SORRY REMAINS THE HARDEST WORD

JOHN MCGURK says after six years of prevarication and fecklessness, it looks like the Chilcot Inquiry is soon to deliver its million word report into the Iraq War.

The reason we know this is because Tony Blair suddenly popped up on CNN with a stage-managed interview in which he gave a qualified apology for the misuse of intelligence and admitted that nobody had thought about what to do when the carnage was over.

Blair, of course, actually only used the word “sorry” on behalf of those who prepared the intelligence, those cunning chaps in MI6.

He also cleverly spread the blame for the chaotic aftermath of the war by the use of the words “our mistake” as if every one of us had somehow been involved in the decision-making process.

There can be little doubt that this was an attempt by the former prime minister to anticipate and upstage the Iraq Inquiry report and to take the sting out of the widespread accusation that he and the then US president George W. Bush behaved like a couple of cowboys in a revenge movie.

After all, those referred to in the report have had the right to read any criticism in advance and to then comment on what has been said.

So the dodgy intelligence about Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction and the lack of any plan to rebuild the country after its destruction, are most likely to be two of the biggest conclusions of the inquiry.

We must hope that Sir John Chilcot, the former civil servant who began chairing the inquiry in (wait for it) June 2009, has got many more enlightening things to say because, frankly, most intelligent observers must have worked out these major findings for themselves long ago.

The other very obvious conclusion, which Blair has now only partially acknowledged with his mea culpas, is that the Iraq War spawned the Islamic state terrorist organisation which we now know as Isis.

In doing so Blair, while very happy not to apologise for removing the tyrant Saddam Hussein, has effectively confirmed that the Western powers replaced one madman with something which is clearly far more dangerous, thousands of madmen.

The ousting of Saddam effectively changed the order of governance in Iraq and replaced the rule of Sunni with the rule of Shia resulting in a widespread hatred for the Americans and the British.

Deposed Sunnis quickly concluded that it was all part of a Western plot to strip them of their status and their dignity while their hated rivals, the Shias, were invited to take over.

When the Americans installed new Iraqi leaders from the Shia movement, and while their military abused prisoners in Abu Ghraib, they were setting the stage for a sectarian revolution which would spread across the country and then into Syria.

How likely is it that the grievances and injustices which exploded when the last US troops left Iraq would have been mitigated if there had been a more orderly and fairer society in which Sunnis and Shias played a more equal part?

Naturally, few in Britain spoke up at the time of the start of the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003 because the country was sucked into war by a relentless campaign of persuasion that it was the right action to take.

For this reason, it is worth re-reading the resignation speech of the late Foreign Secretary Robin Cook who cautioned against going into Iraq with the following words:

“This is the first time for 20 years that I have addressed the House from the back benches. I must confess that I had forgotten how much better the view is from here.

“The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people.

“On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain…

“From the start of the present crisis I have insisted, as Leader of the House, on the right of this place to vote on whether Britain should go to war.

“I intend to join those tomorrow night who will vote against military action now.

“It is for that reason, and that reason alone, and with a heavy heart, that I resign from the government.”

With the benefit of hindsight, we can see now that Cook, who unexpectedly died just 15 months later, had a clarity of vision which Blair did not.

Blair has used the word “sorry” but he has still managed to separate it from his own actions and to blame others.

 

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