The lessons of Chilcot can help us avoid disasters like Iraq in future – if we choose to heed them
K.S.Venkatachalam says the report into the Iraq war shows how it made the world more dangerous, with protective intervention one of the casualties
The 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq will go down in history as a huge tactical mistake. Iraq is still bleeding from the after-effects of invasion, with growing tension between the majority Shias and the minority Sunnis, which has already claimed the lives of over 60,000 people in the conflict.
Moreover, the attempt by the US administration to install a prime minister was a major miscalculation: his discriminatory policies against the Sunnis caused officers from the Iraqi armed forces to join Islamic State en masse to avenge their humiliation. In fact these officers were responsible for transmuting a ragtag outfit into a global terrorist network. Patrick Cockburn, author of The Jihadis Return, has attributed the rise of IS to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq.
Britain’s inquiry into the Iraq war, headed by retired bureaucrat Sir John Chilcot, was to identify the lessons that could be learned if the UK is faced with similar situations in the future.
The Chilcot report was published on July 6, after a thorough inquiry spanning a period of seven years. The findings show that Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to British interests, and that intelligence regarding weapons of mass destruction were flawed; that peaceful options were not examined before plunging into a military aggression; that both the US and the UK had undermined the authority of the UN Security Council; that the process of identifying the legal basis for war was “far from satisfactory”; and that a war in March 2003 was unnecessary.
Chilcot also demolished the logic of then prime minister Tony Blair that spurning the US-led military alliance against Iraq would have damaged Britain’s relations with the US. Chilcot cited several instances where Britain and the US had taken different positions on issues, including the Suez crisis, the Vietnam war and the Falklands.
The Chilcot report offers a lot of lessons, not only for the UK but also for other countries to first exhaust all peaceful options so that tragedies like Iraq are avoided in future.
The only downside of the findings is that, in future, even when there are instances of repression against citizens of a country, the US and other countries would not be able to get blanket permission from their parliaments for military intervention. This could prove fatal to citizens who are subjected to large-scale human rights violations, like the ones we are seeing in Syria and Libya. It is here the United Nations should play an assertive role by facilitating an alliance of major powers, so that no one country can be blamed for military intervention.
K.S.Venkatachalam is an independent columnist and political commentator