The Chilcot report reads like a foregone conclusion. Those bold enough to attempt anything beyond a cursory glance at the manuscript are unlikely to emerge more enlightened specimens, provided they have been routinely sampling the glut of grim headlines emanating from the Middle East over the past decade.
We already knew, for instance, that Western intelligence services exploited liberally the testimony of Iraqi ‘defectors’ and other unreliable persons in piecing together a case for war. Disclosures concerning the inability of the British Army to adequately equip its troops are an exercise in reiteration, not revelation, given the scandal was already doing the rounds in 2008.
Tony Blair himself has come to resemble a human contradiction, an individual seemingly above the political standards we all claim to take for granted – a peace envoy whom oversaw an invasion, a ‘straight sort of a guy’ in the pocket of Gulf princes, a mass-murderer wedded to a human rights lawyer. His jet-setting lifestyle contrasts deplorably with the poverty of the untold millions trapped in post-occupation Iraq, a hell very much of his making. Blair-bashing and accusations of war crimes culpability remain a tabloid staple; he is persona non grata within the very Labour Party he is accredited with rescuing. And yet, despite all this and more, never before have we been further from an actual prosecution. The former Prime Minister lurches from one evening’s champagne gala to the next’s book signing, occasionally stopping over at the UN to make platitudes about world peace.
In Blair, we find personified a ‘parallel society’, a body of men and women whom, by merit of wealth and authority, have come to enjoy what amounts to social immunity, subject to an alternative legal system robbed of the very language with which it might strive identify their criminal misdemeanours. In their seminal Empire (2000), Antonio Negri and Michael Hardt set out to chart the advent of 21st Century imperialism in all its breathtaking enormity. Presaging the War on Terror, they identified a pyramidic structure at the heart of world governance – ‘Democracy’, embodied by the faceless hordes of activists, bureaucrats and other assorted bottom-feeders deprived by their very nature of institutional power; ‘Oligarchy’, the corporate bloodsuckers; and ‘Monarchy’, the centres of geopolitical and economic influence (i.e. NATO, the IMF, the European Union, the G7 states).
Although there is a theoretical basis for competition between these three poles, their relationship is a near-universally interdependent one – the elites have at their disposal a dizzying array of technologies with which they might manufacture the assent of the ‘demos’, whilst international finance cannot effectively function absent the state’s rectifying hand (and vice versa). Blair occupies the seedy underbelly bridging Monarchy and Oligarchy, his security of person all but guaranteed via an extensive network of international business and political connections. The ‘Panama Papers’ leaks that broke this May proved every bit as mundane as the Chilcot Inquiry’s ‘findings’, exposing a real, transnational phenomenon we were all, deep down, acutely aware of. An operation of Blair’s was not, it should be noted, among the 200,000 financial profiles released by the Süddeutsche Zeitung, but it might as well have been – since leaving government, he has assimilated himself wholeheartedly into this unaccountable web, an inaccessible blob that is simultaneously everywhere and nowhere.
In an age where Europe looks set to throw up its borders once again, the old radical adage concerning the ‘countryless’ state of working peoples has never appeared more obsolete. Itinerancy and unencumbered mobility are, in fact, the privilege of Blair’s clique, a class that answers to absolutely nothing beyond itself.