Chilcot Inquiry Accused of Fixating on West and Ignoring Real Victims

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Chilcot Inquiry Accused of Fixating on West and Ignoring Real Victims

Iraq Body Count group claims attention paid to Iraqi casualties has been derisory

by
Jonathan Steele

The Iraq Body Count group has criticised the inquiry led by John Chilcot, above, for ignoring Iraqi casualties. (Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA)

The Chilcot inquiry has "fixated" on decision-making in Whitehall and
Washington, obsessed over the ''war at home" and given "derisory"
attention to the plight of the main victims, the Iraq Body Count (IBC) claims today.

Releasing
correspondence with Sir John Chilcot, the IBC, which is widely
considered as the most reliable database of Iraqi civilian deaths, says a
proper "Iraq War Inquest" may be the only way to fill the gap his
inquiry has left.

The inquiry closed its public hearings last
month after seeing 140 witnesses but none dealt specifically with
civilian casualties, which the IBC calculates as between 97,000 and
106,000.

Other groups have produced much higher estimates but the
IBC, a UK-based organisation set up by volunteers to track deaths in
Iraq, prides itself on working carefully with data drawn from
cross-checked media reports, hospital, morgue, NGOs and official
figures.

The five-person Chilcot inquiry team plans to visit Iraq
briefly in the next few weeks but the IBC says this appears to be "an
afterthought". Looking at the inquiry's focus so far, "one would almost
think that the Iraq war largely took place in Britain", it says.

"There
are certainly a few instances of 'home-grown terrorism' on British soil
which may well be inextricably linked to events in Iraq. But in the
main, this war's largest and most irrevocable effects are on Iraqis, not
on British (or American) citizens."

In a letter to Chilcot a year
ago, which it publishes today, the UK-based IBC welcomed the inquiry
and its broad terms of reference, unlike those of earlier ones.

It quoted a group of 52 retired British diplomats who attacked Tony Blair's decision to take the UK to war and described the coalition forces' failure to track Iraqi deaths a a disgrace.

Urging
Chilcot to fill the gap, the letter said: "It is impossible to
establish the wisdom of actions taken … if the full consequences in
human welfare are not taken into account. Casualty data are perhaps the
most glaring indication of the full costs of war". It is signed by Hamit
Dardagan and John Sloboda, IBC's main researchers.

Three months
later Chilcot replied, saying: "The inquiry team were already aware of
the work of the Iraq Body Count … The information you have collated will
be very useful to help us in this task." Today's IBC statement says
that the attention paid by the inquiry to Iraqi casualties, whether
killed or injured, civilian or combatant, has been derisory.

The
IBC was not invited to give evidence, although the US special inspector
general for Iraq reconstruction used its work in a report to Congress.

It
cites the only two cases where the issue came up briefly at the
inquiry, once during the six-hour questioning of Tony Blair and again in
a brief exchange with armed forces minister Adam Ingram.

Posing a
rhetorical question on whether the British government had a duty to
count casualties since the invasion, Ingram told the inquiry: "Are you
prepared to put units in every one of the hospitals to count the bodies
in and the bodies out?" 'No', would have been my answer".

The
IBC accuses the inquiry of "sharing this reluctance to inquire too
deeply into the human consequences of the war (when these humans happen
not to be British officials, bureaucrats and politicians, but ordinary
Iraqis)" and says the inquiry is taking its cue from the government that
appointed it.

The IBC proposes a full judicial investigation into
all casualties in Iraq, whether dead or injured. As a matter of
international and domestic law, it says, the UK bears equal
responsibility if it aided and assisted any of its allies in causing
disproportionate civilian casualties or other breaches of law.

A
spokesperson for the inquiry said in a statement last night: "Throughout
its work, the inquiry has been acutely aware of the violence in Iraq
which has resulted in the deaths and injuries of so many.

"The
drivers for that violence and the British response to it has been a
theme throughout the inquiry's investigations. From the outset of the
Iraq inquiry, Sir John Chilcot has said that the committee hopes to
visit Iraq and hear from Iraqis. He repeated this at the close of the
last round of public hearings.

"The committee hope that such a
visit will be possible as it would give the inquiry an opportunity to
hear and see at first hand the situation in Iraq and the continuing
impact of the violence.

"The insights and understanding gained would inform the inquiry's report, which it aims to publish around the turn of the year."

Share This Article

More in: