In his long-awaited report, John Chilcot has delivered a restrained yet devastating critique of former British prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003.
Britain’s Iraq war inquiry may not appear to have much relevance to us in Ireland but it has because it critiques the biggest single act of war that begat the orgy of international terrorism that has since spread from the Middle East to western Europe and affects us all.
The report concludes that Britain chose to join the US invasion before peaceful options for disarmament had been seriously considered by either Blair or US president George W Bush.
While the report acknowledges that Iraq’s president Saddam Hussein was “undoubtedly a brutal dictator”, the UK’s decision to attack and occupy a foreign sovereign state for the first time since the Second World War was entered into without considering the consequences.
Chilcot found there was a genuine belief in Washington and London that Hussein had chemical and biological weapons and was trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but no serious consideration was given to the counter-argument that he did not possess any such weapons of mass destruction.
The reality for us today is that, as a result of the invasion, a country was ruined, millions of innocent Iraqis were slaughtered, British soldiers were killed, and terrorism has spread across the Middle East and beyond.
The ongoing tragedy is that the families of those British soldiers killed in action have now learned that their loved ones died without cause or justification in an unnecessary conflict that need never have happened.
Among those who died in Iraq during the invasion was 28-year-old Lance Corporal Ian Malone, from Ballyfermot in Dublin, who was a member of the British Army’s Irish Guards. The conclusions of Chilcot report can only add to the heartache of his family and the families of the other British soldiers who died during the war.
The decision to invade has had devastating consequences that we are still dealing with today. It destabilised Iraq and provided the hotbed for Isis and other terrorist groups to emerge after the fall of Hussein.
It is not possible, or even desireable, for western powers to use force to bring down brutish regimes or nations with laws abhorrent to our sensibilites. If that were the case, Saudi Arabia, whose laws include the execution of practising gay men and women, would be a target. Instead, it is a trading partner.
The Chilcot report will also have the unintended consequence of making Donald Trump sound saner than usual.
The presumptive Republican candidate for the White House praised Hussein for killing off terrorists in his country. The US “shouldn’t have destabilised” Iraq, now “the Harvard” of terrorism and a hotbed for Islamic State 13 years after the US-led invasion, said Trump.
His comments brought a swift rebuke from White House rival Hillary Clinton but the reality is that they will resonate with millions of Americans and British alike.
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