In a recent interview to a religious programme on the BBC1 TV channel, Tony Blair asserted that he would have ordered an invasion of Iraq even if he had known that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The former British Prime Minister added that he would have used different arguments to “justify” the invasion but he “would still have thought it right to remove” Saddam Hussein. He also tried to locate the invasion in the context of what he calls a “major struggle going on all over the world” about what is happening within Islam. Quite apart from Mr. Blair’s self-arrogated authority on Islam, the contradictions are breathtaking. From 2001 onwards, western intelligence services repeatedly informed Mr. Blair and George W. Bush that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. The United Nations weapons inspectors publicly acknowledged that Iraq had been substantially disarmed by 1998. A decade of brutal sanctions had wrecked Iraq’s economy, and even Iraq’s neighbouring states no longer regarded Saddam Hussein as a threat. Moreover, Mr. Blair’s senior civil servants advised him that an invasion without explicit U.N. approval would be illegal. Yet the big lie that Iraq had WMDs and could mount an attack on the U.K. within 45 minutes was fed to the western media. Without such manufacture of consent, Mr. Blair would have found it much harder to win the parliamentary vote on the invasion.
It now turns out, via the Iraq Inquiry (the Chilcot inquiry), that the 45-minute claim was probably obtained by western intelligence from an Iraqi taxi-driver who had overheard two Iraqi military officers talking in the back of his car, and that the British government ignored written warnings about the claim. Furthermore, Mr. Blair told Parliament in February 2003 that Saddam Hussein could save his own regime by complying with U.N. resolutions, despite the fact that no material breach had been proved. Nevertheless the British Prime Minister ordered Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith to alter significantly an interpretation of international law so as to protect invading British troops against criminal charges. Mr. Blair is clearly indifferent to the invasion’s illegality and its consequences, among which are more than 100,000 Iraqi deaths and enormously intensified global instability. That Mr. Blair will be allowed to give part of his evidence to the Iraq Inquiry in secret only compounds his evasions. His contempt for the very idea of accountability is shown by the fact that he offered his explanation to a TV interviewer and not to those whom he should answer — the British Parliament, the electorate who put him in office, and the International Criminal Court.