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By an accident of history, the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War is appearing at a critical moment in British history. The war was the first great test this century of the ability of the British powers-that-be to govern intelligently and successfully and one which they demonstrably failed. The crisis provoked by the vote to leave the European Union is the next crisis of similar gravity faced by these same powers and, once again, they appear unable to cope.

Britain’s politicians and senior officials have traditionally had the reputation of making fewer mistakes than their rivals, but their inability to grapple with these crises is a sign that this period may be drawing to an end. The Chilcot report will presumably provide evidence about why Britain made so many mistakes before and during the Iraq war, but is unlikely to explain why it went on making them in Libya and Syria.

Britain’s rulers periodically admit that they got many things wrong in Iraq, but they tend to be unspecific about what these were or what practical lessons can be learned from British military involvement there between 2003 and 2009. This ignorance is wilful, stemming from a conscious or unconscious sense that, if Britain admits to real weaknesses and failures, it will be seen as a less valuable ally by the US and others whom Britain is trying to convince of its continuing political and military strength.

One way of looking at the Iraq conflict is to see it as a disastrous attempt by Britain to make war on the cheap in conditions which were far more risky than those launching it imagined. To prevent fragile support for the war eroding further, bad news was concealed or glossed over to the point that propaganda took over from reality

It was comical but chilling in the early years of the war to see Tony Blair and other British ministers, sometimes protected by helmets and body armour, travelling by helicopter from Baghdad International Airport to the Green Zone because it was too dangerous for them to drive along the short stretch of road between the two. Despite the necessity for these security measures in the heart of the Iraqi capital, they would then blithely state that the insurgents were on the run and a majority of Iraqi provinces at peace, a claim they wisely made no attempt to validate by a personal visit and in the knowledge that journalists could not disprove without grave risk of being murdered.

Within a year of the invasion, the US and Britain controlled only beleaguered islands of territory which were under constant attack. The British Army, its forces far too small for the task they had been given, failed to control Basra in southern Iraq and by the end was humiliatingly confined to a camp on its outskirts. Many of the British soldiers there were transferred to an equally messy, unwinnable and ill-understood conflict in Helmand province in Afghanistan in 2006 with predictably grim and bloody consequences.

These failures should have given pause to anybody in authority in Britain plunging into foreign ventures which destabilised established states with no idea of what would replace them. Nevertheless, in 2011 David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy did not hesitate to lead the charge in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi in a war which turned Libya into a battleground for rival warlords and opened the door for a flood of desperate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.

In Syria, British policy was for long predicated on the expectation that Bashar al-Assad was about to fall, though it should have been self-evident that this was not going to happen since he held most of the populated areas of the country and was backed by Russia and Iran. In 2012, just as Isis was establishing Al Nusra as its Syrian branch, senior British diplomats were saying in private that they believed that fears of the Syrian conflict spreading were much exaggerated.

The following year David Cameron favoured Britain undertaking airstrikes against Syrian government forces, though this would have either been ineffective or, if President Bashar al-Assad had fallen, would have led to him being replaced by extreme Islamists since they dominated the armed opposition.

The change in policy was fortunately turned down by the House of Commons which had taken on board the dangers involved in such ventures. But the government still seemed to be plugged into a fantasy picture of the Syrian war when last December it began airstrikes against the Islamic State in Syria, though once again the forces involved were so limited as to make it little more than a symbolic gesture. In order to avoid having to choose between Assad and IS, Mr Cameron claimed that we are acting in support of 70,000 moderate Syrian fighters prepared to take on both Syrian government forces and Islamic fundamentalists, but whose location cannot be disclosed and whose very existence is in doubt.

The Iraq war was militarily small compared to others fought by Britain over the last century. British forces lost just 179 dead in action in Iraq between 2003 and 2009 compared to 455 fatalities in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2015, both figures being entirely dwarfed by the horrendous figure of 40,000 dead for British and Indian soldiers killed fighting in what later became Iraq between 1914 and 1918.

But the political impact of the Iraq war in Britain and the US was serious, long-lasting and far outweighed its significance as an armed conflict. It permanently blasted the reputation of Tony Blair, though he won one more general election in 2006, and Barack Obama’s vote in the Senate against the war was a decisive advantage for him in competing with Hillary Clinton in the race to be Democratic presidential candidate in 2008.

In all wars propagandists get free range, but a distinctive feature of the Iraq war saw the blatancy and mendacity of official attempts to manipulate American and British public opinion which were probably worse than anything seen in either country since the First World War.

ORDER IT NOW

The US and Britain justified going to war in Iraq in 2003 by claiming that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world because he possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It swiftly emerged that this was untrue and evidence for the charge had been fabricated or taken at face value when all the indications were that it was false. A further justification for the war was regime change on the grounds that Saddam was an evil dictator and mass murderer and his overthrow could only benefit of the Iraqi people.

Bad Saddam certainly was and it is impossible to know the course of events if there had been no invasion, but his fall was followed by 13 years of horrific war in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions more permanently expelled from their homes. Early last Sunday morning a vehicle packed with explosives blew up in the Karada district of Baghdad, killing 165 people, many of them of them children, as they walked in the street at the end of the day’s Ramadan fast. The atrocity was claimed by Islamic State, whose murderous targeting of civilians is comparable with the Nazis in the Second World War, and whose rise owes everything to the sectarian civil war in Iraq which followed the invasion and occupation.

Chilcot may not produce explosive revelations about how the war was conceived or the degree of culpability of Tony Blair and those around him. Most of what happened is fairly clear or could be guessed at the time. Those who doubt this should read Robin Cook’s resignation speech in the House of Commons in March 2003 explaining his opposition to the war which was about to begin, in which he says that “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term – namely credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target.”

He points out the contradiction between an invasion strategy that was based on the assumption that Saddam was militarily weak and incapable of putting up much resistance, but at the same time a government policy justifying its pre-emptive action against Iraq by claiming that it was potent threat to the world.

In the aftermath of the invasion there have been many conspiracy theories about how and why it began, but the main contours of what happened have been long established and are damning enough in themselves. The most interesting part of the Chilcot report will not be to discover how the British and American governments deceived others, but how and why they deceived themselves and with such disastrous consequences.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Iraq War, Tony Blair 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    I don’t understand why people refer to invasion of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, ‘ the war’. It was not ‘the war’, but INVASION OF IRAQ to kill millions of people, looting their museums and libraries to destroy the country, partition Iraq establishing ‘The second Israel’, kurdistan, a criminal project, for Israel expansionist policy – greater Israel – a zionist project . This criminal project must be destroyed at any cost.

    No Iraqi Army mobilized to fight against the terrorist state of US-Israel-Britain, the invaders, then why do you call it, a war?

    Bomb the invader’s countries with thousand of bombs and destroy millions of their dumb and arrogant population, complicit with USG, so they never DARE to INVADE another country on this planet. Give them a piece of what they have given to millions of Muslims and other groups.

    They have killed and burnt their women, children, and men. Millions are refugees around the globe. Destroy the Zionists and their supporters. We never forget, ever forgive your crimes against humanity.

    Death to invaders and their supporters.

    • Replies: @woodNfish
    , @Anonymous
  2. The most interesting part of the Chilcot report will not be to discover how the British and American governments deceived others, but how and why they deceived themselves and with such disastrous consequences.

    They did not deceive themselves. They are cold blooded murderers.

    • Replies: @annamaria
  3. dahoit says:

    Yes,this all about the expansion of Israel and the destruction of all potential golems. The Yinon Plan.
    Unfortunately for the world they are the worst psycho arrogant bastards in world history.
    And they control GB,Europe,and US,in close infamy.

  4. woodNfish says:

    The most interesting part of the Chilcot report will not be to discover how the British and American governments deceived others, but how and why they deceived themselves and with such disastrous consequences.

    Actually the most interesting part of the report will be its honesty and if it has any.

  5. woodNfish says:
    @Anonymous

    You camel-humpers only care about women when they are useful to your propaganda or to hide behind as human shields.

    • Replies: @Art
  6. mtn cur says:

    There must be a script for this crap so that they only need to change the maps and dates.

  7. Rehmat says:

    “A greater transparency about involving legal advice would have prevented the issue being left entirely to the Attorney General,” said Elizabeth Wilmshurst, the only top British civil official who resigned in protest to London’s support for Dubya Bush’s war on Iraq in 2003.

    A ‘secret’ Iraq Inquiry on the role of Tony Blair’s government in Washington’s attack on Iraq based on Mossad/CIA fasle evidence of Iraqi WMDs – was announced by the British pro-Israel prime minister Gordon Brown on June 15, 2009. Later, however, under criticism by parliamentarians , the British government agreed to make the inquiry public. Gordon Brown himself chose a panel of five to conduct the inquiry under the chairmanship of Sir John Chilcot. Therefore, the inquiry is sometimes called “Chilcot Inquiry”. The other four members are; Sir Lawrence Freedman, Sir Martin Gilbert, Sir Roderic Lyne and Baroness Prashar. Both Lawrence Freedman and Martin Gilbert are welknown pro-Israel Zionist Jews. In raelity, like Barack Obama administeration, Gordon Brown’ government is also dominated by members of Friends of Israel, a British Zionist lobby group – which hold major power in both the Conservative Party and the Labour Party.

    In his testimony to the Iraq Inquiry, former British prime minister showed no remorse for collaborating with Bush which resulted in the murder of over million of Iraqi Muslims and Christians civilians for the security of Israel. Now the same Israeli poodle says that Islamic Iran is a bigger threat than (Iraq) in 2003. Contrary to Tony Blair’s hatred towards the Muslims, the former British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, exposed Tony Blair’s lies in front of the inquiry on January 21, 2010 by saying: “I would not have written cosy letters to the US President promising that Britain would be there when America went to war (against Saddam Hussein).” Jack Straw is also against military action against Islamic Iran on Iraq-WMD style Israeli Hasbara evidence.

    Oliver Miles, former Ambassador to Libya, writing in the Independent on November 22, 2009 – raised the doubts that the presence of two pro-Israeli members on the 5-member Iraq Inquiry would most probably hide the pro-Israel Jewish Lobby’s role in Britain’s joining the invasion of Iraq. The Jewish-owned TIME magazine called Oliver Miles’ comment as “disgraceful”. On January 28, 2010 – BBC was quoted Martin Gilbert, whom it described as a “proud practicing Jew and Zionist” saying he feels “deep unease” at Oliver Miles comments.

    https://rehmat1.com/2010/01/30/british-iraq-inquiry-an-old-fashioned-anti-semitism/

  8. “The atrocity was claimed by Islamic State, whose murderous targeting of civilians is comparable with the Nazis in the Second World War,”

    “The atrocity was claimed by Islamic State, whose murderous targeting of civilians is comparable with the Americans in the Second World War,”

    There, fixed that for you.

    • Replies: @Rehmat
    , @RadicalCenter
  9. Rehmat says:
    @Bill Jones

    “The atrocity was claimed by Islamic State, whose murderous targeting of civilians is comparable with the Nazis in the Second World War,”

    I think the above state is very close to reality. For example, while Nazis who had 150,000 German Jews among them – ISIS “Khalifa” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was born into a French Jewish family and received his military training in Israel.

    In 2014, Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged that by saying: “ISIS is good for Israel.”

    https://rehmat1.com/2014/06/30/netanyahu-isis-is-good-for-israel/

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  10. Like all such studies and reports germinated by the catastrophes and outrages of our times, these screeds, increasing steadily in mass and volume, if in nothing else, serve as the sop ‘concerned citizens’ require to restore their faith in government. They are the necessary ‘reset’ to ensure that the next set of horse-pellet artists and their line of codswallop – designed to stir outrage into action – will meet with the same level success as the previous fiasco. If there is anything that is ‘positive’ about the process, it’s that it will be repeated – more and more frequently. They are essentially all sound and fury and signify ‘gar nichts’.

    But hey, navel-gazing is the new normal. Even in the bad old days of military and political blundering, the ‘elte’ were always rewarded with retirement peerages and an annual stipends for ‘service’. Very few were hung, or taken out back and shot. That’s the stuff of tinpot dictatorships and peoples’ republics – not the tradition of empire, order and good government.

    Hell, on the scale on mass casualties – there have been more casualties in industrial accidents. Iraq, and even Afghanistan were ‘lovely little wars’ – not as lovely as the Falklands but pretty good opportunities for the military to ‘do what they do’ – even if that is failing to win.

  11. The Brits GCHQ and MI’s are robust enough to have presented the leadership with a choice based on facts. The leadershipwent along with the neighbourhood tough because they wanted to be part of the gang. That simple.

    It was amusing to keep tuning past Sky News yesteday and see Tony Blair going on for what seemed like hours justifying being a US lap dog. Why can’t he simply take his £41k a month plus 2% of the multi-million £ deals he helps the Saudis win and go slink off to a chateau on the continent?

  12. JohnDough says:

    When far too many writers write about the problems in the Middle East they leave out the most important point: ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL……..

    • Replies: @Art
    , @Craig
  13. KA says:

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jul/06/paul-bremer-diplomat-iraq-occupation
    A interesting attempt to swim with the current flow and deny active informed participation with the previous flows created knowingly by themselves .
    Dadiv Wurmser E mails Guardian that post war creation of chaos ,destruction and terrorism were faults of Iran and Syria .
    Bremer blames the post war disregard of warnings for chaos was the fault of the politicians .

    It is well known that the chaos and fragmentation were the desires and were the creations of David Wurmser’s philosophies imposed on Bush government and actively reminded by Bremer’s teacher Henry Kissinger . There was a reason why alternatives to wars were dismissed .
    There were reasons why people advocating an integrated planned smooth transition were ignored .
    But these liars and deformists and charlaton with human masks keep on putting the masks back on their faces .

  14. anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    “The atrocity was claimed by Islamic State, whose murderous targeting of civilians is comparable with the Nazis in the Second World War..”

    The British don’t win wars because they’re not fighting to win. To win you have to kill every man, woman and child in the area you want to conquer and then repopulate it with your own people. Neutron bombs would be the weapon of choice.For today’s spineless politicians, just as for the author of this article, this option is not even on the table. It is unmentionable.

    No, these timid people wage wars in a civilized manner. They bomb electrical power plants, dams, waste and water treatment plants, radio and TV stations and then sit back to watch the resulting slow, agonizing death of a demoralized population by starvation and disease.

    I learned one clear lesson as an athlete and that is that one should always choose the direct, straightforward option. Paradoxically, this keeps things open. By taking responsibility you will breathe easily and see and think more clearly.

    So, if you want to murder the bastards and steal their oil, then just go ahead and do it.
    If you’re not prepared to do that, then stay home.

  15. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Rehmat

    Netanyahu cancelled his appearance for a meeting near KingCross train station on the morning the London bombings took place . Radio broadcaster announced while providing the news on the bombings ,told the thousands if not millions of listeners ( and cab drivers that where I heard it , inside a cab ) that he was warned

    Who warned that know -it- all , omniscient omnipresent genius?
    How they all come to know just before the event?

    • Replies: @Art
  16. @Bill Jones

    Thank you. The USSR and US governments / militaries committed more atrocities — rape, torture, murder of unarmed civilians (including elderly, women, and children) — than the Germans ever did.

    Glad the USSR is gone and hoping that the USA will also cease to exist as an empire and an aggressor. We must choose the path of PEACE, minding our business in the far abroad, FREER MARKETS, and devolution of power to the States.

    • Agree: Jacques Sheete
  17. Art says:
    @woodNfish

    You camel-humpers only care about women when they are useful to your propaganda or to hide behind as human shields.

    Camel-humpers — gee woodNfish — clearly you must be an anti-Semite — Art

  18. Art says:
    @Anonymous

    Netanyahu cancelled his appearance for a meeting near KingCross train station on the morning the London bombings took place.

    Jews were also warned about 9/11 – surprise surprise – the Jew owner and his children did not come to work that day.

  19. Art says:
    @JohnDough

    When far too many writers write about the problems in the Middle East they leave out the most important point: ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL, ISRAEL……..

    Hear hear – there is real honest fear in America and the West around speaking the words Jew and Israel.

  20. Tony Blair says invasion of Iraq was in the best interest of “the country”. It is safe to assume that by “the country” he means “Israel”.

  21. JohnDough says:

    Look at Tony’s photo up there. He looks like a complete psycho. A textbook sociopath. They’ll never reveal Israel’s role in this war crime atrocity. Israelis stick together unlike Western people from Christian backgrounds who will throw their own in front of the bus for 30 pieces of silver!

    This power from a xenophobic, pseudo-religious, rogue, nuclear armed mini state of 6 million people and a worldwide network of Zionists uses bribery, threats, and extortion to carry out foreign policy. Put the brakes on this bunch and other positive results will happen and new crisis will be avoided. Take your country and culture back. It’s almost too late already.

    • Replies: @SolontoCroesus
  22. In the time before the 2nd invasion in Iraq the US and the “willing aides” did search desperately for reasons to invade Iraq.At this time it was a “give me a reason,doesn’t matter if true or not”- feeling.Just remember the cartoon-show from General Powell in the U.N. security council and the applause from the mainstream media.Those who were on the opposite site did die suddenly like David Kelly.
    Since WW II nobody declares war.There are “only” kind of “military conflicts”.So nobody can land in the court from “Nuremberg 2.0” for war-crimes and has to pay reparations.
    Even Vietnam could send a big bill for the chemical warfare with Agent Orange.

    When Volkswagen has to pay in the US for its “Diesel-Gate” $ 15 Billion, how much on reparations would have the US and GB to pay?

  23. Craig says:
    @JohnDough

    When the ‘war’ began, a friend who is an Iraqi expat opined it was being ‘fought’ because 3 parties were in alignment: 1) Israel, who saw Iraq as the only other viable military power in the region 2) the US Military-Industrial-Complex, who needed a ‘war’ to keep profits up and 3) certain Iraqi expats who somehow believed that after the US went in they would end up in charge ( 3) was important because they provided a lot of moral justification plus false evidence that made the case for ‘war’ look better).

    Writers should talk about ISRAEL of course, but also not forget the US MIC (this writer doesn’t mention them). They are not necessarily pro-Israel. They would surely make weapons to destroy Israel if it looked like a clear path to profits.

  24. Blair was trapped. The entire affair occurred in the atmosphere of 9/11. Stupid, yes. We didn’t react well to 9/11. And you conspiracy nuts go fuck yerseffs. No one wanted the next attack on their watch, well, until Obama. Obama loves Islamic terror on Americans.

  25. @JohnDough

    Jeff Gates wrote “Guilt by Association.” His main argument is that the project that is Israel is run by a criminal gang, using criminal tactics. Many Jews are equally victims of this Israelish – Jewish crime gang.

    If that is the case, then can’t leaders of Israel be charged & tried under RICO Statutes, for participating in a criminal conspiracy?
    Conviction = triple damages.

    (Only problem with that scenario is that Israel’s leadership will increase the amount it extorts from US taxpayers to cover the fines.)

  26. As usual, an article by Cockburn has brought out the righteous avengers. Not that I expect any of them to pay attention, but some others might profit from the words of Garrett Hardin at the close of his essay “Lifeboat Ethics”. Admittedly this essay was written about population and the environment, but the sentiments are valid for many other situations.

    Clearly, the concept of pure justice produces an infinite regression to absurdity. Centuries ago, wise men invented statutes of limitations to justify the rejection of such pure justice, in the interest of preventing continual disorder. The law zealously defends property rights, but only relatively recent property rights. Drawing a line after an arbitrary time has elapsed may be unjust, but the alternatives are worse.

    We are all the descendants of thieves, and the world’s resources are inequitably distributed. But we must begin the journey to tomorrow from the point where we are today. We cannot remake the past. We cannot safely divide the wealth equitably among all peoples so long as people reproduce at different rates. To do so would guarantee that our grandchildren and everyone else’s grandchildren, would have only a ruined world to inhabit.

    http://www.garretthardinsociety.org/articles/art_lifeboat_ethics_case_against_helping_poor.html

  27. Sure, there is a great deal of delusional mystique surrounding the capacity of British politicians. It’s leftover propaganda from their “empire” and unoriginal to the point of ridicule. Just look at the USA.

    The fact is that, as it is the case with all nations and most administrations, the task of governance is in practice realized often clumsily, usually incompetently, and catastrophically on occasion.

    Having said this, it is better to have the British go through this accidental secession than a host of other countries if only because the economic interests of a great deal of well established patrons is involved, you know, the so-called “institutions”.

  28. annamaria says:
    @WorkingClass

    Agree.
    “The Chilcot report will presumably provide evidence about why Britain made so many mistakes before and during the Iraq war, but is unlikely to explain why it went on making them in Libya and Syria.” You post gives a correct answer to the above Q, as well as to the utterly stupid and criminal followup: “in 2011 David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy did not hesitate to lead the charge in overthrowing Muammar Gaddafi in a war which turned Libya into a battleground for rival warlords and opened the door for a flood of desperate migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.” Considering the inevitability of the observed consequences, one has to conclude that the Iraq-Lybia-Syria wars of aggression have been initiated and conducted on orders of people whose agenda has been oblivious and even hostile to any democratic ideas.
    Again, who are those powerful supporters of Oded Yinon Plan?

  29. BillWAF says:

    Although Obama opposed the Iraq war, he was not yet in the Senate to vote against it when the Senate effectively gave the war a green light.

  30. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:
    @Anonymous

    What are you on about? Muslims in Iraq killed each other in a civil war started by al qaeda

  31. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    Please explain the activities of Colonel James Steele in Iraq. He is an expert in forming death squads and torture centres. What do you suppose he did there and to what purpose?

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