor: Hitchens doesn’t etch his words in granite; he pees them on the snow- which melts, and washes away.

      • The_greyhound

        And your good self? A prodigious bag of piss and wind.

  • WarriorPrincess111111

    Peter Hitchins talks of the past. I was fooled for a short period about the Iran/Iraq wars – but after doing some research and listening to people who had returned from these areas – I quickly realised the truth and now question every political statement. The same type of situation occurs continuously, and is happening now – look how many people are being fooled over the ‘immigration crisis’ – that is a drop in the ocean to what the future may hold. The immigrants are coming over to Europe en masse – why? What would entice smartly dressed and well equipped people, with large amounts of money to pay traffickers and train fares etc., from warm countries, where their own language is spoken and their beliefs are respected, to come to unknown countries so diverse to what they have known? Ah! Many are escaping from the Syrian conflict! But the Syrian conflict would not have begun without the USA Warlords who were after the huge profits of the Middle East oil. Well – in June 2014, a band of Muslims unrecognised by other Muslims, called ISIL,ISIS,IS or Daish whatever – in the middle of turmoil in Iraq, managed to secure the oil wells. Not long after, coincidentally, the US announced that it had discovered in the US, large reserves of oil – hence the oil became cheaper to buy in many states including Europe. Further research illustrated that IS were being funded by the US and its allies. So we now have this conflict in Syria (more oil) funded by the US and allies – remember that Syria has an army of anything between 300,000 to 600,000 personnel, depending on what you find and ISIS has an army of 9000 to 300,000 personnel – with Syria having a fully equipped air, naval and ground troops while ISIS does not – so again the reports we all receive about atrocities – do not appear genuine. But it is known that the US and Europe are and have been sending arms to the Sunni Muslims in the MIddle East.
    In the meantime – Europe is receiving huge numbers of immigrants, complete with sympathy stories in an attempt to excuse these people their entry into Europe. Why just Europe if they are trying to escape turmoil – there are another 163 countries in the World that could take them? Coincidentally, Germany who is now the World’ third largest arms exporter, has been holding talks in Africa to secure huge arms deals.
    The aftermath is – that we now have huge numbers of Sunni Muslims in Europe. Saudi Arabia and other Eastern countries have been purchasing the largest number of arms from Russia and Europe. Saudi Arabia is a dominant nation – why would it require large numbers of arms? Germany has been supplying many of these – somehow having slipped out of the restrictions imposed on it from the last war. Germany is a dominant nation. Yet the EU was intended for World peace!

  • Zalacain

    “The national puzzle is this: why did so many mainstream, reasonable,
    informed and sensible non-Trotskyist people readily accept the most
    transparent twaddle as fact?”
    Well you yourself are a Christian and there are few things more absurd than that.

    In fact, both ideas have a similar premise. The (Christian) leaders who took us into the Iraq war promised us that all (weapons of mass destruction) would be revealed after the war. We just needed to have faith instead of evidence.
    Religious leaders also tell us that all will be revealed (eternal life) after we are dead. We just need to have faith instead of evidence.

    Once you are prepared to believe the absurd, all absurd beliefs are possible.

  • brainbiter

    Hitchens is a shill. He makes all the right noises, but pin him about the one thing that matters – blood, the genetic interests every ethnic and racial group has a right to protect – and he grows curiously agitated. I gave him the figures for non-white immigration into English cities a few years ago. His response was to dismiss them as ‘hysteria’. Is this your hero? Hitchens is selective in his dalliances with truth and invariably partial. In one article he is photographed with his arm round a black African nationalist keen to ‘cleanse’ the country of the Chinese. Contrast this with regular, spiteful attacks on the BNP, who are not remotely as forceful or their language as emotional, and about a crisis much more advanced. [Migrants end up in England, remember, not ‘Britain’, implying some sort of even pattern of distribution; Scotland’s is seldom touched by events like this thanks to its political influence. What does it tell you that Sturgeon has all ready been seeking reassurances on the matter from Cameron?]. Some years back I asked Hitchens for his opinion on repatriation. He answered somewhat tetchily that he had ‘no views on the subject’. Can you believe that a man forever boasting of his dedication to reason and logic would not have at least made some attempt to think through his position on this most basic of propositions? He’s lying of course. He opposes repatriation [except for criminals]. Unfortunately to abstain is to endorse. Hitchens approves the presence of a huge and growing non-white population in England [approaching 30% and more; forget government reassurances on the numbers] whatever he says to the contrary. He is an internationalist. He believes people function as interchangeable parts in some vast economic game so why wouldn’t he? All you have to do is put them in a suit and teach them to read the news. Naivete among his fellow journalists, another Hitchens theme, and just as disingenuous, assumes there ever such a thing as integrity, or a desire to write the truth, in a profession where vested interests decide the rules of the game and what actually sees the light of day. Journalists are controlled and Hitchens knows it. If they’re enthused by war it’s because war is what their bosses and owners want. Don’t be fooled. This writer’s ‘conservatism’ relies on a profound ignorance of biology earlier generations would be shocked by. The question he frequently asks of Cameron: ‘what is it exactly this ‘conservative’ wishes to conserve?’ is really one he needs to answer himself – but won’t. He has the insight – but also the effrontery – to label pro-refugee campaigners ‘weak’ and ‘cowards’ in his Mail column. There is nothing misguided about Hitchens. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

  • Fraser Bailey

    Great writing.

  • R Fairless

    A fundamental truth is that lessons are never learned. War is caused by politicians, ambitious, ignorant and incompetent whose power turns them into megalomaniacs hell-bent on creating mayhem, death and destruction. For example, recently, pompous William Hague wanted to bomb and destroy Assad’s Syria in the mistaken belief that he is our enemy and Cameron, unfortunately is of a like mind when last week in Parliament he referred to Assad in unstatesmanlike language. It is Assad’s enemies who are causing so much death and destruction and who are directly responsible for the huge exodus of homeless and displaced people to the shores of Europe. Is it because Russia supports Assad in Syria that the Foreign Office are so supportive of the opposition in Syria? It wouldn’t be the first time they got it wrong; the most memorable being their abject failure in the Falklands v Argentina.

  • Carla Chamorro

    Problem with Irak was Obama leaving as he follows an agenda filled with inferiority complexes. If America had left Europe alone you would have been born old chap and Hitler could have been a better ally? Wel Mr. Ford ( Car Company) and a few others thought so…

  • johnhenry

    “How odd it is for me to say this. I am probably one of the last people living who knows that ‘battleship’ doesn’t mean the same as ‘warship’.” sayeth the author.

    I don’t know if it’s odd, but it’s a distinction without much of a difference. Isn’t it the case that a battleship is a warship, even though a warship is not always a battleship? Has someone else already said so? I see this thread is a few days old.

  • Teacher

    I well remember what I thought before the Iraq war as my husband and I discussed it. The government was Labour and we were not. I remember saying to him that I thought Saddam Hussein was a vicious, murdering, torturing tyrant who probably deserved anything he got but that, however, invading a sovereign state was a tremendous enterprise probably best not attempted except for reasons of defence. Never for a moment did either of us believe in the ‘WMD’ justification, the proof for which was not forthcoming. My husband thought that probably we should invade though, I can’t remember why.

    Afterwards it became clear that Islamic nations could not be controlled but by strong and tyrannical leaders and that removing them was not a good idea since it created a vacuum into which all sorts of wild factions would fight it out for supremacy causing nothing but misery for the people. Secure, stable tyranny seemed better than chaos and mayhem, especially as many of the authoritarian regimes were secular and protected minorities. Thus I thought that the Arab Spring would usher in pretty much what it has:- war and disorder.

  • grumpyoldrockape

    Spot on Peter apart from, ‘the Falklands, a war we very nearly lost’.

  • jeffersonian

    Hitchens interview: http://www.breitbart.com/london/2015/09/09/watch-peter-hitchens-says-tories-should-call-themselves-the-socialist-workers-party/

    Peter Hitchens says in the interview that Trotskyism was a ‘perfectly reasonable mistake to make’.

    I don’t care how ‘young’ or ‘idealistic’ he might have been. Trotskyism is simply a version of Marxism: an ideology that has probably killed more people than any other in the long sad story of political oppression. A viler creed would be hard to find and neither youth nor idealism is sufficient as excuse.

    Someone who claims to have been a ‘true believer’ in Marxism and who’s now a ‘blood and soil’ nationalist may at first confuse -but there is one idea that unites both these seemingly disparate political viewpoints: they are both instances of collectivism. The sacrifice of the individual for the benefit of the group. (for Marxists the ‘group’ is the proletariat and for nationalists it’s the homeland.

    Liberty springs from neither of those poisoned wells.

    At least his political hinterland explains the troubling streak of political authoritarianism running through seemingly everything he writes.

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