The Iraq Inquiry and Geopolitics
By Imtiaz Gul
Express Tribune, July 13, 2016
If we ever needed a damning indictment of ugly geo-politically motivated military interventions, Sir John Chilcot delivered it on July 6 — The Iraq inquiry. It also triggered a string of apologies that reveal hypocrisy and self-preserving expedience of some of Tony Blair’s former colleagues. “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort. … the notorious dossier presented in September 2002 by Tony Blair to the House of Commons did not support his claim that Iraq had a growing programme of chemical and biological weapons. … the people of Iraq have suffered greatly,” Chilcot said in his UK Inquiry Report on Iraq.
Most of Western media and diplomats based in Islamabad used to scoff even at the hint of flawed and concocted justifications for the war in Iraq but it was interesting to see how most of the CNN/BBC reporters — who pounced upon every bit of UK/USA intelligence to explain and justify the Iraq war then — took a U-turn once the report was released; claims by Bush and Blair seem to be pale in contrast to what Iraq has gone through since 2003, said one of the CNN star correspondents.
John Chilcot has literally exposed the fallacies that masked the illegal war on that country; with up to half a million lives lost and a raging sectarian war, Iraq continues to bleed even today. It saw over 250 vanish in a horrific suicide bombing only two days before Sir Chilcot released his report. “I will never apologise for the decisions I took in 2003,” Blair adamantly told the media the same evening about a war that former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan had already declared illegal.
Blair’s Deputy Prime Minister, Sir John Prescott (May 2006 — June 2007), consented with Annan and offered “my fullest apology, especially to the families of the 179 men and women who gave their lives in the Iraq War … any actions needed the endorsement of our Parliament and that to go to war with the prime purpose of regime change was illegal. Jeremy Corbyn, too, apologised on behalf of the Labour Party for Blair’s “disastrous decision.” Strangely, both George Bush and Tony Blair remain unrepentant about the legality and the consequences of the invasion and insist that Iraq is safer today, also born out by Blair’s note to Bush with that devastating quote “I am with you, whatever.” This eagerness only underscored how desperate were these two representatives of the American military industrial complex to wage the war.
We can probably draw three conclusions from the Chilcot report; firstly, those in driving seats tend to take decisions to the exclusion of the majority. Apparently overwhelmed with self-serving interests, both Bush and Blair, for instance, refused to foresee the agony their cunning scheming would entail for the people of Iraq. It reminds us of both General Ziaul Haq and General Pervez Musharraf; both literally leapt at the partnership US administrations offered to counter the Soviet Russian occupation of Afghanistan (in case of Zia) and to mount the war on terror in Afghanistan after the 9/11 events. Pakistan continues to suffer the debilitating consequences of both geo-political ventures.
Secondly, following on the heels of Brexit the Chilcot Report — also called by some a “devastating catalogue of lies and mistakes” — will likely generate long-term consequences for Nato’s thus far consensual security architecture. Unlike the USA, popular sentiment in Europe holds considerable sway over political decision-making. Politicians often crumble and exit the system when confronted with moral pressure, as manifested in David Cameron’s decision to step down much earlier than he had announced.
Thirdly, geo-political hypocrisy remains at the heart of the current fragile security landscape; Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Egypt; the entire West, for instance, went into quiet acquiescence when General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi deposed president Mohamed Morsi following the June 2013 protests. Their collective interest lay in accepting a military coup in Cairo and they went along, discarding their penchant for democracy.
Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies