June 18, 2014
With allies of Al Qaeda running amok in Iraq and heading for Baghdad, the disastrous legacy of Britain’s entanglement there with the invasion of 2003 becomes ever more blindingly obvious.
Obvious to everyone, that is, except the man who ordered it.
Seven years after leaving office, and 11 years after British troops flooded across the southern border, Tony Blair continues to cause outrage and bewilderment over Iraq.
Noting the eruption of the jihad there, Mr Blair professes that ‘we have to liberate ourselves from the notion that “we” have caused this. We haven’t.’
Only a handful of American neo-conservatives, most of them discredited and seeking to protect their reputations, too, would agree with him. To most people, he appears a self-serving fantasist with blood on his hands.
Saddam Hussein was evil and vicious. However, the mixture of repression and corruption with which he governed meant Iraq was spared the Sunni-on-Shia violence that is tearing the country apart now, threatening the entire region and, with it, the security and prosperity of the West.
Some would question Mr Blair’s sanity. Indeed, a former close friend, the novelist Robert Harris, did so only recently, suggesting he had a ‘messiah complex’.
It takes a rare politician to admit any error, let alone one based on a lie — the sexed-up ‘dodgy dossier’ Mr Blair put before Parliament in March 2003 to support his contention that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction — which cost the lives of 173 British servicemen and six servicewomen.
But the lengths to which he is going even now to defend his blind support for George W. Bush are embarrassing as well as outrageous.
There have been, and still are, frequent calls for Mr Blair to be arrested for alleged war crimes, taken to the International Court at the Hague and put on trial. I have met many senior lawyers who would love that to happen, but none who actually thinks it will, given the constitutional framework within which Mr Blair operated.
We still await, too, the outcome of the inquiry convened in 2009 under Sir John Chilcot into Britain’s role in the Iraq war.
Chilcot stopped taking evidence in 2011, but endless legal challenges have held up publication of a report said to be a million words long — and key evidence from exchanges between Mr Blair and President Bush may never be published.
But something must be done to hold Mr Blair to account.
Even though he has left domestic public life — even if he does remain active internationally as, ironically enough, Middle East Peace Envoy — his apparent deceit over Iraq still contaminates British politics, bedevils our foreign policy and, as we have seen, continues to have the most shocking and lethal consequences.
And it also has continuing consequences for Mr Blair. He is treated like a pariah in his own country rather than with the respect, however grudging, normally due to one who served for a decade as Prime Minister.
He is said to live in dread of people trying to perform a citizen’s arrest on him for his alleged war crimes, as at least two Britons have thus far, in London and Hong Kong.
However, our constitution does provide a remedy, and for the sake of all parties to this argument it should not be dismissed as either obsolete or too extreme.
It is that Parliament should discuss whether to impeach Mr Blair, and have the question of his culpability thrashed out in public, at Westminster.
Everyone remembers how the U.S. President Bill Clinton was impeached in Washington over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and may feel it is a uniquely American political phenomenon. That’s not the case.