The repercussions from the catastrophic Iraq war continue to reverberate around the world in various ways. Ten years on, fundamental lessons have not been learnt as Britain still insists on becoming embroiled in conflicts in Muslim countries. The latest is Mali at a time when it seeks to withdraw its troops from the quagmire caused in Afghanistan.
Volumes have already been written about the war, the questionable legality, the blitzkrieg tactics, the chaotic strategy, the lack of post-conflict planning and most of all the deceitful justification and hidden agendas. The post mortem of the Iraqi invasion has caused many politicians to change their views about the rights and wrongs of the invasion, with the exception of a handful of neo-cons, including former Prime Minister, Tony Blair. In its tracks, it has stained intelligence information and a lasting legacy of distrust about the nature of politics.
A grave offence was to link the invasion with the so-called war on terrorism, singling out Muslim countries. Out of the ruins has been the devastating extraordinary torturing of prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, and rendition and torture of terrorist suspects to a litany of hidden concentration camps around the world that has exposed a complete disregard for any semblance of basic human rights. The image of the US as the world’s policeman and Britain as its second lieutenant has been left in tatters of a web of abusive military interventions.
The war was launched in complete disregard of overwhelming public opposition, marked by the biggest ever protests seen in central London. It was waged under a beta version of the Bush Doctrine of relentless military might. It was a new model of unprincipled ethics, revised but ratcheted up under the Obama Administration to remote drone attacks and targeted killing which has led to deaths of hundreds of Muslim civilians.
The invasion succeeded in toppling the brutal authoritarian government of Saddam Hussein, whom the west had previously supported and armed and had supported the invasion of Iran which led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslims, but at the same time unleashed a backlash of massive insurgencies that has descended into a civil war that still has no end in sight. After six years, British troops were left scampering out of Basra, demoralised in shame. The Americans hung on for another two years before retreating at a huge cost of $3 trillion damage to the US economy, estimated by former World Bank chief economist Joseph Stiglitz.
In Britain, Blair is accused of being “evangelical” in his approach to the world in toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, of making mistakes which led to British forces being ill-prepared for the invasion and caught out by the violent aftermath. Such was his zeal, it has since been revealed that he supported the US-led invasion without any preconditions nearly a year before he publicly committed Britain to taking part. Instead of meeting his pledge to meet the root causes of conflict, he set in motion the destabilisation of the Middle East almost a century after his predecessors rewrote a fractious map of the region.
With the Chilcott report on Iraq inquiry being continually delayed, it is time to admit it was wrong, as with the ‘war on terrorism’ and other interventions made in its disgraced name. In the recent soul-searching, Minister without Portfolio, Kenneth Clarke, has admitted that Iraq was “the most disastrous foreign policy decision of my lifetime…worse than Suez.”
Without any change, the legacy will continue to haunt the west to the disservice of the rest of the world.
But with reports that the Inquiry has run into a brick wall over the disclosure of sensitive evidence leading to the invasion, there appears to be little hope of learning lessons to purge past mistakes. Central to it is what Blair secretly pledged to Bush in what amounts to a total abuse of power and accountability. It would be yet another disgraceful cover-up and a derogation of duty towards the public, leaving it decades before the truth is ever revealed.