Taking action after the Chilcot report
Britain’s Chilcot inquiry is a damning indictment of the Iraq war, concluding the conflict was based on flawed intelligence, of uncertain legality and ultimately “unnecessary”.
British politicians, including then deputy prime minister John Prescott, have acknowledged since the release of the report, which did not make formal judgments on the legality of the war, that the conflict was illegal.
The Chilcot report, issued 13 years after the war, clearly demonstrates how post-war planning — or lack thereof — led to the dangerous situation Iraq finds itself in today, from the troubled political system governing the country to ongoing security problems.
The report officially calls for urgent action to be taken on the domestic, regional and international levels. This must go beyond emotional hand-wringing with Iraqis of all stripes standing together to seek justice. This effort might be the only thing that can unite the Iraqi people, who have been bitterly divided by rising ethnic and sectarian tensions.
So what action needs to be taken after the publication of this report?
First, we must confirm once and for all that the decision to go to war was a political one, something that was clear from the testimony of all those involved in this British government inquiry. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, which was one of the main pretexts for the invasion that led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and threw the country and region into chaos.
Even if there were weapons of mass destruction, US President Barack Obama’s policy towards Syrian President Bashar Assad and his chemical weapons indicates diplomatic options are not off the table.
Second, the outcome of the post-invasion period in Iraq, as we know it today, is illegitimate given that it is based on an illegal occupation. This includes the constitution and the flawed quota-based political system that is ruling Iraq and that increased, not allayed, sectarian tensions. It was this dangerous atmosphere that served as the perfect breeding ground for the Islamic State (ISIS).
Third, while the Chilcot report did not make any formal judgment on the legality of the war, it did acknowledge that the legal basis for the war was “far from satisfactory” with many calling for then prime minister Tony Blair to face legal action. Anti-war activists in the West have strongly called for him to face prosecution.
Even if Blair cannot be prosecuted, as many legal analysts argue, what about the Iraqi “spies” and informants who passed false information to the US and British intelligence agencies that ultimately led to the invasion?
Blair made much of claims that Saddam Hussein could launch non-existent weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of an order, allegations that were patently false and now revealed to be based on “third-hand” intelligence from a dubious Iraqi military source. Will there be any justice on this issue?
Fourth, what about the families of Iraqi civilians who were killed during the Iraq war or its aftermath? Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed during the Iraq war and the occupation and many more have died in the ensuing violence that has gripped the country. The United Nations’ compensation committee was created in 1991 to process claims and over compensation for losses as a result of Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait. Should not the same apply to the much more destructive Iraq war?
The Iraq we see today, bitterly divided along sectarian lines and partially occupied by ISIS, has its roots in the war and post-occupation period. This is a war whose mistakes have been laid out by the Chilcot report. We must ensure that we go beyond simply listing these and take action to set them right.