On January 29, Tony Blair appeared before the Iraq Inquiry, the Chilcot inquiry, in London. It was unlikely that the self-righteous former British Prime Minister would reveal anything new. Most of the relevant facts are already public. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction: none have been found since the invasion. President George W. Bush and Mr. Blair took the decision to invade Iraq in April 2002; there was no link whatever between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. Iraq, having been disarmed under U.N. supervision after 1991, was seen as a threat not even by its own neighbours. The list is almost endless. The British Cabinet was not given all the documents on which the decision to invade was based; the dossier claiming that Iraqi missiles could reach the U.K. within 45 minutes was both plagiarised and mendacious; the invasion was under-funded because preparations would have excited public suspicion; there was no planning for the post-invasion period. Mr. Blair has himself said publicly that the purpose of the invasion was regime change. Finally, only one British legal opinion, by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, held the invasion not to be a breach of international law.
Against that background, Mr. Blair has done no more than deny that the invasion was based on “a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception.” His basic defence is that he believed everything he claimed at the time. This may show Mr. Blair’s conviction that all his actions were right if he thought they were right, but such psychological factors cannot compensate for the enormous failures of the British political process that enabled the illegal invasion. Three high-level Cabinet resignations in March 2003, rather than the one by Robin Cook, may have been enough to deter Mr. Blair. Rejection of war by Parliament, despite not being binding under the then U.K. law, would have almost certainly been enough. Although unconfirmed reports said that 95 per cent of the 386 ruling Labour MPs were against the war, on the day only 139 voted against it. Nothing has been done to address these systemic failures. That is particularly worrying considering that Mr. Blair ended his deposition by claiming, with unbelievable arrogance, that Iran now poses the kind of threat he claimed Iraq did in 2003.