Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Chilcot - will it make any difference to how we've treated Iraq?


What can make it better? 

What can possibly make up for a million Iraqi war-related deaths? For 2 million sanctions deaths before that? Sanctions kept in place by Britain and the US at the UN. Deaths, deformities and cancers caused by depleted uranium bombs and shells? 600,000 child deaths related to sanctions by 1996?

Truth is a first step. We won't get that from Bush or Blair, from Jack Straw or Alastair Campbell, men committed to joining in a war that America was going to lead no matter what.

So what of the latest establishment inquiry?

Overall, Chilcot has surprised many by doing a reasonable job describing the matters surrounding the legality and so the morality of war on Iraq. In addition, there are his comments about other issues such as the lack of planning for the aftermath – one reason Iraq is still in flames now.
The Report is much harder hitting than many people feared, including myself. This is good. Blair should consider himself at least in hot water - if not Iraq as his 'epitaph' – a word he used himself to George W Bush in 2002.
Except for the pass regarding blaming the intelligence, this could be the first time ever that an inquiry by the UK establishment into the UK establishment concluded that UK establishment got it all wrong.

But there is no mention of sanctions deaths, for example - this still remains hidden from the establishment worldview. Nor any mention of the poisoning of the people through depleted uranium weapons the first time around and its legacy there (let alone 'Gulf War Syndrome' here), nor the second time round from 2003. Nor the use of illegal weapons such as white phosphorous as used at Fallujah (by the Americans). 

But Chilcot contains more thoroughness and honesty than the other inquiries to date. So that's progress. But at what stage will it make a difference to Iraqis? At what stage should it be the UK which begins to pay reparations to a country it deliberately and unprovokedly destroyed?

Legal basis for war
The Chilcot Report: "We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory."
This is the closest he comes to saying it was an illegal war! - Go on. Say it! You know you want to! However, what it definitely is is a 'blistering' attack from a Lord. He doesn't quite say it was illegal but he allows question marks over the legality. In other words there is good reason to suspect it was illegal. There is plenty more to say on this: a large number of international lawyers have little hesitation condemning Bush and Blair and their supposed interpretation of 1441 and other UN resolutions they (alone) claimed were relevant, or not.
Chilcot says: "the judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction - WMD - were presented with a certainty that was not justified."
Ie, they were WRONG to say Saddam had WMD! But Bush and Blair had to claim (or feign) certainty in order to remotely be justified in their pre-planned war.
Chilcot :"Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate."
Indeed! There were next to none. They made it up as they went along. Apart from tanks around the Oil Ministry... one of the very first places to be secured!
One thing being overlooked in the entire presentation is that Iraq had ALREADY suffered grievously after 13 years of medieval sanctions (which killed an estimated TWO million children, women and men). The country was already destroyed, everything didn't work or was threadbare. Whatever useful was left was destroyed in shock and awe bombing. It ALL needed reconstruction.
Chilcot: "The government failed to achieve its stated objectives."
This was presumably to disarm a country of WMD when it didn't even have ONE! Moreover, the country, through sanctions, and effective disarmament inspections, was already defenceless.
Chilcot: "It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been."
- This is where he lets Blair off – claiming policy on Iraq was made on 'flawed intelligence'. Fine, but what if this intelligence was deliberately flawed, some of it going back years (the Niger uranium forgery), or cherry-picked to fit the case? But Chilcot does quote the Downing Street Memo of July 23 2002: "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy". – This underscores UK awareness that the US was indeed cherry-picking intelligence. The policy of going to war on Iraq was driven by America, however with Blair, readily, joining in and thus exposing the UK to whatever illegality, consequences and responsibility.
Chilcot: "The Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr Blair that the assessed intelligence had NOT established 'beyond doubt' either that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued."
Here Chilcot is giving Blair a bye. He's blaming the intelligence when in actuality all Blair was interested in was content that worked to show he was right and that war was inevitable – Saddam – weapons – dangerous – a mantra readily repeated by an unquestioning mainstream media.
Chilcot has more on the "inadequacy" of the invasion plans.
"The failures in the planning and preparations continued to have an effect after the invasion."
"More than 200 British citizens died as a result of the conflict in Iraq, Many more were injured. This has meant deep anguish for many families, including those who are here today.
"The invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had, by July 2009, also resulted in the deaths of at least 150,000 Iraqis - and probably many more - most of them civilians. More than a million people were displaced. The people of Iraq have suffered greatly."
"and probably many more" - This won't play so well with the antiwar movement which has kept a close eye on the studies over the years of estimated deaths in Iraq. Empires will always downplay their massacres. Why has Chilcot revised downwards even the early study showing a likely 600,000 deaths? And a later one showing more? The antiwar movement's claim of over 1 million deaths due to war and its effects is well-founded.
Does Chilcot even mention sanctions? Yes he does, but only from the legalistic UN point of view. He doesn't mention these had a likely death toll of TWO million, half of them being children! Nor Denis Halliday, the UN Assistant Secretary General tasked with Iraq, resigning, calling sanctions "genocide" (1998). Nor his successor Hans von Sponeck, doing the same (2000) and using the same wording!
Action "may have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003, there was no imminent threat from Saddam"
- Good. This debunks the imminent threat - and the 45-minute claim (that Dr David Kelly died for). I remember being asked outside John Prescott's house in Hull, at a protest, what will I do when Iraqi missiles start landing here! I replied, How will he (Saddam) get them here? Post them!?
Chilcot: "Mr Blair said the difficulty encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance. We do not agree that hindsight is needed."
- Good. Immense difficulties, especially of a civil war, were predicted by various agencies, especially the antiwar movement. Blair is avoiding responsibility on that one. Bush, of course, had never any intention of taking any.
"Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point. But in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein, the strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time, the majority of the Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring."
- The UN inspection route was working – and it was also shooting down Bush and Blair's claims on a regular and timely basis. You see, the reason they went to war - and why they didn't give the inspections any more time - is because the inspections had worked! Disarmament had worked! In fact, years previously! – This is what the 'peace movement' – ie in this case, the general UK population, maybe 80% of us, knew. And we were proved right. Even by 2004! Not one WMD was ever found.
- Finally Chilcot does include this quote -
'I will be with you, whatever' – from July 2002, from Blair to Bush in a memo, a letter which apparently went missing from the US presidential archive in 2014...
In other words, war was happening, whatever pretext is used, and even if it falls apart.  This intentionality is what makes it wrong and which should necessitate a trial here, somewhere, of Tony Blair for the war crime of aggressive war, which was the supreme crime of Nuremburg.
Martin Deane
Hull Green Party
Hull Stop the war Coalition

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