As I’ve said before, I hate being conned. Looking back over my archives in the period leading up to the Iraq war, I realise that I consistently underestimated the likelihood of war, and that the main reason for this was that I thought Blair was fundamentally honest about what he was doing. Of course, there was the dodgy dossier and the 45 minutes claim to show that the spin doctors were hard at work, but I nevertheless accepted that Blair had made an independent decision to support action against Saddam, based largely on his record of crimes against humanity, and that he took the UN process seriously.
It’s been obvious for some time that this wasn’t true, but for some reason the latest revelations from a leaked Cabinet Office briefing dating back to July 2002, along with the Downing Street memo have really hit home. They make it clear that Britain’s policy was entirely determined by the fact that the Americans were going ahead regardless, and that US reliance on British bases meant there was no option of abstention. Everything done thereafter was designed to find a pretext for an action the British government knew to be illegal. The appeal to the UN was a cynical ploy – there was never any chance that war would be avoided.
What’s also clear is that Blair knew there were no proper plans for the postwar period, making the chaos that actually ensued entirely predictable. This fact completely undermines his stated humanitarian concerns, but it makes sense given that the central object of US policy was to pursue a vendetta against Saddam, and that the British government had decided it had no choice but to go along.
fn1. It’s not clear that this was correct. The Iraq war relied heavily on bases in Germany, but that didn’t stop the German government opposing the war. Still, in this context, it’s what the British believed that matters.