At last the long awaited and much delayed Chilcot report is out. The question that looms large is: Will former Prime Minister Tony Blair who took Britain to war 13 years ago be tried for war crimes as demanded by antiwar activists?
Blair, who is at the centre of the Chilcot commission probe, was branded by angry antiwar activists worldwide as a murderer, spoke to the media hours after the report finally saw the light of day after seven years of painstaking probe marked with difficulties in obtaining classified records or evidence. Now a likely war crimes suspect, the former prime minister offered an apology for making mistakes, but not for launching that war that put hundreds of British lives and millions of Iraqi lives in harm’s way. The man, who told untruth after untruth to mislead the Britons into believing that the war was a just war, was once again heard on Wednesday telling more half-truths to cover up the lies he had already told 13 years ago. Blair lied and millions died!
The report is indeed a damning indictment of Blair, who, it is now confirmed, overstated or sexed up half truths in a bid to convince Britons that Saddam Hussen’s Iraq with its weapons of mass destruction posed an existential threat to Britain. Yet the Chilcot report has drawn immediate criticism of being wishy-washy, for it does not directly accuse Blair – or B-liar as the antiwar activists renamed him -- of ‘deceit’. The anti-war community has denounced the 2.6 million-word report as a half-balanced document.
Sir John Chilcot, who headed the commission that prepared the report, said the 2003 invasion was not the “last resort” action presented to MPs and the public and there was no “imminent threat” from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein -- and the intelligence case was “not justified”.
Summarising the report, the BBC in its main lead story on Wednesday said Blair overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, sent ill-prepared troops into battle and had “wholly inadequate” plans for the aftermath.
Yet, the report does not unequivocally call Blair’s action a war crime or the war as ‘illegal’. It does not require a 2.6 million words or seven years of inquiry to slam Blair’s invasion as illegal and a war crime. Kofi Annan, who was the United Nations Secretary General when Blair and the then US President George W Bush manipulated the UN process to find legality to their action, in a statement in September 2004 said, “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.” Similar views have been expressed by several international law experts also.
Soon after the report was released on Wednesday, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn -- who as a Labour MP voted against military action when Labour Prime Minister Blair presented his case for war in the House of Commons in 2003 -- said the report proved the Iraq War had been an “act of military aggression launched on a false pretext”, something he said which has “long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international opinion”.
Despite criticism, the Chilcot report, which rejects Blair’s case for war, offers plenty of reasons to set up a war crimes tribunal to try Blair. A family member of a British soldier killed in Iraq described Blair on Wednesday as the world’s worst terrorist. She was right. The Blair’s war not only led to the deaths of 179 British soldiers but also some 1,455,590 Iraqis, according to a count maintained by the Informarionclearinghouse.
Launching a war without a valid reason is a crime against humanity. According to the Nuremberg trial judgment, war is essentially an evil thing. It says the consequences of war are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. “To initiate a war of aggression… is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
More than a million people marched in London to stop the illegal war Blair together with Bush was to launch while legal experts said the UN Security Council resolution 1441 which the war party in America cited as authorising war was not adequate and pointed out any use of force required a fresh security council resolution in terms of Chapter 7 of the UN charter. The Chilcot report now confirms this view. It says the Cabinet simply rubber stamped Blair’s decision to invade Iraq and none asked whether what they were doing was legal under international law. The then Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, when called upon to provide his opinion twice sent his opinion saying the United Nations would have to pass a new resolution authorising the war – but Blair did not share this view with his Cabinet. However, mysteriously the Attorney General changed his mind days before the invasion, allowing Blair to wage the war.
The Chilcot report notes that none in the Cabinet bothered to call for a written submission from the Attorney General on why he changed his mind.
In the build-up to the war, Blair, who was derided by antiwar critics as the lapdog of Bush who planned the attack on Iraq, presented a dossier telling Britons that Saddam Hussein could assemble his weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes and launch an attack on Britain. This was dismissed as a damn lie even before the war began. Antiwar researchers pointed out that the dossier was not based on intelligence but on a thesis of an Egyptian student.
United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter who supervised Iraq’s destruction of WMDs from 1991 to 1998 insisted that Iraq had virtually destroyed all its WMDs. But Bush and Blair paid no heed to what he said. British Defence Ministry weapon scientist David Kelly leaked information to BBC claiming that the government was manufacturing intelligence to support its claim that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Days later he was found dead. Bush and Blair deliberately misinterpreted reports of weapon inspectors Hans Blix and Mohammed El-Baradi to suit their war agenda.
In the end, the war party did not find a single WMD in Iraq. Instead Bush and Blair brought death and destruction to Iraq and the Middle East. It was because of their war Iraq was plunged into sectarian violence and the terror group Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) emerged to bring chaos across the globe. If not for this genocidal war, those 250 Iraqis who were killed in this week’s pre-Eid bomb blast in Baghdad and the 20 foreigners killed in the Dhaka café would have been alive along with millions of other dead. So would have been the 40 who died in the Istanbul airport attack, the 49 who were gunned down in the Orlando night club carnage and those innocent civilians killed in terror attacks in Paris and Belgium. ISIS would not have taken control of parts of Iraq and Syria and 250,000 Syrians would not have been killed, while the Arab Spring would have brought real democracy to the Middle East.
Now that the Chilcot report is out offering a prima facie case against Blair, Britain’s reputation as a vibrant democracy nourished by the mother of all parliaments depends on the action it takes on Blair.