The Iraq Inquiry – then and now


Sir John Chilcot has delivered a devastating critique of Tony Blair’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, with his long-awaited report concluding that Britain chose to join the US invasion before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted. See: Chilcot delivers crushing verdict on Blair and the Iraq war (Luke Harding, Guardian UK, 6 July 2016).

On the occasion of the release of the Chilcot report, we thought it would be useful to recall the testimony given by RI President Peggy Mason to the then House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 2002. An independent international security policy expert at the time, Mason was one of the few former “insiders” who spoke out strongly against the American war plan. In her statement she demonstrated that:

–          There was no UN Security Council authorization of the use of force against Iraq;

–          Neither was self-defence justified in circumstances devoid of evidence of any Iraqi intention to attack the USA or the UK or any other country for that matter;

–          There was no remotely convincing evidence that Saddam Hussein, while under intensive international sanctions, had developed a nuclear weapons capability or even reconstituted his army in any meaningful way.

–          The risks of fomenting regional instability by invading Iraq were incalculable; and

–          There were excellent alternatives to the use of force, including long term monitoring of sensitive military technologies.

On the issue of whether there was UN authorization for the invasion of Iraq, Mason said:

In Resolution 1441, passed unanimously on November 8th last, the 15 members of the UN Security Council did not rubber-stamp the U.S. call to war. Instead, they lined up behind a tough resolution calling for “immediate, unimpeded, unconditional and unrestricted access” for UN weapons inspectors, stated their intention to convene immediately in the event of an Iraqi failure to comply with its disarmament obligations and warned of “serious consequences” of such violations.

No use of force was authorized by this resolution, a fact clearly acknowledged by all Security Council members – including the United States – in their statements in the Council chamber immediately following the vote. This lack of a trigger – hidden or otherwise – for the use of force means that this resolution respects the wishes of the vast majority of UN member states and their citizens who are overwhelmingly opposed to a frighteningly reckless war that is unprovoked, unjust and totally unnecessary.

On the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war:

[W]hat is at stake here is a world where, in place of might makes right, there is one system of rules, adherence to which enables us to distinguish the good guys from the bad. At the heart of these rules is the UN Charter and the family of institutions it engendered, a system created out of the ashes of two world wars and dedicated to the abandonment by all nations of the use of force as a guiding principle of national statecraft. To overturn this system is to return to anarchy.

On the alternatives to war:

An alternative to war exists and this is a united Security Council fully behind “Smart Sanctions”, “future monitoring” and a tough inspection/disarmament regime. This means targeting the sanctions on military equipment and monitoring all sensitive imports (dual use goods) in accordance with the future monitoring system developed by UNSCOM and the IAEA and blessed by the Security Council in 1995. Equally, it means ending the general economic embargo – that has caused so much hardship to ordinary Iraqis and so undermined international support for the disarmament regime – so the economy and the Iraqi middle class can start to function again and civil society can start to prepare the ground for internal regime change.

Click Mason Peggy-EN FAAE Iraq Nov 2002 for the testimony in its entirety.

See also the UK Guardian article by George Monbiot where he cites perhaps the most damning two sentences in the entire Chilcot Report:

“We do not agree that hindsight is required.” All the disasters that came to pass were “explicitly identified before the invasion”.

Paul Heinbecker, Canada’s UN Ambassador at the time, who worked tirelessly to fend off unilateral American military action (and would have succeeded if the USA had had the slightest interest in a peaceful solution) identifies 5 Lessons for Canada in the Iraq Inquiry Report (Globe and Mail, 7 July 2016).


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