The Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot Report)
On Wednesday 6th July, 7 years after it was first announced, the official inquiry into the 2003 invasion of Iraq (The Chilcot Report) was made publically available following an executive statement by its chairman, Sir John Chilcot. The report promised to analyse in great detail, Britain’s involvement, decision making, military strategy and the subsequent aftermath of the 2003 Iraq conflict. Expected to be highly critical of those involved in the decision making and particularly scathing of the then Ex British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the report laid out a damning verdict of Britain’s flawed justifications, poor decision making and lack of effective strategy when deciding to engage in military action in Iraq.
The 12 volume, 2.6-million-word report offers a detailed critique of Tony Blair and the British Government during the run up to and subsequent invasion of Iraq in a way that echoes and reaffirms the concerns and criticisms that were voiced at the time by anti-War protestors and senior parliamentary figures, such as Ex British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook (before he resigned) and Charles Kennedy the leader of the Liberal Democrats party during the buildup to the Invasion. The underlying conclusion reached by Sir John Chilcot in his report states that Britain’s involvement in Iraq was done on “false premises that undermined parliamentary process, lacked effective strategy, used flawed intelligence and lacked foresight on the potential long-term problems it would cause”. Some of the key points made in the report included:
- The UK chose to join the invasion before peaceful options had been exhausted. Military action was not a last resort.
- There was a deliberate exaggeration of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein
- British Intelligence agencies produced ‘flawed information’ about Saddam’s alleged WMDs
- The UK Military was underequipped and underprepared for the task at hand.
- Tony Blair ignored expert warnings on what would happen in Iraq post-invasion.
- The British Government lacked foresight and had no post-invasion strategy.
- The British Government failed to keep a tally on Iraqi civilian casualties.
- Tony Blair undermined the UN Security Council.
At a glance, the report lays out an indefensible series of summaries that shows the devastating consequences that can occur when acting upon flawed intelligence. The invasion of Iraq saw the death of 179 British servicemen and women, the death of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the displacement of millions of families as refugees. The removal of Saddam triggered instability in the region and what we see now in Iraq and Syria can be traced back to the decisions made in 2003. Whilst the actions taken by the then British Government in Iraq cannot be undone, the Chilcot Report and the benefit of hindsight allows us to once again analyse history and try and learn lessons to ensure we do not see another Iraq.
Learning Lessons & The Role of Faith Leadership
Post-Chilcot conversations have focussed on the need to hold Mr Tony Blair to account in a court of law (something that the International Criminal Court has already declared it will not be pursuing) and to thoroughly analyse and reflect upon the wars ongoing cost to human life not just in Iraq but within the entire region. Although the Chilcot report succeeds in highlighting the poor decision making process (or lack thereof) behind the Iraq invasion transparent to the public, what it cannot do is reverse the suffering that has been wrought on the Iraqi people and bring back the lives that were unjustly lost.
As a world community, the revelations around the 2003 invasion by the UK and US of Iraq must intensify our efforts to speak out against warmongers, injustice and voice our concerns, even at the risk of being castigated at the time. The Chilcot Report should serve as a catalyst for encouraging greater participation in defining narratives and shaping public discourse. Seeking to solved major geopolitical challenges through solution focused initiatives but most importantly, it should encourage us to continue standing on the side of justice and help alleviate the suffering of those that have been most affected by the damaging legacy left by this conflict. For future governments, the invasion of Iraq must always serve as a stark reminder of the risks we all face when calling for military action and how thorough they must be before taking such drastic steps.
Faith leaders have a role to play. When various faith leaders (Muslim, Christian and Jewish) took the moral stance to stand together back in 2003 and protest alongside the millions that lined the street against going to war, their role today requires them to provide safe counsel, moral support and guidance to those most directly affected by conflict. Provide a moral compass to political leaders when processing information, when contemplating taking the nations to War.
In the event of the 2003 Iraq invasion, the catastrophic aftermath and the subsequent great and unjustified loss of life has sows seeds of distrust and resentment in society. If left unchallenged and allowed to fester, the physical manifestation of this emotion can have equally devastating effects. The responsibility for faith leaders becomes one of moral guidance and advice.
Wider than this though, within the context of the Iraq conflict, the justification of war itself becomes a matter of morality and requires faith leadership to contextualise and advise decision makers on. No doubt, Saddam Hussein was a vile tyrant who abused his people and in a post 9/11 world, the drums of war were being beaten louder and louder. However, the Chilcot Report into the Iraq war has quite clearly shown us how the mistakes of a few that wield power can have devastating consequences and an impact that lives on long beyond the people who made the decision. Having seen the havoc wreaked in the last 13 years, can we justify the removal of Saddam in the way it took place? When does conflict become necessary and if so who makes this decision?
Hindsight truly is a wonderful thing and with it at our disposal, there is no excuse to see a repeat of what happened in Iraq.