By Nick Gier
After seven long years of investigation, a British commission led by Sir John Chilcot has issued its findings on the British participation in the Iraq War. The report, 2.6 million words in 12 volumes, concludes that plans were “seriously flawed” and that the war “went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.”
As an example, Chilcot mentioned the recent ISIS car bombing in Baghdad that claimed 250 lives. There would be no ISIS today if President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair had not taken their nations into war.
The inquiry has led to the release of secret memos between Bush and Blair in which both, as early as October 2001, agreed that Hussein should be removed from power. In a declassified “Note on Iraq” (7/28/02) Blair promises Bush that “I will be with you, whatever,” and he offered this prediction: “If we win quickly, everyone will be our friend. If we don’t, recriminations will start fast.”
The initial ground war did indeed go quickly, and Bush celebrated “Mission Accomplished” with a stunt landing on the USS Abraham Lincoln. But the Chilcot Report found that plans for a post-invasion Iraq were “wholly inadequate.” On the American side, Bush political appointees with little or no training in nation building and ignorant of Arab culture made fatal mistakes.
Major among these errors was the decision to disband the Iraqi army, many of whom joined Al Qaeda and then ISIS. Early on Abu Masab al-Zarqawi, future head of Al Qaeda in Iraq, joined Ansar al-Islam, but he and these Kurdish Islamists had, contrary to claims by the Bush administration, no relationship with Hussein.
The Pentagon wanted to take out the Ansar al-Islam base in Northeast Iraq prior to the invasion of Iraq, but this idea was vetoed by the National Security Agency. Tragically, Zarqawi was then free to lead a brutal campaign against Shia Muslims and Coalition forces until he was killed in 2006.
It is clear that the invasion itself caused the rise of Sunni jihadists and the Sunni/Shia civil war that followed. Hussein was a moderate Sunni, so sectarian tensions were held in check and attacks on Shia Muslims were rare. His human rights record was of course horrible.
Paul Bremer, Bush’s top man in Iraq, has responded to the Chilcot Report by saying that it is unfair to blame his boss for failed intelligence. A more accurate phrase is “cooked” intelligence, many examples of which are found in former Secretary of State Colin Powell’s infamous speech to the UN. His own State Department knew that the aluminum tubes, which he said were manufactured for nuclear weapons, were in fact rocket launchers. On other allegations State Department officials warned Powell that they were “weak,” “not credible” or “highly questionable.”
Parents of British soldiers killed in Iraq are now considering law suits against Blair, and protestors in the streets are calling him a war criminal. The Chilcot Report maintains that the legal basis for the war was “questionable,” but Chilcot said that jurists would have to settle that issue. The Justice Department decided not to pursue charges against the Bush administration, so the legality issue has not been resolved in the U.S. either.
That there were violations of international law is certain. In 2011 George W. Bush cancelled a trip to Switzerland because a complaint had been filed in a Geneva court against him. Bush has admitted that he ordered waterboarding, considered a war crime under the Geneva Convention on Torture.
Not only did Bush’s prosecution of the war undermine our moral standing in the world, it also led to the deaths of 4,502 U. S. service men and women. Although U. S. officials were forbidden from tallying Iraqi fatalities, estimates run from 180,000 to 1 million.
The 32,223 wounded Americans (many of them severely injured) has put a huge burden on the Veterans Administration even with increased funding. On average 20 Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans take their lives every day.
Finally, there is the issue of billions and billions of dollars spent on this tragic and unnecessary war. A report by Reuters estimated that the cost, including veterans’ benefits, is $2.2 trillion, which would grow to over $4 trillion over the next four decades.
The GOP Congress has done nine investigations of Benghazi, but there has been no comprehensive investigation of the Iraq War. Instead of yet again harassing Clinton, why doesn’t Congress put Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld in the hot seat?
Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years. Read all of his columns about the Iraq War on the appropriate links at www.NickGier.com.