Saturday 9 July 2016

The Chilcot Report

Another dramatic week in British politics with the long awaited publication of the Chilcot report into the Iraq War.

It was a pretty damning indictment of Tony Blair's decision to take the country into war and his reputation now lays in tatters.

When I considered many of the main findings it confirmed to many people what we already knew or suspected about the decision to invade Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein.

Back in 2002/2003 in the run up to the Iraq War, at no point did I ever believe that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. If he did possess them I certainly didn't believe he posed any kind of threat to the UK. The Chilcot Report confirms much of this.

What was clear between 2001 - 2003 was that a decision had been made by President George Bush and his Neo-Con allies that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. This decision was made in the aftermath of 9/11.

The United States were always going to invade Iraq and there was little that Britain could have said or done to stop this from happening. The question for this country was whether it was right for Tony Blair to ally himself so closely with America in this decision to go to war.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and it's clear that Tony Blair and those who supported the decision to go to war got it wrong. History has judged this decision even more harshly when you consider the utter chaos consumed Iraq since the overthrow of Saddam.

What is perhaps most damning and shameful is the total lack of planning on how Iraq would be governed following regime change. You tend to find that countries that have been ruled for decades by dictators maintain a certain level of stability. However once those leaders are removed the power vacuum that emerges unleashes a whole number of political, cultural and ethnic forces that can be uncontrollable.

This is exactly what we've seen in Iraq. Perhaps if there had been better planning on how Iraq might look after Saddam's removal and the sectarian violence kept under control, we might be looking back on the decision to go to war in a different light.

One thing I did agree with Tony Blair on is that we can't say with 100% how Iraq would look had we not removed Saddam Hussein.

In 2011 we witnessed a number of uprising across the Middle East which was called the 'Arab Spring'. Government and leaders such as Colonel Gaddafi were removed from power. The uprising in Syria has resulted in the prolonged civil war which continues to this day.

Are we meant to believe that Saddam Hussein and Iraq would have been immune from this uprising across the region? It's perfectly conceivable that Iraq could have turned into another Syria. We will never know but it's a distinct possibility.

The decision to go to war in Iraq was a mistake, and its repercussions have and continue to influence the level of trust we have in politicians and the country's foreign policy.

In terms of Tony Blair, it's not fashionable to say but I always thought he was quite a good leader and there were a lot of things that he and New Labour achieved that were of benefit to the country. Many will disagree but what's sad is that his reputation now lies in tatters and he will always be associated with Iraq.

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