The Skeptics

Americans Did Liberate Iraq. They Just Failed to Protect It.

The world shares much blame for Iraq’s darkest decades. A new report that condemns former Prime Minister Tony Blair is only the start. Launched on June 15, 2009, the Chilcot Inquiry is Britain’s second and almost certainly most comprehensive review of the UK’s conduct in the run-up to, invasion and occupation of Iraq. To many observers, including a British politician who claimed to have reviewed the 2.6 million word document in a single morning, Sir John Chilcot has already condemned one man to eternal damnation.

Summaries of the report so far have particular focus on intelligence failures, the exaggerated case for war and poor preparedness for the aftermath. For Americans, this will be all too familiar after the Duelfer report and the Senate Report on Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq. To others in the West, it is far more simple: Bush and Blair lied, people died.

As an Iraqi, I welcomed the liberation of my country, but was against the occupation, mismanagement and corruption that followed. It is painful to think, for example, of how the United States thought that a rapidly assembled new Iraqi force of thirty thousand men could have secured Iraq’s vast borders from the jihadists that have caused interminable chaos.

But at the end of the day, Saddam's removal was morally and politically right—all else is debatable. What is fascinating in the initial aftermath of this report is how few Iraqi voices are being heard. Some Western commentators, baying for political blood, and perhaps a Hague tribunal for Bush, Blair and company, might be surprised that many Iraqis are not so interested in the weapon of mass destruction debate. Some coverage of Iraqi opinion seems selective—one article listed a collection of bloggers and journalists with Baathist sympathies.

For those of us who fled one of the worst post–World War II tyrants the world has ever seen, the biggest weapon of mass destruction in Iraq was Saddam himself as he turned my country into a field of mass graves. Therefore it is interesting to cast so much blame on those who sought to remove him. Britons, and perhaps those in the United States who cast all blame on Bush, risk losing sight of Iraq’s wider tragedy with the West: successive governments around the world gave him their full support, even as it was clear he was trampling standards of international decency.

How so many world leaders supported the tyrant even when it was clear he was committing genocide is a disturbing question. This is before we even consider the considerable Arab state support, as well as Russian and French support, that persisted after the Kuwait invasion. Interest in inviting Saddam’s Iraq back into the international community remained until the end, as Russia, France and China set sights on trade deals with Saddam, including lucrative PSA oil contracts. But there will probably be little mention of this in current commentary.

Before we remember this support, we must first accept that removing Saddam was in many ways justifiable. He had clearly committed genocide, the halting of which has been a pillar of post Holocaust international relations, under Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. When confronted with the figure of two hundred thousand murdered Kurds during the Anfal campaign, Baathist general Ali Hasan al-Majid laughed, “It can’t have been more than one hundred thousand.” How does the community of nations coexist with such a regime? After the 1991 war in Kuwait, and the immense violence of the 1991 uprising which saw at least one hundred thousand Shi’a Iraqis murdered in little over two weeks, the UN warned Saddam that genocide had to stop, in UNSCR 688.