monbiot | When politicians do terrible things and suffer no consequences, people lose trust in both politics and justice. They see them, correctly, as instruments deployed by the strong against the weak.
Since the First World War, no prime minister of this country has done something as terrible as Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq. This unprovoked war caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the mutilation of hundreds of thousands more. It flung the whole region into chaos, chaos which has been skillfully exploited by terror groups. Today, three million people in Iraq are internally displaced, and 10 million need humanitarian assistance.
Yet Mr Blair, the co-author of these crimes, whose lethal combination of appalling judgement and tremendous powers of persuasion made the Iraq war possible, saunters the world, picking up prizes and massive fees, regally granting interviews, cloaked in a force field of denial and legal impunity. If this is what politics looks like, is it any wonder that so many people have given up on it?
The crucial issue – the legality of the war – was, of course, beyond Sir John Chilcot’s remit. A government whose members were complicit in the matter under investigation (Gordon Brown financed and supported the Iraq war) defined his terms of reference. This is a fundamental flaw in the way inquiries are established in this country: it’s as if a defendant in a criminal case were able to appoint his own judge, choose the charge on which he is to be tried and have the hearing conducted in his own home.
But if Brown imagined Sir John would give the authors of the war an easy ride, he could not have been more wrong. The Chilcot report, much fiercer than almost anyone anticipated, rips down almost every claim the Labour government made about the invasion and its aftermath. Two weeks before he launched his war of choice, Tony Blair told the Guardian: “Let the day-to-day judgments come and go: be prepared to be judged by history.” Well, that judgement has just been handed down, and it is utterly damning.
Blair and his government and security services, Chilcot concludes, presented the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction with “a certainty that was not justified”: in other words they sexed up the evidence. Their “planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.” They ignored warnings – which proved to be horribly prescient – that “military action would increase the threat from Al Qaida” and “invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred into the hands of terrorists.”