It shouldn't have escaped anyone's attention that this is the fourth anniversary of the illegal invasion of Iraq. The media has been full of it with an abundance of special editions of various programs looking back on the last four years and debating the consequences of the invasion, the latest edition of Question Time is a good example (video here for a short time). From all this, one message comes out loud and clear and that is that the general consensus is that the Iraq war is a complete and utter disaster and going from bad to worse. The apologists for and supporters of the war look more ludicrous every day as they desperately search for signs of 'progress' or ways to spin the daily litany of bad news into evidence of a 'turning point'. Even the old line that by removing a brutal dictator some sort of improvement has been made is being exposed as rubbish as more and more Iraqis say they felt better off and safer under Saddam Hussein.
There is a change in the air since the earlier days of the war as more people recognise how bad things are and start to re-examine the falsehoods that dragged us into this quagmire. For example, BBC World Affairs Editor John Simpson has belatedly discovered "New" doubts over Iraq intelligence. There is nothing new about these doubts at all, just further evidence in support of the fact that intelligence was manipulated and misused to make the case for a pre-planned war. A quick visit to The Downing St Memo website, and a look at the series of leaked memos that provide an insight into the decision making process that lead up to war would have given him ample evidence that the intelligence described by Tony Blair as "extensive, detailed and authoritative" was anything but, evidence that Simpson neglects to mention. He could have made far more of the now infamous Downing Street memo which clearly shows that the 'intelligence' was interpreted to fit the policy. John Simpson also derides the lack of coverage of Lord Butler's comments last month in which he accused Tony Blair of being "disingenuous" in the way he used intelligence, and reports MP Michael Mates "surprise" at the lack of "killing questions" when the Butler Inquiry reported back in 2004. Fair enough, but we can't ignore the irony of the BBC's World Affairs Editor complaining about the media failing to pick up on these things.
Another example of the change in the air is Michael Meacher MP, in his rather pathetic attempt to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour Party leadership, calling his support for the Iraq war "The biggest political mistake of my life" despite voting against an inquiry into the war as well as voting for the war itself. And then we have Peter Hain the Northern Ireland Secretary in his bid to become deputy leader of the Labour Party telling us that "The neo-con mission has failed" despite voting with the government at every opportunity. The more of a disaster the war turns out to be, the more people who were in a position to help prevent it try to distance themselves from the mess.
Like Bush, Tony Blair is in complete denial about the chaos he has spread and resolutely refuses to acknowledge any responsibility at all preferring to blame both the 'intelligence' and the terrorists (who weren't there before the invasion), in fact anyone but himself. He couldn't even bring himself to attend the only Parliamentary debate about Iraq since 2004 despite saying how much he looked forward to debating the role of our armed services only a week earlier.
And yet no one in any position of authority or influence is calling for the the ringmaster of this circus to be held to account. The only people forced to resign over this debacle have been the journalist Andrew Gilligham for telling the truth and the Director General of the BBC for defending him. The obvious question is: how does Blair get away with this? The simple answer is because we let him. By "we" I mean voters, the Labour Party, the 'opposition' and the media who in any other circumstances would be loudly demanding for heads to roll.
Since 2003 there have been 3488 coalition fatalities and 23,417 American wounded (and those figures don't include contractors). There are no accurate figures for the numbers of Iraqi dead and wounded but the Lancet's estimate of 655,000 made last October doesn't seem widely off the mark. And still the carnage continues and worsens with no end to it in sight.
Not only has chaos been spread across the Middle East with new wars being planned, but the threat of terrorism (both real and imagined) in Britain and elsewhere has increased and is being used as an excuse to curtail long-held civil liberties. People's faith in Government and politics, as well as the media is at an all time low. As Blair touts democracy as a reason for bombing civilians, our own democracy is seen as more of a sham. These are the legacies of the last four years of the Iraq war. I'll leave the final words to Riverbend who seems to sum up the situation in Iraq brilliantly in this post of hers from last December.
- The UN has to open a special branch just to keep track of the chaos and bloodshed, UNAMI.
- Abovementioned branch cannot be run from your country.
- The politicians who worked to put your country in this sorry state can no longer be found inside of, or anywhere near, its borders.
- The only thing the US and Iran can agree about is the deteriorating state of your nation.
- An 8-year war and 13-year blockade are looking like the country's 'Golden Years'.
- Your country is purportedly 'selling' 2 million barrels of oil a day, but you are standing in line for 4 hours for black market gasoline for the generator.
- For every 5 hours of no electricity, you get one hour of public electricity and then the government announces it's going to cut back on providing that hour.
- Politicians who supported the war spend tv time debating whether it is 'sectarian bloodshed' or 'civil war'.
- People consider themselves lucky if they can actually identify the corpse of the relative that's been missing for two weeks.