For beleaguered people in Iraq facing bombings on a daily basis, a 2.6m word report produced by a retired British Civil Servant, delivered late, possibly allowing the key criminals to be let off the hook, might appear more of an insult than an explanation. It certainly doesn’t approach truth or justice.
Especially, as ‘Iraq Body Count’ correctly states, the amount of attention paid by the Inquiry to Iraqi casualties, whether killed or injured, civilian or combatant, has been derisory. The number of words roughly equates to the number of lives lost, injured and humiliated by an invasion that was fuelled by lies, deceit and systematic barbarity.
Since 2003 (excluding the murderous sanctions regime of the years before), the people of Iraq have been subjected to a brutal occupation. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have been killed and many Iraqis have witnessed first hand the West’s empty promises of freedom when detained and tortured at Basra, Camp Nama and Abu Ghraib. The Iraqi regime – discredited by sectarianism, corruption and deals with brutal militias -continues to be propped up by their allies in London and Washington. There is no economic development. Despite aid pledges of billions, there is little evidence of the promised rebuilding of Iraq.
None of this is addressed in the Chilcot inquiry, which largely focuses on the cheap politics of Westminster and Washington. This may provide some entertainment for the political classes, but the following is a reminder of the real legacy of the Iraq war, which has been largely ignored by the Inquiry:
- Foreign policy disaster: The war in Iraq was the biggest failure in western foreign policy since the Second World War. Despite overwhelming superiority in arms, equipment and strategy formulation, the might of the US and British army could not bring stability, progress or real transformation to a country previously run by a despot.
- Systemic deceit: The lies told by western politicians to justify a war have rightly caused significant ruptures and a massive trust deficit in western society. Bogus dossiers, tainted informers and mythical weapons of mass destruction are just the tips of a western iceberg that is on the verge of melting under the weight of its own ideological contradictions. Nor should George Bush and Tony Blair be singled out for their mendacity. The western political class as a whole need to examine the corrupting influence of their ideology and the impact it has on the quality of its discourse. The case for democracy over dictatorship is that it is unshackled by fear, should improve the quality of discourse in a society and so lead to better decision-making. However the fraudulent selling of the Iraq war is not the only example where democrats have resorted to the political gutter to get the outcome they want. The recent EU referendum debate was similarly characterised by chronic lies, deceit and fear mongering on both sides. The 2016 US Presidential campaign has thus far seen quality debate replaced by Reality TV – where the more outrageous the statements, the greater the press coverage and more importantly the greater the votes.
- Nobody is safer: The war in Iraq did not make western streets safer (as predicted by senior members of the British security establishment at the time). British forces in Northern Ireland, Indian occupation of Kashmir, Israel’s annexation of Palestine does not provide an iota of extra security for citizens of the occupying country because occupation breeds greater hatred, despair and resentment.
- Economic mismanagement: Much of the Iraqi aid was wasted, ending up in the pockets of private consultants, government officials and military personnel. Today, Iraq is one of the poorest countries in the world despite its abundance of oil reserves. With this kind of lamentable record, the west shouldn’t be allowed in the future to run a market stall, never mind oversee a country with millions of people.
- Violence and sectarianism: Rather than improve Iraqi governance, Iraqi systems and Iraqi capabilities, the west presided over a maelstrom of militias, bloodletting and sectarianism. In addition to that, the torture and abuse carried out by American soldiers at places like Abu Ghraib and by British soldiers in Basra are an indictment of the western invasion.
It is only a true Caliphate (not to be conflated with the phoney and barbaric ISIS) with its tried and trusted political system that can end the cycle of violence and provide the much needed stability that the region deserves. Those who believe an Islamic system would be a backwards step to a medieval era can no longer credibly make such claims especially when we witness medieval barbarity on a daily basis. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the only system which takes account of all the ingredients needed for the Muslim world’s success – an accountable government, a system consistent with peoples’ values and which prioritises people’s basic needs over the elites – can only be secured by an Islamic system.
Furthermore, images of television beheadings, denial of women’s education, random justice are the hallmarks of a violent militia, not an enlightened Islamic state. The Caliphate has a rich history of embracing learning and scientific innovation, granting rights to women, overcoming sectarianism and being held to account by an independent judiciary with considerable powers.
The history of this troubled region has demonstrated that there are no easy options or guarantees of success. We believe the establishment of a true Caliphate as an alternative to dictatorship or continued western occupation will be a transformative step in breaking the deadlock and bringing new hope to the region. However what is abundantly clear is that “staying with the current course” won’t work. Unless the scourge of despotic rule allied with foreign occupation ends, the region will continue to remain in the dysfunctional state it currently is. Once dictatorship and foreign occupation is ended, the region can then independently tackle the innumerable other challenges it faces head on whether they be poverty, education or political corruption.
The analysis of the Iraq war is not overly complicated and didn’t need a seven-year study that cost more than £10m. The Chilcot report is four times as long as Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ – a sad irony considering Iraq has had plenty of war and no peace since 2003. (HTB)
The Chilcot report was all about the processes, not the ideology or values which justified the Iraq war, writes Dr Abdul Wahid.
In 2003, Britain’s political class believed that Saddam Hussein, uniquely amongst Middle East despots, was an enemy who deserved removal. “Regime change” for a government with whom they had once trade in oil and arms, and over whose mass murder they had remained silent.
Muammar Gaddafi, Hosni Mubarak and others were to remain allies – deserving of a hug and even a holiday with Tony Blair – until British interests changed to support one section of Gaddafi’s opponents at the time of the Arab Spring. In Egypt, however, Sisi was supported over Morsi – despite the latter being democratically elected.
Confused by the inconsistency? We shouldn’t be. Lord Palmerston, Britain’s Foreign Secretary in the 1840s, once famously said that, “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow” – the doctrine Britain has practiced for at least 200 years.
The aim isn’t about establishing decent values in the world. Occasionally it might be to make Britain safer e.g. against Nazi Germany – but mostly, it’s to make a section of Britain’s elite richer.
Sir John Chilcot’s remit was not to explore the fundamentals of British foreign policy. It was confined to exploring the processes surrounding the Iraq war, and concluded in devastating detail the failure to question the intelligence that falsely alleged Saddam had WMD’s; the failure of cabinet discussion; the failure to exhaust diplomatic options prior to going to war; the failure for the military high command to raise concerns when the war policy was going wrong; the failure to plan for the aftermath, despite adequate warnings about the possible consequences etc.
Britain’s political class is shamed by these failures of process. But there is very little disagreement about the Britain’s foreign policies, particularly towards the Muslim world.
Alliances with the House of Saud and other Gulf regimes, the Assad family, Mubarak, Gaddafi, Karimov in Uzbekistan – have all been about maintaining British influence, so as to make “the few” richer.
Similarly, war against Saddam followed Palmerstone’s doctrine in that it was never about his crimes against his people, nor to make Britain safer, but part of a wider strategy to maintain Britain’ influence in a changing world.
Some say Blair looked “haunted” in his response to Chilcot. Others say he looked deluded. But to me it was neither. It was an explanation that the underlying policy of which this failed war was but one part – to use diplomatic and military force to secure British interests thousands of miles away – was fundamentally sound.
He argued, as he has done consistently, that 9/11 showed that “Islamist extremism” was a regional and global threat. Saddam’s Iraq – like most of the other regimes – was unsustainable in the long run and the risk of an overthrow by those “Islamist extremists” was real. The Arab Spring, he said, showed that Western intervention was necessary before events ran their own course.
Preventing real change
I do not think Blair, Bush, Cameron, Gove and others believe their own lies – that a real Islamic change in the Muslim world would be any immediate security threat to Britain or Europe.
But what they do know is that an independently minded government anywhere in the Muslim world, which decided not to play by the rules of capitalism and its current world order, would fundamentally threaten British influence and corporate interests – and that their aforementioned support for wars and odious regimes, and the lies about Islam, are all justified because of this.
Far from being a threat to peoples’ lives across the world, an Islamic government on the principles of the Prophetic model would voice a different set of values on the world stage, putting human dignity above material benefits for colonial powers.
It would question a world that is dominated by values that produce today’s global policies – where making peoples’ lives are more secure or more dignified are never the aim, just an occasionally be a “welcome” side effect.
It would not simply question wars, but the policies that keep millions enslaved in poverty.
It would not allow virtual slave labour (as in Qatar) or global health hazards (such as Zika) to justify entertainment spectacles like the World Cup or Olympics, whose primary aim is to make their sponsors richer.
Chilcot may have fulfilled his remit. But that shouldn’t stop people looking at the dark values that do not just underpin the Iraq war. Whether “Blairite” warmongering or the use of “soft power” (i.e. diplomacy, trade, overseas aid, education programs etc), the long term aim of Britain foreign policy is rarely questioned or challenged.
Its role to interfere in other countries – sometimes destabilising elected politicians, sometimes stabilising unelected dictators – is all too often either unknown, ignored or accepted.
Dr Abdul Wahid is a regular contributor to New Civilisation. He is currently the Chairman of the UK-Executive Committee of Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain. He has been published in The Times Higher Educational Supplement and on the websites of Foreign Affairs, Open Democracy, and the Prospect Magazine. (HTB)