FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Crimes Against Peace: the Chilcot Inquiry, Tony Blair and Iraq

Keep Calm But I Told You So.

— Russian Embassy, UK, Tweet, Jul 6, 2016

Britain is in political turmoil, but even prior to that, there was that old problem of why Her Majesty’s government went to war in a disastrous conflict that had no immediate, security related grounds. The reasons for invading Iraq were more ideological than scientific, more evangelical than rational.

One of the greater evangelists in this mission of folly was former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Britain may well have been in search of a role after empire, and here it was by way of redux, a traditional stomping ground in the Middle East. The hope was also personal. Ego, and the desperate sense of purchasing goodwill in Washington, seemed to preoccupy Blair.

The result of going into Iraq in a fit of moral outrage and strategic bravado was disastrous. Actually, it was more than disastrous. Virtually every murderous spin off in the Middle East has its provenance in the disturbances of the Coalition of the bungling willing in 2003.

That war suggested much about what was wrong with the Anglosphere, with its various satraps and misguided assumptions. The United States was charging into a bloody engagement hoping its not too questioning followers, the UK and Australia, would join in. They were right, with Blair giving a pre-determined commitment of British forces on July 28, 2002, a good deal prior to the formal Parliamentary vote on whether military intervention against Iraq was warranted.

Sir John Chilcot as Chairman of the Iraq Inquiry was hoping to do much. The inquiry, he hoped, would give us lessons that would “help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.”[1]

For all of that, the history of this inquiry is characterised by chronic, mind numbing delay. Britain’s gift to the world was not merely a civil service but one of uncivil disservice when required. Such pursuits have their own rationale and powers of justification.

While the inquiry’s process has been unsatisfactory, Chilcot’s findings are now the stuff of pure affirmation.[2] There is noting new in it. Iraq’s previously sponsored dictator Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to Western states in 2003. Peaceful options prior to the use of force, a grave decision in international relations, had not been exhausted.

When the UK Ministry of Defence had committed to the bloody effort, it found itself woefully underprepared. Its inventory was poor, lacking in essential equipment such as armoured patrol vehicles and helicopters. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the great deliverer of asymmetrical warfare, was not taken seriously.

The rest of the stage for the day was set by Blair’s apologetics. “The report,” claimed Blair in a statement, “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.” This is standard Blair: muddle the issue, obfuscate the finding. Regard sorrow and faith as forgivable faults.

Conveniently missed is a vital fact: fanatical, uninformed belief has been the basis of some of history’s most blood sodden decisions. And to say that deception was not part of it is to misread the report, which notes the desire on the part of President George W. Bush and Blair, to invade for reasons of regime change.

Few ever go to wars, legal or otherwise, without faith. That hardly constitutes grounds for letting planners of the hook. Crimes against peace, articulated by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal, are arguably the gravest of crimes. Whatever the faulty evidence, the diplomatic option or a continued strategy of containment, none of these mattered with a decision taken well in advance, a common plan of aggression.

Blair did make a feeble attempt to comb through the minute details by way of exoneration. In an attempt to appease the British public, and his God, he asserts that Chilcot did not find “falsification or improper use of Intelligence (para 876 vol 4).” He notes the finding that he did not deceive Cabinet (para 953 vol 5) and claims that Chilcot found against a “secret commitment to war whether at Crawford Texas in April 2002 or elsewhere (para 572 onwards vol 1).” There are lies, and then there are lies.

One can sense Blair’s relief that the inquiry did not make a finding on one of the most fundamental points that would make a prosecutor’s brief stick: whether the action to attack Iraq was itself legal. He makes much hay out of the point of a “finding” by the Attorney-General that there was a lawful basis by March 13, 2003 for possible military action (para 933 vol 5). On that score, Chilcot could have done much more.

Blair then gives us his reflection about consequences, which sound all too much like a defence before a future criminal tribunal – as well as it might. He accepts the errors of his administration, treating them like desk job miscalculations, only to then claim that it was perfectly right to remove Saddam. Forget the “underestimated” consequences, as Chilcot rather blandly calls them.

Furthermore, he continues in his refusal to accept that “the cause of terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world” had anything to do with this adventurous gamble. Object and belief trumped procedure and execution. Such reasons are as good any for a formal conviction.

Notes. 

[1] http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/

[2] http://www.iraqinquiry.org.uk/the-report/

More articles by:

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzick
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail