The announcements about Chilcot have stirred long dormant feelings of opposition to the war, writes Lindsey German
How many of us had heard the name of Fallujah before the invasion and occupation of Iraq? Probably not many. Thirteen years on, it is impossible not to associate the name with bloodshed and warfare. Impossible to imagine the hell on earth which the people of Fallujah have been subjected to. US invasion and siege, the use of white phosphorus, the devastation of so many lives, sectarian division, the occupation of the town by ISIS and its brutal rule there, and now the siege and attack by the Iraqi government, aided by Western troops. Thousands inside the city are suffering, starving hostages caught in the battle.
Television coverage of the Middle East wars tends to look back no further than the last siege, or suicide bomb, or sectarian attack. The desire for sensational news overrides the necessity of serious analysis. Especially when such analysis tends to see the events there as reflecting a series of catastrophic decisions made by western politicians.
Which brings us to Chilcot. Expected to be highly critical of then prime minister Tony Blair (although not critical enough to actually do anything about him), the report to be published in just over a month coincides with this bloody battle of Fallujah. No doubt when it was first dreamed up in 2009, no one expected wars in Iraq to be still going on. When Blair decided to go to war, no doubt he thought that opposition to it would be transitory and soon forgotten, remembered only by the ‘usual suspects’.
Instead, the announcements about Chilcot have stirred long dormant feelings of opposition to the war and a sense of determination to ensure that the victims of this war receive justice by holding to account those responsible for it.
Whereas former president George Bush has slunk off into obscurity, Tony Blair shows no such inclination. On the contrary, he has toured the television studios declaring that he will not accept the findings of Chilcot (and remember, unlike the rest of us, he has seen sections of the report), and making it clear that he will use all the platforms at his disposal to rebut accusations.
If, as looks likely, Chilcot will show that Blair agreed to war a year before it was actually launched - when he made the infamous visit to Bush’s Crawford ranch - and if it also demonstrates that many of his legal advisers were dubious about the legality of the war, then there must be a good case for bringing him to justice.
It is little understood by those around government and national media how deep the contempt and hatred for Blair goes. His repeated self-justifications, his delusional view that he has always been correct, and his attempts to put the failures of occupation down to ‘bad planning’, do nothing to assuage these feelings. In fact, his disdain for his opponents and for the truth over the war, his contempt for justice and equality in the Middle East, not to mention the obscene amounts of money he has made since leaving office, only increase the antipathy towards him.
This week a play on Chilcot opens in London, and next week our People’s Chilcot event takes place, where expert witnesses put the case against war and the sordid politics behind it. This is the opening salvo in a campaign to ensure that we get truth and justice over Iraq. We owe it to everyone - from the people of Fallujah to the British soldiers who died.
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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