Chilcot: if it looks like a cover up, it probably is a cover up

TONY BLAIR: a British PM willing and eager to comply with the US

Bill Bonnar looks at the long running Chilcot Iraq saga If it looks like a cover up and sounds like a cover up it probably is a cover up. The decision to kick the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry into the long grass can have no other explanation than that of a whitewash. The inquiry into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war began on 24 November 2009 and was completed on 2 February 2011; almost exactly four years ago. Why the delay? By dragging out the enquiry for years the hope is the conclusions will be lost in a fog of disinterest and cynicism.

There have also been enough leaks to suggest that the enquiry will spread the blame as widely as possible on the basis that if everyone is to blame then no one is to blame. It has also made it clear that there will be absolutely no basis for prosecutions as a result.

Yet the facts around the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq are well established. When the Bush administration came into office in 2001 it had, as a foreign policy priority, the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime in Baghdad. Not because Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator. The United States has supported and continues to support brutal dictatorships around the world as they once enthusiastically supported the Iraqi dictator.

It was that Saddam Hussein could no longer be relied on to be their dictator. The aim was to invade and replace his regime with a dependent, pro-American government in this strategically important Arab country and to give American companies control over the Iraqi oil industry. Military preparations began immediately and the invasion was launched in 2003.

The problem was that they needed an excuse for the attack to justify it to the American people and help gather together an international coalition willing to go along with Washington’s plan. Central to this was the support of Britain and in Tony Blair, they had a Prime Minister willing and eager to comply. He secretly signed Britain up for the adventure while keeping his own cabinet and the British people in the dark.

The key for the Bush Administration and Tony Blair was to find the right excuse to trigger an invasion. Of course American administrations are past masters of this. The US intervention in the Korean and Vietnam were triggered by propaganda stunts to justify the actions to the American people.

Now it would be the War against Terror. They ran a propaganda campaign to convince the American public that the Bagdad regime was a major player in the promotion of international terrorism and that it was increasing its activity in this area. They even created a situation where many Americans believed Saddam Hussein was responsible for 9/11.

As for Tony Blair, it was weapons of mass destruction. Saddam was armed the teeth with an arsenal of chemical weapons ready to attack at any minute. His own people, neighbouring countries and British forces in Cyprus were all on imminent danger. Something had to be done.

Again; all lies and it is these lies which are at the heart of the Chilcot Inquiry. Britain went to war on the basis of deliberate falsehoods and in defiance of British and world opinion and any basis of legality. If the Inquiry confirms what everyone already knows; what will that do for the credibility of governments both here and in Washington and future military actions abroad.

The Chilcot Inquiry also reveals something basic about the nature of such enquiries. These are rarely about finding out the truth and usually always about a cover-up to protect government and the state. Take the example of the inquiry into the Bloody Sunday massacre in Derry.

Through decades of campaigning an enquiry was eventually conceded which dragged the truth kicking and screaming from the state; that British troops systematically massacred demonstrators in the Bogside in 1971.

One forgets that there were actually two government enquiries prior to this which completely exonerated the British Army: both classic whitewashes. This became evident with the publication of the third enquiry. In fact the first, under Lord Whitelaw, was so ridiculous that a new whitewash had to be constructed.

Whitelaw’s original enquiry painted a picture of young, terrified British soldiers, with their backs to the wall, facing a heavily armed IRA mob. Shooting in self-defence they showed remarkable restraint and should be honoured for their bravery! Even by the general standard of whitewashes it was embarrassing.

Of course, if the truth about the invasion of Iraq is so widely known why is the enquiry so important? To use a Christian term; it is about ‘bearing witness’; making sure the historical record reads true and is not written by the war criminals.

This invasion destroyed a country and killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Its repercussions are still having a dramatic effect today. The people of Britain and Iraq know the truth but need this to be confirmed by the inquiry. As has been seen by the Hillsborough and Bloody Sunday inquiries this issue will not go away despite the best efforts of the state.

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