The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.

[Main archive index/search] [List information] [Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re:Re: Pilger: 'slow news'

--On Tue, May 16, 2000 15:51 +0100 Sandeep Vaidya <>

> Hello,
> I think that Tony Blair is part of the system - rather than a victim.

He certainly is part of the system.
But then we all are really aren't we. 

> You say, "he cares passionately about human rights" We all know about
> the deadly effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq. If Blair
> really cares about human rights why does he support the sanctions? Does
> he care about human rights of Iraqi children less passionately than
> others?

Well that had obviously occured to me.  In fact it was largely with
to that that I was writing.  The point is that whilst some people might
like to think that we have a PM who has no regard for human rights, this is
not the case.  I don't know how he feels about the sanctions but he can't
be that big a fan of them.  He just feels that he has no alternative but to 
continue them.  Maybe he is brainwashed into thinking that terrible as it
is there is nothing he can do about the current situation and so he must try
and put the effects to the back of his mind and not lose any sleep over
Maybe he does not have the political strength to force the government to
a U turn and admit it was wrong.  Maybe America would not let him even
to do so.  I don't know what really goes on in the world of politics and
I'm sure far fewer people do than pretend to or think they do.  But I think
it's important  that, while  we should be putting a lot of pressure on Tony
Blair, we should not be demonising him as a person.  He makes mistakes.
Big ones, but it's not because he is a bad person.  He has reasons for
making such mistakes.  They're not excuses but they are reasons.  You try
being prime minister.  Most people dont want to be prime minister which is
fair enough.  This is why it is not good enough that Tony Blair makes
mistakes.  We have superhuman expectations of politicians and hence no
reason is good enough to be an excuse.  This is fair enough because
politicians have chosen to become politicians and to make themselves
accountable for very difficult tasks.  Any mistakes they do make are surely
due to lack of superhuman competence.  But whilst no amount of criticism of
his work is too much, I think it is probably a bit harsh to accuse the
prime minister of not caring about human rights.  Saddam Hussein doesn't
care about human rights.  Saddam Hussein once shot someone at a cabinet
meeting.  Tony Blair wouldnt do that even if he could.  Unlike Saddam
Hussein, Tony Blair is someone who went into politics to try to make the
world a better place.  Whether or not he is succeeding in any particular
area (or even in any area whatsoever) is another matter and is up for

> You further say:  "If the decisions Tony Blair are making are wrong,
> it's
> because it is the nature of his job that he has many very tough
> decisions
> to make and he's not going to get them all right."
> Point well taken. But just look at the "mistake" he is making in Iraq
> and look at the horrendous cost the innocent people of Iraq are paying
> for it -- more than 1.5 million people dead in 10 years. 300 babies
> below the age of 5 years die EVERY day. If a man with a gun in his hand
> shoots a large number of people on a street what will you call this act?
> A mistake? 

No but that's hardly a fair comparison.  If you are walking down the street
with a gun in your hand then you potentially have the decision to make:
I A) continue walking down the street minding my own business like usual
or shall I B) go mad and mindlessly shoot a load of random passers by? 
It's not such a hard decision.
It's worth noting that Tony Blair inherited the sanctions and that he may
be finding it very difficult to get rid of them.  Obviously this isnt good
enough and bearing in mind that he is only human, we should concede that as
I say, when he makes mistakes he may have no excuse but he does have
reasons, even though, as I say, when you are in a voluntarily chosen
position upon which superhuman expectations are placed, no reason is good
enough.  But that does not alter the fact that when he fails it is not
because he is evil.

Also, I think we're getting a bit mixed up over the meaning of mistake.  If
a mistake is something that you do by accident without meaning to then it
is a mistake that Tony Blair has chosen - or more likely not been able not
to chose - the wrong course of action over certain issues.  Whilst allowing
the sanctions to continue is clearly an act as vile (a lot cleaner but no
less morally bankrupt) and as INTENTIONAL and deliberate as taking out a
gun and shooting people in the street, I think the average person would
find it a lot easier to walk down the street without shooting people than
they would find it to end the sanctions on Iraq even if they were in the
position of prime minister. 

> I am sure Blair knows by now what the consequesces of his actions are in
> Iraq. Adolf Hitler sent more than 6 million Jews to the gas chamber. A
> mistake ? or a crime against humanity?

Yeah but Adolf Hitler was mad.  And Adolf Hitler killed Jews because he
didn't like Jews.  Whereas the sanctions are in place for political reasons
not because of any grudge against (although not out of any respect for
either) the individual people who are suffering.  
Adolf killed Jews directly by having them killed.
We are killing Iraqis far more indirectly and only as a side effect of the
policy that we are continuing to put into effect.
Hitler (read Hitler and Himler and loads of other unpleasant mentally ill
people) initiated the genocide which was their own idea.
Tony Blair is merely continuing one.  Or rather the whole system is
continuing the policy.  Tony Blair is not the system.  He's just supposed
to be in charge of it.  But at the end of the day no one's running it.
Britain is not like some factory with a manager who can turn everything on
and off.  When asked if he was going to take paternity leave, Tony said
that when your running the country you can't really do that.  But Tony
doesnt run the country.  If he went on holiday for a few weeks things would
still carry on pretty much as usual for most people.  Tony's not the boss,
he just wields a certain amount of power that's all.  Noone can really be
totally in charge.  The thing is though that he is supposed to be and
that's his job title and he is supposed to be accountable for everything.
That's why, however difficult it might be to end the sanctions, that he has
failed or not even thought it worth trying is not good enough.  But look at
Tony -he's just a normal bloke, he's not Hitler.  And while it was very
much Hitler (although whether I'm talking about our perceived Hitler or the
real Hitler I'm not so sure about now) who was DOING the whole genocide,
it's not really as if Tony Blair is killing Iraqis with his bare hands or
even telling other people to.  Hitler enjoyed killing people.  But Tony
doesn't want to kill anyone.  I'm sure he feels he has no choice about the
sanctions situation.  Maybe if he were a stronger man he could sort
something out.  I'd like to think that if I were the PM then I'd do
something.  If it meant pulling Britain out of NATO - because lets not
forget, these are NATO sanctions, not British not even US but NATO, that
rather big rather powerful organisation - then that's what I'd do and if
that wrecked Britain's relationships with the rest of the west, if that
meant that our economy was ruined as a result, if that meant that hundreds
of thousands of people lost their jobs then that wouldnt matter to me -
because lives are more important than jobs; and I'd sleep soundly at night
because I'd know I'd done the right thing.  But I'd never be able to do
that.  Imagine trying to pull that one off.  Tony's the PM, he's not a
benign dictator - he doesnt have THAT much power.  What I described above
is just some sort of quick guess at what it would be like; I don't know
exactly what goes on but the point is that Britain like all countries is
caught up in a big web and certain things are very difficult to do.  Also,
imagine if everyone around Tony Blair was saying that the sanctions were
"worth the price" then how could you (personally if not professionally)
blame him for starting to give in to the power of suggestion.  There's a
famous psychological experiment (I forget who did it) where a load of
actors are told to stand in line and they are each given a blue plate and
along with the subject who stands somewhere in the middle of the line and
he thinks the actors are all subjects and he thinks it's some sort of
vision test or something.  Each person is asked in turn to say what colour
the plate is
The actors have been told to say red even though the correct answer is of
course blue.  You can guess what happens.
There's another one where they are measuring the effects of electric
currents in people's bodies.  The patient (actually an actor) is wired up
to a load of electrodes and probes and stuff, which are all fake.  The
volunteer (actually the subject of the experiment) gets to turn on the
power and gradually increase the voltage as and when the 'scientists', who
are watching over him, say.  
After a bit, the patient starts to get visibly uncomfortable but the
'volunteer' carries on following instructions.  Even when the actor is
screaming and visibly distressed, the subject does not rebel.  
And so he does what he's told and he tortures this poor guy.

I'm not quite sure how this fits in specifically with the whole Tony Blair,
sanctions thing.  Hopefully it doesnt at all.  But I think it's a point
worth making that Tony Blair is an ordinary person and if he is to be
labelled evil then surely we must except that we are all evil.  
I guess there is evil in all of us and it comes out only in certain
situations.  (You should read Lord of the Flies and The Beach).
But we all have the capacity to do wrong.  And if Tony Blair is complicit
in a crime against humanity and you're not then that's because Tony Blair
is in the government and you're not.  Tony Blair is an ordinary person.  If
it wasn't him it would be someone else.  

In general I'd say that when people are killing other people it's not
because their leader is 'evil' but just because under certain
circumstances, that side of human nature comes out.  I concede that certain
individuals will contribute more to a crime than others and that Hitler
amongst others had a great deal of responisibility for what happened but
millions died in the Jewish Holocaust and
- no one man can kill that many people.  The majority of the German people
who were complicit (at least through their apathy) take a very great share
of the blame.  Obviously to deduce from that that Germans are morally
inferior people is as ridiculous as the notion that all those German people
happened, independently of being German, to be bad people.  The point is
that under certain (for want of a better word---->) economic
circumstances, people kill other people.  In less extreme circumstances
this is manifested in a rise in crime (in which murder is just one example
of crime).  What happened in Germany was that people voted for someone who
was going to organise them into killing the Jews.  Maybe most of them didnt
know he was going to do that but they did know what sort of a leader they
were choosing and they did end up letting him organise them into carrying
out the genocide.  I know it's not very politically correct to blame the
Germans but someone built the gas chambers, someone wired up the
electricity and gas supplies, someone did all the architecture and
engineering... it was quite a big operation, a lot of people must have been
involved and a lot of people MUST have known what they were doing.  And
then there were all the people who just stood by and let it happen.  So it
was the Germans' fault.  Not for being German, just because they were only
human and that's the kind of behaviour you get in an economic depression as
terrible as the one they were in, which was largely the result of the
treaty of Versailles.
So I guess that makes it the our fault.  
Or maybe not... You can trace the blame back as far as you like, but at the
end of the day it doesnt really help to find an 'evil' scape goat.  It
doesnt really  
Not that Hitler is a scape goat.  Scape goats are supposed to be innocent.
But its the same concept:  he does deserve blame but certainly not all of
it.  And was he really any more evil (whatever that means) than any other
psychopath who happens also to be a racist and would have done what Hitler
did if he was in a position of power?
I don't think blaming people is really that meaningful or even useful.  On
a professional level we really do need to hold our leaders accountable for
their actions and we do need to intelligently criticise every decision that
they make.
But we don't need to be demonising them and seeing them as evil.
Tony Blair is just an ordinary English person and I'm sure he cares just as
much about human rights as any other ordinary English person.  Given that
he has worked incredibly hard for all his political life to try to make the
world a better place, he probably cares considerably more.  I'm sure he's
got no racist grudge against Iraqis so I'm sure he cares just as much about
them as he does about British people's rights.

I'm sure Tony Blair is a thoroughly decent person and its understandable
he doesn't get things right.  And lets be fair - his crime is that of 
not lifting the sanction, which is not quite the same as issuing them in
the first place.  I would be the first to agree however that however
understandable it is, he is the PM, it's an almost impossible job but he
chose it himself and willingly undertook the responsibility that goes with
it and that therefore any criticism of what he is doing is totally
justified and we should criticise his actions as much as possible.  I just
don't think it's fair to
denounce him as a bad person.  

Kind regards


This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq
For removal from list, email
Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website:

[Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq Homepage]