We were right to invade Iraq, whatever Chilcot says
Iraq under Saddam Hussein was notorious for its severe violations of human rights. Some rights activists believe the death toll could be near the one million figure in his three decades in charge. We were right to remove Saddam from power, whatever Chilcot says
In the wake of yet more delays to the publication date for the Chilcot Inquiry -- nearly five years after it began -- I still fully believe that we made the right decision in going to war in Iraq, and dislodging Saddam Hussein.
The Iraq war was -- and arguably still is -- one of the largest subjects of conjecture across the globe in the 21st Century, with an estimated 36 million protestors across 3,000 different rallies gathering together to speak out against invading the country back in 2003.
With the conflict lasting eight years, costing the lives of 179 British soldiers and billions of pounds, it's certainly easy to understand why people were so against it. And that is before mentioning the ‘sexed up’ dossier, a large part of the investigation by the government into weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq, which ultimately led to Britain's participation in the invasion in the first place.
The dossier contained a number of allegations stating that Iraq possessed WMD, including chemical and biological weapons, and that Saddam Hussein could deploy them within 45 minutes of an order to use them. It even alleged that Iraq had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme, posing a significant risk to the UK, the US and wider Western society.
In hindsight, we now of course know that these claims were untrue and in January 2004, the Hutton Inquiry released its report, which among other things concluded that the government "probably knew that the 45 minutes claim [a critical part of the dossier] was wrong or questionable”.
So, after all this, how could the Iraq war be considered even close to a success?
Well, to put it simply, we took down one of the most belligerent, dangerous, callous tyrants of the modern era and have put the country on a path -- albeit a long one -- to regaining its freedom.
Iraq's era under President Saddam Hussein was notorious for its severe violations of human rights. Secret police, torture, mass murder, rape, deportations, forced disappearances, assassinations, chemical warfare, and the destruction of southern Iraq's marshes were some of the methods the country's Ba'athist government used to maintain control.
The total number of deaths related to torture and outright murder during this period is unknown, but some human rights activists believe it could be near to the one million figure in his three decades in charge.
This is a man who -- according to Human Rights Watch -- during his campaign against Iraqi Kurds, massacred 50-100,000 non-combatant civilians including women and children; he destroyed about 4,000 villages (out of 4,655) in Iraqi Kurdistan, demolished 1,754 schools, 270 hospitals, 2,450 mosques and 27 churches.
He tore the whole place apart, and everyone that lived there.
He needed to go. And we did it.
However, it would be distinctly unbalanced if I just considered it as ‘mission accomplished’ and didn’t mention the estimated death toll of the Iraq war -- which stands, according to some estimates, at around 400,000. Many of these will have been civilians.
However, as tragic as these losses of course are, they haven’t died without a cause. Taking some obvious, well-documented and unforgiveable wrongdoing out of the equation, they weren’t tortured, raped or massacred -- except by insurgent groups whose actions account for the vast majority of the death toll. They died during a war, a war that took place to remove a tyrant and set the country on the path to democracy.
Critics will argue that this path is long and the route is unclear. Many wonder whether Iraq will ever even get there, especially with the formation of further extremist groups like ISIS.
But the Coalition troops that fought and died didn't do so for nothing. Whether the dossiers were exaggerated and the legality of the war has been questioned isn’t the major issue here.
We achieved the first part of what we set out to do over a decade ago. And we set Iraq on the journey to finish the job. To those who say they’ll never recover, the Arab Spring, for example, suggests that these processes will not be completed overnight. But the crucial aspect is that the intentions behind them were the right ones.
The Chilcot Inquiry will answer questions on whether our troops were properly prepared, how the war was conducted and what planning there was for its aftermath.
But I for one believe we made the right decision at the time, and hopefully Iraq will start to regain its identity in the coming years. We may then reflect on a tough and unpopular, call -- but ultimately the right one.
Martin Sparey is a political activist and communications professional based in London @SpareySpeaks
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