It is an unfortunate metaphor, in the context of a man who sent his country into a disastrous, US-led war on Iraq in 2003. But nonetheless, one of Tony Blair’s allies told the British press this week that the former Labour party leader is planning to “come out all guns blazing” in response to the long-delayed and long-awaited Chilcot report.
Named after its chairman Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry was set up seven years ago to look into the legality of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war and at the lessons that can be learned from it. The 2.6 million-word report is to be published on July 6. Last week, an anonymous source told The Sunday Times (UK) that the report would be “absolutely brutal” in its verdict on Blair and other government officials.
As a preview of those blazing guns, Blair has been giving interviews on the subject. He has already claimed that Iraq would be worse off had the military invasion of 2003 not removed Saddam Hussein.
And in an interview with Bloomsburg on June 8, Blair lambasted the Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed the Iraq war and has said that Blair could face a trial over it, should the evidence suggest that he broke international law.
The current Labour leader, according to Blair, “represents the politics of protest” and would not be able to make “difficult decisions”.
“I’m accused of being a war criminal for removing Saddam Hussein – who by the way was a war criminal – and yet Jeremy is seen as a progressive icon as we stand by and watch the people of Syria barrel-bombed, beaten and starved into submission and do nothing.”
So, to recap: the Iraqi people don’t know how lucky they are, while everyone else should really learn to spot the progressive: because he is the one that keeps on pushing military interventions that unleash death, turmoil and devastation, turning functioning societies into a daily living hell.
Not content with watching this happen in Afghanistan, Iraq and then Libya, Blair wants to add to the nightmarish horrors of the situation in Syria – assaulted both by Bashar al-Assad’s barrel bombs and by the brutal death cult Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) – by sending British ground troops there. Since that worked out so well every other time.
In truth, it is difficult to decide which iteration of Tony Blair trying to justify the war on Iraq is more offensive. Late last year, he made what was then described as a “qualified apology” for “mistakes” made in Iraq – among them “our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime”.
Iraq, its infrastructure, social structures and systems of government utterly hollowed out by that war, was quickly plunged into violence and chaos – but this was all foretold and Blair knew about it.
Iraq, its infrastructure, social structures and systems of government utterly hollowed out by that war, was quickly plunged into violence and chaos - but this was all foretold and Blair knew about it.
Specifically, he was told by the “six wise men” – Middle East experts who counselled Blair about the aftermath of an invasion. One of those experts, Professor George Joffe of the University of Cambridge, who also gave evidence to the Chilcot panel, last year told a UK newspaper: “The errors of judgment were so blatant, there is no way they can whitewash this.” This process by which Blair actively decided to ignore expert advice is what he describes as a “mistake in understanding”.
Now, in what has been described as a pre-emptive spin operation before Chilcot, Blair has hit out against the Labour party leader, dismissing him as a “guy with a placard”. It is part of a wider political assault, since the current leader represents a decisive break with Blairism, which to no small extent explains his popularity.
But it is not just the Labour leader that, with these latest insults, is dissed as a “placard-carrier”; it’s everyone else who opposed the war, including prominent politicians, legal and security advisers, religious figures, academics, campaigners and Middle East experts, as well as a sizeable chunk of the British population.
But to my mind, the greater insult is the suggestion that Blair may defend himself by pushing the claim that, as awful as things in Iraq have become post-war, the situation in the Middle East would have been worse with Saddam still in power.
For the half a million lost lives, for the families left grieving loved ones, for the physical and emotional injuries of the war and its aftermath, for those forced to flee their country, for the women whose hard-won freedoms evaporated because of those UK/US bombs, for the Iraqi people now living under the daily misery of ISIL, or the daily fear of bombing, or the daily repression of sectarian-led, Western-backed governments, for all those whose daily lives have become a daily misery, Blair apparently wants to let them know that things could have been worse, had the West not intervened to remove Saddam.
Because when your country, your life and all that you love has been destroyed by a Western intervention, it must be comforting to know that one of its chief advocates believes you are still better off than you could have been.
At a time when you really ought to be trying to heal wounds, Blair has effectively thrown salt into them. Now, we can only hope that Blair and his supporters have run out of spectrum and cannot hit a new low hit when the Chilcot report finally emerges next month.
Rachel Shabi is a journalist and author of Not the Enemy: Israel’s Jews from Arab Lands.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.