Grim lessons from the Iraq invasion

Grim lessons from the Iraq invasion

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For many, Britain’s Iraq War Inquiry report, released on Wednesday by Sir John Chilcot who headed the investigation, came as confirmation of what they already believed. Yet, the conclusions of a government-appointed committee that Prime Minister Tony Blair exaggerated the case for the 2003 invasion and led Britain to war before all peaceful options were exhausted are of great significance. They have the power to influence both contemporary politics and future policy-making. The inquiry also found that Mr. Blair’s government was ill-prepared to face the consequences of the war. Thirteen years after the U.S. and the U.K. invaded Iraq and toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein, the real motives of the war have still not been sufficiently explained. The case for war built by Mr. Blair and U.S. President George W. Bush crumbled to dust after the invasion. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, nor could the attackers prove any substantial link between al-Qaeda and Saddam. As a result, the war lacked all justification. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were killed and millions wounded and displaced. The destruction of the Iraqi state and the chaos that followed set the stage for the rise of several extremist groups. The roots of the Islamic State, perhaps the most vicious and potent terrorist machinery today, go back to one such group, al-Qaeda in Iraq.
What is worse, the big powers refused to learn any lesson from the Iraq tragedy. Even after it was clear that the invasion was disastrous, the West forced another regime change in Libya in 2011, repeating the same mistakes committed in Iraq and creating another haven for extremists. British Prime Minister David Cameron, who voted for the Iraq war in 2003, wanted military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, a proposal rejected by the House of Commons in 2013. Though the U.S. and the U.K. shelved the plan to directly attack Syria, they continued supporting anti-regime rebels in the country, worsening its security situation and further helping terrorist groups such as the IS and Jabhat al-Nusra. There is no disputing the ruthlessness of these dictators. But toppling them through wars or weakening their regimes through proxy civil wars is far more dangerous, as these crisis-hit nations would recount. The Iraq war set off the contemporary chaos in West Asia and North Africa, and no one knows where it will all end. Mr. Blair still has an unapologetic air, but his successors can’t turn a blind eye towards the Chilcot findings if they are serious about preventing more such misadventures. As Jeremy Corbyn, chief of the Labour Party, said, “All those who took the decisions laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their actions, whatever they may be.”

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