The Chilcot Inquiry is back on everybody’s minds as the report has now been passed to the Cabinet Office for ‘national security checks’. With recent deployments in Syria and a promise of the inquiry itself on the 6th of July, questions over the Iraq invasion are beginning to resurface. However with so much time having passed, the question I am asking now is will this 2 million-word document tell us anything we don’t already know?
The important facts were known at the time, we deployed British Military Forces into Iraq without a UN mandate and therefore if was considered to be illegal, with several civil servants resigning at the time on this basis.
The deployment was centred on the speculation that there may be WMDs in Iraq, but the UN had already decided that this speculation was not reason enough to challenge Saddam Hussein’s regime.
UN inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency had already reported that there were no weapons to be found, but with 85% of American’s believing that Hussein was harbouring weapons of mass destruction, facts had very little to do with foreign policy decisions in 2003. Everyone was in agreement however that any weapons would not be found in combat.
Living in a post 9/11 world the emphasis was on the War on Terror with little regard for what this actually meant. Even the phrase ‘war on terror’ suggests a flaw from the beginning, as fighting aggression with aggression was never going to create stability or peace.
The fact is British Military intervention in Iraq has contributed to mass destabilisation of the Middle East and sectarian civil wars between different factions of Islam. All of this could have been prevented had there been a robust plan made to handle the occupation and reconstruction post invasion.
There appeared to be little thought given to sustainable peace or the impact it would have on terrorism and radicalisation, and again we do not need the Chilcot Inquiry to shine a light on this. Head of MI5 at the time, Lady Manninham Buller, said it would “undoubtedly increase the threat” of terrorist attacks throughout the UK, yet we pressed on.
It is important to point out that Saddam Hussein, although a barbaric dictator had very little to do with radicalisation and the promotion of al-Qaeda’s extremist views and certainly nothing to do with the 9/11 perpetrators or Osama Bin Laden.
Also, narratives on the Bush-Blair relationship are unhelpful and distracting. Anyone who had any questions over the legality of the Iraq War 7 years ago when the Chilcot Inquiry was announced will have come to their own conclusions. We now fall into the danger of allowing time to make the inquiry’s findings less shocking, or worse, irrelevant. There are serious accusations that the UK Government knowingly mislead the public in exaggerating the presence of WMDs to provoke a war without a UN mandate.
What the Chilcot Inquiry can do is shed light on just how much Blair knew and if and to what extent he did mislead the public. With no evidence of WMDs coming out of Iraq why did Blair decide to plough troops into the US led invasion? More importantly, if there is still no legal justification for the war, can we now finally hold Tony Blair to account for his actions on an international stage?
National Convenor, SNP Youth
Picture from Chris Beckett