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.
On April 9, 2003, Baghdad fell to coalition forces.
Exactly twenty years later, we’re looking back at reporting from the time in order to gain a greater understanding of the significance of this event.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
As Sir John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry findings are published, we should resist what’s become the easy refrain: “Blair Lied. Thousands Died.”
If we actually want to learn from what happened, we should recognise that Tony Blair has been remarkably consistent in his view that the removal of the regime was necessary, whether or not Saddam Hussein actually possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Blair, it seems, genuinely believes that the war was in our best interests because it may have prevented an unlikely (but not impossible) catastrophe. This way of thinking has not gone away.