The Chilcot report in the UK on the 2003 invasion of Iraq, which took no less than 7 years to compile, has concluded that there was “no imminent threat” from Saddam Hussein at the time the US, the UK, and Australia invaded Iraq even though intelligence reports had concluded that he had acquired weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). As no WMDs were found by the invaders, it is now generally accepted that those intelligence reports were wrong, although some of those involved still argue that Saddam moved WMDs to Syria. Writing in The Times, Jewish journalist Melanie Phillips quotes several sources to that effect. She also argues that Saddam was “the god father of international terrorism”.
While agreeing with some of the report’s conclusions, Greg Sheridan provides a wider context from which to view the Chilcot report. He argues that the judgements made in the report took insufficient account of the political/strategic environment at the time. This would have included the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001. He also argues that the Iraq invasion did not cause the present turmoil in the Middle East and, in particular, that Islamic State emerged out of Syria “a collapsed nation in which the West did not intervene at all”. The suggestion by former ONA official Andrew Wilkie (now re-elected) that the invasion led to terrorist acts against Australians is dismissed.
In a separate press conference Howard described Wilkie’s claims as absurd particularly as regards the Bali bombings, the first of which occurred before the invasion. Howard also indicated that he had a copy of an ONA paper written by Wilkie and expressing sympathy with the need to deal with Saddam.
There is no doubt, however, that the invasion of Iraq was badly managed and that some deaths of soldiers should have been avoided. This has made it difficult if not impossible for the UK and US to provide troops on the ground in the fight against extremist Islamic groups in the Middle East. Yet there can surely be no doubt that a country or group which is headed by someone threatening violent action against democratic governments should be subject to attack with military force. That position currently exists with regard to North Korea.
There are also extremist Islamic groups which while not yet having WMDs have the potential to acquire and use them. ISIS is one such group and it is being attacked, albeit mainly with air raids to date. The Taliban group is also subject to attack by US forces, as indicated by President Obama’s decision to maintain over 8,000 troops in Afghanistan until the end of his Presidential term. It is in our own interests to ensure that such military action is not dismissed in the future.