I have been struck by a few things about the responses in Britain following the release of the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry’s findings.
Some top Iraq war supporters remain unrepentant and as deluded as ever. Tony Blair affirms that he would invade Iraq again if he had to do it all over, and seems to be more preoccupied with the criticism that he was dishonest in selling the war than he is interested in facing up to the horrible costs of the war he helped to start. That is no different from many of our own Iraq war dead-enders, but the interesting thing is that Blair is still being criticized in the strongest terms across the political spectrum and his reputation is widely seen as being completely ruined. Voters in the U.K. didn’t have the same chance to deliver the same electoral repudiation of Blair’s government that our voters had in 2006 and 2008 with Bush’s GOP, so perhaps that is why Blair receives more scorn now.
The leader of Blair’s party, Jeremy Corbyn, apologized on behalf of the party for its past support for the war (which Corbyn opposed at the time). That is the first such public expression of regret from the leader of any major Western party that backed the invasion thirteen years ago, and it is a shame that it has taken this long for a major party leader to say so. There is no chance that a leading figure from either of our major parties would apologize for their role in supporting the war, not least because hawkish members in both parties are allergic to admitting that the U.S. has ever done something wrong. Obviously a belated apology doesn’t undo any of the enormous harm that the war has done, but it does mean admitting failure and accepting responsibility for a horrendous policy, and that is more than we have managed here in the U.S.
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about all this is that there was an official inquiry into the origins of the war and how it was conducted. As important as the Iraq war has been in British politics, it has been even more so here for ours, and yet our government has never attempted anything like this inquiry and I am confident that it never would. Iraq was always principally an American intervention, and the U.S. military suffered the largest coalition losses by far, but there has never been much interest in Washington in learning much of anything from the debacle.