George Bush and Tony Blair at Camp David
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-- The Endless Menace of Imaginary Hobgoblins --
After scrutinizing any number of analyses of the recently released Chilcot Inquiry Report -- the long awaited 'post-mortem' of U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision to support the Bush administration's invasion of Iraq in 2003 and relieve its leader Saddam Hussein from the burdens of power -- one could not help recalling Henry L Mencken's indelible maxim:
'The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.'
Without doubt, as so often happens with these things, we were all menaced with a plethora of 'imaginary hobgoblins' in the lead up to the war, not least the specter of "mushroom clouds", along with chemical and biological weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in the possession of a rogue state led by a maniacal despot with Hitlerian ambitions (shades of Godwin's Law, again) who was supporting terrorists, which by 'definition', were the same ones who were responsible for the 9/11 attacks. The existential dangers to liberty, democracy, peace and freedom were so palpable they simply could not be ignored. Or so the story went.
As we now know, none of these had anything to do with the real reasons why the United States and Britain (and several other nations including my own Australia) embarked on this unmitigated war of aggression and fraudulent exercise in hegemonic overreach.
And as might be expected, there was no shortage of commentators keen to provide their perspective on Chilcot, in everything from Blair's culpability in the decision and whether he should be charged with war crimes; [to] whether the Inquiry addressed the real reasons the "Coalition of the Willing" actually went to war; [to] why other countries concerned (not least the U.S. itself, the instigator of the war) have not established their own commissions of inquiry; [to] what the implications of the findings are for all other countries involved -- directly or indirectly -- in supporting the decision.
Much of the focus of said commentary seemed to center on the role of Blair (who drew the most flak from the 'opinionocracy'), and what his motives were in signing up for it in the first place. There were also the real and perceived inadequacies of the Report's findings, most of which focused on its failings to shed light on the real reasons for the war.
On its face, the fallout for Blair personally and politically was considerable. In his address to the nation after the Report's release, the 'stunned mullet' look on his face -- to say little of his body language -- said much about the impact. Although not especially high in any event, his reputation and legacy are now in tatters.
Yet somehow through all of it, Blair managed to resist suggestions he'd made the wrong call in lining up with U.S. President George Bush's belligerent 'bedlamites' on the side of war. Indeed, as we know, the man said he'd do it all over again. Say what you like about the estimable former UK premier, but he's doubtless a man of steadfast conviction.
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