What the Chilcot Inquiry Really Tells Us About the War in Iraq

Seven years following the commencement of the long-awaited Chilcot inquiry, the findings have finally been published this week. The Guardian newspaper has referred to the findings as “crushing.” Russian media have taken this one step further by calling the report “damning.”

Despite the media’s clear inability to find any positive spin on the report, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair continues to stick to his decision to forcibly remove Saddam Hussein in 2003, creating a vacuum of power which plunged Iraq into chaos.

“I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer,” Blair stated.

Anyone who knows anything about the current situation in the Middle East knows this to be the most ludicrous statement ever made, in light of the fact that Dick Cheney stated almost 10 years prior to the Blair invasion the reasons for not removing Saddam Hussein in the first Gulf War:

… if we’d gone to Baghdad, we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a US occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have, the west. Part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim. Fought over for eight years. In the north, you’ve got the Kurds. And if the Kurds spin loose and join with Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

Apparently, Blair didn’t take this statement as a warning, but saw it as a challenge.

So what does the text of the inquiry actually say?

Firstly, the report makes it clear that the invasion of Iraq was not a “last resort,” as all peaceful options had not been exhausted. Chilcot stated: “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament has been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

Secondly, the report states that the weapons of mass destruction propaganda campaign was presented “with a certainty that was not justified.” How it took seven years and 10 million British pounds to reach this conclusion is unclear, but it is progress of a kind that the report has acknowledged this fact.

Third, and most importantly, the report states that the Blair administration “undermined authority” of the United Nations Security Council. The report stated: “In the absence of a majority support of military action, we consider that the UK was in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority.”

What the report is saying, in the most possibly diplomatic, neutral and sugar-coated manner, is that the US-UK led invasion of Iraq was illegal. Undermining the Security Council’s authority in order to go to war with a sovereign nation without a Security Council mandate makes the war illegal.

The United Nations Charter tasks the Security Council with maintaining international peace and security. Article 2(4) of the UN Charter states that: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.”

In the absence of an armed attacked from Iraq against US or its allies (remember 9/11 was supposedly committed mostly by Saudi nationals trained in Pakistan and Afghanistan), the only way in which the US-UK establishment could have gone to war with Iraq would have been with a UN Security Council Resolution. There is obviously the case to argue for preemptive self-defense, but bear in mind that the report has concluded that the intelligence presented was uncertain, and that all peaceful options should have been exhausted first. So, good luck with that argument.

Therefore, although the Chilcot report does not make a conclusion regarding the legality of the war, undermining the only legitimate body tasked with maintaining peace and security and taking action unilaterally against a sovereign state, regardless of the fact that the basis for doing so completely fabricated, makes the Iraq invasion illegal, no matter how the report phrases it.

This is in fact the essence of the report — if the report had been written bravely and honestly enough. It won’t go so far to explicitly state that the war was illegal because the implications of a declaration of legality could mean prosecution or other action against Blair himself, and that might inconvenience his current lifestyle.