Thursday 7 July 2016
Chilcot Report is Official Vindication of the Anti-War Movement
After a wait of seven years, Sir John Chilcot finally made public his report into the UK’s involvement in the ill-fated invasion of Iraq in 2003. The report didn’t actually tell us anything that we didn’t know already, but it is official confirmation of the folly of the whole enterprise, from start to finish (of course, the chaos is still enveloping Iraq itself).
I am proud to say, that I was one of the million and half people who marched through London on 15 February 2003, in a last ditch attempt to influence MPs to vote against Britain’s involvement in the war. Sadly, even the huge demonstration that it was, failed to convince enough of our Parliamentary representatives to vote to stay the hand of a Prime Minister who disregarded the warnings from many quarters, with his evangelical determination to take this country to war. The first time that Britain had invaded a sovereign nation since World War 2.
I had been on a couple of previous demonstrations against the war, which were well attended, but the 15 February one was stunning in its size. I had never seen so many people on a political march before, or since for that matter. It took us 45 minutes to get through Piccadilly Circus on route to Hyde Park for the rally, such was the scale of the demonstration. It was bitterly cold too, which made the turn out even more impressive, and as I left the rally around 5pm, there was still tens of thousands of people pouring into Hyde Park. It brought a lump to my throat, and a tear to my eye, it was a very moving experience. All to no avail in the end, though.
But yesterday’s publishing of Chilcot’s report did at least confirm that we were right and Tony Blair was wrong, even if Blair still clings to his delusions of it being the right thing to do. Just by reading the newspapers, The Guardian and Independent anyway, I knew that toppling Saddam Hussein would lead to a power vacuum in Iraq, which in turn would destabilise the whole region, and be a recruiting sergeant for Jihadi terrorists, in the region and across the world. And that the intelligence on Saddam’s possession of chemical and biological weapons was unconvincing. So it turned out.
Interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning, Blair claimed that if regime change had not happened (and officially, this was never the justification for the war), Iraq and the world would be in a worse situation today. It really is hard to imagine things being any worse than they are today.
At least hundreds of thousands dead (possibly over a million), and millions maimed or displaced. An ongoing civil war in Iraq, which has spread to Syria and Libya and to other parts of the world, most notably in Africa. Terrorist outrages in European countries, Australia and the US, abound. Mistrust in our politicians and the political process, and a display of contempt for the United Nations (UN) and the rule of international law.
How could things have been worse than this?
Blair also makes much of ‘acting in good faith’ in the matter, and Chilcot does not exactly accuse him of not doing this, but does leave the door ajar for the interpretation that he was not. It was clear from the beginning that Blair wanted to join George W Bush’s invasion, which the US was going to do anyway, and as the British Ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock said at the time in 2003, ‘the intelligence and facts were being fitted around the decision’ to invade Iraq, which had already been taken by the US government.
For whatever reason, be it the policy of ‘liberal interventionism’ championed by Blair, or the desire to look important by being a junior partner to the most powerful military force in the world, or just because Gordon Brown wouldn’t let Blair interfere in domestic politics, Blair wanted Britain to be part of what turned out to be the biggest foreign policy disaster for the UK in my lifetime, come what may.
That is not good faith. That is a mendacious spinning of the facts, to suit another agenda, one of expanding capitalism’s reach into a previously closed market (Iraq), with the added advantage of the country having oil to pay for it all.
Blair should be in jail, not making a fortune from his corporate buddies around the world as he is. The man’s reputation is trashed, but for me, that is not enough of a consolation.