After seven long years the Chilcot report was published on Wednesday, giving the country a bit of relief from the self-inflicted disaster of Brexit by focusing on the self-inflicted disaster of the Iraq war. No wonder the Blairites wanted Jeremy Corbyn out of power before it was published.
The thing to remember about the Chilcot report is that it was carried out by a man who is a fully paid up member of the British establishment, who bent over backwards to give the British establishment the benefit of any possible doubt that was going, who took longer than the war itself in order to give the British establishment time to prepare its excuses, and yet he still delivered a report that condemned the serial failures and venality of the British establishment.
Tony Blair always claimed that history would be his judge. Well history has just judged, and it has damned him. The legal basis for the war was flawed, the preparation for the war was flawed, the planning for its aftermath was flawed. It was all as flawed as Tony Blair’s soul. Yet whatever planning, whatever preparation, whatever legal advice, Britain would have gone to war anyway, because Tony Blair had promised George W Bush that he would be with him whatever. And the reason he did so was in order to get one up over the Tories and the Tory press so he could claim to be the defender of the so-called special relationship with America. He did it so he could get himself a place in history as the great victor in a small war. The greatness of Tony Blair is as mythical as WMDs in the Iraqi desert.
Well it all exploded in his face like a missile strike in Baghdad, and the whole world is still suffering the consequences. All for Tony’s ego. All for the aggrandisement of a pathetic post-empire that still can’t accept that it’s just a middle sized European country. All for a Britain that still dreams of ruling the waves while it sinks into irrelevance. Western contractors profited from the war to the tune of almost $140 billion. The ghosts of 179 British servicepeople and a quarter million Iraqis paid the price.
Britain loves to glorify its military. Yet it sends them into wars that the political class has not prepared for, without the proper equipment. And then when they come home maimed and wounded they have to rely on charities to meet their basic needs. Ex-servicepeople are disproportionately represented amongst the ranks of the homeless. But Britain will only honour its ex-servicepeople with parades and pomp, not with homes over their heads or a decent standard of living. Hypocrisy is not honour.
The Blairite faction of Labour’s hypocrisy was on full display in the Commons as the report was digested. As Jeremy Corbyn, one of the minority of Labour MPs who had opposed the war, addressed the Commons he was heckled another Labour MP. Ian Austin MP, who voted three times against holding an inquiry into the war, called Corbyn a disgrace and yelled at him to shut up. What’s the real disgrace is the lack of humility from Labour MPs who supported Blair and took the country into war on a false prospectus. What’s the real disgrace is the way in which they’re trying to mount a coup to unseat the party leader at a time of national crisis when the country was never more in need of an effective and united opposition. What’s the real disgrace is the arrogance and sense of entitlement of a political class that refuses to accept responsibility for its wrong doings.
Tony Blair gave an emotional speech in response to the report, close to tears as he realised he wouldn’t be able to charge £50,000 for this speaking engagement. He mentioned 9/11 almost as much as he mentioned Iraq, even though the 9/11 attacks had nothing to do with Iraq at all. And throughout it all he stuck to his lie that there was no secret commitment to go to war even though the Chilcot report found that he’d told George W Bush, “We are with you whatever.” It was everyone else’s fault. Big boys done it and ran away.
The speech was almost as long as the Chilcot report itself and it was a masterclass in sociopathy, begining in a half croaked and unbelieved apology and rising to a crescendo of self-justification. You couldn’t call it heartfelt because it came from a man with no heart. The way Blair spoke you’d think that Chilcot had absolved him of all blame rather than putting the largest share of the responsibility squarely on him. But let’s give credit where credit is due. In this speech Tony Blair managed to make the Brexit Leave campaign seem like a paragon of honesty, forward planning, and foresight. He was terribly terribly sorry, but he wouldn’t say what for. At times he seemed close to tears, but they were tears for his own reputation.
What the Iraq war and the Brexit debacle have in common is that the country was taken into them both without planning or preparation, purely for the short term benefit of a political class which then refused to accept any responsiblity for the mess that it created. And what the Iraq war and the Brexit debacle also have in common is that those responsible won’t have to face any sanctions or punishments for their failures.
The consequences are borne by the rest of us. The people are punished. There was no planning for the aftermath of the Iraq war, and no planning for the aftermath of the EU referendum. Both were intended as short term instruments to boost the careers of their backers, and to hell with the country and the people. That’s the British way, where rank incompetence substitutes for policy. That’s the state we’re in.
This is what you get when you have no written constitution, no established means of holding politicians to account. You get a political class which writes the rules to suit itself, then when we are faced with a disaster of that class’s creation it wrings its hands and says that it’s not broken any rules and it’s done nothing wrong.
We’ve got to get out of this dysfunctional state. The structural and malignant incompetence of the British state and its masters isn’t a bug to be fixed, it’s a feature.
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