An apology from Mr. Blair

October 29, 2015 12:24 am | Updated November 16, 2021 03:53 pm IST

By offering an apology that side-stepped personal accountability for his role in leading the United Kingdom into the war against Iraq in 2003, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has once again sought to whitewash a history of lies, dissimulation and concealment that marked the lead-up to that most unjust of invasions by the United States-led Coalition of the Willing. In an interview to CNN host Fareed Zakaria, what Mr. Blair offered was an >apology with a dodge , followed by a no-apology. “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong… for some of the mistakes in planning and certainly our mistake in understanding what would happen once you remove the regime,” he said, adding, “But I find it hard for apologising for removing Saddam... It is better that he is not there than he is there.” His apology, such as it is, comes 12 years and over half a million tragic and unnecessary civilian deaths too late. His ‘sorry’ has been criticised as an attempt at spin, and to pre-empt the conclusions in the much-delayed report by the Iraq inquiry committee headed by Sir John Chilcot, to be submitted next year.

Mr. Blair’s personal zeal and urgency in pushing for the U.K. to sign up to the invasion of Iraq in contravention of international law and a clear United Nations mandate, is well-documented. The latest evidence of this is a secret White House memo contained in the secret e-mails that Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was forced to disclose on the order of U.S. courts, and published by the Daily Mail on Sunday . Sent from Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George Bush, and written on March 28, 2002, just a week before the famous summit between Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair at the former’s Crawford ranch in Texas, the memo reveals that Mr. Blair had agreed to come on board a year before the invasion — well before receiving sanction for it from the British Parliament or Cabinet. This new evidence has prompted calls for the Chilcot committee to reopen proceedings to admit this vital piece of new evidence. Mr. Blair will also have to take the primary responsibility for the September Dossier, a document published on September 24, 2002 by his government, which contained allegations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was building a nuclear programme. Mr. Blair used the contents of the document to win support from Parliament to invade Iraq. Every allegation in it has since been proven to be false. The clock cannot be turned back on the devastation, dislocation and chaos that the western invasion wrought in Iraq and subsequently across the region. Today, the fallout of that conflict has reached Europe, where refugees seeking a safe haven from the war in West Asia are fleeing. Mr. Blair’s tepid apology has refocussed public attention on what became a turning point in contemporary geopolitics — including his own role in that historic injustice.

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