Sacré Blair! Europe reacts to Chilcot report into Iraq war
French media viewed the as a grim vindication of Jacques Chirac’s opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq, with a leading newspaper remarking that Tony Blair had gone to war against “the wise and prophetic advice” of France’s then president.
Many commentators did not hesitate to draw a line between Blair’s decision 13 years ago and the distrust in politicians which, in part, prompted last month’s vote for Britain to leave the European Union.
Chirac warned a week before the invasion in 2003: “War is always a last resort. It is always proof of failure. It is always the worst of solutions, because it brings death and misery.” He said any occupation of would prove a nightmare.
Anthony Bellanger, foreign affairs commentator on , said: “Viewed from Paris, the conclusions of the [Chilcot] report sound like an absolute victory for the French version of this saga.”
Bellanger was among many French commentators to connect Blair’s role in the Iraq crisis and the distrust of the political class that led to Brexit. He also said that the Iraq chaos had played a role in the Syria war, and this in turn had led to refugees fleeing the region into and the current political mood.
“We could therefore say that the Brexit is the latest, but not the last, consequence of a war begun in 2003 based on the lie of a president, George Bush, and of a prime minister, ,” he said.
In an editorial headlined , the French daily Le Monde pointed out in passing that Blair had gone to war against “the wise and prophetic advice of Jacques Chirac”.
Le Monde, too, felt the political crisis around the Iraq war had contributed to the Brexit vote. “Mr Blair made a major mistake, which has had disastrous consequences for the Iraqis and which more than a little contributed to the discredit currently heaped upon the political class …” the paper wrote.
“In the US as in Britain, the Iraq war, even before the financial crisis of 2008, radically reduced the confidence people had in political institutions – which contributed to the Brexit vote. Mr Blair is not responsible for everything. But he fully participated in one of the biggest strategic errors since the second world war.”
The French ambassador to the US, Gérard Araud, tweeted to remind everyone how , vilified at the time for not supporting the war in Iraq, had been right.
Spanish media focused on the role played by the conservative prime minister at the time, , who had supported Bush and Blair. Aznar helped in efforts to secure a second resolution from the UN security council, and met Blair and Bush in the Azores islands in the run-up to the invasion. He later sent 900 troops to Iraq for “humanitarian work”.
wrote: “The Chilcot report contains numerous references to Aznar. But despite the famous photograph of him alongside Blair and Bush in the Azores islands, Spain does not come across as playing a leading role in the decision-making. Rather, the Spanish former leader emerges as a sidekick to Bush.”
Spain’s acting prime minister, Mariano Rajoy, of the People’s party, the same party as Aznar, refused to comment on the Chilcot report, saying only that the events “happened 13 years ago”.
In Moscow, the deputy foreign minister Gennady Gatilov echoed what the Russian embassy to London had tweeted on Wednesday: a graphic declaring “Keep calm but I told you so!”
“We’ve known that all along,” Gatilov told Sputnik news agency of Chilcot’s findings. “Even during the discussion of this issue in the UN security council it was clear that they fabricated facts to convince the security council that there were stocks of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and, thus, gain its approval for the military action against the regime of Saddam Hussein.”
In Germany, Daniel Haufler, writing in the Berliner Zeitung, said the report confirmed what sceptics had been saying all along: that military intervention “did not bring democracy and peace but a failed state in which hunger, chaos and a lack of perspective reigns.”
He added: “The dictatorship of Saddam Hussein was swapped for an unstable entity, large parts of which have been conquered by or at the very least are being tyrannised by the terror militia, Islamic State. Tony Blair is complicit in all that. It would only be right to call him up to take responsibility for that – as well as George W Bush – in front of an international court.”
Stefan Kornelius of the liberal wrote: “Thirteen years on, Blair’s epitaph has been written, even if it doesn’t fit on any headstone. The Chilcot report is a cool and accurate reckoning of the decision of the British prime minister to go to war and presents his former government with a calamitous testimony with regards to its professionalism and decision-making.”
Italy’s business newspaper, Il Sole 24 Ore, said the report vindicated those who were against the conflict. “The investigation confirms the long-held suspicions and the condemnations of pacifist groups, as well of those who were opposed to the war. But for the first time it’s not an opinion but a huge weight of proven evidence,” wrote Il Sole’s London correspondent, Leonardo Maisano.
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