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Wednesday, January 21, 2015 

And we're back in the room.

A scary thought: we're closing in on the 12th anniversary of the start of the 2nd Iraq war.  A mundane reality: we're currently involved in the 3rd Iraq war, albeit against the self-proclaimed Islamic State rather than the Iraqi one.

Those wars are of course inextricably linked, just as they are to the first Gulf war, the one which arguably set the tone for the conflicts we've seen post-Cold War.  Good ol' Saddam miscalculated in the belief that no one would mind if he gobbled up Kuwait; after all, didn't he fight the good fight against the Iranians for us?  Sadly for him, the last thing the Saudis were going to stand for was a rival to their regional hegemony, and so in came the Americans, with ourselves alongside naturally.  Plenty of cringing Iraqi conscripts were incinerated in the name of freedom, Saddam was redesignated as worse than Hitler, and Iraq became the country of choice for lobbing cruise missiles at whenever there was a need for a distraction from domestic politics.

Until 9/11, when it was decided evil dictators could no longer be contained lest they provide sanctuary for evil terrorists.  Unfortunately, about the worst terrorist in residence in Iraq other than, err, Saddam himself was Abu Nidal, and even someone as bloodthirsty as he palled compared to al-Qaida.  Instead the debate focused around weapons of mass destruction, for what even at the time was described as "policy reasons".  Fact was, Saddam had to go.  Less thought was put into the post-war planning, something we're still living with the consequences of today.

Oh, and there's also been an inquiry looking into all this.  Frankly, I'd forgotten.  Not because the Chilcot report won't be important, because it will.  It just won't tell us anything we don't know already, or at least shouldn't know.  A true acknowledgement of the unmitigated disaster of the Iraq war simply isn't possible, as it would mean almost every single politician and almost every single establishment figure and institution admitting they either got it wrong then or have learned precisely nothing since.  Besides, the Chilcot inquiry was not established to do any such thing: it was meant, as state approved inquiries into complete and utter fuck-ups are, to look at everything that happened and then make a few recommendations that can be safely ignored or overruled on the grounds of government every so often needing to let off steam by chucking high explosives into foreign shitholes.

The reaction to the news the report will not be published until after the election is highly similar to that of the Sun dropping page 3 girls.  You'd think in an era when you can within a couple of clicks see a woman in exchange for meagre payment perform some of the most degrading sexual acts imaginable that a newspaper deciding not to show naked breasts wouldn't exactly be classed as a feminist triumph (the more reflective might also wonder if the diminishing market for softcore modelling might in the long run lead to more women having to go down the hardcore route), but then nothing really surprises any more.  It's a conspiracy!  It must be published now, regardless of how that would be against the very law governing such inquiries!  It's going to be a whitewash!  It's all Tony Blair's fault!  It's all Labour's fault!

And so depressingly on.  The focus on Blair just proves what this has been about from the beginning.  It's not about seeing Iraq for what it was, a culmination of mistakes by every arm of government, not to forget the role of the media or the public for that matter, let alone an examination of how there came to be a consensus on foreign policy which is bomb first, bomb often and only then wonder if there might be consequences down the line, it's about trying to nail custard to the wall.  Even if the report says Blair took Britain to a war on a lie, which it won't, his excellency will say he did what he thought was right.  He doesn't just still believe in the war, he's partial to more on the same model.  Nothing is going to change the mind of a true believer.

The reason for the delay is staring everyone in the face too.  It wasn't Blair or the others involved in the "Maxwellisation" process holding it up, it was the Cabinet Office, the securocrats and the Americans.  The public can't possibly know what a former president and a former prime minister said to each other 12 years on, no way, however fundamental it may or may not be to how the decision to go to war came to be made.  The metadata of everyone's online activity must be accessible by the state in order to protect us, but when it comes to transparency over the act that has done more than anything to increase that danger, you can whistle for it.

Whatever the conclusions the inquiry reaches, minds were made up long ago, mine included.  This isn't going to be a Bloody Sunday or a Hillsborough, where the sheer force of evidence alters perceptions, despite it already having been there had you looked for it.  While I seriously doubt the report would change anyone's vote, there is still a minority that regard Iraq as Labour's ultimate betrayal, holding it against the party despite nearly all those involved either having left parliament or exiting this year.  You only have to see the Lib Dems, SNP and UKIP jockeying for the slightest advantage to realise just the one party has something to lose.  We've waited this long to be disappointed, let down, have our prejudices confirmed; being deprived a few more weeks, months, years isn't going to make the slightest difference now.

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