The Chilcot Inquiry into Britain's involvement in Iraq, including the decision to take part in the war, has been in progress for about six months. Since the commission was not appointed to finger culprits or to recommend indictments, the people appearing before it are not accompanied by batteries of lawyers and do not use legalistic and evasive formulations. In other words, there is a chance that they are telling the truth. Although the panel's conclusions will have public and political repercussions, the witnesses are free of the fear of prosecution that usually accompanies such inquiries, especially in Israel.
Tony Blair's testimony before the commission has historical and political significance, as it may well restore balance to the discourse about the war and its results. Blair is fighting for the way he will go down in history, but he does not have to worry about his job, because he was ultimately forced to resign the premiership and has therefore already paid the political price.
It is clear why the Iraq War is perceived as a failure. It threw the country into total chaos, and despite the presence of over 100,000 American soldiers in Iraq, the United States has not managed to suppress the terror and violence, which is rooted in the enmity between Sunnis and Shi'ites. The elected Iraqi government fluctuates between inability to rule and a tendency to despotism.
The transfer of power to the Shi'ite majority bolstered Iranian influence in Iraq. And finally, the American pipe dream that toppling Saddam Hussein would lead to democratization throughout the Arab world turned out to be a nonsensical notion based on a lethal combination of reliance on brute force, naive idealism and sheer ignorance.
All of this, combined with the fact that the assumption that served as the main pretext for the war - that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons - proved incorrect, explains why there are so many questions marks around the war's very legitimacy.
Thus, when Blair, despite the demonstrations against him outside the building, tells the inquiry that he does not regret his decision, because the world is better off without Saddam, he is conveying a clear message: It was politically and morally necessary to get rid of the Iraqi tyrant. He headed a regime that used poison gas against its own citizens and attacked its neighbors more than once, and after 9/11, the possibility that it would develop weapons of mass destruction was not merely a regional menace, but a global one.
People who say that the war in Iraq was unjust are actually saying that the world would be better off if Saddam were still in power. This is absurd, from both the practical and the moral standpoint. And therein lies the response to all those who find themselves defending one of the most abominable dictators of our times because of their hostility toward America or George W. Bush.
As for the weapons of mass destruction, there was no one who could say with certainty before the war that Saddam did not have them in his arsenal.
Blair's testimony brings the discussion back to the concrete reasons for the war, which are valid even though a democratic government has not been established in Iraq. Saddam Hussein and his regime deserved to be removed from the face of the earth, even if the United Nations, like the League of Nations before it, was incapable of making a courageous decision on the matter. The world without Saddam is not an ideal world, but it is more secure and less murderous.
Political choices are not always between an ideal good and an absolute evil. The world is a bit too complex for that.
Want to enjoy 'Zen' reading - with no ads and just the article? Subscribe todaySubscribe now