“I WILL be with you, whatever.” These six words – written by a messiah-like Tony Blair to President George W Bush eight months before the ill-fated invasion of Iraq – will go down in history as the former prime minister’s political epitaph.
Damning evidence of the then premier’s evangelical self-righteousness, they reveal the extent of Mr Blair’s solidarity with the United States and a misguided belief that all the world’s problems could be solved by military bombardment alone.
Neither leader could have been more mistaken – or naive – as Sir John Chilcot’s report, six years overdue, revealed the flawed procedures which fuelled a politically-driven humanitarian catastrophe.
It’s sobering to think that more innocent victims – 250 and counting – were blown up in Sunday’s suicide bombings in Baghdad more than 13 years after Shipley’s Steve Roberts became the first of 179 British service personnel to die in action.
It’s chilling to realise that the terror unleashed in March 2003 would be so brutal that 160,000 Iraqi civilians, the people being liberated from tyranny, have already lost their lives while millions have been displaced.
And it is disturbing to think that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein, on the basis that he possessed weapons of mass destruction which proved to be non-existent, prompted a chain reaction which has made the world less safe and inspired a generation of jihadists and sectarian terrorists who remain intent on unleashing revenge against the West.
If only the late Robin Cook, the then Leader of the Commons who resigned in principled opposition to a war without purpose, was still alive to hear this vindication. Or Charles Kennedy who suffered torrents of personal abuse because the Lib Dems opposed military action.
No amount of hand-wringing can absolve self-serving Mr Blair from the fact that he took Britain to war on the basis of flimsy intelligence at best while withholding the Attorney General’s challenging legal advice from the Cabinet.
One word – Iraq – will define his legacy as he launched an extraordinary self-justification. At least the Chilcot team saw through this posturing, even though it should never have taken seven years for their findings to become public.