Tony Blair’s not entirely unexpected resignation from his job as Middle East peace envoy last month – and the ensuing Twitter jokes about it – coincide with the UK release of a documentary film that firmly puts him and George W Bush at the centre of this century’s Middle East disasters.
Amir Amirani’s We Are Many, released in the UK and screened at the Hay Festival last week, tells us the story of how we went to war in Iraq, and simultaneously celebrates the biggest international anti-war demonstrations ever seen.
On February 15, 2003, millions of people in around 60 countries and over 800 cities marched in a coordinated effort to stop the impending war on Iraq. It was the biggest demonstration ever seen in London, with 1.5 million, in Madrid with 1.5 million, and in Rome with 3 million.
Despite this, the US, UK and their allies invaded Iraq in March 2003, three weeks before Hans Blix, head of the weapons inspections mission in Iraq, had been allowed to finish his job and fully confirm that Saddam Hussein was not hiding weapons of mass destruction.
Bush and Blair did not want Blix to finish his job, and they certainly did not care about the massive, democratic peace protests. What they wanted was to wage a war on Iraq in order to control its oil reserves, at any cost.
And the cost was huge. 4,491 American service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2014. Surveys vary about the number of Iraqis killed, and they range from 150,000 to over a million.
For Iraqis, the war not only destroyed the state and its political, military, social and economic institutions; it also decimated a society with a long-standing mix of ethnic and religious groups, some of which are now locked in sectarian struggle or even threatened with extinction. To this day, the film reveals, 25 percent of Iraqi children live with chronic malnutrition.