Tony Blair’s half-baked apology

26 October 2015 2:51 pm

So Tony Blair has come out with an apology of sorts for the Iraq War, the one that got rid of Saddam Hussein and gave us Islamic State.

In a TV interview with CNN, the former Prime Minister said he was sorry that the intelligence behind the decision to attack Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003 was wrong. He also admitted there had been mistakes in the planning of the operation.

American political broadcaster Fareed Zakaria asked him: “Given that Saddam had no WMDs, was the war a mistake?”

Blair replied: “I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologise, by the way, for some of the mistakes in planning, and certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam.”

Mr Blair was asked whether the war provoked the growth of Islamic State, the group which now controls swathes of Iraq and Syria.

“I think there are elements of truth in that,” Mr Blair replied “Of course, you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

And therein lies the problem.Blair isn’t apologising for the war, he’s apologising for the bad intelligence.

As Robert Fisk points out, Blair didn’t see the people, only the policies. Which is why he chose war.

“I suspect that what we fail to do is take responsibility for our actions. We don’t plan, because we have no long-term plans,’’ Fisk writes. “Churchill started planning the British occupation of a conquered Germany in 1941, even before the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. But when the first US tanks crossed the Tigris river in 2003, neither Blair nor Bush had thought ahead. They were too busy with intelligence reports with “elements of truth” in them.”

Of course, all this is spin and public relations ahead of the long-awaited findings of the Chilcot inquiry into Britain’s decision to invade Iraq in 2009.

As Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said on Twitter: “The Blair spin operation begins but the country still awaits the truth. The delay to Chilcot report is a scandal.”

The more important issue is whether Blair should be charged with war crimes. He could stand trial if the Chilcot inquiry finds he broke international law.