After a long, long wait, on July 6, Sir John Chilcot, the head of the Committee of Privy Counsellors which was empowered by the House of Commons of the United Kingdom to conduct an inquiry into the Iraq war in 2009, finally came out with his report on the UK’s role in the war and its aftermath. The contents of the report, better known as the “Chilcot Report,” and its conclusions are damning to the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair and, by extension the administration of then-American President George W. Bush. Yet, thirteen years after the US and the UK invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the real motives of the war have still not been sufficiently explained in the report.
The whole case for Iraq War was built by Mr Blair and President Bush on a false pretext that Saddam-run Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) but all these allegations proved absolutely fallacious as the Blair-Bush duo’s case crumbled to dust soon after the invasion because no WMDs were found in Iraq, nor could the attackers prove any substantial link between al-Qaeda and Saddam. As a result, the war lacked all justification. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed and millions were wounded and displaced in this botched war. What can be the worse manifestation of the warmongering of both the above-mentioned persons that Iraq even today is still reeling under the claws of unending terrorism. The destruction of the Iraqi state and the chaos that followed had set the stage for the rise of several lethal extremist groups. The roots of the Islamic State, perhaps the most vicious and potent terrorist machinery today, go back to one such group: al-Qaeda in Iraq.
However, the situation becomes worse when we see that the big powers have refused to learn any lesson from the fiasco. Even after it was clear that the invasion was disastrous, the West forced another regime change in Libya in 2011, repeating the same mistakes committed in Iraq and creating another haven for extremists. Former British Prime Minister David Cameron, who voted for the Iraq war in 2003, wanted military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a proposal rejected by the House of Commons in 2013. Though the US and the UK shelved the plan to directly attack Syria, they continued supporting anti-regime rebels in the country, worsening its security situation and further helping terrorist groups such as the IS and al-Nusra. These dictators may be ruthless and tyrannical but toppling them through wars or weakening their regimes through proxy civil wars is far more dangerous, as these crisis-hit nations would recount. The Iraq war set off the contemporary chaos in West Asia and North Africa, and no one knows where it will all end.
Although role played by Mr Blair was despicable in all respects as it was an effort to please a US administration already notorious for its “axis of evil” exaggerations, yet he has shamelessly been defending himself. His oft-repeated claim that the world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein does not hold water, in any case. It is obvious that the invasion and occupation of Iraq provided the necessary precondition for the birth of the Islamic State, which has already carried out terrorist attacks in the West and elsewhere apart from holding millions of Iraqis and Syrians in inhuman conditions in flagrant violation of their human rights. Is all this part of Blair’s idea of a ‘safer world’?
The question uppermost in the minds of the bereaved families and the millions the world over who demonstrated against the war in 2003 is: Will Blair be brought to justice? If he is to be brought to justice, it has to be either at The Hague-based International Criminal Court (ICC) or in the UK. But, since the report is damning yet it’s a polite one, therefore, the chances of Blair being brought to the justice at the ICC appear remote right now. In the UK, he can be brought to the House of Commons or in a court. Tory MP David Davis has announced that he would bring it up in the House and the charge will be ‘contempt of the House’. As regards the court, there is a 19th century law that deals with ‘malfeasance in public office’; the last case under it was in 1806. Blair can be charged with abusing the trust of the public in him as Prime Minister when he argued the case for war and lied. We do not know right now whether Blair will be brought to justice. But, as the philosopher Schiller put it, world history is the ultimate world court of justice. That court’s verdict on Blair is loud and clear.
20 Key Findings
- The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and “military action at that time was not a last resort”.
- Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” at the time of the invasion.
- Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by the Iraqi regime as he sought to make the case for military action to MPs and the public in the build-up to the invasion in 2002 and 2003.
- Blair disregarded warnings about the potential consequences of military action, and relied too heavily on his own beliefs, rather than the more nuanced judgements of the intelligence services.
- No support for Blair critics’ claim that he agreed a deal “signed in blood” to topple Saddam with US president George W. Bush in April 2002.
- But in July 2002 Blair wrote to Bush: “I will be with you whatever.” In a six-page memo marked secret and personal, the then British prime minister told Bush, US president at the time, in July 2002 that the removal of Saddam Hussein would “free up the region” even if Iraqis may “feel ambivalent about being invaded”.
- The decision made by Tony Blair’s cabinet to invade was made in circumstances that were “far from satisfactory”. The inquiry did not reach a view on the legality of the war, saying this could only be assessed by a “properly constituted and internationally recognised court”, but did make a damning assessment of how the decision was made. The process for deciding that the war was “perfunctory” while “no formal record was made of that decision, and the precise grounds on which it was made remains unclear”.
- The UK’s decision to act despite no second UN resolution backing military action in March 2003 had the effect of “undermining the Security Council’s authority”.
- Prime Minister Tony Blair’s September 2002 Commons statement and dossier on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) made judgements that “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”.
- The Labour government’s policy on Iraq was made on the basis of “flawed intelligence and assessments” that should have been challenged.
- The consequences of the invasion were “under-estimated”, and planning and preparation for after the overthrow of Saddam were “wholly inadequate”.
- The government’s war preparations “failed to take into account the magnitude of the task of stabilising, administering and reconstructing Iraq”.
- Problems that arose following the invasion, including internal fighting, Iranian influences, regional instability and al-Qaeda activity, were flagged as risks before the invasion.
- Whitehall mandarins and departmental ministers “failed to put their collective weight behind the task” of stabilising British parts of post-war Iraq.
- The ministry of defence was slow to respond to the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) to troops.
- The UK’s military involvement in Iraq ended with the “humiliating” decision to strike deals with enemy militias because British forces were seriously ill-equipped and there was “wholly inadequate” planning and preparation for life after Saddam Hussein.
- Delays in providing better-protected patrol vehicles “should not have been tolerated”.
- Blair did not identify which ministers were responsible for post-war planning and strategy. The prime minister also failed to press Bush for “definitive assurances” about the US’s post-conflict plans. Nor did he envisage anything other than the best-case scenario once the invasion was over: that a US-led and UN-authorised force would find itself operating in a “relatively benign security environment”. All of this contributed to Britain’s ultimate strategic failure.
- The government failed to achieve the stated objectives it had set itself in Iraq. More than 200 British citizens died as a result of the conflict. The Iraqi people suffered greatly. By July 2009, at least 150,000 Iraqis had died, probably many more. More than one million were displaced.
- The US/UK special relationship has proved “strong enough to bear the weight of honest disagreement” and “does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgements differ”.