Based on the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War, even the dogs in the street would advise former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair to hand back his knighthood awarded to him by the Queen in her New Year Honours.
With an online petition - which has no political clout in Westminster - signed by hundreds of thousands of folk demanding the Queen rescind Blair’s knighthood, the ‘Sir’ with the real problem is current Labour boss Sir Keir Starmer - what happens if all those hundreds of thousands of petition signatures turn into votes against Labour at the next Westminster General Election?
Perhaps Tony B, before accepting the Queen’s knighthood, should have taken the time to tour the church, community and war cemeteries where the hundreds of British service and UK Government civilian dead are buried.
A knighthood is one of the highest honours the Queen can bestow on a person, but this specific knighthood is stained with the blood of British personnel who died needlessly in that Iraq War once the benchmark of the Chilcot Inquiry findings are applied.
That specific knighthood is also drenched with the tears of the relatives of those dead personnel who have to carry the burden of their loss; it is also tainted with the pain of the veterans who have to cope with the mental and physical scars of serving in that conflict.
That Chilcot Inquiry had a number of damning findings when it reported in 2016 - some seven years after it was announced in 2009. This is no ‘Johnny come lately’, thrown-together report. It is a detailed analysis of one of the greatest British military disasters since the decision by the Light Brigade to charge Russian guns during the Crimean War of the 1850s.
Chilcot concluded that then Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to British interests; that intelligence on so-called ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ (WMDs) was presented with ‘unwarranted certainty’, and that peaceful alternatives to war with Iraq had not been exhausted. In short, there was no need for the UK to go to war; there was no need for our personnel to die, be wounded, or be maimed.
Iraq 2003 was not Kuwait 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded the latter state. That war by the coalition forces, including the UK and the USA, was fully justified. The British Prime Minister at that time was Tory Maggie Thatcher, later Baroness Thatcher. In 1982, she had ordered the British Task Force to liberate the Falkland Islands from the Argentinian invaders.
But Iraq 2003 can never be justified politically or militarily - it was based on poor intelligence and the UK was bullied into the conflict by the United States, the latter eager to secure oil interests in the region.
The key military intelligence question has been, and always will be - what constitutes Weapons of Mass Destruction? Are they nuclear dirty bombs? Are they biological or chemical weapons? Surely WMDs are not simply a couple of hundred tanks, some Russian-made fighter planes and a few hand-held rocket launchers?
Okay, supporters of Blair can point to his treble-winning General Election victories; his ability to ‘face down’ the Hard Left in the Labour Party with his popular image known as ‘New Labour’.
Again, his fans will point to his poignant words echoing the nation’s grief when the Princess of Wales was killed in the Paris road accident in 1997. Perhaps his real moment for honour was not a knighthood, but a share in the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize for securing the peace process in Ireland following the signing of that year’s Good Friday Agreement?
That year’s Nobel Peace Prize was jointly awarded to the late John Hume, then leader of the moderate nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, and David - now Lord - Trimble, the leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.
1998 was the time for Blair’s knighthood, but his legacy in achieving the peace process has been eradicated by the Chilcot Inquiry report. The online petition backlash over the New Year knighthood also raises the question if the honours system needs to be radically overhauled.
Thankfully, a lot of the medical staff who have found themselves in the front line against the Covid pandemic have been honoured - and a lot more need to receive such honours in future lists.
If Blair had any sense, he would hand back his knighthood. To keep it would be perceived to be trampling over the graves of those lost in the needless Iraq War - and because Blair was a Labour man, the party could well be punished at the next General Election.
Opinion polls have Sir Keir’s Labour ahead of BoJo’s Tories, not because of eloquent Labour policies, but because of the Tory sleaze tsunami. How many more North Shropshire by-election humiliations await the Conservative party under Boris Johnson?
Just as the Tory ‘Partygate’ scandals could well cost the Tories the next General Election, is it possible Blair’s knighthood could well cost Labour its much-needed victory at Westminster?
Forget Brexit, the pandemic, the Northern Ireland Protocol, even the Tory sleaze scandals - the ghosts of the Iraq War may well be the deciding factor come the next Westminster General Election.
If North Shropshire had numerous Tory MPs looking over their shoulders at their majorities, perhaps the Blair knighthood could have Labour MPs also considering their futures in the Commons.
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.