The Chilcot Inquiry is now the 5th inquiry linked to the Iraq War. Six years after the invasion and despite the withdrawal of British forces, the conflict continues to haunt the British ruling class.
This is not surprising, for the Iraq War has been a disaster for the British bourgeoisie. From the start, they were divided over whether to participate in the American misadventure which led to destabilising faction battles. The swift crushing of Saddam's regime was then followed by a long and costly occupation which ended in defeat and humiliation as British troops were increasingly regarded as irrelevant both by the Iraqi government and the local militias. British military weakness has been exposed to the world and its close ties to the Bush administration have left it diplomatically marginalised.
At home, there has been extreme disquiet over the war within the mass of the population. Not only were the lies and distortions of Blair and Campbell exposed almost as soon as they left their offices, the war triggered some of the biggest demonstrations in history. Blair - who in other respects had been an extremely successful prime minister for British capitalism - was permanently damaged by the accusations of deceit.
No wonder, then, that the ruling class wants to learn lessons from the debacle! So we can believe Gordon Brown when he announced to the House of Commons that the aim of the Chilcot Inquiry would be to "strengthen the health of our democracy, our diplomacy and our military" (15.6.09).
Certainly the bourgeoisie aims to recover ground on all three of these terrains but it is on the democratic terrain that they are hoping to make the most impact. After all, airing (some) of their dirty laundry in public reinforces the idea that despite all the "errors" made by this or that politician, in the end the system is democratic.
But the reality is that capitalist states do not wage wars ‘democratically'. Initiating war is decided on the basis of the strategic interests of the national capital and such decisions are taken in the highest echelons of the state machine.
The masses are not consulted in this process - in fact, it is largely acknowledged by military planners that one of the biggest obstacles to military operations is the reluctance of the domestic population. An integral aspect to so-called "information dominance" is convincing the masses to support the actions of the state. This is the reason for the Blair faction's overproduction of "dodgy dossiers" and open prevarication in the run-up to the war.
If these lies were so quickly exposed in some parts of the media, this was simply because the British bourgeoisie wasn't unified in its support for the war. And, indeed, this is part of the issue that the numerous inquiries seek to address: the way that the Blair faction's foreign policy was increasingly detached from the general interests of the state and ruling class as a whole. The internal conflict has done serious damage to the state's future capacity to mislead a population that now regards the ruling class' justifications for humanitarian war with a new cynicism.
Whatever Blair's failures in the eyes of his capitalist compatriots, he continues to provide loyal service to the bourgeois state. His unrepentant and provocative testimony feeds the highly personalised presentation of the war as some kind peculiarity linked to Blair's supposed Manichean vision of good and evil. It is thus "Blair's War", not the war of the British capitalist state and certainly not of capitalism as a whole.
Workers cannot allow themselves to be hoodwinked by this ideological assault. War is the inevitable product of decaying capitalism and the inexorable pressure of competition between nation states. It can only be fought by tackling its root cause: the capitalist profit system itself.
When Britain welcomed Saddam's brutality
Saddam Hussein took power in 1979 in "what the British ambassador described as ‘the first smooth transfer of power in Iraq since 1958', when a group of army officers overthrew the monarchy.
The ambassador noted, however, what this ‘smooth transfer' had involved. Within the first 24 hours of Saddam's rule, ‘21 prominent Iraqis, including five members of the ruling Revolutionary Command Council, executed'.
Britain was confident in Saddam's ability to crush dissent. ‘Strong-arm methods may be needed to steady the ship' wrote a Foreign Office official. ‘Saddam will not flinch'." (FT 30.12.09)