-- 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.
About the only thing anyone might say in Blair's defense is that he was at least prepared to face the music; this is especially so in view of the number of others who shared that "steadfast conviction" way back then who were on this occasion, nowhere to be seen or heard. This includes those in the media and on both sides of the political divide, many of whom are now either baying for his blood or maintaining a low profile for fear of drawing too much attention to their own culpabilities in either supporting the war, or not protesting it enough.
At all events, if Blair had hoped he might be able to redeem something of that tattered 'rep' in his address, this was not the way to go. He'd have been better off staying at home and drawing the blinds, his comments just adding more ballast to the opprobrium in which he was already held. He may however take some solace in that, whilst his stock in the court of public opinion may be irrevocably trashed -- and despite a movement in the form of a petition to have him held accountable -- there appears as of this writing to be little realistic expectation he'll be fronting up to The Hague ICC anytime soon.
As for the Report's inadequacies, someone for whom these were especially evident was Bianca Jagger, human rights advocate and founder of her own eponymous Human Rights Foundation. In an interview with Afshin Rattansi from RT's Going Underground, she acknowledges the Report did in fact emphasize the "failures of the intelligence" and the "lack of preparation" upon the part of Blair's government (two realities that not even a total whitewash by Chilcot could conceal).
For Jagger, an open, candid consideration of the "why" factor was the most glaring omission of the Report; insofar as she was concerned, oil was the 'pachyderm on the political patio', it being the real genesis of, and hidden justification for, the Iraq War. In her view the decision to effectively destroy Iraq -- realized by the old stand-by strategy of regime change so favored for so long now by the powers that be on both sides of the Pond -- was little more than an "oil conspiracy", with herein oil majors BP and Shell leading the charge, albeit from behind the scenes.
In his response, Nafeez Ahmed also expressed similar views. Like Jagger, he noted that the actual motive was buried in the details, said "details" in this case being of the decidedly 'fine print' type. For both Britain and the U.S., their interest in Iraq's oil wasn't just so their respective oil majors could gain greater control over its vast supplies. Concomitant with that were "geostrategic" considerations in ensuring Iraq's oil could be opened up to global markets with a view to stabilizing OPEC.