The mythological Blair apology for the Iraq war

Chris Doyle
Chris Doyle

Chris Doyle

By : Chris Doyle

Tony Blair did not, repeat did not, say sorry for the Iraq war. Tony Blair did not apologize for it, he did not say if he was sent back in time to 2003, he would not have the same thing. There was no ‘mea culpa’ for going to war.

He will never say sorry for the Iraq war so for those dreamily expecting this, wake up.

Days after his CNN interview, it is necessary to state this because if you google Blair and Iraq you are inundated with links to articles saying that Blair had made an apology. They myth has gone viral. 1-0 to the Spin Doctor-in-Chief.

Blair’s first apology was for something he was not directly responsible for and something he had already said before. “I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong.” He was given faulty intelligence, so it was not his fault in fact at all. He blames the intelligence services.

He will never say sorry for the Iraq war so for those dreamily expecting this, wake up

Chris Doyle

Apology number two was little better. “I also apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.” He does not exclude himself from the blame but he certainly shares it out but only for ‘some’ of the mistakes note. Was it a mistake in understanding? Blair was clearly and expertly briefed by experts on Iraq about many of the consequences of an invasion and occupation that did actually arise. This included the consequences of a power vacuum, looting, sectarian tensions and greater Iranian influence. The reality was Blair did not want to listen. After all, it is crystal clear he had made a pact with President George Bush in April 2002 and was in no mood to entertain doubts.

His third non-apology was a most ground-breaking admission – that the war contributed to the rise of ISIS. “I think there are elements of truth in that…. Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”

And then a gross distortion that barely any commentator picked up on. In a rewriting of history and the facts, Blair claimed that “ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq.”

ISIS originated, flourished and expanded from Iraq with its core leadership being Iraqi. It was dependent to a large extent on an alliance with disgruntled ex-Saddam era Ba’athis like Izzat Ibrahim Al-Douri. Clearly it is convenient for Blair to cast ISIS as a Syria issue, so he was really saying that he does not bear much responsibility at all.

So let’s spin another mythological apology. Here is something you will never read or hear. This is what a heartfelt meaningful apology from Tony Blair might look like delivered to the Iraqi people, not to CNN.

“Today I have come to Baghdad, to the heart of Iraq, to set the record straight, something I should have done many years ago. This is tough for me to say but I know I must. To Iraqis, from all communities, all those who suffered as a result of the sanctions, the war and occupation, I am truly, deeply sorry.

I failed Iraq. Prior to the war, I should have done more to lift the sanctions in the U.N. Security Council. We should never have allowed a situation to arise where 5,000 children under the age of five were dying every month. It was not a price worth paying. We did have to restrict the power of the Saddam Hussein regime but should have found a way that did not devastate the lives of millions of Iraqi civilians. The intelligence on Iraq’s weapons was faulty but I did not question it, so convinced was I that Saddam had them and would use them again. We should have given the U.N. weapons inspectors more time to complete their work.

Let’s be clear – I had hoped that the removal of Saddam Hussein, the monster who had caused such devastation to Iraq and its people would bring more positive results. I did genuinely wish to see Iraqis living in their own free and democratic state.

But for that to happen, we had to deliver results that benefitted all Iraqis. We did not adequately prepare for the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and for that, I am responsible. As Prime Minister, I should have demanded and ensured that this was the case. I clearly failed. Our planning was inept. In the past I have said we made a mistake, that the planning was “inadequate.” We did not provide the proper human, financial and technical resources to give Iraq a chance to get up and running. I was wrong to ignore the advice of British experts on Iraq who did actually predict with all too chilling accuracy what would happen. We did not “safeguard the wealth of the country for the future prosperity of the people” as I stated in Parliament was one of our aims. I should have directly and even publicly challenged a U.S. administration many of whose leading lights advanced ideological views that were both flawed and dangerous. The dishing out of contracts to private companies and security firms making lavish profits from Iraqi funds was something I did nothing to stop. This was a war that cost over a trillion dollars but most of that was frittered away. I did not use British leverage and influence enough with our American partners. We should have pushed harder for a greater U.N. role in Iraq but I conceded too easily.”

Neither will Blair make such an apology, nor will many accept it. Blair aside, there are many others, George Bush, included who should own up to their own sorry part in this. They have yet to do so.

In the meantime perhaps Mr. Blair could take the advice of the former Chief of Staff, Lord Dannatt, and maintain ‘a dignified silence’ until the Iraq inquiry reports whenever that will be. Blair will be hoping it will never happen, a bit like his apology.

Chris Doyle is the director of CAABU (the London-based Council for Arab-British Understanding). He has worked with the Council since 1993 after graduating with a first class honors degree in Arabic and Islamic Studies at Exeter University. As the lead spokesperson for Caabu and as an acknowledged expert on the region, Chris is a frequent commentator on TV and Radio, having given over 148 interviews on the Arab world in in 2012 alone. He gives numerous talks around the country on issues such as the Arab Spring, Libya, Syria, Palestine, Iraq, Islamophobia and the Arabs in Britain. He has had numerous articles and letters published in the British and international media. He has travelled to nearly every country in the Middle East. He has organized and accompanied numerous British Parliamentary delegations to Arab countries. Most recently he took Parliamentary delegations to the West Bank in April, November, December 2013 and January 2014 including with former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.


    Very quietly, Iraq is ceasing to exist
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