Lest we forget, the lessons from the Iraq invasion.
One outcome is the authoritarian Shia elite-dominated state run by Nouri al-Maliki today. His Sunni vice-president until last year, Tariq al-Hashimi – forced to leave the country and sentenced to death in absentia for allegedly ordering killings – was one of those who in his own words “collaborated” with the occupation, encouraging former resistance leaders to join Petraeus’s “awakening councils”, and now bitterly regrets it. “If I knew the result would be like this, I would never have done it,” he told me at the weekend. “I made a grave mistake.”
The sectarian virus incubated in the occupation has now spread beyond Iraq’s borders and threatens the future of states across the eastern Arab world. But the war hasn’t only been a disaster for Iraq and the region. By demonstrating the limits of US power and its inability to impose its will on peoples prepared to fight back, Iraq proved a strategic defeat for the US and its closest allies. For the British state, the retreat of its armed forces from Basra under cover of darkness, with their own record of torture and killings, was a humiliation.
There’s little prospect, given the balance of power, of those most responsible for torture and atrocities in Iraq – let alone ordering the original aggression – of facing justice, or of the reparations Iraqis deserve. But there should be a greater chance of preventing more western military intervention in the Middle East, as Blair and his friends are now pressing for in Syria and Iran.