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Wednesday, July 06, 2016 


The publication of the Chilcot report hasn't felt the same as those other reports into past misdeeds of the British state.  How could it?  Many of the faces in parliament may be different, but Iraq is a decision still raw and on-going, with much of the guilt still lying in the Commons.  Unlike Bloody Sunday and Hillsborough, this was a decision that was parliament's to make.  It flunked it.  One of the saddest aspects of today is neither Robin Cook or Charles Kennedy are here to experience it, those two most understated opponents of the war, both of whom had much to lose but stuck to their principles regardless.

Perhaps I'm the only one who feels this way; deeply sad, lacking the motivation to point fingers for the umpteenth time.  Chilcot's conclusions are far more damning than I and it seems the vast majority expected, all but saying Blair launched a war of aggression, that it was not a war of last resort, and that while no one specifically lied, exaggeration and completely ignoring the other side of the argument was at the very heart of a war of choice.  It's just that it seems anti-climactic, when those other reports were anything but.  Iraq has been so argued about, so studied, so drilled down into, with positions long since set that it has been all too apparent Chilcot was going to settle little.

This was reflected in David Cameron's response.  The only reason we have had repeated inquiries into Iraq is because British troops died, and the war has been such an obvious disaster.  There has been no equivalent inquiry into Afghanistan, despite our role in that similarly benighted country being only slightly less disastrous.  Afghanistan has no natural resources and Afghanis matter less than Iraqis.  Similarly, there has been no inquiry into the intervention in Libya other than a broad investigation by a parliamentary committee.  No British servicemen died, see.  There have been endless investigations in America into what happened in Benghazi, mind, for equally apparent reasons.

When David Cameron was outlining his disagreements with Chilcot, he was in effect defending himself over Libya.  Most of the criticisms directed at Blair and the preparations for war in Iraq equally apply to that bloody fiasco.  Cameron took action when there was no clear threat, when all the options had very clearly not been exhausted, where exaggerations of what might happen if we didn't act piled up, and without the slightest plan for what to do afterwards.  Indeed, that there was no plan seems to have been the plan.  If anything, the way in which the UN Security Council's authorisation was abused, with NATO using it as cover for regime change was even more egregious than the way Bush and Blair had no intention of giving the UN weapons inspectors a chance to do their work.  The damage to the concept of the responsibility to protect has been incalculable.  So also we don't properly know how influential the deception over Libya was on Russia and Putin, with all that has followed since in Syria.

For it's apparent Chilcot's findings, crushing as they are for Blair, will change absolutely nothing.  Of course there must always be the option of acting quickly in the event of an attack definitively linked to either a state or a state harbouring a terrorist group, but this has not been the case in any of the conflicts since Iraq.  Equally, we should not shy away from intervening to prevent or stop a genocide, if it can be established forces can be deployed quickly enough, that our actions will stop it, that the threat is real and we have a plan for what comes afterwards.

The fact is politics doesn't work as Chilcot would like it to, as has been so amply demonstrated by the other events of the past couple of weeks.  Labour can't even get a coup 9 months in the planning right, while the Tories by contrast have such a lust for power that friendships and bonds of years can be sacrificed in a matter of seconds for the slightest of advantages.  Planning is an alien concept, unless there's something in it for them personally.  When the architect of the "not doing stupid shit" doctrine has done plenty of such things, what hope of our less thoughtful representatives pledging to do the same?  When we have a media that, again, has spent the past couple of weeks demonstrating its enduring belief in wielding power without responsibility, what hope of no repeat of the Murdoch press boosting of Blair?

Most pertinently, why would anything change when the consequences of setting an entire region on fire are so slight?  If Blair has suffered mentally for his decision, he certainly hasn't in any other aspect.  Our soon to be outgoing prime minister orchestrated a parliamentary standing ovation for him, while no bank or dictatorship is yet to decide a man partially responsible for setting off a conflagration that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands to be too toxic to pay millions.  He remains influential to many politicians, especially on foreign policy, even if they won't admit to it, while his ideas are still instantly reported on and debated seriously.  Would anyone in a similar position ever have been allowed to make so desperate a "defence" of his continued righteousness as he was today, a self-pitying diatribe (yes, I know) that hasn't changed in 13 years?  When Blair was allowed to get away with once again describing the decision not to attack Syria in 2013 as a grievous mistake, the Syria conflict a war that could not possibly have turned out the way it has if it hadn't been for the Iraq invasion, what possible chance that a future prime minister will think twice about launching a war of aggression against another shithole country that poses no direct threat to us?

How desperately, pathetically sad and predictable.  Much like this writer.

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