Swept Under the Carpet

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The Iraq Inquiry published almost 13 years after the start of the war on Iraq tries to determine the British government's role in the Iraq War. Yet it fails to answer the most fundamental questions.

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Narration: Years after 9/11 attacks one can argue that the collapse of twin towers ignited flames of imperialist wars by British and US establishments.

Both countries and their allies attacked Afghanistan in a bid to destroy al-Qaeda and used the same excuse to illegally invade and occupy another Middle East country.

The Bush administration expressed their justifications for the Iraq war to Congress. This was done by representing that Iraq planned, authorized, committed, or aided the 9/11 attacks

Blair’s government claimed that Iraq was another inevitable target on the war on terror. He pushed Britain to a war destined to be a quagmire. Almost 13 years after the invasion just in a matter of 2 weeks the truth emerged in both countries.

In The United States, a long-classified U.S. report released found that some of the 9/11 hijackers were in contact with and received support from Saudi Arabia while in Britain the scathing Chilcot Report exposed Britain's flawed reasons for waging war in Iraq. And yet, despite the thousands of man hours and millions of words that went into the 12-volume report, there remain some significant questions which, frustratingly, still need answering.

The most important question the Chilcott inquiry tends to ignore is where the invasion legal at first place? In January 2003, Lord Goldsmith gave Tony Blair advice on the legal issues, which no one else in the Cabinet saw. On 7 March, 12 days before the outbreak of the war, Lord Goldsmith delivered his view that the “safest legal course” would be for the US and the UK to persuade the UN Security Council to pass a new resolution authorizing military action.

SOUNDBITE [English] Lord Goldsmith, Former UK Attorney General: “At one stage my provisional view was that taking all these factors into the balance there wasn't enough there. The balance came down in favour of saying no, a second resolution is needed.”

Narration: By the 13th of March, when it was apparent that there was not going to be a new UN resolution it became apparent that the invasion would be legal none the less.

SOUNDBITE [English] Lord Goldsmith, Former UK Attorney General: “I then ultimately reached, when I had to reach a definitive view on this, a different view.”

Narration: Not only does Sir John not offer a judgment on whether the law was legal –he does not answer the intriguing question of why the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, altered his legal advice just days before the tanks rolled across Iraq’s borders. The report rebukes tony Blair for the foreword he provided to a dossier presented to Parliament in September 2002, which referred to Iraq’s possession of WMDs as if that were a known fact.

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SOUNDBITE [English] Tony Blair, Former British Prime Minister:“It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population; and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability.”

Narration: Chilcot report never answers the question that if Blair knew therewere no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

SOUNDBITE [English] General Mike Jackson, British Chief of the General Staff: “I would put it rather mocked at it rather hard for the political purpose.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Carne Ross, Former UK Mission to UN 1997-2002: “Many of witnesses to Chicot had an imparrent interest in bending the truth pretending that they were misled in presenting themselves as not guilty, as not culpable in the process deliberately misleading the public to support an illegal war.”

Narration: The Chilcot committee also accepts that Tony Blair firmly believed that those WMDs existed. Was he not misleading the Parliament? And, if not, would it not be helpful to clarify the matter?

SOUNDBITE [English] Admiral Lord West, Former Chief of the Naval Staff 2002-2006: “In July of that year I know I was told by someone very very high up that we would be invading Iraq with Americans and I had a meeting with my fleet command team and I said I want the navy and marines ready for war in the north, because I had no idea of what the operation was going to be by the 31st of December this year (that was 2002).”

SOUNDBITE [English] John snow, Channel 4 News: “How high does very very high up get?”

SOUNDBITE [English] Admiral Lord West, Former Chief of the Naval Staff 2002-2006: “I wasn’t the 1st Sealord, and it wasn’t as high as you can get but it was very high up. That’s all I am willing to say really.”

SOUNDBITE [English] John snow, Channel 4 News: “You’ve presumably told lord Chilcot all of this, right?”

SOUNDBITE [English] Admiral Lord West, Former Chief of the Naval Staff 2002-2006: “Well I was never asked by lord Chilcot to give evidence.”

SOUNDBITE [English] John snow, Channel 4 News: “I am sorry (Stuttering) the first Sealord of the time was not asked to go to speak to …”

SOUNDBITE [English] Admiral Lord West, Former Chief of the Naval Staff 2002-2006: “Absolutely! I was not asked to… as I am quite delighted because hopefully that means I would be involved in anything that spins out…”

SOUNDBITE [English] John snow, Channel 4 News: “Absolutely incredible that such a crucial figure in the whole load out of war was never spoken to by sir john Chilcot.”

Narration: The report also falls short of clearly indicating how destructive the invasion was for Iraqis. From the outset, Blair emphasized minimizing civilian casualties, largely to sustain domestic support for operations. However, the government initially made no effort to record numbers of Iraqis killed or injured. Eventually, responsibility was ping-ponged across Whitehall but numbers were not determined and figures from external studies varied greatly.

SOUNDBITE [Arabic] Iraqi man: “Don’t they have a conscience? This city has been under siege for over a month! What have they done? Are they afraid to lose their position and status and that’s why they’re not calling for justice? Damn then and their government.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Noam Chomsky, Political Theorist: “Take a look at the ICC, black Africans or other people who west doesn’t like … Bush and Blair are ought to be right up here. There is no crime … worst than invasion of Iraq.”

SOUNDBITE [English] Tony Benn, Former Member of the Parliament: “What he did was to commit a war crime. There is no question about that. I think what happened was he gave a private assurance to bush that if bush wanted to attack Iraq he will support him. And I think that may have influenced bush to go to war because he taught that at least I have Britain on my side and then if it was a war crime clearly he could be sent to the Hague.”

Narration: Thirteen years ago, Katharine Gun a then linguist with intelligence agency GCHQ received an email from the US National Security Agency (NSA) asking for intercepted communications of UN Security Council delegates. The US wanted any information that could be used to win the delegates over to its case for invasion. She leaked the email and headlines accused the US of using "dirty tricks" to build a case for war. Gun was charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, but the case was dropped when her legal team asked to see all the legal advice given to Blair in the run-up to the war. She was never questioned or asked to participate in the Chilcot inquiry. How far did the surveillance operation proceed? Whose communications did they intercept and record? These are the questions Chilcot report does not even touch!

Of the 2.6m words the report contains, torture is mentioned only a handful of times, and even then, almost exclusively in the context of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Whilst the implications of torture prior to the 2003 invasion are omitted from the report, so too are the public inquiries into allegations of torture by British personnel during the war.

Under usual circumstances, a report of its magnitude would have commanded headlines for the days following its release – perhaps even weeks. The 2003 invasion of Iraq was one of the most significant foreign policy decisions in Britain’s recent history. Yet within 24 hours – and particularly once Tony Blair had made his official statement – the media had brushed it to the side. With so many political stories to cover in post-Brexit Westminster, the report of the Iraq Inquiry simply got swallowed up.

SOUNDBITE [English] Ben Griffin, Iraq war Veteran: “It is actually one of the tactics of this elongated Chilcot report, it kind of pretty on the long handle which is a classic British establishment trick. It is to make sure that this sort of investigation last so long that people have moved on to other things.”

Narration: The Iraq inquiry ought to mark the culmination of 13 years of recrimination – but it will not be the last word.


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