Ian Austin

Independent for Dudley North

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Chilcot should lay to rest allegations about bad faith, lies or deceit

The Chilcot Report will never settle arguments about whether the war was right or wrong, but it should lay to rest allegations about bad faith, lies or deceit.

First, it finds that there was no falsification or misuse of intelligence by Tony Blair or No.10 at the time.  Second, there was no attempt to deceive cabinet ministers.  And third, there was no secret pact with the US to go to war.

That means there is no justification for saying evidence was “confected”, that the case for war a “deception” or that MPs were “misled” ahead of the 2003 vote on military action, yet these are exactly the terms used by Jeremy Corbyn in the House of Commons yesterday. 

To listen to Tony Blair’s critics, you would think that Iraq had been a peaceful haven of tranquillity before 2003. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In Iraq Saddam Hussain perpetrated the largest chemical weapons attack against civilians in history, killing thousands and led a brutal reprisal against Iraq’s Shia majority, slaughtering up to 100,000 Iraqis in just one month, more than in any year since 2003. Abroad he supported terrorism, including a plot to murder President Bush and offering al-Qaeda sanctuary, training and assistance in planning attacks.

His refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors led intelligence services the world over to believe he did in fact possess chemical or biological weapons. Even countries that were opposed to military action such as France, Germany and Russia believed he did.  The debate up to 2003 was not about whether Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction but about how to deal with them.

Of course we must learn the lessons of mistakes made after the invasion of Iraq, but we must also learn the lessons of not taking action too.

British intervention in Kosovo and Sierra Leone prevented people being slaughtered.

Libya was already in a brutal civil war before Western air forces prevented Gaddafi killing innocent people in Benghazi, including women and children, but without support afterwards the country is a huge problem for the whole of North Africa and the wider region.

Not intervening in Syria didn’t prevent the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe, hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of refugees, let alone terrorist attacks not just in Syria, but in Tunisia and Europe too.

None of this will make the slightest bit of difference to Jeremy and the hard left. The facts make no difference at all because he is implacably opposed to the UK or other western countries ever taking military action. He has never supported Western military intervention in all his political life.

He opposes every attempt to use British forces – not just in Syria and Iraq, but even Kosovo where the UK intervened to prevent thousands being slaughtered.

He blames the West for Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and wants a closer relationship with Russia when we should be hitting them with tougher sanctions.

He called the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and described Raed Salah, a man convicted of the racist blood libel, as an “honoured citizen”. He invited Dyab Abou Jahjah who said he considers “every dead American [and] British soldier a victory” to Parliament.

For the hard left, the world is a simple place, all the problems are caused by the West and the solutions are obvious.

Thirty years in protest movements and meetings where everyone agrees with him mean Jeremy has never had to think about complex problems and difficult solutions, which is why he is struggling to lead a mainstream political party, let alone persuade people to see him as their Prime Minister.

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