Reading between the lines of Chilcot

Reading between the lines of Chilcot
Comment: The true crime of the US/UK lay in the manner in which they dismantled the Iraqi state, sowing the seeds for today’s bloodshed and chaos, writes Sam Hamad
7 min read
08 Jul, 2016
In a way, the report has become Blair's get out of jail free card [Getty]

After seven years the Chilcot Report into UK involvement in the 2003 Iraq war has been published. Many people believe it might bring closure to and justice for the victims of this monstrous affair. In truth, it will bring neither.

The report was never set up to determine the legality of the war or Blair's actions - it now seems clear that its general take on these questions is that Blair was merely wrong in the main justification for the war, namely the accusation that the regime of Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and that he could deploy these weapons against British interests in "45 minutes". These were the contents of the infamous "sexed up" dossier presented to MPs as evidence in favour of a vote for war. 

Minutes after the key findings of the report had been published, most of the British media, almost all of which supported the war at the time, adopted the posture of claiming that the report simultaneously damned and absolved Blair. Yes, he had made "mistakes", but there was no evidence of deliberate deception. 

This conclusion relies on an odd definition of "deliberate".  While Chilcot never uses the term "deliberate deception" in the report to describe Blair's actions, the only logical conclusion that we can take from some of Chilcot's findings is that Blair did deliberately deceive the British parliament. 

We now know that eight months before the war, Blair had written to Bush that "we are with you, whatever", demonstrating that the decision had been taken despite the input of parliament. Instead of receiving the US request to join Bush's "Coalition of the Willing" and then having a long debate involving elected officials and expert testimony, Blair had decided that he was with the US regardless of the facts and that his task was then not "debate" or attempting to come to a learned decision, but rather to justify a decision that had already been made. 

Is this not the definition of deception and treachery to the British people?

The only logical conclusion that we can take from some of Chilcot's findings is that Blair did deliberately deceive the British parliament

Chilcot also finds that Blair then deliberately exaggerated the evidence concerning WMDs, which is of course what anybody who had made a decision to go to war regardless of the facts would do. This is where the patently absurd 45 minutes claim comes from and the evidence presented to MPs that Iraq had stockpiles of WMDs - evidence which, as Chilcot notes, was flimsy but presented "with a certainty that was not justified".

Again, this is deliberate deception and the fact that Chilcot didn't use these terms is extremely telling. One fears that the report was carefully crafted to avoid using the kind of phrases that might lead to calls for action against Blair. 

Instead, I suspect it has simply provided Blair with a platform for a tactical confession. He can at once take responsibility for "mistakes", while still saying that he'd take the same decision regarding going to war. In a way, the report has become Blair's get out of jail free card. 

But this is the main point - most people who have observed or lived through not just the carnage of the invasion and the occupation, but what has occurred since and, most crucially, is still occurring, do not need a report to know that the US and UK's actions were criminal. 

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As has been noted by experts, the case for prosecuting those responsible for the Iraq war on the basis that it breached the UN Charter, is a good one. The Charter states that a war must be solely defensive, and thus the criminal count of unleashing a "war of aggression" (something that many of the defendants at Nuremberg were charged and convicted of) breaches this. The problem is that this law was suspended and thus cannot be applied to Tony Blair or any of those responsible for Iraq.

However, the great injustice of Iraq is not just that those responsible have gotten away with it, but that they're actively getting away with it. For the crime of Iraq is still unfolding as we speak. 

While the rise of the Islamic State group (IS) in its current form can be rooted in a combination of factors - the primary one being Assad, Iran and Russia's killing fields in Syria - its constituent forces and predecessors simply would not have existed in Iraq to any meaningful degree if not for the manner in which the US-UK invaded and occupied the country.

He can at once take responsibility for "mistakes", while still saying that he’d take the same decision regarding going to war

This allowed and forced Iraqi jihadists to coalesce and make Iraq the foremost magnet for thousands of foreign jihadists (as Chilcot found, this is something Blair was warned about, but completely discarded). These are the same forces that recently murdered over 100 people in Baghdad, attacked Medina and have unleashed terror on everyone they encounter. 

It is these forces that drifted into Syria after Assad unleashed sectarian war with the sole purpose of undermining the rebel forces fighting for liberty and democracy. 

In fact, beyond the sheer scale of death and destruction unleashed upon Iraqis, no report in the world can do justice to the more intricately negative impact that Iraq had on the very fabric of British and global politics. Most people in the UK didn't need to wait for a report to understand that they had been lied to about the presence of WMDs. This is true not just of the Blair government but also, more crucially, of an almost uniformly compliant media and political class.

Iraq's legacy has allowed brutality to either be ignored or subordinated to conspiracy theories and isolationism

This has contributed to an era in Britain not of positive scepticism when it comes to the media and government, but of a streak of conservative and conspiratorial isolationism that has taken hold definitively among the left-wing and right-wing "alternative" media and political forces, but has also crept into more mainstream media outlets.

In this spirit, we've seen the idea that the revolutions that the Arabs are part of, fit into a neocon conspiracy to take out "anti-Western" regimes, becoming a fairly commonly held belief across the political spectrum. When Bashar al-Assad used sarin to gas to death thousands of Syrians in Ghouta, serious media outlets and otherwise serious journalists peddled conspiracies of this mass murder being a "false flag" committed by the Syrian rebels to justify "Western intervention" against Assad. 

It has led to a general spirit of illogically destructive appeasement where notions of "stability" provided by tyranny are fetishised against the disorder and "chaos" of revolution. It's important then to note that the criminality of the US/UK lay not then in the mere act of removing Saddam, but rather in the manner in which they dismantled the entire state, the better to let private US contractors swoop in to reassemble it on lucrative contracts, and the better to use sectarian forces to fill the security void.

This in turn engendered the sectarian war that erupted in 2005 and which set the tone not for the destruction of the sectarian logic of Saddam's regime, but for the transference of the sectarian status quo from the Sunni-dominated Baathists to the Shia Islamic Dawa Party.

In fact, one of the great triumphs of Assad has been to exploit this scepticism against "the establishment" in order to perpetuate their genocidal narratives, such as by shifting the debate away from their own monstrous crimes and on to the non-existent threat of "Western intervention" against Assad.

These are the injustices that no report will ever detail and for which all of the guilty will walk free

Everything, from a No-Fly Zone to aid Syrian civilians, to some rebel groups receiving US-provided equipment, is considered by some to be the prelude to "another Iraq". The actual progressive impact that intervention on behalf of Syrian rebels could have has been completely swept aside due to the malfeasant brutality of the Iraq war. 

Iraq, far from making the world a safer place, has instead created one that is not less safe, but one where its legacy has allowed brutality to either be ignored or subordinated to conspiracy theories and isolationism. Whether it's IS, the sectarian Shia militias that now effectively rule Iraq, or Assad propped up by Russian and Iranian imperialism, one can see the seeds of these things in the Crime of Iraq. 

These are the injustices that no report will ever detail and for which all of the guilty will walk free. 

Sam Hamad is an independent Scottish-Egyptian activist and writer.

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Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.