The scandal surrounding the war in Iraq, unleashed by the US in 2003 with the support of its UK ally, has never gone away. In the UK this scandal has been compounded by the inordinate delay in the publication of the findings of the official inquiry into the war – the Chilcot Inquiry – which was originally set up in 2009.
Chaired by retired civil servant, Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry was set up in 2009 by former prime minister Gordon Brown. Its overriding aim upon inception was to answer, once and for all, the lingering questions over Britain’s involvement in what qualifies as one of the most disastrous wars in which the country has ever been involved. British prime minister Tony Blair, whose name will forever be inextricably linked to the Iraq war and its aftermath, took the decision to follow his US counterpart, George W Bush, to Baghdad on the basis of intelligence that turned out to be false, claiming that Saddam had WMD and posed a clear and present danger to his neighbors and the stability of the region. Many are those who believe, in fact, that the intelligence used to justify the war was not only false it was fabricated, concocted to conceal the war’s real objective – namely regime change and seizing control of Iraq’s massive oil reserves.
Despite not being given legal powers to either compel witnesses to appear in front of the inquiry or recommend legal prosecutions in instances where the inquiry adjudged the evidence justified them, Chilcot questioned dozens of people over the two years in which his inquirty sat from 2009-2011. They included everyone from Tony Blair to the most junior civil servant during his government, along with senior military personnel and assorted functionaries.
Considering that this phase of the inquiry ended four years ago, the lack of a final report has brought the entire process – at a cost to the British taxpayer of millions of pounds and counting – into disrepute. Worse, it has completely destroyed any confidence the process may once have enjoyed from the British public when it comes to the determination and ability of Sir John Chilcot and his team to uncover the truth.
The reason cited by Chilcot for the inordinate delay in publishing his report is the delay in gathering responses and rebuttals from those witnesses who have come in for criticism in it. Known as the Maxwellisation process, this right of reply is given in the UK to those who’ve been criticised in an official report, privileging them with advance notice of said report’s findings in order to allow them to do so.
The problem is that Sir John Chilcot failed to set a time limit on this process, with the result that it has allowed witnesses to draw the process out to the point where it has become a national scandal. In this regard, there is a strong and growing consensus that Tony Blair is the witness most likely responsible for the ensuing delay, despite his repeated denials, doing so in response to the severe criticism of him and his role in taking the country to war that is thought to be contained in the report.
No one will be surprised if this is true, what with Blair’s zeal in involving the UK in military interventions around the world during his time as prime minister only matched by his arrogant disregard for the human suffering involved. When, during his appearance at the inquiry, for example, he was offered the opportunity by Chilcot to apologize for the loss of life incurred during and as a result of the war, the former prime minister refused.
By way of a reminder, the number of Iraqis killed, injured, and whose lives were devastated either during the war, as a result of the occupation that followed, and all the up to the present day due to the sectarian violence and terrorism that is a daily occurrence across most of the country, has been of biblical magnitude. Add to this the 179 British soldiers killed and a further 6000 injured, many of those seriously, and you don’t have to be a genius to understand why Blair is so loathed.
Indeed, pushing the low esteem in which the former British prime minister is held even lower is the fact that since leaving political office, he has gone on to amass a mountain of money in return for his services as a public speaker and political advisor and consultant to assorted oil companies, international banks, and various governments – some of them of them of the decidedly unsavoury kind.
It is no exaggeration to state that Tony Blair has turned into a veritable Crassus, a man driven by a lust for money with scant regard for where or how he gets his hands on it.
As he flies around the world on a luxury private jet, the families of some of the British soldiers killed in Iraq have gone as far as threatening legal action if the report resulting from the inquiry into Iraq is not published by the end of 2015. Just think about that – people whose sons, husbands, and brothers were killed after being sent by Tony Blair to Iraq to fight a war that many – including former UN general secretary Kofi Annan – believe was unleashed in violation of international law, have been forced to resort to the courts in order to force the publication of the findings of an inquiry begun six long years ago.
This is an inquiry they had hoped would bring them closure and allow them to move on with their lives, satisified that at last the truth of why their loved one was sent to Iraq and why they died had been revealed. Instead it has proved a source of unremitting anguish, prolonging their grief and guilt when it comes to seeing justice down for those who lost their lives.
The dictum that justice delayed is justice denied has never been more salient when it comes to Iraq. The chaos and carnage resulting from this disastrous war and occupation will follow Tony Blair to the grave. However a growing number around the world believe that it should also follow him into the dock at the International Criminal Court at The Hague.