Last week, Sir John Chilcot finally published the long-awaited results of his Iraq War inquiry. The voluminous report details the causes and consequences of the war, criticism over legal advice and what conspired between Mr. Blair and his American counterparts.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn recently apologized for the war on behalf of the Labour Party. This was supported by John Prescott, the deputy prime minister at the time of the war, who expressed regret with the decision to go to war this week.
Lord Prescott stated in the Sunday Mirror, “I will live with the decision of going to war and its catastrophic consequences for the rest of my life.”
To understand the nature and scale of this war, one needs to go back more than 13 years ago when Iraq was on top of the agenda and the subject of “containment.” American neo-conservatives were pressing for regime change in Iraq long before 9/11 and this was also discussed openly between Bush and Blair as revealed by Mr. Blair’s memo in the Chilcot report. Conveniently, Blair’s misleading belief that Saddam Hussain posed an “imminent threat” with his “WMD stockpile” and establishing a link with al-Qaida served as the ideal justification for the invasion.
After Chilcot’s damning report on Mr. Blair, he expressed neither regret, repentance nor remorse. Rather, Blair stands by the war up until this day and believes it was the right decision. To most of us in the U.K., the war was illegal on more than just moral grounds. Reading the Chilcot report brought memories back: Seeing images of dead children on the news, witnessing the flames go up in Fallujah and yet being powerless to do anything other than protest to make our government see sense. One can only feel remorse for the dead and displaced but for many Iraqi’s, this emotional turmoil will be everlasting.
However, the current reality is that although removing a brutal dictator may have seemed like a good idea, it has also unleashed sectarian strife, created a terrorist hotbed and shook the regional balance between the Persians and Arabs. Let’s be frank, regime change in Iraq not only has led to a dominant Iran in the region. which now militarily supports Bashar Assad’s Syria but, also created ISIL in the region. It is also responsible for the refugee crisis as various terrorist groups were building on their networks long before the Arab Spring of 2011.
To say the least, the handling of the Iraq War was not only disastrous but also highlighted contempt in the treatment of Iraq and Iraqis. Unreliable intelligence, a lack of planning, post-conflict reconstruction, Britain’s silence on Donald Rumsfeld’s dismissed body counts and the delay in investigating alleged war crimes by British nationals against Iraqi’s are just a few sins highlighted by report.
The consequences are many, as millions of civilians and many coalition forces died and millions more were displaced because two heads of state hatched a plan they thought would bring peace and democracy in the region. Undoubtedly, Iraq’s current state is worse now than before the invasion. Political instability, terrorism and sectarianism have been prevalent since then.
For those who argue Mr. Blair should be prosecuted, Parliament doesn’t have the legal power to prosecute him and the International Criminal Court doesn’t have a mandate. The most that we can expect is a “contempt of Parliament” motion which is soon to be debated by British parliamentarians. If the motion, which most politicians support, passes, then Mr. Blair can be banned from office and stripped of his role in the Privy Council. Of course, this is not just because Mr. Blair led an illegal war but because he also deceived parliament in the eve of War in 2003.
It is evident that justice is yet to be served, as families of dead Iraqis and of British servicemen and all the negligence highlighted by Chilcot points toward Mr. Blair’s failed attempt in reshaping the map of the Middle East. More importantly, Chilcot himself cannot be immune from criticism either, as not even one Iraqi was invited to give evidence in the U.K. and there is hardly any presence of Iraqi comment in the report.
The man who deceived Britain into a perpetual war is not only deluded to have believed his ambitions would unite the world. Instead, it has unleashed post-Cold War hell where terrorism and instability seem to have a perpetual grip in the region but are not limited to it.
Up until this day, what began in 2003 echoes throughout the Middle East. The memories will not fade for Iraqis nor for those who campaigned tirelessly against the war.
Only time will tell what it will take to end this moment of everlasting emotional turmoil.
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