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WFTA Working Paper: The Limits of Scrutiny

Working paper given by Dr Owen Thomas at the ‘Intelligence, surveillance, and oversight: tracing connections and contestations’ conference, held by GUARDINT project (‘Intelligence and Oversight Networks: Who Guards the Guardians’) on 26th and 27th January 2022.

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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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News

Weekly Recommendations from WFTA

A quick update on what the Warnings from the Archive team have been listening to/reading/watching this week. The pieces that have caught our interest and develop the themes and topics explored by the project.

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Launched! The Warning from the Archives Collections and Exhibits 

This week we are launching our unique archive. It is a database of thousands of .pdfs related to British foreign policy in Iraq. Our database is completely searchable and is complete with user-friendly exhibits to help students locate useful sources. The archive is the perfect place to find exclusive letters, internal memos, and interview transcripts that are unavailable elsewhere. 

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Public Trust and Inquiries

With the publication of Sue Grey’s internal inquiry into Downing Street’s lockdown parties expected imminently and the resumption of the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire, it is crucial to examine the impact of these inquiries upon our own research on the Chilcot Inquiry to interrogate those included in the scrutinising process and identify those who are excluded.

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“Burn it”: Blair’s Defence Secretary Told to Destroy Memo Suggesting that the Invasion of Iraq was Illegal

Geoff Hoon, Tony Blair’s defence secretary between 1999 and 2005, has revealed that he was instructed to burn a vital memo, sent by Lord Goldsmith the incumbent attorney general, that questioned the legality of the British invasion of Iraq.