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The Chilcot Inquiry and Human Rights

By Rhys Edwards

This blog focuses on former Labour MP Ann Clwyd and her emphasis on human rights as a motivation in Labour’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. It examines first, her efforts to prosecute Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain and other members of the Iraqi administration under international law, secondly, her decision to support the invasion of Iraq, and, thirdly, her testimony to the Chilcot Inquiry. Looking back at the 2003 invasion and the subsequent Chilcot Inquiry, how can we think critically about the British government’s interpretation(s) of human rights before the war in Iraq? Can the evidence compiled by the Chilcot Inquiry provide clarity for why human rights were so integral to Labour’s ‘marketing’ of the invasion to the British electorate?

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Fostering Awareness of Public Inquiries

In this post we address the importance of public awareness surrounding inquiries, and how this awareness can increase the relevance and impact of these investigations. A recent Guardian article, written by ‘Alison’*, states the importance of the public’s consciousness of inquiries, as it keeps the spotlight on those under investigation. The article explores the representation of public inquiries in a new BBC crime drama ‘Sherwood’. While it is noted that the series fails to address the abuses of spy cops, which often occur in secret operations, the series does encourage conversations on publicising and spreading awareness of these investigations and challenging institutional power. 

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Individualisation of State War Crimes

This week we discuss the critique of the Iraq Historic Allegations Team (or IHAT) that it failed to ‘bring justice’ and address the atrocities committed by British troops against Iraqi civilians during the Iraq war. The IHAT investigation lasted from 2010 until its subsequent dissolvement in 2018, running largely in parallel with the Iraq ‘Chilcot’ Inquiry. This post reflects upon an archival Guardian podcast episode from 2018 titled “Why we may never know if British troops committed war crimes in Iraq” and considers the limitations of international criminal justice and legal forms of individualisation in addressing war crimes committed by state soliders.

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An Accidental Admission of Guilt?

George W. Bush mistakenly described the Iraq Invasion as “wholly unjustified” and “brutal” in recent speech. In a recent speech on Wednesday (18th May 2022), former United States president George W Bush reminded the world of the ongoing consequences of the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq and the violence of the intervention.

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Hegemony and Oil: Factors that caused Saddam Hussein to be removed from power.

In 1991, following the First Gulf War, Saddam Hussein remained in power in Iraq. However, just 12 years later, a US-led coalition of forces invaded Iraq with the intention of removing Hussein from power. This blog post examines the changes in US and British interests between 1991 and 2003 that facilitated his removal during the Second Gulf War.

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Ukraine: Lessons to learn from Iraq

After the second week of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we’ve taken some time to examine what lessons the US and its allies in Europe can learn from the invasion of Iraq in order to inform the West’s response to Russia.

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What is the scandal of Afghanistan?

By Dr Owen Thomas

This blog is based a talk given as part of the “Reflections for “Twenty Years of the Global War on Terror: Looking back, looking forward” event, jointly hosted by the Secrecy, Power and Ignorance research Network (SPIN) and the South West Doctoral Training Partnership on 8th September, 2021.

This month, two parliamentary select committees have announced that they will hold inquiries into aspects of the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. An ‘Afghanistan Inquiry’ has been called for many times in 2021.1 But reaction to the Taliban’s unexpectedly sudden seizure of Kabul and the West’s rapid evacuation has hastened and sharpened these calls, such that both the Defence Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee will use much of their inquiries to focus on that withdrawal. A striking feature of the British reaction to that withdrawal was the shock experienced by those who had been involved in two decades of Western operations in Afghanistan. During the BBC’s Question Time, for example, a British military veteran who served in Afghanistan told the panel: “the only way I cannot be utterly embarrassingly humiliated about my service is if we, a democratic nation, hold those responsible to account and have a full parliamentary inquiry.”

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Videogames and Veterans: The Ethics of a Virtual Battle of Fallujah

By Georgia Mealings, Research Assistant for ‘Warnings from the Archive’

When studios market wargames, they emphasise the authenticity of experience. The latest videogame technology is so immersive that the graphics, the sound design, the game mechanics, and the worldbuilding all work together to persuade you that are really there, on a battlefield or controlling an aircraft. The studios’ intent is to curate a realistic sensory experience that can offer a taste of the ‘thrill’ of war, without any of the risk. 

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Standing the Test of Time: What can Rumsfeld’s passing teach us about war and memory?

By Professor Catriona Pennell

‘History may remember him…’

– Statement from the Rumsfeld family, 30 June 2021.

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.

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Owen Thomas on ‘Searching for Grenfell Tower’s guilty secret’

Project co-PI, Dr Owen Thomas, appeared on an episode of the SPIN podcast in 2019, created by the secrecy, power and ignorance research network, to discuss the Grenfell Tower fire and broader issues of state scandals, wrong-doing, and cultures of secrecy.