Last week the UK Government announced plans that would see an end to prosecutions, inquests, judicial review and civil claims to 1970s ‘Troubles’ conflict related incidents. Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis outlined plans to introduce a bill to parliament which would block all future prosecutions via a statute of limitations from Autumn 2021. This move has pushed commentators, such as Susan McKay, to ask: how much contempt does this government have for Northern Ireland?
Prof. Catriona Pennell and Dr Margot Tudor presented a paper on ‘State-Sponsored Violence and the Mesopotamia Commission of 1916/1917’ at the Bristol-Exeter Modern History Group on 15th June 2021 to a network of academics in the South West.
By Professor Catriona Pennell
Former US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, died on 29 June 2021 at the age of 88. His name will forever be associated with the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Various ‘obitu-mmentaries’ have appeared since his death from across the political spectrum. Former President George W. Bush lamented the loss of ‘a faithful steward of [America’s] armed forces’; American right-wing online magazine The Federalist described him as ‘a genius’ and ‘true American patriot’; many more chastised his poor-decision making as defence secretary, his efforts to cover up inconvenient facts, and his role in the widespread use of torture that has dogged America’s reputation ever since.
Olivia Noden, University of Exeter
In present-day society, the United Kingdom’s participation in the Iraq War typically incurs criticism, both from the British public and mass-media publications. These criticisms have been louder and more prevalent in the public domain since the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry in 2016 which delivered a damning verdict on Tony Blair’s decision to join the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, at the time of Blair’s decision, the majority of UK newspapers supported the Prime Minister as he committed troops to the Iraq bilateral invasion. Despite this, reflections on the UK invasion have rarely addressed the role of the UK media in advocating the moral case, or humanitarian responsibility, of the intervention.
This spring, the Ministry of Defense acknowledged enlisting the RAF and other coalition planes to engage in air raids across the Makhmur (or Makhmour) mountains, an independent region to the north of Baghdad. The mountains contain a series of limestone caves, thought to be a favoured Isis hideout by British intelligence services. These air attacks targetted the caves to destabilise the Isis stronghold in the Makhmur region and demonstrate a sustained interest in regaining control of north Iraq. The Guardian reported that the number of civilian casualities killed in the spring 2021 air raids have not been authenticated as the cave complexes have yet to be cleared by Iraqi ground forces.
On 31st March, the UK government published the findings of the Commission on Race and Disparities in, what has been termed, the Sewell Report. In this 258-page report, the Commissioners outlines their key findings about the contexts of racial discrimination and inequality in UK. Despite recognising that the nation is not ‘yet a post-racial society’ (9), the Commission reflects positively on the steps that have been taken towards equality of opportunity within various sectors.
Popular figures, including author Michael Rosen, have demanded a public inquiry to investigate government failings to the COVID outbreak in the UK. Rosen referred to his personal experience of COVID where he was on a ventilator in an ICU ward during 2020 for six weeks, causing long-term effects on his physical and mental health.
We will be presenting our paper ‘Problematising the ‘Inquiry’: Knowledge processes, production, and presentation in the aftermath of British military interventions in the Middle East’ at the Britain and the World conference, 16-18 June 2021. Despite being held online, we’re looking forward to discussing our project and engaging with other scholars in the field of Modern British history and foreign policy.