The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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--On Tue, May 16, 2000 15:51 +0100 Sandeep Vaidya <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: > 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 reference 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 them. Maybe he does not have the political strength to force the government to make a U turn and admit it was wrong. Maybe America would not let him even attempt 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 debate. > 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: shall 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 and 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 when 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 Hugh -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email email@example.com Full details of CASI's various lists can be found on the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi