On the weekend former British Prime Minister Tony Blair made sort of a semi-apology for aspects of the 2003 Iraq invasion in a CNN interview, admitting there are ‘elements of truth’ in the assertion that the botched invasion is connected to the rise of ISIS.
No one disputes Mr Blair’s view that Saddam Hussein was an undesirable leader and had to be removed.
However, the timing of his removal was questionable, the method engaged a crime against humanity, and the result a cultural, humanitarian, political and social disaster. The removal of Saddam Hussein does not justify or explain what followed.
Mr Blair is intelligent enough to understand that conflating the removal of Saddam Hussein with the subsequent botched occupation of Iraq by coalition forces, is a poor attempt at diversion from fully acknowledging the consequences of poor planning and a tragically misguided execution.
Admittedly, Mr Blair owning up to some patently obvious home-truths about the Iraq invasion, seemingly out of the blue, was a coming to the mountain moment, and one of the first semi-honest high-level admissions of the disaster that was the Iraq war.
Sadly the ‘apology’, or rather the acknowledgment, won’t bring back to life the over 250,000 estimated victims of the invasion and the never-ending conflict it sparked, or return the wasted trillion dollars into the world economy that has been teetering on the edge for almost a decade now.
The Iraq war is also playing a role in the circus that’s the Republican precursor to the 2016 US presidential election, with Donal Trump using the issue against Jeb Bush:
I question the motivations behind the sudden turn about by Mr Blair, after a decade of denials. He is well aware the long-awaited Iraq Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry, into the British decision to take part in the invasion of Iraq is nearing its conclusion. Earlier this month Sir John Chilcot notified the Prime Minister of his intention to write to him by 3 November setting out a timetable for the completion of the Inquiry’s work.
On the face of it it appears Mr Blair may be softening up the public for some revelations he expects to be made by the Inquiry.
In any event, Tony Blair coming partially clean about the Iraq fiasco will put sone pressure on John Howard and his fellow cabinet ministers back here in Australia. The dead and injured, and their families, deserve the truth, and so does the Australian public. Especially those who poured into the streets to protest against Australia’s involvement which then appeared, and was later proved, haphazard and ill-advised.
And no, those protesting were not supporting Saddam Hussein as the government of the day condescendingly alleged, but were looking for signs of a well thought out plan, not just for the military invasion, but the ongoing political and social management of the transition from a long-term dictatorship to something resembling a democracy, in a nation divided by religious rivalries and historical hostilities, in on of the most geopolitically unstable regions in the world.
It was clear at the time to anyone with the slightest intelligence that beyond the bombing of Baghdad, and the rest of Iraq, into rubble, the coalition had no intelligible plan for managing the post-war transition of the country.
As we approach the 13th anniversary of the start of the Iraq war on 19 March 2016, it’s essential the truth is finally revealed, those responsible are brought to account, and we learn from the combination of political incompetence and military mistakes that characterised this monumental geopolitical quagmire from the beginning.
As for accountability, since those involved are skilled political operatives who will be protected by their political allies, it is highly unlikely they will ever be held responsible for their failures.
The best we can realistically aim for is to hold on to the collective memory of these events, so hopefully the next time the public won’t be so easily manipulated into a mindless, uninformed cheer-squad for death and disaster. Lest we forget …
An interesting further insight into the Iraq invasion can be gleaned from the contrast between two documentaries: one presented by NBC News as ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom‘ was unveiled to the world in 2003:
The other, a BBC presentation, ‘The Iraq War,’ ten years later.