Tony Blair to George W. Bush: 'I will be with you, whatever'
Chaired by Sir John Chilcot, former Whitehall insider, and officially known as “the Iraq Inquiry”, this Proustian investigation allegedly explores every nook and cranny in the UK’s run-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq as well as its aftermath.
Let’s cut to the chase. This is not a whitewash by the British establishment; it’s actually much stronger than many analysts expected. Advance leaks had hinted blame would be apportioned to quite a few figures in the UK’s politico/military/intel apparatus – and that’s indeed the case.
The key questions are known to all. Did Tony Blair lie about the need to go to war? Was the war legal? Did the war – as Blair vociferously promised - make Britain “safer”? What did Blair promise George Bush? Did he lie about those non-existent weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)? Was MI6 intelligence compromised? Did the British military fail to stand up to Blair?
It will take days to get through the whole report. But based on Chilcot’s own initial statement, some conclusions are absolutely stark. There was “no need” to go to war in March 2003. All decisions were made “on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments”.
The British cabinet did not discuss the many possible military options - or their implications. The British government – what Alice in Wonderland dreamworld did they live in? - believed the post-invasion administration would be led by the UN, and not controlled by the Cheney regime neocons.
And then this startling statement; Tony Blair “overestimated his ability” to influence US decisions on Iraq. And yet the now famous Blair memo to Bush on July 2002, transcribed by the report, had made it clear: “I will be with you, whatever”. Blair was a mere follower, not a driver.
The report paints what can only be characterized as The Three Stooges school of intelligence. Especially responsible for the debacle are Sir John Scarlett, chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which relied basically on MI6; and then MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove. Not only their intel was faulty; we, as independent journalists, already knew by the Summer of 2002 (I spent one month all over Iraq in the Spring of 2002) that there were no WMDs anywhere to be found. UN inspectors not remote-controlled by the US also knew it.
So Blair not only totally bought fake MI6 intel, but exhibited it to the British Parliament with absolute “certainty”. The report blames the entire British intel apparatus for not trying to contain Blair.
And it gets worse. According to the report, the UK government “blamed France for the ‘impasse’ in the UN and claimed that the UK government was acting on behalf of the international community to ‘uphold the authority of the Security Council’. In the absence of a majority in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.”
Don’t expect a plot like this to show up in the next installment of the James Bond franchise.
Pledge to kill a million people
None of this is new. All of us who throughout 2002 and early 2003 were following the run-up towards the inevitable war on Iraq knew that Blair was the strategic, special relationship poodle necessary to confer a veneer of legitimacy to the Cheney regime neocons. As for Blair, the Chilcot report now makes it clear he couldn’t care less about his cabinet, the British Parliament or even international law. His only pledge of allegiance (“I will be with you, whatever”) was to George W. Bush.
The result, as we also know, is beyond appalling. The Lancet, in 2006, published its own extensive sample research – based on doctors conducting house-to-house surveys in Iraq – estimating that a staggering 655,000 Iraqis died because of the war.
Even more devastating was the work of the US-based Physicians for Social Responsibility, who in 2105 came to a figure of 1 million (5 percent of the total population), not including deaths among 3 million refugees.
Chilcot was careful to go pre-emptive, stating “we are not a court”, reflecting the fact that he had no lawyers working and drafting the report. But as much as the report does not declare the war illegal, flat out, it does open a few avenues for huge legal problems the Tony Blair way.
By now is more than clear that the internal, attempted Labour coup against Jeremy Corbyn is directly linked to the Chilcot report. Corbyn – an anti-war activist with impeccable CV – said last year that Blair could face trial in The Hague if the Chilcot report found he was guilty of launching an illegal war. As Labour leader, Corbyn would be able to expose Blair with parliamentary immunity, without risking action by Blair’s army of lawyers.
The internal Labour coup – orchestrated by the Blairites – was supposed to climax immediately after Brexit here is how Blair threw Corbyn under the bus. Removed from the leadership, Corbyn would only be able to go after Blair as a backbencher. That’s not strong enough.
Yet by now the window of opportunity to stop Corbyn has passed. And crucially, in his dignified comments in Parliament about the report, Corbyn did suggest that the House of Commons should take action against Blair for misleading it in the run-up towards the war. This means Blair could be impeached.
Whatever Blair says in the aftermath of the report – the Sunni-Shi’ite split in Iraq, one of key drivers of non-stop carnage, was already there before the invasion (false, as I saw for myself in 2002); Iran and al-Qaeda created insecurity in Iraq after the invasion (false on Iran; and al-Qaeda was actually brought to Iraq by the Cheney regime) – these will all be, well, lies.
As it stands, Tony Blair will probably evade a one-way ticket to The Hague to undergo a trial for his war crimes. But countless people all across the world can always dream of ironic/poetic justice; Blair the Brit warmonger tried in an EU court just after Brexit, as the UK’s role of sideshow occupier in Iraq directly connects to scores of people fleeing from jihadis and configuring a refugee crisis in Europe.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.