So, Chilcot. At last.
I believe completely that Blair believed he was doing the right thing. That he still believes it (because the mind will go to extraordinary lengths to protect you from the truth if the truth is something you could not live with). I have no doubt that he believes he ‘agonises’, that he ‘thinks about the lives lost’. I don’t think he was pursuing a conscious imperialist crusade or a conscious legacy-maker.
However, none of that actually matters. Chilcot seems to imply (I haven’t read the 2.5m words, so this may change) that he deliberately exaggerated the evidence, knowing that what was there was not sufficient. Whether he did it because he believed it was necessary to remove Saddam or because he wanted the oil doesn’t matter. He still misled a country to get them to agree to a war which was unnecessary.
The chaotic crucible of horror that Iraq turned into as the invasion progressed, and after we threw up our hands and wandered off, was not ‘unforeseeable’. Even I remember thinking that it was a recipe for disaster, but Chilcot details the ways in which the threats were made explicitly and comprehensively, so the excuse that they didn’t know what was going to happen is also nonsensical.
And then there is Blair’s speech today. ‘The world is a better and safer place’. He did ‘the right thing’.
I cannot imagine what the weight of truth on a mind trying to believe it is a good person, that it didn’t kill hundreds of thousands of people for no reason, must be like. The kind of cognitive dissonance a mind has to try to resolve to avoid seeing the ocean of blood and grief and horror you are responsible for must make it crack. He *has* to believe that he did the right thing, because to acknowledge otherwise would be to start screaming and never stop. I cannot imagine that weight, and I don’t want to, because I don’t care.
He believed he knew better than everyone else – than the experts in the region, the rule of law, the rules of evidence and the grave responsibility it is to commit a country to war. He believed that the rules were breakable for a higher purpose and that is a choice people in charge sometimes have to make, and then, most of the time, they will see that the rules were there for a reason. Those rules are borne out of centuries of war and bloodshed and a desperate desire to not have the world descend into that mire again. They won’t always be right, but the cost of violating them and being wrong about it is never paid for by the likes of Blair. It is always paid by the poorest and the most desperate people in the world. By tiny, broken bodies and their weeping parents. By families incinerated in an instant. By countries taken completely by wild-eyed murderers and rapists.
Blair can say he’s sad, and he may be telling the truth, but it doesn’t matter. Justice isn’t done, and the dead can’t be brought back.