Whatever Tony Blair says or doesn’t say at the Iraq inquiry will not alter the historical record. Blair and George W.Bush went to war on a pretext, pursuing regime change in Baghdad behind the smokescreen of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that existed in imagination only.
“Intelligence” dossiers were, to use that famous phrase, “sexed up” to suggest that Saddam Hussein could launch WMD in 45 minutes and even reach Cyprus with them. Old documents on the internet were cut and pasted and published as gospel. The British passed the Americans “information” about Iraq seeking uranium through Niger that was pure fiction.
The link made by Bush between Iraq and Al-Qaeda was total nonsense, and Blair knew it. Except it is not nonsense now. Where once they had no foothold, Al-Qaeda is now present in Iraq and is partly responsible for the near civil war that exists between Sunni and Shia Muslims.
The invasion and occupation of Iraq has devastated Iraq. Apart from an estimated 100,000 civilian deaths since the 2003 invasion, as of May 2007 there were 2,255,000 Iraqis displaced inside the country. A similar number had fled to either Syria or Jordan. In June 2007, 28% of Iraqi children suffered from chronic malnutrition while the unemployment rate in some areas was 60%. Four in ten professionals have left since 2003, including 12,000 physicians. The latest figures available show that 70% of Iraqis have no access to adequate water supplies.
Some have got rich out of the war, notably the US defence industry and private sector corporations like Blackwater and Halliburton. By mid-2009, US taxpayers’ funds spent or approved for Iraq totalled a staggering $800 billion, running at $5,000 a second according to Senator Harry Reid.
Congressional hearings found that Halliburton overcharged the Pentagon to the tune of $1.4 billion. But what the hell! Former vice-president Dick Cheney helped to run the corporation before entering the White House so it was natural his old friends should benefit. Iraq is a privatised war, with more than 180,000 private contractors working in support of US troops. They have killed Iraqi civilians with impunity.
Those responsible for visiting this disaster on Iraq include not just Blair but Gordon Brown and the members of the New Labour cabinet and MPs who voted for the war despite massive public opposition. A good number of them are lawyers and quite well understood that the accepted principles of international law stood in the way of regime change. So they ditched them – or rather got the hapless Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, to change his mind when the military top brass said they wouldn’t invade without legal clearance.
A special word should be reserved for the United Nations and its then secretary-general Kofi Anan. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, reported that his team could find no WMD in Iraq and in all probability that there were none. A word from Anan querying the legality of an invasion might have just held up military action. Unfortunately, it took him until September 2004 – 18 months after the invasion - to say just that!
Iraq, the continuing occupation of Afghanistan, extraordinary renditions, the secret wars waged by US special troops in Yemen, Pakistan and elsewhere, all show that international law is powerless to stop the British and American governments. Their actions continue to reinforce not lessen the threat of terror attacks on ordinary civilians.
There is a strengthening case for “regime change” in Washington and London. These are democratic states in name only, playthings of major corporations and financial interests. Creating a real democracy, with economic and political power in the hands of ordinary people, is the best answer to the warmongers. Then we could have the war crimes tribunal that many people are demanding, with Blair and Brown, Bush and Cheney the top four defendants.