Socialist Worker

Like a hot knife cutting through Butler

by Michael Rosen
Issue No. 1911

I HAD some sleepless nights in the build-up to the Butler report. One thing about the whole Iraq story was nagging at me—would Butler get to the bottom of it?

I realise that some people’s concerns might have focused on whether Butler would actually say who cooked the books. Who said, “Stick the 45 minute jobby in”?

Others might have wondered whether he would talk about the links between US and British intelligence.

Perhaps there were some poor distracted folk who hoped that his remit might include such things as the bombing of civilians in Iraq, parcelling out of oil concessions, illegal imprisonment and torture.

For me though, there was one overriding worry keeping me awake—did Tony Blair act “in good faith”?

With this having been my concern, you can imagine my immense relief when I heard that Butler pronounced that Blair had, yes, acted “in good faith”.

Ah well, I thought, that changes everything. I had been foolish enough to have opposed the war and opposed the occupation.

True, I hadn’t realised that my reason for this opposition was because I was worried about Blair’s faith (be it good, bad or mad, as the case may be).

But now, with Butler and the New Labour marketing campaign that followed straight after, I could see that the faith question was the really important one.

What’s more, it gives us a new way to view history. It’s long been a tradition of historians to look at, say, Hitler’s invasion of Eastern Europe as some kind of imperialism, an attempt to enslave the populations and grab the raw materials to be found there.

But now, post-Butler, we can see that this is beside the point.

The question we should be asking is, did he invade “in good faith”? My own view now is that he most certainly did.

Like Blair, he believed 100 percent in what he was doing, and he did it with no sense that he was doing the wrong thing or that he was deliberately misleading the Germans. Fair enough—one up for Adolf there.

A bit rough on the 30 million or so people who died as a result of his invasion, but the ones who were left must surely feel better that it was done in good faith, and don’t they know now that it made the world a safer place?

There’s also a personal dimension here. “In good faith” is a phrase that can stir us to greater things.

“Faith” is surely one of the most attractive aspects of Christianity. With faith, you can dispense with all that trivial stuff about how real human beings behave towards each other on earth—which is where those trendy lefty bishops go wrong.

With faith you can dispense with anything that might be described as teachings. All you need to do is believe.

Then, flip that on its head, and proclaim to others that as you are someone who has faith, so they should in turn have faith in you as a true bearer of the religion. Well, there are some clear signposts here.

I am now working on my faith in Blair. I want to be like those trade union leaders who said last week that the Brown economic package was all in all pretty good.

A hundred thousand jobs to disappear? No matter. As Gordon raises the axe can’t we see that he too is acting in good faith.

So shouldn’t we all return some of that with our continuing faith in New Labour, the only true guarantor of job cuts at home and war abroad?

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Sat 24 Jul 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1911
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