The highly anticipated Chilcot report is one that many of us have been eagerly waiting for. Yet as someone who is half-Iraqi and half-British, I feel somewhat torn. As a Brit, I understand the frustration of being led to believe we would be invading a country with weapons of mass destructions. Yet as an Iraqi, it feels as though the inquiry is entirely irrelevant.
Almost coinciding with one of Iraq’s deadliest post-war atrocities, killing an estimated 250 people, the Chilcot Inquiry means little to mourning Iraqis. For most of them, it was Saddam Hussain himself who was Iraq’s most definitive WMD, a period pre-2003 that has been somewhat glamorised.
Bizarrely, Saddam’s notorious dictatorship is one that is often painted as a period of stability and security. Such descriptions can only come from the clueless yet well intentioned, or by those who have forgotten the true horrors of his totalitarian regime. Saddam’s Iraq was one that violated the human rights of millions of Iraqis. Torture, mass murder, rape and chemical warfare were widespread, leading millions – my father included – to become displaced and scattered across the globe.
But although the 2003 invasion led to the downfall of Saddam, it also inadvertently led to thousands of Iraqis being killed and millions more being forced out of their country. It also gave rise to the so-called Islamic State. While the recent recapture of Fallujah from IS can be seen as a victory of sorts, the latest blasts in Karrada show that Iraq continues to be a country gripped by deep sectarian divisions. The helpless relatives of the wounded, missing and murdered remain oblivious, or even indifferent, to the Chilcot Report. It can only reaffirm what they already know – the 2003 invasion will always cast a black cloud over their country.
Yesterday’s verdict from Sir John Chilcot’s 2million words of blame will forever leave Blair’s legacy damned. The findings have confirmed much of what we already knew – the UK chose to join the US invasion of Iraq before other peaceful options had been explored and, perhaps most glaringly, that post-war planning had been largely ignored. The war was rested on flawed intelligence and would lead to a country destined for chaos. Yet despite the rise of IS, Blair continues to unrepentantly insist that the right decision was made and “the world is better and safer” for it. The report also tells us that Iraq’s weapons capabilities “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”.
Much talk regarding the inquiry has been centred on whether or not Blair will face time in the dock. This is no more than a fantasy. Chilcot’s inquiry doesn’t tell us if Blair committed any war crimes. Nor should it matter – surely an illegal war that brings about peace is better than a legal war that brings nothing more than chaos and instability?
Saddam’s rule was undoubtedly abhorrent. Many Iraqis continue to grapple between determining if his regime was worse than what remains of their country today, but it is undeniably clear that under Saddam, Iraq was beyond reform. An intervention certainly was necessary.
But for Blair to depict his intervention as a humanitarian mission is sickeningly untrue. His greatest crime – and one of the biggest lessons that can be learnt from this report – is the lack of better planning to help deliver a more stable Iraq beyond the toppling of the horrific dictator that Saddam was. Blair relied on US intelligence far too heavily – something he even admits himself – and spent too little time preparing military brigades for deployment in Iraq. The deep sectarian divide was underestimated, and the flawed intelligence assessments were not debated with rigour at a time when they should have been.
Do I regret seeing the 2003 invasion and the toppling of Saddam? Absolutely not. What I do regret is the entirely avoidable consequences which came about as a result of the failings of Bush and Blair’s administration. As demonstrated by the recent scenes in Karrada, not only does Iraq bear the scars of Saddam’s rule, but it continues to bleed today.