The results of a seven year post mortem on how Britain moved to join in the Iraq War has been released and to say that it trashes British Prime Minister Tony Blair is an understatement. Indeed, Blair told George W. Bush, a/k/a the mindless Chimperator, eight months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq “I will be with you, whatever”, and relied on flawed intelligence and legal advice to go to war. Besides being an indictment of both Bush and Blair, in my view, the findings are also an indictment of a news media that was only too eager to jump on the jingoism and xenophobia that sought to distract the public from the fact that the purported reasons for war were all based on lies and manufactured intelligence. The tale ought to be a cautionary one as we find ourselves in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign in which Donald Trump lies with abandon with too little media exposure of his lies and misogyny in general. Talking Points Memo looks at the British findings. Here are highlights:
At long last, civil servant Sir John Chilcot released his 12-volume study of Britain’s participation in the Iraq War. The report condemns Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government for misjudgments and miscalculations and for subservience to American foreign policy objectives, but it also blames Blair himself for misleading the British people and members of Parliament in making the case for war on September 24, 2002.In that speech, and in the famous “dodgy dossier” that accompanied it, Blair declared that Saddam Hussein’s “WMD program is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working. The WMD program is not shut down. It is up and running” and that “he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes.. and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.” In his preface to the dossier, Blair had asserted that British intelligence had “established beyond doubt” that Iraq was producing WMDs.
All that turned out to be not only false, but unwarranted even by Britain’s existing and flawed intelligence. “The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons,” the report says, and it concludes that “the judgments of the severity of the threat, the WMD, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
Yet while Bush and Blair continue to have their strong detractors . . . they have remained honored public servants enjoying lucrative perks and pensions. Shouldn’t there have been some official consequences for their having misled their publics about whether the country needed to go to war?
In 1974, the Greek junta undertook a disastrous invasion of Cyprus intended to oust the Turks. They failed, and were booted out of office by their colleagues in the armed forces. Later, an elected Greek government had them tried for treason and sentenced them to long jail terms. Similarly, the Argentine generals who in 1982 invaded the Falklands and lost a war ended up in jail. By these standards, Bush and Blair should be currently occupying prison cells.
In my opinion, American presidents should not be jailed for poorly executing a war — by that standard, James Madison might have spent his last years in a cell — but what needs to be considered is whether chiefs of state in democracies should be officially punished for undermining the process by which a major decision, like whether to go to war, is made. Bush and Blair will have gotten off scot free. In the U.S., the threat of impeachment for a “high crime” does not quite do it. There needs to be some kind of sanction that will give the next president and prime minister a second or third thought before he starts exaggerating the danger that the U.S. or the UK faces from an adversary.