It took a television presenter best known for a morning TV programme and using gastric band surgery to lose weight, to discover what we all suspected – that weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) played little part in the decision of former UK prime minister Tony Blair to invade Iraq in 2003. Indeed, it is looking ever more likely that WMDs had nothing whatever to do with the war and everything to do with Blair’s desire to cosy up to the then US president George Bush and share the reflected glory of his gung-ho operation.
In a BBC interview with Fern Britton, Blair was asked: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you have still gone on?” The former leader replied calmly: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein].” As one commentator noted: “Imagine the reaction had Blair told Parliament back in 2003: ‘Maybe Saddam has WMDs. But even if he does not, we should help George Bush impose regime change’.” There would have been outrage. Blair’s confession came at a time when there is already dismay and despondency over the Iraq war inquiry, presided over by the veteran former civil servant Sir John Chilcot, which appears to be failing to get to the bottom of anything of import.
Sir John opened proceedings in November with the assertion that “No one is on trial. We cannot determine guilt or innocence”, and it was later revealed that much of Tony Blair’s evidence would be given to the inquiry in secret so, what was the point? It seemed that ‘Teflon Tony’, so named because, like the cookware of the same name “nothing sticks”, had managed to slide out of taking the responsibility for dragging Britain into a war that nobody in the country, other than himself, wanted –a conflict that subsequently propelled Britain – alongside the US – to the top of a global terrorism hit list, for which many thousands of people across the globe have since paid dearly, many with their lives.
Or has he escaped? Let’s face it, giving evidence in private or shouting it from the top of the Palace of Westminster through a megaphone, Tony Blair could hardly be more dishonoured and discredited in the eyes of the international community than he is at this moment.
The British are notorious for wanting to keep their business under wraps. Generally, they recoil at attempts to ‘bring things out into the open’; even as children they are warned by well-meaning parents that it is inadvisable “to wash your dirty linen in public”. However, even the famous British reserve could not stop Sir Ken Macdonald QC, a former director of public prosecutions. Sir Ken believes that by evasion and duplicity, the inquiry will fail the public if it delivers a result that allows the guilty to go unpunished. “If Chilcot fails to reveal the truth without fear in this Middle Eastern story of violence and destruction, the inquiry will be held in deserved and withering contempt,” he noted.
On Tony Blair’s attempts to defend his behaviour, saying that what he did was what he believed was right after much prayer and contemplation, Sir Ken was equally outspoken: “This is a narcissist’s defence, and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment. The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer.”
When the full findings of the inquiry are known we will, hopefully, be able to bring them to our readers. In the meantime, Tony Blair must suffer the ignominy and disgrace of his actions and knowledge of the widespread and growing belief that he has much blood on his hands.
Perhaps this fact was high on the agenda when members of the European Union declined to select him as their president late last year, even though at one stage he was hotly tipped for success. Shed no tears for Tony though: he may not be EU president but he still has several lucrative irons in the fire, not least as Middle East envoy, a member of the ‘Quartet’ charged to bring peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Call me a cynic, but if I was trying to bring up a family in Gaza, Tony Blair is among the very last men I would want in that job.