British political news has been consumed for the last several weeks by a formal inquiry into the illegality and deceit behind Tony Blair’s decision to join the U.S. in invading Iraq. Today, Blair himself is publicly testifying before the investigative commission and is being grilled about numerous false claims he made in the run-up to the war, not only about Iraqi weapons programs (his taxi-cab-derived “45-minutes-to-launch!!” warning) and Saddam’s ties to Al Qaeda, but also about secret commitments he made to join the U.S. at a time when he and Bush were still pretending that they were undecided and awaiting the outcome of the U.N. negotiations and the inspection process.
A major focus of the investigation is the illegality of the war. Some of the most embarrassing details that have emerged concern the conclusions by the British Government’s own legal advisers that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal without U.N. approval. The top British legal officer had concluded that the war would be illegal, only to change his mind under substantial pressure shortly before the invasion. Several weeks ago, a formal investigation in the Netherlands — whose government had supported the invasion — produced the first official adjudication of the legality of the war, and found it illegal, with “no basis in international law.”
As Digby notes, all of this stands in stark and shameful contrast to the U.S., which pointedly refuses to “look back” or concern itself with whether it waged an illegal (and horribly destructive) war. The British inquiry has been widely criticized for being too passive and deferential and lacking any credible threat of accountability (other than disclosure of facts). Still, one can barely even imagine George Bush and Dick Cheney being hauled before an investigative body and forced, under oath, to testify publicly about what they did as a means of determining the legality or illegality of that war. [continued…]