Deprive 200,000 Iraqis and several thousand service men and women of their lives and you may be seen to be doing business. Deprive one human being of their life and you are seen as not fit to do business. After Chilcot, we are reminded that the business of government differs from the business of life. The report seems like a gun’s final retort.
While our leaders tumbled towards being blooded and badged, they created corpses, destroyed families, jeopardised regional peace and created an international terror problem. The Bush and Blair Duumvirate – at play with life and death in an illegal war.
Presenting the news during the Iraq war has given me many memories. One of these is the ability to see the bodies of the dead when I close my eyes. I will also never forget the day when an Iraqi colleague ran screaming from the newsroom. She had received a call that her niece had been shot dead by a US soldier as she crossed the road, carrying not a weapon – it turned out – but her shopping.
So many words of reaction have been added to the Chilcot Inquiry’s 2.6 million word count. But not one of these addresses how reparations should be made to address the sheer gravity of the human experiences involved.
Chilcot is the equivalent of a corporate PIR – Post Implementation Review. It balances statement and statistic and document and insight. It is rigorous in its span, structure and business-like approach. It is precisely these things that make a nonsense of it in human terms.
A flawed PIR for a flawed war. This was not a good war; we did not fight a great evil, nor did we create great good. This was not an Ypres, a Dunkirk nor an Agincourt. Even the manner in which Saddam Hussein was executed – with insults being thrown at him as the noose was placed around his neck – was shaming. Why? I am no apologist for dictators; I am an apologist for democratic process, and in murdering him as he had spent his life murdering others, our democracies made themselves the same as those we profess to abhor. Then, with travesty after war crime – remember Abu Ghraib? – we also made targets of our good servicemen and women.
Saddam was the plug in the ba’ath – if you’ll forgive the pun. In pulling out this distasteful bung, and not heeding the warnings of regional experts, we created a gurgling vacuum that is still sucking civilisation into it. The exponential growth of regional terrorist groups such as ISIS was a direct result of our humanistic laziness. Our intelligence services warned us prior to the war of this risk. Our leaders did not listen.
Chilcot has done what we are culturally addicted to doing: provide analysis and criticism outside a framework of recommendation for good, humanistic governance. The report is divorced from recovery; we know from it what bad looks like; we don’t know what ‘human’ feels like.
Values such as listening, empathetic understanding and human-centred policy must be brought to bear so that we may address the chaos in the region. We must learn the lessons of this war – but not just within the processes and conventions that accompany such actions. And certainly not by balancing statistics against economic benefit. We must learn the lessons through the hearts and minds of those directly affected; to see the world through their eyes and engage in their futures.
We must all walk in the shoes of others to avoid going barefoot into the future.
© Greta von Szabo