It took Chilcot Committee seven years to come up with it’s report, a year more than the time for which the British troops had stayed in Afghanistan. The report is a voluminous one, containing 2.6 million words in total, put in 12 volumes. Not to anyone’s (except for Mr. Tony Blair’s) surprise, the report states the Iraq invasion as unwarranted, though refraining from forthrightly terming it as “illegal”. The report might seem to bring into focus what we are already aware of, that the invasion was a big mistake. However, the report raises a larger question, which I believe is about the admittance of guilt. This point of view has become extremely crucial for there is still reluctance among the then leadership to accept that the war was nothing more than a mistake.
Much before the Sir John Chilcot Committee Report on the Iraq invasion was released, the remorse over the Iraq invasion by the combined forces of the United States of America, United Kingdom, Australia and Poland was already widespread. The report, in a sense, only confirms all the criticisms, miscalculations and voices of the bereaved victims of the Iraq debacle, the repercussions of which are being felt today by a population larger than that affected immediately by the invasion. The prominent consequence of the Iraq invasion, rise of the Islamic State or the Daesh (a derogatory term for the Islamic State in the region) is something which the Western powers, besides their allies, undoubtedly regret the most; with immense loss of life and property, with little signs of it abetting in the near future. Every day is a manifestation of its growing ideological influence, the recent one being Bangladesh.
Before we move on to see what the report contains, I think it is crucial to identify the key stakeholders, viz., citizens of Iraq, the troops of the forces (which I think need to be kept at an almost equal pedestal to the citizens of Iraq), the taxpayers of the invading nations and extending the stake involved to the people of the regions which are affected by the rise of the Daesh. No doubt, the consequences have had uncompromising repercussions and continue to do so.
The Committee’s report, with its focus exclusively on the mental status of the leadership who decided to invade a sovereign nation, clearly establishes with proper evidence that the invasion was certainly a gross miscalculation. Even before we ponder over the findings of the report, an invasion into sovereign nation’s affairs, without any reliable evidence seems nothing but whimsical and fancy, a mindless pursuit only to cause further damage than seeking to control some. Unfortunately, all of this is quite evidently confirmed through the report.
“We will be with you, whatever”, were the words of the then Prime Minister of Britain Tony Blair to the then US President George Bush. This clearly reflects that Tony Blair was ready to put everything and was ready to go to any length towards Iraq. I don’t think it would be appropriate to dismiss the words merely as a friendly gesture and that they appear in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks. These words also connote that Blair was ready to put up everything for what the US stood, and perhaps it really did not matter if his being convinced of the circumstances really did matter. It seems that even if the UK had the slightest doubt, it would march alongside the US and other invading nations. This brings into light the kind of intelligence which was supplied about the existence of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), biological weapons and chemical weapons. The intelligence was not powerful and compelling enough, as the report notes, to propel and warrant nothing less than an invasion. Perhaps it was irrelevant. UK was going to join the invading forces anyway.
The idea of acknowledging something is great and perhaps the inception of any kind of justice itself. Though the context is different, yet I wish to mention an eloquent speaker and Indian Parliamentarian, Dr. Shashi Tharoor’s words, when at a recent debate at the Oxford Union he ended his speech with the words surrounding the idea that the question is not how much Britain owes to India for colonizing and plundering its wealth, but coming to a conclusion that it does owe it. His focus was on as to how acknowledging existence of something was way more important than anything. In this light, it is time and again pertinent to note former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s response to the recently released Chilcot Committee report, who still has a strong conviction that whatever he did was correct. He further adds that if he were to take a similar decision today, he would go for it, and takes the umbrella of the intelligence which was provided to him at that point of time. This however raises eyebrows given that his purpose was to somehow get Britain involved into Iraq, which also led to 179 British soldiers losing their lives. Certain voices have been raised demanding accountability for the loss of British lives. Millions of Iraqi lives were lost besides these, for whom the voices demanding establishment of accountability appear a little vociferous.
The report however does not explicitly term the invasion as ‘illegal’, yet does state that the basis for invasion was “far from satisfactory”, and evidently so. It is further saddening that the war was never condemned by the UN, while the reason for silence is perhaps pretty obvious. Moreover, the invasion was in a way legitimized by the subsequent Security Council resolutions. Also, in the absence of declaration of the invasion as “illegal”, everything remained a far dream. Given the countries involved, it was never to be expected that the war would be met with open condemnation from the other powerful nations. Anyway, as things folded out, the invasion turned out to be nothing more than a gross mistake whose consequences are felt to this day. Even though Mr. Blair claims that Arab spring would have eventually struck Iraq as well, certainly, it would not have fuelled the rise of Daesh, the reason being that in the aftermath of the war, the allies, in a haphazard fashion removed all the Sunnis from the power, creating a sectarian divide which is a crucial factor behind the rise of Daesh. Some prudence and calculations would have definitely avoided huge costs that were incurred as its consequence.