While reading through the Chilcot report and pondering the Iraq question, my personal recollections of the war started coming back to me. A few days after my 8th birthday, I vividly remember being woken up by my father’s celebrations. I went downstairs and on the TV were scenes of Firdos Square and the statue of Saddam being toppled. He excitedly explained to me how the most brutal and terrible regime of our generation was over. I had never seen him so animated. Although my London upbringing left me with somewhat a confused sense of my own identity, I felt a similar joy and I sensed hope – my country’s, and in a sense my own, liberation. Sadly, the situation in Iraq (and my father) never quite had that same joy since. As I returned to reality (and the Chilcot report) I was convinced by the clear faults in the way the invasion and resulting occupation was handled. However, the report’s main problem is that much of the criticisms for justification of the war are only clear through hindsight. On balance, the dethroning of Saddam was a necessity and this in my mind legitimises and justifies the military invasion of Iraq.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the British public, and something that the Chilcot report clearly suggests, is that Iraq was an “illegal” war. The report explicitly states that the “circumstances in which it was decided there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory”. The report has not clarified the ongoing debate as to whether UN Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 1441 had given a legal dimension for military intervention. Ultimately, the legality of the war could only be fully resolved through an international court but there was clear evidence for jusification at the time on humanitarian and other security grounds.
My personal problem with the war is the planning and process under which it was done. My country has been in a state of chaos ever since and I feel that this, at least in part, is due to the poor planning and arrangements by the Blair and Bush administrations. The Chilcot findings similarly agree that “the consequences of the invasion were underestimated” and that the planning and preparations following the downfall of Saddam were “wholly inadequate”. While the Blair administration must concede some blame for the following crises, much of this is also down to corruption in the, democratically elected, Iraqi politicians. Chilcot disagrees with Blair’s claims that these instabilities “could not have been known”, but, such a statement is easy to make in retrospect.
The decision that was taken was primarily based on an “ingrained belief” in intelligence communities that Iraq had chemical, biological and nuclear weapon capabilities. These judgements were “presented with a certainty that was not justified”. Chilcot suggests that these reports “were not challenged, and they should have been”. This is, again, an absurdly easy statement to make in retrospect. After Iraq was given a “final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations” set out in UNSC Resolution 1441, the Prime Minister made a decision with the belief Iraq’s weapon capabilities were true and accordingly acted in the interests of the nation’s security.
Critics of Blair and the war, as Hayder Al-Khoei has rightly pointed out, have “forgotten the horrors” of Ba’athist Iraq – they have idealized pre-2003 picture of Iraq in their minds. Ironically, the very same chemical weapons that the West feared, were the ones that the Iraqi people felt the most. Documented (and undoubtedly undocumented) human right violations under Saddam’s rule are extraordinary and in their own right can serve as justification for the invasion of Iraq.
Being brought up in London, I was told that it was too dangerous for me to go back to my homeland, that there was nothing but suffering there. I was constantly reminded of Saddam’s fanaticism and despite years of the regime’s violations on all spectrums, nothing was done. Despite opportunities to dethrone Saddam such as in the 1991 uprisings, it seems likely that by 2003 military intervention was the only possible solution.