Tony Blair must have really pissed off the British establishment. Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq inquiry has seen them acting most uncharacteristically. From generals to lawyers, ambassadors, mandarins and even spies, Britain’s ruling elite has spent the past few months dumping on a former prime minister in an unprecedented way. All are putting distance between themselves and Tony Blair.
Whatever the inquiry’s eventual conclusions, the evidence that has been dripping out has now established pretty much as fact that Blair committed Britain to joining the US invasion of Iraq in spring 2002 – a full year before the war began – without saying a word to parliament or the public. Moreover, the objective was regime change rather than disarmament.
That will come as no great revelation to Red Pepper readers. The surprise has been to hear the establishment effectively confirm that everything the anti-war movement said at the time was right.
So we’ve had Britain’s former ambassador in Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, setting out the chronology and saying Blair threw away any leverage he might have had by pledging British involvement so early. This made the UN route a sideshow – the war was planned on an ‘unforgiving’ US military timetable that paid no regard to the work of chief inspector Hans Blix and his team.
We’ve had Sir John Scarlett, former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, finally dropping Blair in it over the dossier on Iraq’s alleged WMD. Contrary to claims by Alastair Campbell when he appeared at the inquiry, Scarlett did not endorse Blair’s infamous foreword, which falsely claimed ‘beyond doubt’ that Saddam had continued to produce WMD. Rather, Scarlett said, ‘I saw the foreword as quite separate … The foreword was an overtly political statement.’
We’ve had the military top brass expressing their frustrations: how Admiral Lord Boyce couldn’t properly plan because of the charade that war was not inevitable; how post-war preparations were a shambles, according to General Tim Cross, and run by ‘amateurs’, in the words of General Sir Freddie Viggers.
The willingness of these and other usually tight-lipped witnesses to point the finger at the former prime minister is a measure of the scale of the Iraq disaster. Certainly witnesses have dropped their bombshells with minimal prompting. The inquiry panel was hand-picked to deliver very little – outrageously, it even includes Sir Lawrence Freedman, author of Blair’s most significant foreign policy speech, delivered in Chicago in 1999, which sought to justify liberal military intervention.
Despite this, Chilcot is probably now wrestling with how to deliver an establishment stitch-up when the establishment is using his proceedings to settle a score. Each small revelation at the inquiry forms part of a mosaic that is gradually becoming clear. It shows a gung-ho PM who decided to go it alone and pledge British lives and resources to a US war that he knew would be illegal without a clever ruse at the UN. When that failed, he went ahead regardless.
The inquiry is exposing something else, too. A leader bent on illegal regime change faced an establishment made up of men who, despite holding doubts, were incapable of exerting any contrary influence. They are all now keen to blame anyone else, be it the White House, the Pentagon or Tony Blair, but they give no hint of their own culpability. A case of rats fleeing from a sinking rat.
The fundamental problem this inquiry is illuminating is that at every stage the mechanisms of accountability in the British state have been feeble or non-existent. Chilcot has said his inquiry is not a court. Even if the final report pins all the blame on Blair, which it won’t, there will be no way of sanctioning him even for harming the interests of Britain, let alone for sacrificing the lives of Iraqis.
Chilcot’s stated aim for his inquiry is to ‘write the narrative in order to learn the lessons for the future’. It is probably too much to expect the inquiry panel to meet this modest aim – but the unexpected wealth of evidence might allow the public to do so.
Labour's 1983 election campaign has long been used to say it is impossible for a leader like Jeremy Corbyn to win any election from the left. Alex Nunns digs out the truth
Drax is the UK's biggest source of CO2 emissions – and we're paying for it, writes Almuth Ernsting
For the past 3 years, Barby Asante and members of London-based artists' collective, sorryyoufeeluncomfortable, have been responding directly to the vision of James Baldwin. Ahead of the nationwide release of a new film about the American activist and author, they reflect on the enduring relevance of Baldwin in Britain today.
Housing campaigners' gains in Bristol are spurring on a national movement to build a renters' union, writes Stuart Melvin
A new Espionage Act threatens whistleblowers and journalists, writes Sarah Kavanagh
We need an anti-austerity alliance, not a vaguely progressive alliance, argues Michael Calderbank
Rahila Gupta talks to Kimmie Taylor about life on the frontline in Rojava
It may seem as though these apps are working for us, but we are also working for the apps, writes Kurt Iveson
It's over 100 years ago that domestic workers began to organise to demand the same rights as other workers. Yet with LSE cleaners on strike this week, historian Laura Schwartz asks: how much has really changed?
Omar Barghouti asks whether Donald Trump, in his recent break with America’s long-standing support for the two-state solution, has unwittingly revived the debate about the plausibility, indeed the necessity, of a single, democratic state in historic Palestine?
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally
Event: Take Back Control Croydon
Ken Loach, Dawn Foster & Soweto Kinch to speak in Croydon at the first event of a UK-wide series organised by The World Transformed and local activists
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 19 April
On April 19th, we’ll be holding the second of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Changing our attitude to Climate Change
Paul Allen of the Centre for Alternative Technology spells out what we need to do to break through the inaction over climate change
Introducing Trump’s Inner Circle
Donald Trump’s key allies are as alarming as the man himself
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part II: a discussion of power and privilege
In the second article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the silencing of black women and the flaws in safe spaces
Joint statement on George Osborne’s appointment to the Evening Standard
'We have come together to denounce this brazen conflict of interest and to champion the growing need for independent, truthful and representative media'
Paul O’Connell and Michael Calderbank consider the conditions that led to the Brexit vote, and how the left in Britain should respond
On the right side of history: an interview with Mijente
Marienna Pope-Weidemann speaks to Reyna Wences, co-founder of Mijente, a radical Latinx and Chincanx organising network
Disrupting the City of London Corporation elections
The City of London Corporation is one of the most secretive and least understood institutions in the world, writes Luke Walter
#AndABlackWomanAtThat: a discussion of power and privilege
In the first article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr reflects on the oppression of her early life and how we must fight it, even in our own movement
Corbyn understands the needs of our communities
Ian Hodson reflects on the Copeland by-election and explains why Corbyn has the full support of The Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 15 March
On 15 March, we’ll be holding the first of Red Pepper’s Race Section open editorial meetings.
Social Workers Without Borders
Jenny Nelson speaks to Lauren Wroe about a group combining activism and social work with refugees
Growing up married
Laura Nicholson interviews Dr Eylem Atakav about her new film, Growing Up Married, which tells the stories of Turkey’s child brides
The Migrant Connections Festival: solidarity needs meaningful relationships
On March 4 & 5 Bethnal Green will host a migrant-led festival fostering community and solidarity for people of all backgrounds, writes Sohail Jannesari
Reclaiming Holloway Homes
The government is closing old, inner-city jails. Rebecca Roberts looks at what happens next
Intensification of state violence in the Kurdish provinces of Turkey
Oppression increases in the run up to Turkey’s constitutional referendum, writes Mehmet Ugur from Academics for Peace
Pass the domestic violence bill
Emma Snaith reports on the significance of the new anti-domestic violence bill
Report from the second Citizen’s Assembly of Podemos
Sol Trumbo Vila says the mandate from the Podemos Assembly is to go forwards in unity and with humility
Protect our public lands
Last summer Indigenous people travelled thousands of miles around the USA to tell their stories and build a movement. Julie Maldonado reports
From the frontlines
Red Pepper’s new race editor, Ashish Ghadiali, introduces a new space for black and minority progressive voices
How can we make the left sexy?
Jenny Nelson reports on a session at The World Transformed
In pictures: designing for change
Sana Iqbal, the designer behind the identity of The World Transformed festival and the accompanying cover of Red Pepper, talks about the importance of good design
Angry about the #MuslimBan? Here are 5 things to do
As well as protesting against Trump we have a lot of work to get on with here in the UK. Here's a list started by Platform
Who owns our land?
Guy Shrubsole gives some tips for finding out