The Iraq war was illegal, and Tony Blair knew it. That is the central charge of a leaked document about advice presented to the prime minister before the assault on Iraq began.
The document, uncovered last weekend, revealed that 12 days before Blair ordered British troops into combat, attorney general Lord Goldsmith warned that there were six reasons why the war could be illegal.
Ten days later Blair told the cabinet and parliament that Goldsmith had no doubts about the war’s legality.
Whatever the details of the war’s legal status, there is no doubt it was unjust, immoral, bloody and disastrous.
Life for ordinary Iraqis has continued to get worse while the claimed “decline in the resistance” has failed to materialise. Infighting among the parties that won the February poll has also hamstrung the new Iraqi government.
The US is facing deep problems holding together the Iraqi security forces. In the town of Husaybah, which is on the border with Syria, the security forces have dwindled from 400 men to fewer than a couple of dozen. Meanwhile large parts of the country are still under the control of the resistance.
A US official told the Washington Post last week, “My strong sense is that a lot of the political momentum that was generated out of the election has worn off.”
Michael O’Hanlon, head of the Brookings Institution index on Iraq, has warned that up to 1,000 Iraqi civilians continue to be killed every month and life for ordinary Iraqis is getting harder.
O’Hanlon said economic conditions in Iraq had barely improved since the occupation began.
“The economy is only a little better than it was under Saddam,” he said. “It may be no better at all if you look at indicators like unemployment.”
The Brookings Institution has been tracking the occupation since the invasion in March 2003.
The index, updated twice a week, shows that unemployment is running at 48 percent, while inflation has jumped from 0.6 percent in July 2004 to 11.4 percent in February 2005.
The Iraqi dinar has lost a third of its value.
Electricity supplies have fallen since October 2004, reversing a trend of gradual improvement towards pre-war levels.
The misery of everyday life is being compounded by widespread corruption. “Official pilfering is rife,” said Hani Lazim of Iraqi Democrats Against Occupation. “There are no basic services. The rations handed out to the poor are always missing one or two items.
“Local officials are helping themselves to food set aside for the poor. Medicines from hospitals disappear and end up on the black market — usually sold by the relatives of high government officials.”