WI: Tony Blair Opposes the Invasion of Iraq

Consequences:

I can't speak for the European scene, I was over here in the USA at the time.

Over here, Bush was pushing hard for the war. He was promising it would be a "lightning war," easy peasy in and out. The rhetoric it would be an easy pushover related directly to why the USA ultimately did invade with forces inadequate to post-conquest peace keeping; there were other motives as well. For one thing the administration was pushing a privatization agenda and part of this was arguing that the military should be stripped of all uniformed, sworn auxiliary jobs and private contractors embedded with them to do the cooking and so forth. As a general thing the occupation of Iraq was set up to be a windfall to private contractors across the board--including such security matters as capturing suspects and interrogating them.

Some people I have met, at the time and in years since, were so piratical as to think the plan was to seize Iraq and make oil available cheaply to US consumers. Of course the plans were never as populist as that! Oil, at any rate Iraqi oil, was not the central concern. The real focus was on seizing Iraq as a strategic centrally located US controlled base in the Gulf region--insofar as it was about oil at all, it was about oil in the region as a whole, not just Iraq's. The whole thing was a strategic land grab. No one should have illusions the GW Bush administration had any noble purposes in mind, except insofar as they subscribe to the idea "Unilateral power for the USA=Noble."

I do not know how to prove one way or the other that Bush was unstoppable in the USA and would accomplish mobilizing the US to war, alone if need be (or alone, with some very minor power sidekicks). I do think it should be clear he was gung ho for it by any pretext or means necessary and so was his whole handpicked administration.

If Bush were going to be stopped, it would have to be in Congress. The Republican party controlled the House so this comes down to the Senate.

Whether or not the USA goes to war, the fact that Blair and Labour would benefit by staying out of it seems plain to me.

Focusing on whether the war happens or not, depends on how the ATL fact that Her Majesty's Government will not stand with Bush and solemnly vouch for Bush's falsehoods.

I was a California resident at the time, and wrote both my Senators urging them to be skeptical and refuse to be buffaloed. Both sent me responses. Barbara Boxer was standing firm against it--but Diane Feinstein claimed to be privy to convincing information verifying the Administration's alleged concerns. Since we know there were no WMDs to speak of, either the White House lied to her, or she was lying to us her constituents.

My guess is that the fix was in and sufficient numbers of US politicos were on board, whether they believed in WMD or not. I figure many were skeptical and voted for war for other reasons than they pretended to their constituencies much like Feinstein.

But Blair could certainly have done the USA the service of making these mendacious politicians stand in a less flattering light, which might have had good consequences in the longer run, when the general rottenness of the Bush war and occupation plan became obvious.

I'm pretty sure not only the world at large including particularly the UK, but the USA, would be measurably better off than we are today had Blair not rolled with it.
The problem is that in purely military terms, British contribution to the invasion was substantial; America, as you note, went in deliberately low on manpower, something the Pentagon was on record to be uneasy about. Both politically and militarily, the whole thing would become a harder sell in the US, even in terms of feasibility.
 
As for Blair's motives, it is really hard to tell. I think he claims to this day to have believed the lies in good faith, and to have regarded ousting Saddam as a righteous cause - but by definition, I suppose we can't know whether it was deliberate deception, or mindless self-deception on his part.
(The Italian-provided part was absolutely clearly pure bogus, and badly crafted one - whoever in Washington or London wanted false evidence outsourced the outright faking part, for plausible deniability reasons I guess).
 
CIA getting inefficient in their old age - shouldn't they have taken some WMDs along to "find " at the right moment?
This does happen in the real world, but all the same, I’m thinking this is only a minority of official corruption.

More common is LBJ and the Gulf of Tonkin. He did have a report from U.S. sailors that they had been fired upon by a North Vietnamese boat and fired back. Privately, he really doubted it, I think even saying that the dumb sailors were probably shooting at flying fish.

But LBJ had the report he wanted, and by God, he was going to use it.
 
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Short term, the US will either have to rush more forces to the region before the OTL time of the invasion, or delay the start of OIF to bring in forces to make up for lack of British troops. While not a huge difference, at the expense of UK forces going into harms way, This likely means that more US troops are lost in the initial invasion.


One of the first major operations saw UK forces with US support capturing key Iraqi oil facilities in the Persian Gulf. Several Royal Navy ships provided gunfire support. Assuming a US only operation instead, US warships would have to be brought in for gunfire support. The main casualties from the battle occured when two British helicopters collided, killing 7 UK personnel, and a US Marine CH-46 with 4 Marines and 8 UK troops crashed due to poor visibility in a separate incident. You aren't going to see the helicopter collision, but the one helicopter crashing due to poor visibility is still something that could happen. Only here instead of 4 dead US Marines and 8 UK commandoes killed, you're looking at a dozen, or more dead US troops, maybe SEALs or Marine Force Recon.
 
This likely means that more US troops are lost in the initial invasion.
An alternative to spending yet more US blood is to spend none at all and not start the stupid war.

I have said I doubt the USA would refrain, because the fix was in. But the moral fault for the lives lost OTL, and for any multiplication of US lives lost because of lack of British allies to die for us, lies with those who wanted the war and furthered ends that in themselves were quite dubious, on a lying false pretense.

The more important the British contribution was OTL, the greater the hope that Blair refusing to get on this bandwagon would sober up American jingoists and prevent the damned thing from happening at all. Sadly I rate this best outcome low probability, because the people who wanted the war here wanted it badly.

Anyway at least Blair could have kept the UK out of that meat grinder and moral albatross off Britain's neck.

Evading a war when the war is necessary might be a cowardly act; refusing to aid and abet an international crime is the opposite. The invasion of Iraq was not a necessity and has done little visible good.
 
An alternative to spending yet more US blood is to spend none at all and not start the stupid war.

Evading a war when the war is necessary might be a cowardly act; refusing to aid and abet an international crime is the opposite. The invasion of Iraq was not a necessity and has done little visible good.
The only "visible good" is the ousting of Saddam himself, who was a sociopathic tyrant who ruined Iraq in many ways by enganging in at least two stupid wars of naked aggression, not to mention the war he waged against parts of the Iraqi population itself.
This is, however, vastly offset in hindsight by the absolute clusterfuck that ensued: Iraq had TWO major episodes of Civil War as a direct consequence of the invasion, which also spilled over, basically establishing ISIS.
The invasion was predicated on the notion that Iraqis would have been happy to live in an US subservient "liberal democracy" and able to easily transition into that - which was stupidly naïve a premise, and implementation proved downright counterproductive.
Basically, you can have a either a subservient Iraq, or a democratic one, but not both (in that context).
 
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Coulsdon Eagle

Monthly Donor
Saddam did not have any WMDs, but Bush and Blair claimed that he had, and Blair said that they could reach Britain. (But that is from memory, so I might be wrong.)

I seem to remember that the WMD could possibly reach the RAF base in Cyprus which I guess is UK territory.

The claim made was that British forces could be attacked by WMD within 45 minutes, so the impression was that Cyprus could be hit by Scuds or an equivalent delivery system. IIRC the actual WMD that could have been deployed that fast were gas shells for battlefield mortars, so the claim was not false but nobody contradicted the incorrect conclusions.

Should remember that: -
  1. Iraq had possessed WMD in the immediate past;
  2. Iraq had shown they would use WMD in the Iran-Iraq War and on the Kurds & Marsh Arabs;
  3. Iraq at that point had not claimed they had destroyed all their WMD (perhaps thinking if they did, there was nothing to stop the US invading);
  4. Iraq had not shown the UN any firm evidence they had destroyed or rendered unusable all the WMD they did possess;
  5. IIRC the UN was still struggling to access certain sites in Iraq, giving the impression Iraq had something to hide.
The above was one reason why Blair supported Bush, and he would have been on firmer political ground at home if this was the line pushed instead of the "dodgy dossier" and everything that followed such as Dr. Kelly & the Hutton Enquiry whitewash . He would still have been proven wrong, but there would have been no intention to mislead. I believe he also felt the UK had to stand with the US after 9/11, which looks fine on paper, but as proven was a completely different scenario with boots on the ground.

Despite the outrage over Iraq, Blair still managed to win the 2005 General Election with a more-than-workable majority in the House of Commons, something Harold Wilson would have killed for, although seen as a "defeat" after the landslides of 1997 & 2001. So the damage appears to be personal in terms of Blair's reputation, rather than on Labour as the government, although internally it is still a live & divisive issue.
 

Nick P

Donor
One of the main issues with Iraq in 2003 was the expectation by US planners that Iraq would fight for months if not years in a serious set of battles. Instead the Iraqi defence faded in a matter of weeks to guerrilla warfare and terrorism leaving the Allied military planners scrambling to set up civilian governments. The poor quality of post-invasion reconstruction plans play a big part in public perception of the Iraq War.
The actions of the Civilian Provisional Authority leave a lot to be desired. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_Provisional_Authority
Effectively privatising an entire country that had been centrally planned with little warning or planning and giving the foreign companies immunity from prosecution was a recipe for disaster.

Another huge error was to dismiss the entire Iraqi army which left many thousands of well trained soldiers unemployed, dishonoured and angry at the way things had gone. Keeping the regiments in place at the borders and on ceremonial duties would have kept those troops busy - making work for idle hands etc.

If Blair had foreseen this lack of civilian infrastructure planning (say he reads up on Boer War, Malaya, Vietnam etc) he could have used this as a tool to say NO to Britain taking part in the attack.
 
One of the main issues with Iraq in 2003 was the expectation by US planners that Iraq would fight for months if not years in a serious set of battles. Instead the Iraqi defence faded in a matter of weeks to guerrilla warfare and terrorism leaving the Allied military planners scrambling to set up civilian governments. The poor quality of post-invasion reconstruction plans play a big part in public perception of the Iraq War.
The actions of the Civilian Provisional Authority leave a lot to be desired. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coalition_Provisional_Authority
Effectively privatising an entire country that had been centrally planned with little warning or planning and giving the foreign companies immunity from prosecution was a recipe for disaster.

Another huge error was to dismiss the entire Iraqi army which left many thousands of well trained soldiers unemployed, dishonoured and angry at the way things had gone. Keeping the regiments in place at the borders and on ceremonial duties would have kept those troops busy - making work for idle hands etc.

If Blair had foreseen this lack of civilian infrastructure planning (say he reads up on Boer War, Malaya, Vietnam etc) he could have used this as a tool to say NO to Britain taking part in the attack.
A note is that IF the US go solo, this may be an even worse fuckup.
 
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