Liars together to the end

July 12, 2016

The Chilcot Inquiry's report is a comprehensive indictment of the drive to war in Iraq, but some people just need more proof, writes Independent columnist Mark Steel.

THE MOST important thing is Tony Blair insists he made his decision to go to war in Iraq "in good faith." So it hardly matters that a two-and-a-half-million-word official report finds him responsible for incalculable global carnage, because he says he meant well. It's just like if you drive the wrong way up the motorway and cause 40 deaths in a pile-up, you haven't done anything wrong if you thought you were going the right way.

When asked whether he regrets going to war, Blair repeated that he's not sorry for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But that wasn't the question. It's similar to Oscar Pistorius answering a question about whether he regrets his decision to shoot by saying, "I don't regret getting rid of that bathroom door, I'd been meaning to get it replaced for months."

In any case, even the man filmed in 2003 smashing Saddam's statue with a hammer said in an interview: "If I met Tony Blair I would spit in his face."

Yet there were still MPs who voted for the war, who yesterday claimed the people of Iraq were grateful for Blair's actions. Maybe they're right, and spitting in your face is one of those customs that means different things in different countries--when you come back from Iraq drenched in gob it means they adore you.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with then-ally Muammar el-Qaddafi
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair with then-ally Muammar el-Qaddafi

One of these MPs, Ann Clwyd, said yesterday it was too easy to "make judgments with hindsight." But the Chilcot report says the outcome of the Iraq War "did not require the benefits of hindsight," as every aspect of the disaster was "explicitly identified before the invasion."

One possible explanation is Blair and his supporters were responding to the wrong report: They've read the FA dossier on why England lost at the Euros by mistake. Tomorrow, Blair will say: "I had no way of knowing the growth of al-Qaeda would be assisted by playing Wayne Rooney in midfield."

Still, we were all duped, I suppose--except for the millions of us that went on marches, and Nelson Mandela, and France, and the Pope, and the chief UN weapons inspector, and Africa, and most of the United Nations, and the Middle East, and Robin Cook. But no one could be expected to believe those idiots over the Murdoch press and George W. Bush.


BLAIR INSISTED, before the invasion, that Saddam could prevent war if he complied with his and President Bush's demands. But the demands were to give up weapons of mass destruction, the weapons that we now know for certain he didn't have. So the only way Saddam could have complied would be to make a pile of weapons of mass destruction and then destroy them, while Blair and Bush stood over him screaming, "Hurry up, here's some plutonium, make more weapons, otherwise you won't have enough to scrap."

We also know that while Blair claimed Saddam could avoid war, he'd promised Bush: "I'll be with you, whatever." And as Bush appeared to be committed to war, both of Blair's statements couldn't be true.

The way round this was to prove Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, whether he did or not. So he lapped up any intelligence that suggested that, no matter how crackpot, and paraded his dossier that included parts of a student's essay found on the internet, and a description of chemical weapons copied from a Hollywood film starring Nicholas Cage.

He could have been handed an entire dossier of film plots and happily have read it as proof, announcing: "Saddam also has a Death Star, and talking apes that can steal all the bananas from Cyprus in 45 minutes, and plans within the next five years to chase singing nuns across Austria...We have no choice but to invade."

The bulk of Labour MPs, desperate to please their boss, went along with it. Some, along with Blair himself, say they'd do the same again.

You have to admire people who, when presented with a report detailing how they voted for the biggest military catastrophe of the age, causing oceans of abject misery, can reply: "Thank you very much. And I'd do it all again if I had to, because I have a strong sense of duty."

This is why it's understandable that many of those MPs are demanding Labour get rid of its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed the Iraq War and predicted the destruction, and replace him with someone who went along with the cobblers pilloried in a damning report.

Corbyn may have been proved right on Iraq, but he's hopeless on important matters--such as how he does up his tie. One MP who supported the war even heckled Corbyn. I didn't catch his remark exactly, but presumably, he yelled: "How dare you be vindicated rather than exposed as a war-mongering sycophantic idiot?"

Blair himself, to get over the stress of helping to cause the odd hundreds of thousands of deaths here and there, went on to earn vast sums advising dictators such as the president of Kazakhstan. So to be fair, when he says he doesn't regret the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, maybe he does really. Because if Saddam was still around, Blair would probably be charging him £50,000 a day for his advice.

Almost every figure who had to participate in the invasion, whether political or military, accepts it was an avoidable fiasco, and now there's a giant report to confirm it. There's just Blair, still ranting incoherently in a corner, with no interest in the truth or the consequences of his actions, his words driven solely by personal bitterness, like the final racist juror in 12 Angry Men.

Still, he used to pray with Bush, so maybe one day they'll descend, hand-in-hand to an eternity of damnation, and Blair will turn and smile at his friend, whispering: "See, I'm a man of my word, I'll be with you whatever, forever."

First published at the Independent.

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