So, Tony Blair is giving his long-awaited evidence to the Chilcot enquiry about the lead-up to the Iraq war today - I’ve just finished listening to the morning session and, pretty much as expected, Teflon Tony is giving a robust account of himself in the face of some technically indepth, if not always particularly awkward, questioning.
What saddens me is the unholy alliance of screechers on either side accompanying this important event; on the one hand, you have the extreme end of the anti-war protestors imagining every possible US / UK blood-for-oil conspiracy in the world and calling Blair names like “war criminal”. Now I’m no fan of war, and there are serious questions to ask about the role of the “special relationship” in the decisions which were taken - but a war criminal? War criminals are people like Josef Mengele or Adolf Eichmann, who were personally responsible for the cruellest acts imaginible under the protective cloak of warfare. To use a highly-charged term so loosely and disproportionately and apply it to a prime minister who (whether you agree with it or not) did nothing more than make a difficult decision is demeaning to the phrase “war criminal”, and by extension massively insults the victims of history’s truly evil men.
And, on the other side, you have yer usual Murdoch / Mail mob; it doesn’t matter so much what these people really think about the Iraq war and its consequences, because they’re only ever interested in hurling childish insults at the Labour government. Yet and at the same time, they’re the types who are always caterwauling about our “brave boys” and their lack of equipment (etc). Now I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that pretty much every member of the armed forces who has served in Iraq or Afghanistan would agree that the Army’s (and the UK’s) interests would be much better served by a public which understood, or at least took an active interest in, what is going on on the ground, what has been achieved, and what the aims of our presence are, than by the current incessant hysterical politically-motivated name-calling stoked up by a shameless gutter press, which profits by, and delights in, feeding ignorance.
And me? I think that some very serious mistakes were made, and I’m certainly not absolving Tony Blair - but the situations in both Iraq and Afghanistan were and remain extremely complicated, and call for very careful consideration - not pre-school posturing. As I said, I’m no fan of war or killing, but there are several legitimate reasons for Western countries to be involved in these two and indeed many other countries around the world; mostly to do with cleaning up messes which we left in the first place.