Iraq? What Inquiry?

So the Chilcot Inquiry into why the UK joined the US in the 2003 Iraq War finished today. It was of course, the trial of the former Prime Minister Tony Blair.  He told the Inquiry he would have gone to war in Iraq even if WMD really had not existed – which they did not. Iraqi WMD has all along stood for Weapons of Mass Disappearance. Blair knew that. Has always known it.

He says he went to war to get Saddam Hussein. He did not say that publicly at the time – although some of us close to the briefing process knew that was what he meant. He was doing it for George and George felt that way. Thus Blair came close, even crossed, the line between honesty and trust: dishonesty with the rule of law we sign up for and, the trust of the people.

The arrogance of Blair verges as a despicable act mainly because so many had enormous hopes of him when he came to power in the UK in 1997. The Tories had fallen into the slough of disrepute and in a couple of incidents, of ill-repute. We were to discover, that PM John Major, so squeaky clean and cultivating the image as one who wanted to lead a nation back to more modest and honourable times (cricket teas on the village green and spinsters cycling to Evensong) was in fact giving another MP a right seeing to across the desk and couch of the PM’s rooms at Westminster.  Along came Blair and for many voters, including those who had previously voted Conservative, here was hope. Here was a man with a sparkling eye and sense of leadership to vote for.

Blair reformed the idea of the Labour Party. He got the Party die-hards to dump its Clause 4 Constiutional article that said the aim of any Labour Government was to take much into Common Ownership – that is nationalize it. It was such a tenet of the Party that it was written on the back of the membership card of every Labour supporter.  It went into the dustbin of outdated ideas. Public ownership was never again to be be part of the Labour Agenda. To prove it, the Party was rebranded New Labour. A new lamp for an old political light. No more public money to go that way. Within a few years, public money went back into the railway system. Just this year, public funds were poured into the banks – partly to pay £million bonuses to the directors who had buggered the banks anyway – not Blair’s doing of course, but the decision of a government from which he jumped ship just in time, or so he would believe.

Since November 2009, the Iraq Inquiry has heard from witnesses, including heads of the Intelligence community, the bureaucracy and military in the UK, who have collectively distanced themselves from the Tony Blair decision to go to a war; that war is seen as increasingly illegal and more pertinently, one which the people who voted for him, did not wish to go. We know why he did it. The political theatre in the UK was increasingly too small for Blair. He went to America after 9/11 and was received as a prince who, if he had been born in the US, could have at that stage run successfully for the White House . Instead, he went to the White House and fingered the gold lame of American presidential privilege and was enchanted by the Bush Camelot where the Merlins rigged votes to get their boy elected.

Twice Blair appeared before Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry. Twice he said that others may not agree with what he did, but what do they know and he said, just in case anyone doubts he’s an honorary Texan, we should all go out and bomb Iran.
The portrait painter Fiona Graham-Mackay, she of the famous Lord Carrington portrait (now there’s a man who could give a master-class in political honor) says she has studied Blair right from the 1997 General Election campaign. It’s in the eyes, she says. These are the eyes of a man who in the shaving mirror sees only his created image – not the truth. Maybe that’s too deep for most of us, but trust her judgement. Good portrait painters understand vanity and there we have the portrait of Tony Blair. Most of us have a vanity somewhere. Most of us are never in the position to mislead a nation into going to a wretched war in order to satisfy a vanity that is so rich that eight years on, he can say in all his own innocence, forget what I told you in 2003, just accept that I was right. It’s a bit like Clause 4. It had to be got rid of because it did not fit Blair’s image of himself. Curiously, I voted for him first time round.  Like a lot who did, I feel let down.  He could have been a great Prime Minister.  Instead, he turned out to be a Could Have Been.

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