Perhaps Andrew has a different idea of what a healthy democracy looks like, but how does the parade of unrepentant criminals that has appeared before the Chilcot inquiry show that there is any government accountability in Britain? How many indictments of former and current members of the British government have been handed down because of their role in launching and prosecuting the war? That would be zero. This is just as many as former members of the Bush administration are facing. Going before a toothless inquiry to hold forth and give self-justifying statements is no better and offers no more accountability to the public than issuing defiant statements from the podium at AEI or on the op-ed pages of The Wall Street Journal. Like George Bush, Tony Blair will presumably never hold political office again in his life, but that was already a given. Meanwhile, the damage has been done, and not one of the responsible parties will pay any price for his wrongdoing.
Accountability requires that there be consequences for abuses of public trust and abuses of power. As far as that goes, the Labour government has so far largely avoided the political consequences of the folly of joining the Iraq war that the GOP experienced in recent elections. When Labour goes down to defeat in the next general election, it will be Brown and the handling of domestic policy and the financial meltdown that will take all the blame. Even here, Blair will not be held accountable. The Chilcot inquiry reminds me of nothing so much as Sen. Danforth’s inquiry into the Waco disaster. For a few weeks, prominent figures go before a panel to testify that they did the right thing and had the best of intentions, but unfortunately a few things went a bit awry and they wish things had gone better. Outrageous, criminal conduct is swept aside, the prominent figures depart without any threat or danger of prosecution or sanction, and the inquiry concludes that mistakes were made. That should tell future goverments that they can do as they like with impunity. There aren’t many things worse for the health and quality of democratic government than politicians’ knowledge that they will never have to face consequences for their actions.