Tony Blair — the ‘pre-factual’ politician who prefigured the ‘post-factual’ politics of Brexit.
So, the Chilcot report is finally out — and, amazingly, it isn’t a whitewash. Tony Blair has been officially damned in a report that gives the impression of man possessed and with little countenance for evidence, advice or much serious thought for consequences.
Like the recent Hillsborough inquests, we basically knew everything that was said beforehand — at least in terms of the lies and the spin — we just never thought we’d see it admitted officially. And there is something very important about this; especially and most importantly for the victims of these events and their friends and families, of course, but also for the wider public who feel so alienated, cheated and distant from the ruling powers. Many of us who can remember the invasion of Iraq in 2003 can still feel the sense of betrayal and disgust at that gross act of aggression being committed in our name, and the stinging sense of shame that the years of death and misery have brought with them.
Finally, Tony Blair is in the dock; or, at least the closest he is probably ever going to get to one. And what was his response to the report? He said that the report shows that he did not lie, that he did not mislead, that he acted in good faith — and that he apologises. This, as has been noted, is a very strange apology: I did nothing wrong, but sorry all the same.
The only thing he will apologise for are mistakes in planning and processes. Yes, that’s right, processual errors. The basic idea and premise were fine, apparently; namely to invade and occupy a middle eastern sovereign nation because they might well be some kind of threat at some point in the future, and besides which, the US government really wanted to do it. It was just the way we did it that was wrong. Somewhere, deep inside Blair’s warped image of reality, there must lie a vision where everything would have turned out fine, if only we compiled a proper to-do list.
Tony Blair thus approaches the issue of Iraq as if there were no facts at the time, just a decision that had to be made. And he made the decision. Decisions are important and he is a decision maker, as he kept telling us. Facts come later and are never really facts, because we still have to make decisions (such as bombing Syria, he suggests), before any facts can be established; but then we will have to make another decision before we can get to these facts, and so on and so forth.
Imagine if he didn’t make a decision? Then there would never be any facts, right? Not that there are any facts, mind you. Chilcot failed to tell us what might have happened, Blair admonishes, if we did not invade Iraq. What might have happened. You see, it’s never black and white. Chilcot failed to lay out every possible scenario that not making a decision would have made. Having not done so, this only proves that there aren’t really any facts. Just decisions. And he made one, so that’s okay. He’s just sorry for the consequences, which had to happen, so weren’t his fault. Facts! Honestly.
Doesn’t this sound uncannily like the so-called post-factual world of Brexit politics? Experts, who needs them? We are tired of experts and their facts. We need to make a decision to do something. We’ll sort it out later, right?
Perhaps we don’t live in a post-factual political world so much as a pre-factual one, of which Blair is the archetype. We must decide first, then the facts will arrange themselves around the decision. At least with Brexit we know that there won’t be any planning errors, because there hasn’t been any. Let’s just see about the process. I’m sure another inquiry, somewhere in the early 2020s, will fill us in on that one.