GUILTY How Our Ruling Class Betrayed Us; the Cabinet. MI6. Generals. Law Officers. Civil Servants. . . . ALL Were Complicit in a Megalomaniac's March to War

Daily Mail (London), July 7, 2016 | Go to article overview

GUILTY How Our Ruling Class Betrayed Us; the Cabinet. MI6. Generals. Law Officers. Civil Servants. . . . ALL Were Complicit in a Megalomaniac's March to War


Byline: Max Hastings

NOBODY can dismiss this vast document as a whitewash. In temperate language, without calling for war crimes trials or public executions of guilty men, the Chilcot Report describes how almost every arm of the British body politic abjectly failed in its duty before, during and after the Iraq conflict.

If the authors sometimes decline to pass explicit judgments, they provide devastating evidence to enable us to do so. In the minds of the inquiry's members, among the foremost of their responsibilities was compilation of an exhaustive documentary record, which goes far to explain why the report took so long.

Of course, Tony Blair's role will attract most public attention, and so it should. What took place was only possible because in 2002-3 Blair was an immensely popular Prime Minister with a personal dominance that enabled him to persuade or conscript the rest of Westminster and Whitehall to support an Iraqi adventure overwhelmingly driven by his own hubris and moral fervour.

From an early stage in 2002, Blair gave private assurances to President Bush that he was eager to back an invasion of Iraq. In this he fell victim to that eternal curse upon British Prime Ministers -- a desire to play partners with the United States, in the utterly mistaken belief that this will buy Britain leverage on other issues.

Here is a critical sub-text of Chilcot, who writes acidly that the UK-U.S. relationship does not require Britain to give 'unconditional support' to the Americans.

Yet Blair made the fatal error of acquiescing unconditionally in the Bush White House's timetable for military action early in 2003. Throughout, Bush played Blair like a hooked fish. The result, as Chilcot says, is that 'the UK chose to join the invasion before the peaceful options had been exhausted'.

Did Blair, then, lie to Parliament and to the British people about the threat posed by WMD, to justify a deal he had already made? The report is inconclusive on this critical point, because the authors believe they could not convict the Prime Minister of deliberate untruth, because there is no evidence that he knew WMD did not exist.

What they do show, however, in devastating detail, is that Downing Street became enthralled by fantasies about WMD, to which no reasonable person could have succumbed -- unless he was a British Prime Minister already privately committed to supporting an American President.

THE Secret Intelligence Service and the Joint Intelligence Committee come out of the story as deplorably as they deserve. Both utterly failed in their responsibilities.

The charges are grievous indeed against Sir Richard Dearlove, then director of the Secret Intelligence Service -- who, grotesquely, went on to become master of a Cambridge college dedicated to truth and learning -- and Joint Intelligence Committee chairman John Scarlett.

Scarlett's rightful role was to serve as a cool, impartial and sceptical arbitrator of the pre-war intelligence story. Instead, he allowed himself to be co-opted onto the Downing Street team making the case for the war.

Blair afterwards rewarded him with the directorship of the Secret Service, a role for which his credentials compared unfavourably with those of Pinocchio.

Scarlett is today a familiar jolly presence on the London party scene and an independent director of The Times, when he should rightfully be running a whelk stall on St Helena.

Chilcot, nuanced as ever, does not find Dearlove and Scarlett guilty of deliberately fabricating evidence to justify Blair's war, but instead of something as grave, and more cowardly. They stood by in silence, while Blair made statements to Parliament and the British people about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein which both of them knew to be wholly unjustified by the facts.

One egregious example of this was when Blair told NBC News on April10, 2002: 'We know that [Saddam Hussein] has stockpiles of major amounts of chemical and biological weapons. …

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