The Chilcote report is an investigation into the events that lead to the UK being involved in the coalition against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. It also covers the time of occupation and seeks to understand what lessons can be learned.
Firstly the fact such a report has been commissioned suggests there has been some mistakes, or at least allegations of such. Not a day goes by where we don’t hear about another bomb, shooting or massacre in Iraq. Can all this be blamed upon the British and Americans?
Would we be having this conversation if Iraq was currently safe and prosperous?
As I have discussed recently, we should apply the prism of rational ethics to this dilemma and try and form an opinion.
On the one hand, we have the deontological principle. This suggests that if going to war in Iraq is wrong, then the outcome is irrelevant, it will always be wrong, regardless of the outcome. For example if Iraq was now a democratic and security utopia, would we all still be critical of the Coalition’s actions? A Deontologist would.
The opposite view is that of the Teleologist. They would argue that it would depend on the outcome, and as Iraq appears to have been at the very least a partial failure, it was therefore wrong.
From an Islamic Perspective, we should consider both the acts and the result, will they be desirable from the perspective of bringing us closer to God or not? From this angle, we would have to say the Iraq war was wrong.
The issue is that as bad as Saddam was, you can get worse. It’s worth while remembering what made Saddam bad. He would kill people and oppress them. If the solution involves more killing and oppression than was in place with Saddam, then we can not say we have improved anything. Additionally, if the acts, or methods, involved in removing Saddam are also dubious, again, we would have to conclude that the methods and result suggest the whole strategy was wrong. What actually happened was that a vast number of people were killed in the process of removing Saddam. Then once he was removed, an even larger number if people were being killed.
The Question of Morality
What we have discussed so far is the actual events and their outcomes. So for example, the Western Alliance toppled Saddam by military force, then left the country to collapse into the hands of Al Qaedia and later ISIS. The question from a moral perspective is , did they intend for this to happen? If they did, then clearly that would be morally wrong, if they did not, then they would merely be incompetent. It is very difficult to identify someone’s intentions, so for now, lets assume that the West were merely incompetent with their Iraq policy. Now lets examine Libya, what did they expect to happen when they dropped massive stockpiles of weapons to Salafi Jihadists? Predictably, they took over, and now Libya is controlled by ISIS, Al Qaedia and some other unsavory groups. Moving on to Syria, again the West with their Saudi, Turkey and Qatari partners have armed the same Salafi Jihadists. Again, the usual chaos has ensued, and now Syria is partly controlled by ISIS, Al Qaedia and other unsavory groups. This leads me to think, even if they were incompetent in Iraq, is it possible that they could repeat that mistake, not once, but twice more? This is hard to accept, and leads to the uncomfortable conclusion that the destruction in Iraq, Libya and Syria was intentional, and not a by product of regime change, but the central desire itself.
What if Iraq had been different though ? What if Saddam had simply left and someone else took over and the country became a real success story?
This enters the realm of ethics, where a bad person, accidentally does something good, what is the moral status of that person now? This is something I want to write in more depth about, so stay tuned 🙂