FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Iraq War Was an Act of Military Aggression Launched on a False Pretext: Remarks on the Chilcot Inquiry Report

by

[The following is a transcript of Jeremy Corbyn’s remarks today in the House of Commons.]

Before addressing the issues raised in the Iraq Inquiry report, I would like to remember and honour the 179 British servicemen and women killed and the thousands maimed and injured during the Iraq war, and their families as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the invasion and occupation of Iraq launched by the US and British governments 13 years ago.

Yesterday I had a private meeting with some of the families of the British dead as I have continued to do over the past dozen years.

It is always a humbling experience to witness the resolve and resilience of these families and their unwavering commitment to seek truth and justice for those that they lost in Iraq.

They have waited seven years for Sir John Chilcot’s report.

It was right that the inquiry heard evidence from such a wide range of people and that the origins, conduct and aftermath of the war should have been examined in such detail.

But the extraordinary length of time it has taken to see the light of day is clearly a matter for regret.

I should add that the scale of the report running to 6,275 pages to which I was only given access at 8 o’clock this morning means that today’s response by all of us can only be a provisional one.

Mr Speaker, the decision to invade and occupy Iraq in March 2003 was the most significant foreign policy decision taken by a British government in modern times.

It divided this House and set the government of the day against a majority of the British people as well as against the weight of global opinion.

The war was not in any way as Sir John Chilcot says a “last resort”.

Frankly, it was an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext as the inquiry accepts and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.

It led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions of refugees.

It devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and society.

The occupation fostered a lethal sectarianism – as the report makes clear – that turned into a civil war. Instead of protecting security at home or abroad, the war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region.

Sunday’s suicide bomb attack in Baghdad which killed over 250 people, the deadliest so far, was carried out by a group whose origins lie in the aftermath of the invasion.

By any measure, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been for many a catastrophe.

Mr. Speaker, the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 on the basis of what the Chilcot report calls “flawed intelligence” about the weapons of mass destruction has had a far-reaching impact on us all.

It also led to a fundamental breakdown in trust in politics and in our institutions of government.

The tragedy is that while the governing class got it so horrifically wrong – many of our people actually got it right.

On February 15th, 2003 over 1.5 million people spanning the political spectrum, and tens of millions of other people across the world, marched against the impending war in the biggest demonstration in British history.

It wasn’t that we those of us who opposed the way underestimated the brutality or crimes of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship. Indeed, many of us campaigned against the Iraqi regime during its most bloody period when the Thatcher government and the US administration were busy supporting that regime – as was confirmed by the 1996 Scott Inquiry.

But we could see that this state, broken by sanctions and war, posed no military threat and that the WMD evidence was flimsy and confected, that going to war without United Nations authorization was profoundly dangerous, that foreign invasion and occupation would be resisted by force and would set off a series of uncontrollable and destructive events.

If only this House had been able to listen to the wisdom of our own people when it voted on 18th March 2003 against waiting for UN authorization through a second resolution the course of events might have been very different.

All but 16 members of the benches opposite supported the way – whilst 140 members of my own Party voted against it – as did many from other Parties.

But none of us will take any satisfaction from this report. Instead, all of us, and I believe everyone in this House, we have to feel saddened at what has been revealed and what we must now reflect on.

In addition to all those British service people and Iraqis, civilians and combatants who lost their lives in this conflict, there are many members of this House who voted to stop the war but who have not lived to see themselves vindicated by this report.

First and foremost, Mr Speaker it would do us all well to remember Robin Cook who stood over there 13 years ago and said in a few hundred words in advance of the tragedy to come what has been confirmed by this report in more than two million words.

The Chilcot Report has rightly dug deep into the litany of failures of planning for the occupation, the calamitous decision to stand down the Iraqi army and to dissolve the Iraqi state.

But the reality is it was the original decision to follow the US president into an unprovoked war in the most volatile region of the world and impose a colonial-style occupation that led to every other disaster.

The government’s September 2002 Dossier with its claim that declaring Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction that could be deployed in 45mins was only the most notorious of many deceptions.

As Major General Michael Laurie told the inquiry – and I quote: “We knew at the time that the purpose of the dossier was precisely to make a case for war rather than setting out the available intelligence”.

We also need much stronger oversight of the security and intelligence services, full restoration of proper cabinet government, and to give parliament the decisive say over any future decision to go to war based on objective information and not just through government discretion but through a War Powers Act –which I hope this Parliament will pass.

And as, in the wake of Iraq our own and other western governments increasingly resort to hybrid warfare based on the use of drones and special forces, our democracy  – and our democracy is crucial and important – needs to ensure that their use is subject to proper parliamentary scrutiny.

There are no more important decisions a Member of Parliament ever gets asked to make than those relating to peace and war.

The very least that MPs and the country should be able to expect is rigorous and objective evidence on which to base their crucial decisions.

We now know the House was misled in the run-up to the war and the House must now decide how it should deal with that 13 years later, just as all those who took the decisions laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their action whatever they may be.

Later today, I will be meeting a group of families of military servicemen and women who lost loved ones, Iraq war veterans and Iraqi citizens who have lost family members as a result of the war that the US and British governments launched in 2003.

I will be discussing with both the British public and the Iraqi people the decisions taken by our then government that led this country into a war with terrible consequences for us all.

More articles by:

Jeremy Corbyn is leader of the British Labour Party.

Weekend Edition
February 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
American Carnage
Paul Street
Michael Wolff, Class Rule, and the Madness of King Don
Andrew Levine
Had Hillary Won: What Now?
David Rosen
Donald Trump’s Pathetic Sex Life
Susan Roberts
Are Modern Cities Sustainable?
Joyce Nelson
Canada vs. Venezuela: Have the Koch Brothers Captured Canada’s Left?
Geoff Dutton
America Loves Islamic Terrorists (Abroad): ISIS as Proxy US Mercenaries
Mike Whitney
The Obnoxious Pence Shows Why Korea Must End US Occupation
Joseph Natoli
In the Post-Truth Classroom
John Eskow
One More Slaughter, One More Piece of Evidence: Racism is a Terminal Mental Disease
John W. Whitehead
War Spending Will Bankrupt America
Dave Lindorff
Trump’s Latest Insulting Proposal: Converting SNAP into a Canned Goods Distribution Program
Robert Fantina
Guns, Violence and the United States
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming Zaps Oxygen
John Laforge
$1.74 Trillion for H-bomb Profiteers and “Fake” Cleanups
CJ Hopkins
The War on Dissent: the Specter of Divisiveness
Peter A. Coclanis
Chipotle Bell
Anders Sandström – Joona-Hermanni Mäkinen
Ways Forward for the Left
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Winning Hearts and Minds
Tommy Raskin
Syrian Quicksand
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma Still Tries to Push Dangerous Drug Class
Jill Richardson
The Attorney General Thinks Aspirin Helps Severe Pain – He’s Wrong
Mike Miller
Herb March: a Legend Deserved
Ann Garrison
If the Democrats Were Decent
Renee Parsons
The Times, They are a-Changing
Howard Gregory
The Democrats Must Campaign to End Trickle-Down Economics
Sean Keller
Agriculture and Autonomy in the Middle East
Ron Jacobs
Re-Visiting Gonzo
Eileen Appelbaum
Rapid Job Growth, More Education Fail to Translate into Higher Wages for Health Care Workers
Ralph Nader
Shernoff, Bidart, and Echeverria—Wide-Ranging Lawyers for the People
Chris Zinda
The Meaning of Virginia Park
Robert Koehler
War and Poverty: A Compromise with Hell
Mike Bader – Mike Garrity
Senator Tester Must Stop Playing Politics With Public Lands
Kenneth Culton
No Time for Olympic Inspired Nationalism
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Final Days of the Regime
Irene Tung – Teófilo Reyes
Tips are for Servers Not CEOs
Randy Shields
Yahoomans in Paradise – This is L.A. to Me
Thomas Knapp
No Huawei! US Spy Chiefs Reverse Course on Phone Spying
Mel Gurtov
Was There Really a Breakthrough in US-North Korea Relations?
David Swanson
Witness Out of Palestine
Binoy Kampmark
George Brandis, the Rule of Law and Populism
Dean Baker
The Washington Post’s Long-Running Attack on Unions
Andrew Stewart
Providence Public School Teachers Fight Back at City Hall
Stephen Cooper
Majestic Meditations with Jesse Royal: the Interview
David Yearsley
Olympic Music
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail