Finally, after seven long years, and a substantial sum of taxpayers money, the long awaited Chilcot report into the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has been published. Such is the length and depth of the report, seen by some as Gordon Brown's revenge on his erstwhile nemesis, Tony Blair, that the time and money spent on it, now seem entirely justified. Contrary to what many feared, Chilcot's findings are far from being an establishment whitewash. Instead, the report has confirmed, with forensic detail by all accounts, what those who opposed the invasion, already knew, or suspected. The UK, failed to exhaust all peaceful options, intelligence was flawed, the threat from Saddam overstated, the military ill-prepared and ill-equipped and post-invasion planning "wholly inadequate". Moreover, the legal basis for the invasion was reached in a manner, "far from satisfactory" and the “UK was, in fact, undermining the security council’s authority,”
What the report does not do, it was never meant to, is to conclude whether or not the invasion of Iraq was legal. Nor does it explicitly say, that there was any deliberate attempt to deceive Parliament or the public, merely that the threat posed by Saddam was exaggerated. That Chilcot does not redress these issues, does little to dampen his damning indictment of the villain of the piece, the aforementioned Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Mr Blair was quick to respond, saying, in what was a lengthy rebuttal, that the report should “lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit”. Not so, I fear.
Mr Blair has said he accepts that “people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action”, and admitted “I may be completely wrong“, but denied that he was deluded, insisting that "I don't believe this struggle was in vain." Indeed, Mr Blair has been repeatedly at pains to insist “we acted out of good motives and I did what I did out of good faith”. Of the questionable intelligence reports offered up to support the alleged threat of WMD’s, Mr Blair said "It wasn't that I wanted to believe it. I did believe it”. He went on to acknowledge that "It would have been far better to have challenged them more clearly". Despite this, it could be construed that the lack of scrutiny given to intelligence reports, the willingness to accept them so readily, demonstrates an eagerness on the part of Tony Blair, to press on with the invasion.
The Chilcot report also makes clear that Tony Blair can no longer rely on the excuse, that he couldn’t possibly have foreseen the difficulties that arose in the aftermath of the invasion, saying "We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuits of its interests, regional instability and al-Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion,". None of this, all too predictably, seems to have shaken Mr Blair’s belief, that what he did was morally sound. Astonishingly, Mr Blair is of the opinion that “it was better to remove Saddam Hussein” and has stated that “I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.”. Mr Blair claims he is not delusional, yet he seems to deny the universal truth, that all actions have consequences.
It may well be, that Tony Blair made the decisions he did, as part of a cynical attempt at self-aggrandisment, tragically mistaken that a willingness to wage war, is the hallmark of a great statesman. If that is the case, then he is a criminal. On the other hand, perhaps, it is true, that Tony Blair took the United Kingdom into a catastrophic war, with the very best of intentions. Perhaps he did, and still does, firmly believe that what he did was the right thing to do, in the interests of world peace. If that is the case, he is delusional. Dangerous, in fact.
Regardless of whether Mr Blair is criminal, or delusional, the Chilcot report highlights the fact that there is little to prevent a prime minister, hell bent on a particular course of action, from taking it. Mr Blair circumvented his cabinet, obliterating the idea that the prime minister is primus inter pares. He has said "A decision had to be taken and it was for me to take as prime minister.”, this speaks volumes as to where he thinks power lies. There is nothing that clearly sets out the powers of the prime minister, nothing, in theory, that he cannot do. The same can be said of parliament. Only a fully written constitution can rectify this ludicrous state of affairs. Until then, there is no impediment to any future megalomaniac incumbent of Ten Downing Street, taking the country on another reckless ego trip.
Tony Blair’s true motivations for invading Iraq, will only ever really be known to himself. There are those who will remain convinced, that he deliberately deceived Parliament, that the invasion was illegal and that Mr Blair should be tried for war crimes. Will that happen? I doubt it. Nor do I believe, that calls for the former Prime Minister to be impeached under some archaic procedure, will gain any meaningful traction. Apart from anything else, parliament is about to be bogged down in a quagmire of post-Brexit legislation, needed to unravel forty years of EU influenced law. Crucially, there simply isn’t the will on the part of a majority of MP’s to go down such a route, these are after all, the same MP’s who voted to bomb Syria. Personally, I believed from the very outset, that the invasion of Iraq was supposed to be Tony Blair’s Falklands. The Chilcot report and Mr Blair’s response to it, have done little or nothing to alter that view.