The Chilcot report coyly says that ‘the widespread perception’—meaning the correct belief—that Downing Street distorted the intelligence about Saddam’s weaponry has left a ‘damaging legacy – undermining trust and confidence in politicians.
It is not fanciful to see the Brexit vote – the disruption of the Labour Party and the rise of Donald Trump among those consequences – all part of the revulsion across the Western world against elites and establishments that were so discredited by Iraq.
How could it have happened?
By now it is effortless to say that the invasion of Iraq in 2003 by American and British forces was the most disastrous—and disgraceful—such intervention of our time.
It’s also well-nigh pointless to say so: How many people reading this would disagree?
For Americans, Iraq is their worst foreign calamity since Vietnam (although far more citizens of each country were killed than were Americans) – for the British it’s the worst at least since Suez sixty years ago this autumn – though really much worse on every score – from political dishonesty to damage to the national interest to sheer human suffering.
Although skeptics wondered how much more the very-long-awaited Report of the Iraq Inquiry by a committee chaired by Sir John Chilcot could tell us when it appeared at last in July – it proves to contain a wealth of evidence and acute criticism – the more weighty for its sober tone and for having the imprimatur of the official government publisher.
In all it is a further and devastating indictment not only of Tony Blair personally but of a whole apparatus of state and government – Cabinet – Parliament – armed forces – and far from least – intelligence agencies.
Among its conclusions the report says that there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein – that the British ‘chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted’ – that military action ‘was not a last resort’ – that when the United Nations weapons inspector Hans Blix said weeks before the invasion that he ‘had not found any weapons of mass destruction and the items that were not accounted for might not exist’ –
– Blair wanted Blix ‘to harden up his findings’.