The state is still using pro-war rhetoric to cloud the truth behind the War on Terror, argues Lindsey German
The House of Commons has the opportunity to restore some of its credibility over the war on Iraq by taking seriously the devastating criticisms of the road to war highlighted in the Chilcot report. Instead, it looks set to repeat the same platitudes, the same mistakes, the same lies - yes, lies - that got us into this mess in the first place, if the parliamentary debate is anything to go by.
The publication of Chilcot last week left most people in no doubt that it was a severe indictment of Tony Blair and those around him, and further that it was a major indictment of the whole political system and the establishment in Britain: parliament, MI6, cabinet government, democratic accountability, civil service, legal advice. One could add the media, perhaps especially the BBC.
Chilcot was damning in many respects. There was little doubt from the print media the following day that this was their interpretation, as it was of many politicians and experts. Jeremy Corbyn made an apology that day on behalf of the Labour Party. Earlier he was heckled by his own side in parliament, including disgracefully by Ian Austin MP, who showed no respect for the fact that a comprehensive report had been issued, but seems to have received no complaint from anyone in the Labour hierarchy.
Austin’s speech on Chilcot is a masterclass in the sort of denial which appears to be afflicting so many MPs, including on the Labour benches. To Austin, it’s all game, set and match to Blair. ’First, the report finds that there was no falsification or misuse of intelligence by Tony Blair or No. 10. Secondly, it finds that there was no attempt to deceive Cabinet Ministers. Thirdly, it finds that there was no secret pact with the US to go to war. That means there is no justification for saying that evidence was “confected” or that the case for war was a “deception”, which is exactly what the Leader of the Opposition claimed in his response last week.’
Now unfortunately for him, what he says is in the report isn’t in the report. It is clear that intelligence was falsified or misused, by missing out the many caveats on intelligence service suppositions, by claiming there was evidence when there was not (as in Blair’s claim that Saddam was in ‘material breach’ of conditions over WMD, just before the war began). The first dossier actually was originally prepared to cover 4 countries deemed to have such weapons, not just Iraq, but this plan was dropped when it became obvious there was more evidence against some of these other countries, so less case to go to war with Iraq. It is clear that Cabinet members were kept out of the loop and that Blair’s close relationship with Bush led him to say ‘I will be with you, whatever’ to Bush then he was still pretending to all the rest of us that no such agreement had been made.
Austin repeats the usual slanders over Stop the War, ignoring the fact that it called the Iraq war and its consequences much better than the large majority of MPs did. He also claims that the war had nothing to do with the rise of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In his defence he quotes the Guardian journalist Martin Chulov, saying ‘The Syrian civil war was not driven by Isis. It fed directly out of the Arab awakenings and was a bid to oust a ruthless regime from power. Assad could not have prevailed against the will of the streets. So he tried to transform the uprising into something that was driven by internationally-backed global jihad. Isis grew out of the chaos. They flourished with Assad’s direct and indirect support until they became a monster no one could control.’
But of course this statement is not an answer to the question of whether the war and invasion of Iraq led to the rise of ISIS. It is an answer to how did ISIS grow in Syria which evades the question of how it was formed from al Qaeda in Iraq before the war in Syria.
Not that factual details like this have much purchase for the Blair gang, who accuse Corbyn supporters of being like a cult, while worshipping at the altar of their great leader, despite his shaming in the eyes of most people, and despite the fact that politics has moved one from Blair, even if they haven’t. The under 5% their candidate got in the leadership race last year is recognition of that.
Their hatred of any change in foreign policy is obvious, but extremely damaging for them and for Labour, and it is to Jeremy Corbyn’s great credit that he puts forward an alternative. This is major source of his support and of course one of the issues which so enrages his opponents.
Parliament got it so wrong in 2003, and has compounded that with its votes over Libya and Syria in 2011 and 2015. It has the chance to redress that balance now. A cross party group of MPs is putting forward a motion of censure on Blair for contempt of the House. There must be an outcome like this over Chilcot or there will be absolutely no justice seen to be done. Blair should be censured and barred from holding public office as a minimum.
It’s important because this war was not a mistake, something carried out in good faith, but a deliberate and sophisticated attempt to take a country into a war which was unnecessary and illegal. MPs who voted for it showed not good faith but appalling judgment. They should at the very least not make the same mistake now.
As national convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, Lindsey was a key organiser of the largest demonstration, and one of the largest mass movements, in British history.
Her books include ‘Material Girls: Women, Men and Work’, ‘Sex, Class and Socialism’, ‘A People’s History of London’ (with John Rees) and ‘How a Century of War Changed the Lives of Women’.
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