The Chilcot report floats glacially towards us. Twelve volumes, costing £767 in total, will arrive on Wednesday 6 July. In 2009, then prime minister Gordon Brown established the inquiry, which he described as " independent", "essential" and "unprecedented". One panel member, British historian Sir Martin Gilbert, died before the report had been completed. The rest must be craving release from the onerous and thankless process . The families of the 179 military personnel who died in Iraq will, I hope, now find some peace. Some have expressed fears that this will be yet another establishment "whitewash".
Out on the street, few know or care about the inquiry remit or findings. Politicians, erstwhile cabinet ministers, old generals, the press and surviving anti-war groups are keyed up. Former prime minister Tony Blair must be a little on edge too and planning his slick/defiant response.
Me, I am deeply sceptical. This report will, I fear, add further insult to the unforgivable injuries borne by Iraqis. They have never mattered. They do not matter now. It's all about us. It's about official secrets and lies, the deep British state, the UK's "special relationship" with the US, the New Labour brand, oil and geopolitical manoeuvres. It's about Tony Blair, who turned from a sure-footed winner to the most despised of all politicians as he fell in with George W Bush and the Neocon project. He was backed by many journalists (now very quiet) and "liberal interventionists", ideological fanatics who believed that the West had a duty to impose pliable democracies on specially chosen nations, using extreme violence and propaganda.
This week, at the end of the arduous month of Ramadan, a deadly bomb attack killed 150 people in Baghdad. The news was tucked away in the back pages of all our newspapers. Islamic State (Isis/Daesh) claimed responsibility. These people are dispensable, count for nothing.
Here is a brief history of their suffering. Ordinary Iraqis have been punished for 26 years for crimes committed by Saddam Hussein, once an ally of the US and UK. Between 1990 and 2003, brutal sanctions were imposed on the country by the West with the connivance of the United Nations. Medical supplies and essentials were withheld from those who needed them. An estimated 500,000 children died as a result. Two UN humanitarian coordinators resigned in protest. Fewer children died in Hiroshima. Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador in the UN, said: "It was a price worth paying."
In 1998, when the nation was depleted, then US president Bill Clinton, to distract attention away from the Monica Lewinsky scandal, authorised punitive bombing raids on Baghdad. To pay for the four-day blitz, he took funds set aside for Iraqi opposition groups. My British-Iraqi friend, the talented artist Suad al-Attar, watched her house being destroyed on TV. Her beautiful sister was killed, as were hundreds of others.
Then came the war. At 9.34 pm on 19 March 2003, the US and UK began the illegal war on Iraq. The hideous bombing of Baghdad was described as a "shock and awe" tactic.
Research by the Iraqi Family Health Survey, The Lancet, and Opinion Research Business survey have come up with different estimates, but all the figures are appallingly high. Between 600,000 to a million civilians died as result of that conflict, which, by the end was seen by millions of Muslims as a modern-day Christian crusade. The most rational and modernist believers began to mistrust the West and its motives, while millions of ardent believers began to dream of revenge, reconquest and domination.
The most rational and modernist believers began to mistrust the West and its motives, while millions of ardent believers began to dream of revenge, reconquest and domination.
There was no post-war plan, no real interest in the future of that traumatised nation. They had wrecked the place, got the oil and would put stooges in place. Civil servants, conscripted soldiers, generals were sacked. Out of the ashes emerged the Islamicist revolutionaries who today are slaughtering, raping Muslims across the world. Some of the sacked have become their most vicious operators.
The killers are fanatics, who feel they have a god-given duty to impose their religious credo using extreme violence and propaganda. They are as intransigent, self-righteous and ideological as Neocons. Iraqis continue to be murdered and oppressed. Westerners are indifferent or inured or wholly self-absorbed.
Terrorists killing innocents in Paris or the US are our shock and awe moments. When Western tourists are attacked convulsions are felt across our lands. But when the same attacks take place in Bangladesh – where 20 hostages were massacred in a café last week – or in Pakistan, or African and Arab nations, Britons, Europeans and Americans are apathetic, contemptuous or fatalistic.
Chilcot and his team are unlikely to have troubled themselves about these realities or the morality of the Blair/Bush mission. I doubt if anyone will be asked to take responsibility for the destruction of the cradle of civilization. Iraqi lives still don't matter. That is why this benighted report doesn't matter and shouldn't matter.