Iraq: Nothing Less Than Full Justice Will Do
For the sake of all the dead, Tony Blair must not be let to ride Chilcot out, writes Lindsey German
Chilcot is the fifth report into the Iraq war. The previous four, two of them public, were very limited in scope, satisfied practically no-one and failed to draw the line under the war.
The last of those, the Butler report, was published 12 years ago. So Chilcot, with a much wider remit, a much longer time for taking evidence, public hearings and a final report which is four times as long as War and Peace, was always going to be a much bigger deal.
Not least because the report has been repeatedly delayed so that it is a full five years since the last evidence was taken.
The delays and the make-up of the panel led to scepticism about what it would report, as did the fact that Chilcot was set up expressly not to have a legal outcome.
But in fact Sir John Chilcot was much stronger than many of us in the anti-war movement thought he might be.
The report was damning of Tony Blair in particular, but also — let us never forget — his allies in government and media, and the Tory opposition which for the most part signed up loyally to this unnecessary and illegal war.
Among the findings of Chilcot are:
- There was no imminent threat to Britain from Saddam Hussein, so war in March 2003 was unnecessary.
- The existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq was presented with a certainty that was not justified. It was never “beyond doubt” that the weapons existed. None have been found in the subsequent 13 years.
- There was a failure of democratic government and accountability, with Blair keeping most of his Cabinet in the dark. This meant that he avoided telling them things which they ought to have known.
- George Bush and Blair worked to undermine the authority of the UN.
On the eve of war, authorisation for war was made by the attorney general and echoed by Blair on the justification of “further material breaches” by Saddam.
Blair was adamant that such breaches existed but evidence for them, and therefore for the war’s legality, is not there.
Blair and his supporters claim that there was no bad faith in Blair’s actions. This is not what Chilcot says.
He does not use the word “lies” but there is little doubt that the evidence was covered up or slanted or only partially released.
He deceived the Cabinet and the public over his agreement with Bush in spring 2002. In July that year he sent a letter to Bush in which he said: “I will be with you, whatever.”
Yet he led everyone — Parliament, Cabinet, the public — to believe that he still had an open mind on the war, that right up until March 2003 he was willing to reverse his plans for war.
He is still spinning the same story, saying that his role in staying so close to Bush was that he wanted to pursue the UN route and that the US would just have gone off on its own otherwise.
In fact, pursuit of the UN route was part of his narrative to sell a war, with a UN resolution if possible, but without one if necessary.
He claimed that all peaceful means of dealing with Iraq had been exhausted, when that is not true.
As many said at the time, there was still the possibility of further talks and inspections, but this was not what either leader wanted.
Blair is now blaming the fact that the intelligence was wrong on anyone but him. Yet he described the existence of WMD as beyond doubt and expressed none of the doubts or caveats over the intelligence which were clearly there for all to see.
He presented the September 2002 dossier as cast-iron evidence, when much of it was conjecture.
There is a much wider picture here, which is that from the time of the September 11 attacks the Bush administration was determined to link the attack with Iraq, although there was absolutely no foundation for doing so.
The initial victim of the “war on terror” was Afghanistan, which was quickly occupied and the Taliban defeated.
The US then turned its attention to other countries, most notably Iraq. The determination to go to war with Iraq was non-negotiable for the Bush administration and the neocons behind it.
Interestingly, Chilcot reveals that the original plan for a British dossier on WMD was to focus on four countries, loosely linked to Bush’s “axis of evil” — North Korea, Libya, Iran and Iraq.
However, Iraq was not the most threatening in terms of alleged possession of WMD, and as foreign secretary Jack Straw said, this might lead people to think Iraq less of a threat than the government claimed.
So the solution was found: concentrate the dossier on Iraq alone and avoid any difficult questions about threats from other countries.
Thirteen years after the war, the Middle East is in flames, Britain is a more dangerous place than it was and the threat of terrorism across the region is greater. Chilcot makes clear that this was a catastrophe both foretold and avoidable.
Chilcot would not have happened without the anti-war movement and we should not see it as the end.
There have to be consequences for those responsible for this terrible war. Already legal challenges are being dismissed as too difficult.
There will no doubt be attempts at legal proceedings or parliamentary impeachment, and they should be fully supported.
But there are also other political and financial sanctions which should be considered.
It will strike many people as against any form of justice that Blair will again ride this one out.
We should not let this happen but demand full accountability and justice for the Iraqis, the soldiers and their families, and for all those who opposed this war.
Nothing can be done to compensate for the death and destruction already caused. But we can ensure that MPs are never again taken to war on the basis of lies and deceit, and that we begin to create a political process which prevents this from happening.
We must fight to change a foreign policy wedded to the “special relationship” with the US and to a diet of endless war.
Source: The Morning Star