Tony Blair taken to task over Iraq

The former British PM was taking part in a panel discussion at Davos.

Former British PM Tony Blair. Picture: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - At a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum, currently underway in Davos, titled "Religion: A pretext for conflict?" former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was taken to task for his role in the Iraq war.

During a floor session in the panel discussion, a question from the audience was put to Blair to reflect on what happened after he decided to go into war in Iraq.

The questioner told Blair that he thought his decision with former American president George W Bush to go there was a large part of the problem.

Blair played down the assertions, stating that the decision of going to war could be debated as having been right or wrong, and went on to point out that many Iraqis might have agreed with him that,

"Saddam Hussain wasn't exactly a force for stability, peace and prosperity for his country, and was responsible for killing many many hundreds of thousands of people."

The former prime minister continued to argue that religious extremism couldn't all be blamed on the second Gulf war and went on to cite examples of the recent terror attacks in France, Belgium, Nigeria and Mali.

"What's the reason for that?" he put to the audience.

His fellow panellist, Shaykh Hamza Yusuf Hanson, pointed out to Blair some of the mistakes that had been made in the Middle East.

"The legitimacy of a government is a crucial issue" he told him.

Hanson proceeded to tell him that in the first Iraqi war, the then US president refrained from going into Iraq for fear of creating a political vacuum.

"Unfortunately, with the intervention that occurred with Bush Two, the assumption was 'we can simply replace a government'. But replacing a government, as we all see, is almost impossible."