Overshadowed to some extent by the recent furore over Brexit, this Wednesday the long-awaited Chilcot report into the Iraq war will finally be released to public gaze.
Predictions of its contents have varied from assumptions that it will prevent any serious re-examination of the decision by obfuscating on the key facts, to speculation that it’s criticism of British Government behaviours will make very painful reading indeed, both for MPs, MPs advisors, and civil servants.
As the Guardian reports, there is a very strong likelihood that a number of MPs will use the report to conduct a very rare parliamentary process to impeach Tony Blair for his role in launching the war, which would see the former Prime Minister theoretically jailed, but would more likely be an inglorious and embarrassing end to Blair’s public career, and a permanent blight on his legacy. There might well be cross-bench support for such an action, given that Blair is viscerally detested by the left-wing of the Labour Party (and has been criticised by its current leader, Jeremy Corbyn, for his role in the invasion), the Lib Dems were the only major party (at that time) to oppose the Iraq invasion, and the SNP will take any opportunity to embarrass Labour. A Tory or two might join in just to enhance the embarrassment factor.
What will not be happening, despite being thoroughly warranted in our view, is any appearance by Tony Blair (and George Bush, and John Howard) at the International Criminal Court at the Hague, as the court has ruled that it can only try cases based on the conduct of a conflict, not the decision to go to war itself.
This bizarre circumlocution will see the very real prospect of individual British soldiers and commanders being dragged before the court, but not the men who sent them to Iraq. Perhaps one smart move arising out of all this mess would be to reconsider the role of the court.
The ICC has begun a preliminary examination of claims of torture and abuse by British soldiers, after receiving a dossier from human rights lawyers acting for alleged Iraqi victims.
In the statement, the office of the prosecutor at the ICC said: “We will take note of the Chilcot report when released in the context of its ongoing preliminary examination work concerning Iraq/UK. A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process aimed at determining whether reasonable basis exist to open an investigation. As already indicated by the office in 2006, the ‘decision by the UK to go to war in Iraq falls outside the court’s jurisdiction’.”
The prosecutor’s office said the ICC was looking at introducing a “crime of aggression” which would cover illegal invasions but that “has not yet crystallised and in any event, will not apply retroactively”.
Meanwhile the slaughter generated by the insane decision to invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein with no clear idea of how to replace him or what “success” might look like continues to wreak its toll, as the power vacuum left behind continues to stoke the fires of internecine hatred in what was always an artificially-constructed country which should have unquestionably been divided into a Kurdish, Sunni and Shia state, with Baghdad as an international city housing a confederated EU-style parliament of sorts.
To add to the approximately 500,000 Iraqis who have died violently since the invasion, a further 125 innocents (including 25 children) were blown to pieces overnight in an IS attack on a Shia community in the Karrada neighbourhood, likely to be in retaliation for the loss of Fallujah to government forces, less than an hour down the road from the capital. At least 147 people were wounded.
As people congregated, shopped and watched soccer matches, the bomb-laden truck plowed into a building housing a coffee shop, stores and a gym. Firefighters rescued wounded and trapped people in adjacent buildings.
ISIS promised an uptick in terror attacks during Ramadan. The Baghdad assault came just days after massacres at a cafe in Dhaka, Bangladesh, the Ataturk International Airport in Istanbul, Turkey, and security targets in Yemen. There have also been recent suicide attacks in Jordan at a border crossing near Syria, and suicide attacks in aChristian area of northern Lebanon.
ISIS has claimed responsibility for the attacks in Bangladesh and Yemen and there are news reports that ISIS claimed responsibility for the Jordanian attack. Experts believe the group might have conducted the attacks in Turkey and Lebanon.
Omar Mateen, the killer in Orlando, and the attacker in France both pledged allegiance to ISIS.
A second bomb exploded Sunday at an outdoor market in the Shaab neighbourhood of southeastern Baghdad, killing one person and wounding five others, police said.
Both Baghdad strikes are a sign of the Sunni-Shiite tension in the Muslim world. Sunni-dominated ISIS claimed it was targeting Shiite neighbourhoods. Karrada and Shaab are predominately Shiite.
Cedric Leighton, a CNN military analyst and retired Air Force colonel, thinks the attacks will worsen and said that is ISIS’ game plan, essentially, to generate instability.
“They are trying to create enough chaos in Iraq itself so that the Iraqi forces will find it very difficult to actually take advantage of the forward momentum they have achieved because of their victory in Fallujah and that is a very serious issue that the al-Abadi administration is going to have to address.”
It’s hard to say “when and where they are going to strike,” he said of ISIS.
“This is a very, very difficult time. It is a very risky time, just because the political fissures are so great within Iraq that they are so easily exploitable by ISIS and its fellow travelers.”
Such attacks, like the one in Baghdad will serve to drive a wedge between the government and the people, in particular the Shiites.
“The wedge was already there and its fairly easy for them to exploit this,” he said.
There is no question, of course, that the divide between Shia and Sunni has been going on for centuries, but what is rarely said is that on occasions in the past both of the major Islamic factions have lived together peaceably for long periods as well. The invasion of Iraq set off a chain reaction of events that has now embroiled almost the entire Middle East in sectarian conflict, as well as seeing major attacks on the West.
One satisfactory response to Chilcott would be a commitment from all political leaders in the West to abjure from military interventionism and adventurism in the future, and for them to concentrate, instead, on the growth of inter-cultural confidence building and civic structures in countries that a struggling with massive problems and the difficulties of transitioning to a post-colonial environment.
Don’t hold your breath. It’s so much simpler to just bomb the shit out of somewhere. And the pretty fireworks look so impressive on TV.