The release last week in London of the Chilcot Committee report is a welcome reminder of the lies and deception that led to the war in Iraq. In a report of some 2.6 million words, more than seven years in the making, the Iraq Inquiry Committee came to the following conclusions:
- the supposed intelligence used to justify the war was flawed,
- Iraq in 2003 did not pose a threat to international security, and
- the moral and legal case for war was highly questionable.
No surprise in any of this, but it is important to focus on the results of the British inquiry and to ask whether such study should be conducted in this country.
Many of us who attempted to prevent the war in the months before the 2003 invasion made many of the same arguments as the Chilcot report. The Sanctions and Security Project of the Fourth Freedom Forum and the Kroc Institute produced a series of research studies, assessing official reports of UN weapons inspectors and the impacts of sanctions in Iraq, to document the following:
- UN weapons inspectors during the 1990s systematically dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program and its chemical weapons and ballistic missile programs, and found no evidence of those weapons being rebuilt.
- When UN inspectors returned to Iraq in 2002, after being removed in 1998, they conducted more than 400 inspections in all known weapons sites. They found no evidence of any nuclear weapons development. The head of the IAEA told the UN Security Council in January 2003 “no evidence of ongoing prohibited nuclear or nuclear-related activities has been detected.”
- The UN oil embargo and trade sanctions on Iraq reduced the government’s earnings by more than 90 percent, leading to a drop in Iraqi military spending from $22.5 billion in 1990 to $1.2 billion in the late 1990s. Sanctions blocked Iraqi attempts to import weapons-related goods.
These and many other facts about the lack of justification for war were plainly available at the time and could be easily compiled now to produce a U.S. version of the Chilcot report. Such a report would confirm what almost everyone now concedes: the United States and Britain engaged in an unnecessary and unjustified military attack against another country. By invading Iraq without UN Security Council authorization they violated international law.
No U.S. government agency will support an inquiry into these inconvenient truths, so perhaps a team of independent scholars and former officials should be formed to produce a version of the Chilcot report on this side of the Atlantic. The goal would be to learn the lessons of the war and prevent such disasters in the future. The suggested title: Never Again!