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Tony Blair's 9/11 Defense

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Appearing before the Chilcot Inquiry, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair defended his decision to join the U.S. invasion of Iraq:


Looking greyer than when he was in office, Blair told the inquiry that the British and American view changed "dramatically" after 9/11.

"Here's what changed for me: the whole calculus of risk," he said. "The point about this terrorist act was over 3,000 people had been killed, an absolutely horrific event. But if these people, inspired by this religious fanaticism, could have killed 30,000, they would have [done].

Blair went on to argue that Saddam's WMD program was an intolerable risk after 9/11. This is a fairly common line of argument regarding Iraq but it doesn't hold up logically. What 9/11 demonstrated was precisely the opposite - that no state would dare run the risk of attacking the United States directly, or providing aid to a terrorist group with the purpose of striking such a blow. The only government al Qaeda could count on for any official support was the Taliban and to call them a government is a fairly charitable description.

Al Qaeda proved to be such a lethal menace precisely because it had no state sponsor and no territorial vulnerability. The idea that 9/11 proved that deterrence was futile is erroneous, if anything, 9/11 confirmed that deterrence is still a viable concept, at least when dealing with states.

But there is also an element of the absurd in pointing to Iraq as a potential source of WMD for al Qaeda. Shortly after 9/11, we learned that Pakistani nuclear scientists had met with bin Laden. We learned further that Pakistan's chief nuclear engineer had created an extensive black market peddling nuclear material and blueprints for constructing nuclear weapons. We knew for a fact that Pakistan was a nuclear weapons state, while no one seriously believed that Saddam had a nascent, let alone functional, nuclear program.

If there was any state where one could make a plausible claim about the potential for WMD to be slipped to al Qaeda, it would have been Pakistan, not Iraq.

(AP Photo)