Adonis Diaries

Millions around the world opposed the US and UK intervention in Iraq: What kind of democracy are we talking about

Posted on: July 12, 2016

Millions of us knew the Iraq war would be a catastrophe.

Why didn’t Tony Blair?

What kind of democracy are we talking about

On 15 February 2003, my partner and I packed our two young children into their pushchairs and travelled across London to take part in what has since become recognised as the single largest protest event in human history.

Between six and 30 million people (depending on whom you believe) took part in about 600 cities worldwide, united by a belief that the proposed military intervention in Iraq was not justified by the facts.

Sir John Chilcot has, in his newly published report, reinforced this view.

In the intervening years a gigantic political disaster, like some sort of all-consuming black hole, has devoured everything in its path including the credibility of our democratic process and any moral capital the west had. The human cost is staggering.

The repercussions and aftershocks endless – international law, natural resources, political norms, the UN, religious tolerance, all irrevocably altered or destroyed, while, 13 years after the fall of Saddam Hussein, one of the oldest civilisations on our planet lies a shattered ruin; a destabilising presence in a fragile region, locked in a permanent civil war, with any prospects for a peaceful civil society decades in the future.

Somehow, “We told you so” just doesn’t do it justice.

Najat Rizk shared this link

“I remember thinking at the time: “How can it be blindingly obvious to me, and to millions of other ordinary people like me, that the invasion will be a disaster, while our political leadership fails to see it?”

There was no question that Saddam’s brutality needed addressing – but not like this.”

Prior to the decision to go to war being made – in the months the debates raged – I did the only thing I knew how which was to put my frustrations into a new piece.

The Blue Notebooks would be a protest album about Iraq, a mediation on violence – both the violence that I had personally experienced around me as a child and the violence of war, at the utter futility of so much armed conflict. We recorded it in London about a week after the protests.

I structured the work around a series of readings by Tilda Swinton from the works of Franz Kafka. I think of Kafka as a sort of patron saint of doubt, and his writing spoke to the bleak absurdity of that political moment for me.

Balancing the Kafka texts are extracts from Czesław Miłosz, a sort of anti-Kafka, for whom the universe is redeemed by human creativity and compassion. I wrote the piece to meander through music history – quoting and re-contextualising musical texts – the music I had run to as a child to escape my own reality.

Blair’s creative way with the facts seems in retrospect to be the beginning of the sort of post-truth politics we have seen in the recent Brexit debate, where fiction and reality were treated by Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and their like as essentially interchangeable. Donald Trump does the same.

A second, less charitable, justification is that Blair deliberately ignored warnings from the Ministry of Defence and joint intelligence committee about the reliability of the intelligence, and in a striking example of confirmation bias, chose to engage with the facts only insofar as they supported the decision to go to war, a decision which we now know had been taken long before the other options to deal with Saddam had been exhausted.

Chilcot agrees; Blair withheld information from the cabinet, misled parliament, the public, and the military. Thousands paid with their lives.

Looking more deeply into why he might do this leads inevitably to the peculiar romance that developed between Bush and Blair, the cowboy and his poodle, united in some sort of shared crusade.

Blair’s hubristic view of himself as a moderating influence on the imbecile Bush betrays a spectacular miscalculation of the power dynamics in play.

A third scenario is that Blair was simply too dumb to see what was coming down the tracks.

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