Iraq is our greatest foreign policy calamity in modern
history and the reckoning has only just begun
by George Galloway
Antiwar Candidate, UK General Election
Tuesday May 3, 2005, The Guardian
When I first called the prime minister a liar on air over his repeatedly denied plans to invade Iraq - in the wake of the Texas meeting with George Bush in spring 2002 - the BBC presenter was aghast at my presumption. Today there can scarcely be a sentient being in the land who would disagree.
If Tony Blair had been told a couple of months ago that three days before polling day the 87th British soldier would be killed in Iraq (not that Blair cared to remember the number) and the first seven items on the Today programme would be about Iraq, he might well have called off the election. As if in a Shakespearean tragedy, a powerful leader with a fatal flaw is diminishing before our eyes - his prime ministerial title, as with Macbeth, "hangs loose about him like a giant's robes upon a dwarfish thief". Whatever the result on Thursday, these are the last days of Blair.
He lied, and more than 100,000 died: the real blood price of his grotesque special relationship with Bush. The Blair betrayal is deep in the mire precisely because it has been a disastrous failure.
Every "turning point" has led into a new cul-de-sac. The fall of Baghdad, the capture of Saddam, the "handover" of sovereignty, the destruction of Falluja, the much trumpeted and manipulated elections and last week, at last, a new client administration. None of these has achieved any reduction in the cycle of resistance to the occupation.
As the avalanche of leaks indicates, at the heart of the British establishment people are reaching the conclusion that Blair must pay for what he has done... The troops were told the war was both legal and unavoidable. We now know it was neither. They were promised a warm welcome by "liberated" Iraqis. Red-hot and razor-sharp has been the reality. This is treason - and it hasn't prospered.
When they are really behind the eight ball, the Blairites say that all this has the benefit of hindsight. But 2 million people on London's streets in February 2003 had no 20/20 vision. This common sense somehow didn't percolate into the House of Commons, which had already begun falling in behind the bugle call for war. Leaders of the anti-war movement, such as me, were called traitors for refusing to fall into line.
The name calling may have ended, but the reckoning has only just begun. History will link this prime minister irrevocably with Iraq. It will be the sculpting on his political tombstone. Iraq has been broken. Millions of lives have been shattered. But broken too have been the hearts of those who waited so long for the return of a Labour government. Tony Blair promised that a new dawn had broken. But he became the leader who lost his way. For a stars-and-stripes ribbon to pin on his coat, he betrayed us. For New Labour, it will be never be glad confident morning again.
· George Galloway is the parliamentary candidate for the Respect coalition
in Bethnal Green and Bow, and a columnist for the Scottish Mail on Sunday