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The Truth Behind His Truth

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For seven busy years and an enormous cost, Britain’s Chilcot Report was in the making. But on July 6 this year, it was made public. And since then it has continued to be the subject of discussion in media and free houses and among pundits, historians and academicians. The report is said to have detailed a number of occasions the Prime Minister Tony Blair, his Labour Party government, military officials and even diplomats made “critical judgments” which were based on “flawed evidences” leading to the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

A good number of people have dismissed the Chilcot Inquiry as a total failure and a waste of taxpayers’ money because, in their estimation, the report failed to point out the way those who were directly or indirectly involved in the invasion of Iraq could be nailed. They strongly feel that the anger felt by Britons and by many people across the globe about the invasion, cannot be mitigated by what Justice Chilcot has written or the report he has submitted. They scream for Tony Blair’s head, some suggesting that he should be tried for war crimes at The Hague.

Unfortunately, Tony Blair cannot be tried for war crimes because Britain has a seat in the United Nations Security Council and can veto any such move which is capable of unearthing so much of an ugly past that it could only succeed in distracting the current government of Theresa May from the many challenges it would definitely face in the wake of Britain opting out of the European Union.

Some people have also wondered why the families of military personnel who died in the war against Iraq cannot prosecute the British government for the inadequate provision of arms and ammunitions meted out to them during the invasion. They can, in fact, make a domestic case of that. But again, who decides what could be possibly regarded as adequate or inadequate provision of arms and ammunition to the military? Certainly, it cannot be the relatives of the dead soldiers. And so going to court will not enhance any criminal proceeding that could be required to nail anybody, should the focus be on the violation of international law.

I must say here that I am neither holding brief for Britain’s former Prime Minister, Hon. Tony Blair, nor for the hundreds of families who lost their dear ones in the war against Iraq which many Britons still consider was absolutely unnecessary, a waste of the tax payers’ money and a painful loss of the lives of the cream of British youth. Yet, when we take all the sides of the events that happened in their entirety and view them dispassionately, we find that all that vitriol and acrimony which Britain’s taking sides with America’s George Bush engineered was not necessary at all. As we all know, there are lessons to learn always.

When a man decides to embrace a military career, he already knows that he is not going there to play golf or roulette. Being drafted to the war front implies that the soldier might come back alive or dead. And in any event, if he could not make it alive, no one should be blamed because he knew the possibility of dying before he signed up for a military career. To that extent, therefore, the invasion of Iraq and the young souls who perished in the campaign should not elicit blame on anyone. What we should be doing is to celebrate the lives of those young and brave soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice for their country. Their lives would not have been sacrificed in vain. But so it would seem – that they were sacrificed in vain – if we begin to trade blames and regrets begin to take the upper hand in the social list of our priorities.

Britain’s interest in Iraq dated as far back as the beginning of the last century. British businessmen had invested enormously in the development of the Port of Basra, for instance. Basra Port had acquired prominence as a mercantile centre and because of its strategic location on the river it had attracted traders, especially foreigners of Indian and Persian origins. This was all due to the efforts of British businessmen.

The Basra Port – complete with administrative buildings said to be one of the most impressive in Iraq – and the railway terminus were constructed north of Basra. British military cantonments remained in place after the war. This included all the Royal Air Force facilities. British firms had most of their volume of business in Basra. By as far back as 1926, British vessels were accounting for more than 166 of the steamships that called on Basra every year. From a commercial point of view, Basra became the obvious nucleus for British mercantile interests in Iraq.

Basra formed the sole seaport for a rapidly expanding market. And one of Iraq’s principal export crop – dates – was almost exclusively harvested within a radius of some 100 miles from the Gulf city. Most British traders acknowledged Basra’s economic importance. And a British company finally established itself in a dominant position in the date trade.

Yet, we know that despite British permanent presence in Basra, the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 was not the first time America had planned to invade Iraq. The plan had always been on the American agenda. The idea was for imperialist powers to dominate Iraq in order to control its vast oil wealth. There was also the desire by each imperialist power to exclude others from the prize. Thus, when American President Bush determined to invade Iraq, it was pretty obvious that the British public would have heaped loads of blames on Tony Blair as Prime Minister if he took a lame duck approach to American plans and allowed America to “inherit” all of Britain’s interest in the oil rich country if it was allowed to invade Iraq on its own.

Tony Blair found himself between the devil and the deep blue sea. If he went to war, he would be blamed. If he did not, he would be blamed. What then was he to do? Of course he did what he had to do, at least for the sake of the interest of British investors in Iraq. Apart from Britain’s interest in Iraqi oil, the UK had invested much in the development of the Port of Basra. Britain still had a military base in Basra. And what were the soldiers stationed there supposed to do if George Bush decided to run down the entire Iraqi nation? Should Tony Blair repatriate them? Should he allow them to stay on and defend British interest if in their opinion it was under threat? These were tough issues that needed equally tough decisions to tackle.

In governance, there are secrets that only very few insiders are meant to know. How was Tony Blair going to tell the whole world that he was not going to allow Britain’s most trusted ally, the United States, to take over what belonged to the British people? How was he going to tell the entire world that he was going to “side” with George Bush in order to protect British interest in oil rich Iraq? What was the way to go – telling the whole world what was in the kitty, especially when it had to do with war? Surely, there must be a diplomatic way of making the people look the other way. And that was what Tony Blair actually did. He could not possibly have come out openly to tell the world the real truth. And for not doing just that, some branded him a liar and some said he deceived Parliament and the people of Britain. How was he to tell British people that he did what he had to do to protect the interest of British businessmen? How was he to tell them the truth behind his truth that Chilcot captured in his report?

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Articles by Emeka Asinugo