LONDON – With the land of the two rivers, Iraq and Syria, now a wasteland of human suffering and rubble, the Report of the Iraq Inquiry, commonly known as the Chilcot report (after its chairman, Sir John Chilcot), has aimed to help explain how we got here. Now that it has detailed the extent of British culpability in the 2003 American-led invasion of Iraq, those implicated in the report’s findings are using two arguments to refute it.
The first, offered by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, that the world would be much worse today had Iraqi President Saddam Hussein been left in power. The second is that invading Iraq would have succeeded but for a lack of post-invasion planning, which allowed for the mayhem that followed.
The second argument has some truth to it. But the first argument is surely false – a desperate attempt at reputation management by those responsible for a disastrous decision.
To academic observers and others who reported from Iraq at the time, as I did, Saddam was a prototypical regional bully. Domestically, he was a murderous tyrant; but his primary security concern was Iran, with which he waged, with Western support, a pointless war of nearly ten years that cost a million lives and ended in stalemate.