Today the inquiry into the British involvement in the Iraq War was published. Coming to some 2.6m words it is possibly the longest exercise in confirmation bias ever written.
I had some of my views on the war challenged. I was 14 when the Second Gulf War began so have relatively limited memories of what went on in the run-up to the war so I rely very much on accounts of those days.
I am in favour of intervention wherever there is a crisis we can stop. Where there is a vicious dictator we can destroy and when we can bring harmony where there is discord.
That does not mean to say I think the Iraq war was correct. We went in for the wrong reasons. The allegations about the WMD Dossier being ‘sexed up’ have been largely found to be false. So the intelligence was poor. This does not make our invasion better or worse. There were no WMDs. This is known now. If there was a conspiracy to say Iraq had WMDs it wouldn’t have been a particularly complicated matter to ‘discover’ some mustard gas in a bunker near Mosul but we shall leave that to one side.
Once we were in the war our mission was poorly executed. Our troops were ill-equipped. The de-Baathification of the country was mishandled, taking away vital security infrastructure and denying well-trained men a salary and purpose. I can’t really say much else on these fronts, these are lessons to be learned rather than reasons for or against the invasion of another country.
Lessons learned above. The reason for going to war was wrong. What would have been a better reason?
Saddam Hussein was, for lack of a better word, a c*nt. An awful individual who ruled his country with an iron fist. He killed many many thousands of Kurds, Shia, and Sunni for that matter. He started a brutal war with Iran that killed a million. He used chemical weapons and would have developed nuclear weapons had the Israeli’s not saved the world from that hell in 1981. The world is a better place without Saddam Hussein. He may have kept the tribes in Iraq in their place but he did it with bullets and gas. The world is better with him no longer amongst the living. Is Iraq safer? Probably not. The bombings over the weekend make that “probably” very tenuous, but a counterfactual against Saddam still being in place is impossible to know. If regime change, of a disgusting regime, had been the stated goal, if the post-war planning had been better executed, if the troops had been better equipped, we might not have shrunk from intervening in Syria when we should have – after Assad used chemical weapons. We could have dealt with North Korea before they developed the bomb.
There are vile regimes operating in the world. We have the power to do something to prevent genocides. Where we don’t intervene we are culpable. We should have intervened in Rwanda, in Kosovo (earlier than we did), in North Korea to destroy the vile Kim dynasty, in Iraq to destroy Saddam at the first Gulf War. Regime change isn’t something we should shrink from. There are vile regimes in the world. We are better than they are. We have the power to help. Whether we do it through economic pressure on the lesser evils, such as Saudi, Venezuela, and Russia, or through military might on the greater and more pressing evils. We are good, they are evil. That sounds simplistic because it is. A regime that gasses civilians, that imposes three generations of punishment for not crying sincerely, that hangs homosexuals from cranes is not one that we should allow.
Imperialist? Sure. Call me that if you want. Not living in the real world? Something I can justly be accused of. But it doesn’t make me wrong.
The Iraq War happened for the wrong reasons and was poorly executed. It does not mean the world would be better off if Saddam were still gassing his people.