A highly-unusual space-time anomaly deposited a copy of The Economist for September 18th – 24th 2010 on my desk today. I was particularly taken with their report of the recently concluded Iraq War Enquiry, promised back in March 2009 by the then Foreign Secretary David Miliband. It’s entitled “Hangin’ out with the Cousins” and reads as follows.
“Playing the long game as ever, David Miliband must have realised 18 months ago just how damning this report was going to be. As someone too junior in 2002/3 to be much involved, he could have anticipated that the report would prove the final nail in Mr Brown’s coffin, propelling Miliband to the illustrious position he now holds, even if it is in opposition.
The Iraq War Report is astonishing in its candour. This is the story that everybody knew but no-one would admit. Its conclusions may be summarised in the following five points.
1. The Blair Government was well-aware back in 2002 that the Bush administration was determined to execute the neocon dream of a remade Iraq, making the middle-east safe for western interests, predominantly the supply of oil. The FCO (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) was also well-aware that the US Government harboured completely unrealistic fantasies about their ability to reshape an essentially artificial country, ethnically-riven and thoroughly tribalised.
2. The Government knew in advance that the invasion would succeed in the short term but then turn into an unmitigated disaster, with Sunnis fighting Shia, and everyone fighting the Americans.
3. The Government, reflecting on the UK’s vast investments in the US and the extra clout in world diplomacy the UK possesses by dint of being America’s bagman, decided that its own strategic interests were best served by allying with the Americans come-what-may and taking the hit in terms of popularity.
4. The ever-so-clever FCO figured out that while the Americans would get totally bogged down with the Sunnis in the north, the Brits in the exclusively-Shia south would be seen as purely liberators. No hard hats for us! In the eventual outcome, our middle-east posture would even be enhanced, and our ever-devious relationship with Iran could be established on a new basis.
5. Obviously none of this great-game, power-politics stuff could be exhibited in public as a casus belli: something else would have to be concocted. So all the nonsense about “Weapons of Mass Destruction” had to be dangled in front of the media and political circus. As red herrings go, it was conspicuously successful, diverting attention even to this day from what was really going on. Of course, the sheer stupidity and vacuity of the premise damaged all those engaged in either promulgating the myth or trying to puncture it, Dr. Kelly being the most extreme example of the latter.
So in summary, this is a rare case of an enquiry where the truth was actually aired - although to any observer who has been paying attention to world affairs over the last decade, none of its conclusions will be particularly surprising.”