“Failures do not come any more abject than Iraq, nor catastrophes any more pure.”
These damning words come from “The Guardian view on the Chilcot report: A country ruined, trust shattered, a reputation trashed” (6 July 2016). But hands up if you think anything will change. The outcome is beyond bleak:
“Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000. The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 and 5 million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.”
The architects of this disaster were George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld; Tony Blair and Jack Straw. And clinging to their coat-tails, let’s not forget, the so-called “coalition of the willing”, including the leaders of Australia, Singapore, Poland, Spain and Portugal.
Public protest was ignored – which says something about the inherent weakness of democracies in which “we the people” imagine we have a voice. As The Guardian pointed out:
“From radical leftists to commonsensical Tories of a that’ll-never-work disposition, thinking Britain – the Guardian included – smelt a rat. It took to the streets to protest in numbers not seen before. But in this case Mr Blair did not regard the British people but the US president as the boss.”
Like Thatcher before him, who cosied up to Ronald Reagan, Blair imagined that a special relationship with the U.S. President would turn him into a statesman (in short supply in Great Britain), a prequel to his bitterly ironic role as special envoy in the Quartet on the Middle East. Once again The Guardian:
“Regime change was the unabashed objective of the White House, and by hitching himself to Washington with no get-out clause, Mr Blair effectively made that his policy too. It was an appalling mistake, first of all, because it involved committing the country to a war of choice, for which there was no real rationale, only an angry impulse to lash out to avenge the twin towers without paying heed to the distinction between militant Islamism and secular Ba’athism. Once committed, Mr Blair switched off the ordinary critical faculties that he applied to other affairs, and closed his ears to the warnings of the experts about the difficulties that could follow an invasion, and the grave doubts about Iraq being an imminent threat.”
Blair got it wrong, big time. But despite his public humiliation and his squirming on the hook of condemnation, he will escape retribution. For a few weeks more, Blair will play the contrite anti-hero, who did what he believed was “right” and whose conscience is untarnished by any genuine sense of repentance or atonement. Then he will continue on his self-appointed mission to point out the errors of others.
But what of the people and the nation that Blair helped destroy? In “Chilcot Report: How Tony Blair Sold the War” (The New York Times, 6 July 2016), Op-Ed contributor Carne Ross comments:
“The Chilcot report reveals much about government and its failure but largely ignores the greatest issue. The enormous suffering and losses of the Iraqi people are scarcely mentioned; there is no attempt to count the dead. There is also no recommendation of making reparation to the Iraqi people, let alone an apology. For me, this should be the ultimate significance of a report like this: that it speaks for those whose lives were needlessly wasted. It is their fate, not those of us and our politicians, that should preoccupy us. Only then can we begin to grasp the magnitude of what was done in our name.”
Neither Bush nor Blair will ever face an international court or be held to account for what they did. Effectively, both have impunity. And while the Iraq War has demonstrated – if ever there was any doubt – that politicians are not to be trusted, in the long run the Chilcot Report is not going to change the way of the world. To think otherwise is a delusion.
The Standard of Ur comes from the ancient city of Ur (located in modern-day Iraq south of Baghdad). Approximately 4,500 years old, it was probably constructed in the form of a hollow wooden box with scenes of war and peace represented on each side through elaborately inlaid mosaics.