It will be January before Tony Blair is required to appear before the Chilcot inquiry, but in truth he's already in the dock and not faring well
This week will be the second of the Chilcot Inquiry into why Britain went to war in Iraq and already has heard enough to put the case for dragging in Blair and his toady Cabinet compatriots, put them under oath, chop off their political heads and shut up shop because, duh, we already know the lying that went on to justify the argument for an unjustifiable war.
Yes, the investigation being led by Sir John Chilcot is meant to look as if it's giving them a fair trial before hanging them. But this is the third inquiry into some form of British complicity, and, like an advertisement expounding the qualities of human Teflon, Blair still skips around the world largely unmolested and being awfully important although achieving bugger all... or should that be bugger nothing.
If Chilcot wishes to avoid the same dustbin as Hutton’s inquiry into the death of David Kelly, or Brockwell’s inquiry into pre-invasion intelligence he’s going to have to be tougher than many so far believe possible when he’s questioning Blair.
Chilcot’s team of very important people has vowed to publish criticisms where they are warranted but emphasized their role is not to determine guilt or innocence. At the same time they are determined to address the sorts of issues that prompted millions of Britons – and millions elsewhere around the world – to march against an invasion of Iraq.
Arguably this is a difficult balance, for surely apportioning blame for an outrageous fraud committed on the British Parliament and British people is way overdue and if political blood and guts are not spilled, what prey tell, is the point of this inquiry? Does a search for truth not by its very nature uncover the untruths and thereby implicate those who perpetuated them?
Perhaps it is necessary in a world of short attention spans that we must be regularly reminded of what went on between George ‘W’ Bush and his British poodle, least we forget.
The diplomats who gave evidence in the first week of Chilcot’s non-court court did, one after another, confirm that Blair was incapable of standing up to ‘W’, and could not resist the beating of the war drums almost immediately after the September 11 attacks.
Despite legal opinions warning Blair that ousting Saddam Hussein – i.e. regime change – was illegal, the secret planning went on to bring about just that.
The fluent Mandarin of these former but most senior Whitehall mandarins, had a consistent timbre – we told him (Blair) but he ignored us and continued to hitch himself to a war wagon that quickly gained unstoppable momentum. It was momentum fired by then US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who’d even before 9/11 been pushing for regime change. It was stoked by an impatient ‘W’ and his officials, and according to the Brits, Blair drank the Kool-aid during a private one-on-one session at Camp David.
The US was hell bent on invading Iraq and Blair, ignoring all the deep reservations from his own advisers and foreign policy experts, was so keen to pal up with his buddy across the pond, he embarked on a course of action that should represent the largest possible asterisk on a British Prime Ministers’ resume since Anthony Eden took part in the 1956 tripartite raid on the Suez.
The Iraq Inquiry will do well to remind us all of the so-called dodgy dossier, of the sexing up of the case for war, of the crap Blair and his sidekick Alistair Campbell spun over Hussein’s alleged ability to fire off weapons of mass destruction with only 45 minutes notice. A Blair/Campbell mushroom cloud was in perfect alignment with Rice’s own.
The witnesses so far have destroyed Blair, Campbell and co. by stating so clearly that if anything Blair was shown evidence that Hussein could not conjure up anything near resembling a fully functional chemical warhead, let alone a full scale apocalypse. His warheads it seems had been disbanded some years ago. But, hey, never let the facts get in the way of a good stoush as Campbell himself so often sarcastically chided journalists he didn’t agree with.
That Blair could not have thought to share his no-WMD intelligence with his Texan buddy and thereby introduce some sort of calm into what was clearly a frantic and – as we now know – incoherent rush for regime change, beggars belief. Maybe he did…and he can reveal all when he testifies next year.
Even more so when eight months before the invasion of Iraq, Blair’s most senior legal adviser, the then attorney general Lord Goldsmith, had apparently warned a desire or perceived need to oust the Iraqi dictator was not a legal basis for military action. Did he pass on this annoying little tidbit of legalise? Perhaps he did.
Yet it didn’t take an attorney general to spell out what even a cursory study of the situation at the time would make ever so clear – that there was no issue of Britain having to defend itself from Iraq, so no basis for invasion. It should have been equally clear that the days when Imperial Britain just went in and changed leaders it did not like were long over.
Lord Goldsmith’s letter has been given to the Inquiry, and as yet its contents have not been made officially public. But given the impact on this whole saga there is no way it should be kept private. That’ll be a patsy test for Chilcot.
So, one week down and a string of eloquent, if at times too cosy with the Inquiry members, diplomats have confirmed what columnists, books, leaked memos, and anti-war protagonists have been fulminating over for eight years now – there was no justifiable case for invading Iraq. After all, the world has many other nasty dictators who would fit the Bush/Blair change a criterion that was being applied to Iraq.
Chilcot announced there would be no one on trial at his inquiry. He really didn’t need to say that, because from the get-go Blair – or as old protest signs called him B-liar – has been unavoidably in the dock. The hapless Gordon Brown who was essentially forced to deliver on his promise of an inquiry was at the time Blair’s most senior offsider as Chancellor of the Exchequer. Was he in on duping the people he now sucks up to in his own desperate bid to stay in office? Probably, and how serendipitous then that the inquiry won’t report its findings till after the 2010 election. Not that that will be of much help to Mr. Brown.
While the Brits are out of Iraq, they are still mired in Afghanistan which is the war that most likely would have been finished had this stupid and reckless detour into Iraq not taken place. Ironically, given what else is on the world’s problem menu, destroying the Sunni elite in Iraq has been to the great benefit of its major enemy, Shi’ite Iran.
Blair’s testimony will be a much anticipated media feeding frenzy early in the new year, and so it should. “Yo Blair” indeed.