Before proffering any comment on Chilcott, I’m mindful of David Osler’s typically dry observation of earlier today: “Prepare for a deluge of a 140-character opinions about a two million-word document nobody has read.” Well, quite.
That said I did have the pleasure of driving across England at 11.00am this morning, which afforded me the opportunity of hearing Sir John’s précis. The facts, as he saw them, which require no recounting here, were as expected.
For me, however, Chilcott’s seven-year 2.6 million-word magnum opus served merely as the hors d’oeuvre. It was Tony Blair’s response to the report that gripped me. That unnerving, not-quite-entirely fake, humility married to a truly chilling Messianic hubris, has made for compelling political theatre, over the years. Today’s events were his equal, though. As history met the man who will not yield to its cold reality, the result was grotesquely mesmerising.
With voice audibly breaking, the former Prime Minister simultaneously accepted all responsibility for “mistakes” while giving not an inch on the substantive matter; the morality, the legitimacy, the legality of going to war in Iraq.
Nor did he accept that those events have led to today’s. Politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum, so what of the destabilising of a sovereign state? What said Blair about the bloodied recasting of Iraq as a 3D representation of Bruegel’s Massacre of the Innocents?
Unless we could say with certainty that things would not have been any better had the war not occurred, then “…you are a commentator; not a decision-maker” was his belief-defying defence.
Listening to him in his trademark unleaded and fully unleashed Man of Destiny mode, on today of all days, was sickening, yes, but…
… he’s both merely a symptom and only a product of the forces that drive us, isn’t he? Humanity is, undoubtedly, seated firmly in the antechamber of annihilation and it’s taken many Tony Blairs to get us here. So what about the next one? And the one after? And, if we’re still here, the one after that?
But such a question is facile. It’s the Great Man of History theory; reducing the seismic events that shape the future and rewrite the past to the whims of the Great Ones; with humanity cast in the role of hapless observers. Only history doesn’t work that way.
Other questions occurred as I drove along quiet English lanes. The media’s framing of deceased Brit soldiers, for example. The curious Hillsborough-isation of their deaths; the references to ‘The Families.’ As though there is a comparison to be made between ninety-six working-class football fans who might reasonably have expected – no, demanded – that they live and professional soldiers for whom death is, quite literally, an occupational hazard. Would that a million dead civilians, even brown ones, command such rage.
I’m given to understand that the lack of adequate equipment for military personnel is a source of anger for ‘The Families.’ Also, the possible illegality of the conflict itself (a bizarre thought with which to grapple. Had the war been legal, then, the resulting massacre of innocent civilians would, presumably, have been acceptable). Perhaps, then, we may see a grassroots movement spring up, dedicated to creating a system of checks and balances? Surely only a matter of time before The S*N launches its JFT179 campaign? Some mechanism designed to prevent soldiers dying in such circumstances again? I don’t know, maybe a trade union for the armed forces, say…
Something which, I’d humbly suggest, is far less outrageous than a nation that actually has the possible deportation of immigrants occupying mainstream discourse.
I’ve never felt less equipped than I do now – battered and assailed by history, on an almost daily basis, as we are – to address such questions. And what monumental arrogance consumes me that I should even consider such things to be my concern anyway?
Only that they are the concern of us all.