Controversy over the Iraq War will persist for decades. It recently flared up in the United Kingdom, when the Chilcot Report issued a massive 12 volume tome on this conflict and how it has affected Britain. This report took seven years to prepare and falls into a long line of British government reports, including Royal Commission reports, seeking to analyze and dissect public policy successes and failures.
Report compilations get some things right and some things wrong. Chilcot’s team members were right to fault Tony Blair’s Labour Party government for misusing intelligence, not equipping British forces for operating in Iraq’s climatic conditions, and not sufficiently planning for postwar chaos and anti-coalition operations. At the same time, Chilcott is fatally wrong when he claims peaceful options to resolve Iraq’s disputes with the international community were not exhausted.
The fact of the matter is that 67 United Nations Security Council resolutions on Iraq were passed between the August 2, 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait and March 28, 2003 (just after Operation Enduring Freedom began.) Numerous other bilateral and multilateral attempts were made to achieve peaceful resolution of problems with Iraq. The report suffers from the fallacy of believing that it is possible what to predict once war begins, how the other side(s) will react, and from believing that a region such as Iraq which has been locked in Sunni-Shia sectarian conflict for 14 centuries will respond to short-term intervention of outside powers. The ugly reality is that only military force could have toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime and that the sectarian cleavages in Iraqi society, which were only temporarily repressed during his dictatorial tenure, would inevitably return. Another ugly reality is that it is extremely difficult to obtain reliable intelligence on the policies of totalitarian regimes like Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and like-minded regimes. Just ask anyone who has served in an intelligence agency and been responsible for gathering and analyzing information on countries such as Russia/former Soviet Union, North Korea, Syria, Iran et. al.
This violence has been exacerbated by the Obama Administration’s failure to achieve a status of forces agreement in Iraq, it’s premature withdrawal of U.S. forces, the failure of subsequent Iraqi government to move away front the Islamist paradigm of their political culture, Shiite corruption and incompetence which has helped create ISIS, and the Obama Administration’s failure to take seriously the threat ISIS poses to that region.
We should mourn and honor the 179 British soldiers who were killed fighting in Iraq. They, along with American dead, have given Iraq the chance to build a better country even if it does not fall into the idealized construct of pluralist western democracy.
Many of Tony Blair’s critics claim he should be prosecuted for war crimes. This is infantile nonsense! Britain legally entered this war through a legitimate parliamentary vote based on what it thought was sound intelligence at the time about the regional security threat Iraq posed. This threat consensus was shared by all of the world’s major intelligence services. Blair’s critics also need to get over their childish infatuation with the United Nations as supposedly the only “legitimate” arbiter of what is legal under international law. Sovereign nations and their leaders make the decisions to go to war and they will stand accountable for their actions to their electorates and, ultimately, to God. Iraq war critics should ask Saddam Hussein and his followers and apologists why they chose to support a man and regime who launched military attacks against Kuwait, Iran, and Israel, used chemical weapons against his own population, paid money to Palestinean families whose progeny were killed in terrorist attacks against Israelis, and ran a sadistic gangster regime modeled after Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. I can hear their silence now!
Critics of this war and all wars also need to realize that soldiers volunteering to serve in the military do so knowing that they may be called upon by their governments to engage in war and possibly die. Military service is not a safe space! Nor is it a financial ticket for college or vocational training. It involves being physically, intellectually, and spiritually prepared to face the inescapable reality of death and dying if combat is required. The reaction to the Chilcot report is more important than the report’s important findings. They reveal that too many people in Britain and elsewhere do not understand the brutal realities of war against Islamist terror and think that delusional utopian means such as “peaceful coexistence” can be used to mediate our irreconcilable differences with the perpetrators of Islamist ideology.
It would be nice if the new British Conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May can beginning educating their populace on these unpleasant and enduring realities of human nature and military conflict.