I confess that I have been fantasizing. I realize that most people have moved on from Iraq to Afghanistan. But given the enormous toll paid both by Iraqis and Americans in terms of lives and money and overall social and cultural destruction I have been trying to imagine what it would look like if the United States actually undertook a fact based investigation into the decisions by the Bush Administration to invade Iraq in 2003.
By that I don’t mean the past investigations by special commissions or congressional committees into what the intelligence community knew or didn’t know, or what pressure they were under to cherry pick information. Rather I mean an investigation into what former President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and other cabinet officials knew and did, day by day, leading up to the invasion.
Fortunately, I don’t really have to imagine. Instead I can just look across the Atlantic to Great Britain. There they have been conducting an inquiry, officially launched 30 June 2009. The terms of reference of the Iraq Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry, after its chairman Sir John Chilcot, state:
It will consider the period from the summer of 2001 to the end of July 2009, embracing the run-up to the conflict in Iraq, the military action and its aftermath. We will therefore be considering the UK’s involvement in Iraq, including the way decisions were made and actions taken, to establish, as accurately as possible, what happened and to identify the lessons that can be learned.
Consider some of what has been revealed just during the past few weeks. Tony Blair privately assured President George Bush in letters written a year before the invasion of Iraq that Britain would “be there” in any US-led attack on the country.
Senior British diplomats said that regime change was being discussed by Blair in the US in 2002 even though, according to leaked documents, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, warned the then PM that military action aimed at regime change, as opposed to disarmament, would be unlawful.
Fresh evidence has emerged that Tony Blair’s discredited Iraqi arms dossier was “sexed up” on the instructions of Alastair Campbell, his communications chief, to fit with claims from the US administration that were known to be falseIntelligence outlining the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was taken out of context when it was used as part of the Government’s case for invading Iraq.
Sir David Omand, who was Mr Blair’s security co-ordinator, said that including the claim that Saddam had missiles that he could launch within 45 minutes in the now-infamous September 2002 dossier on Iraq was “asking for trouble“. If all the intelligence on Iraq had been published, the public reaction would have been “Is that it?”, he said.
Tens of thousands of secret documents form the core of the ongoing inquiry into the Iraq war. The inquiry also hinted that such documents showed British officials knew George Bush intended to invade Iraq even if it complied with the UN weapons inspections.
It is especially ironic that this investigation is taking place in Great Britain, the country that has D-Notices and an Official Secrets Act , not to mention it being the country that gave us the not so fictional concept of Big Brother.
Yet, the obvious point is that if Great Britain can do this so should the United States. The Obama Administration and the Democratic congress have refrained from doing so on the mistaken assumption that it would only antagonize out of power, but not out of venom, Republicans, like Dick Cheney, and make cooperation with Republicans impossible. News flash for the Obama administration. Cheney and Republicans are going to hate you no matter what you do, so you shouldn’t care. Concentrate on what is doing right, not what is politically expedient. No to do so is to dishonor the memories of all those killed in a war that did not have to happen.