Yesterday at the Chilcot enquiry (which has been set up to find out the lessons learnt from the Iraq conflict), the walls resounded to a withering and devastating testimony from the former head of MI5 – the internally (UK) focussed security service.
Eliza Manningham-Buller told the Chilcot inquiry that civil servants were frightened to speak out about their belief that the war on Iraq would raise the terrorist threat to the UK and that it had radicalised a number of ‘home grown’ young Muslims who saw the attack on Iraq as an attack on Islam. She went onto say that “(the invasion) was a highly significant factor in how ‘home-grown’ extremists justified their actions.” She disregarded the link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaida and also commented that by invading Iraq, “(the US and UK) gave Osama Bin Laden the Iraqi Jihad.”
The disaster of the war in Iraq and the deceit that surrounded the case for war made by the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has led to a whole generation of displaced and stateless individuals. The smoke and mirrors employed by those who were pro-war to create the illusion of a dangerous Saddam, have led to over 1.8 million Iraqis seeking shelter overseas primarily in Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and Turkey and the Syrian Government estimates that there are 1 million refugees in the country, the vast and overwhelming majority coming from Iraq. Those Iraqis in the country are in a state of legal limbo. With savings used up and with precious jewellery and items sold on the informal markets, they have no assets and cannot integrate into local communities. Syria and Jordan though, provide access to assistance, basic education and primary health care and the Syrian Government is laying the groundwork for a national asylum law which will formalize the principles of international refugee protection. In 2007, the Syrian Government estimated that the cost of hosting Iraqi refugees amounted to about $1 billion and social services have deteriorated quickly due to immigration pressures.
In Jordan, estimates for Iraqi refugees amount to between 600,000 – 700,000 people and the influx has also led to a steep rise in prices within Amman and throughout urban areas. Many Jordanians have felt the price rises and there is increasing resentment towards refugees and the price hikes that their migration has caused. Furthermore, in Turkey there were 5,478 Iraqis living in the country as of the 31st of May 2010.
These victims of the illegal and catastrophic Iraq war have no savings, many cannot work legally and many end up being abused since they work in the informal economy. The rest have no viable prospects for income and rely on handouts, aid and charity. Furthermore, of the refugee population of 1.8 million people, 40% are children and 60% are younger than 25. The war has therefore created an underclass within Syria and Jordan who will not go away for decades to come. Bizarrely, one of the major policy drives of Tony Blair and his Labour Government in the UK was the reduction of child poverty. His actions and those who made this war possible have created hundreds of thousands of children who will live in poverty for the rest of their lives, though I am sure that the irony of this will pass him by.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, Iraq had high levels of literacy and infant mortality levels were low and comparable with European and western nations. There was a burgeoning middle class and the infrastructure of the country was well developed. Many Syrians and Jordanians moved to Iraq since times were good and Iraq was also a place where families and their children could receive a good education. Now, the refugee youth of Iraq have no access to meaningful jobs, training or education and the consequence of Bush and Blair’s war has been a ‘lost generation’ of young people. They have been denied their basic right to a peaceful existence and the enjoyment of their childhoods and many will grow up with traumatic experiences which may mean that they will show violent tendencies and erratic behaviour patterns. Some will even be pathological in their outlook to other people and time will only tell whether Iraq will fall prey to such an individual who will have echoes of Saddam and his reign of terror.
So, let us hope that the inquiry has the courage to say what is glaringly obvious to all. That this war was a fabrication based on a decision made in 2002 and which was led in the UK by the then Prime Minister who had already made his mind up. We marched in 2003 against the war like fools, but it is increasingly the warmongers who fit this description.