Rob Idol

About Rob Idol

Rob is an aspiring writer who balances his time between a “real” job and his passion for politics, social justice and all things creative. He has an MBA, an unhealthy obsession with current events, an even unhealthier obsession with pop culture and has been known to offer favourable food reviews in exchange for free meals.

From Basra to Nice: The West’s bloodied hands

Approx Reading Time-14The first stone in the long path to the violence seen in Nice last week was laid by the actions of the West. It’s time to stop preaching what we don’t practice.




Last week saw another attack on innocent civilians in the heart of Europe. It’s not the first and it sure as hell won’t be the last.

The victims are blameless, as are most of us. Sections of our governments, media and key influencers, however, have hands drenched in blood. They may not have committed these abhorrent acts, but their culpability is undeniable.

For the few that still believe that our reasons for destabilising an entire region of the world are justified: at the very least, it is impossible to call them successful. Scholars and conspiracy theorists alike can postulate as to the true motivation behind these military campaigns until the cows come home, however, at this point the reasoning is irrelevant; the result, horrific.

The recent release of the Chilcot Report, a 2.6-million-word document investigating the validity of the Iraq invasion, confirmed what most already knew to be true: the decision to invade Iraq in 2003 was based on incredibly inaccurate and over-stated intelligence and was undertaken with little thought or preparation as to the consequences of the act.

The investigation was headed by Sir John Chilcot after being commissioned by then-UK prime minister, Gordon Brown, in 2009 to establish “whether it was right and necessary to invade Iraq in March 2003,” and “whether the UK could – and should – have been better prepared for what followed.”

Seven years later, after interviewing more than 100 witnesses and trawling through now declassified Cabinet papers, intelligence assessments of Iraq’s weapons capability as well as private correspondence between world leaders involved in the decision, the 12 volumed report is damning to say the least.

The primary conclusions were as follows:

  1. The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort;
  2. The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were presented with a certainty that was not justified;
  3. Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate;
  4. The Government failed to achieve its stated objectives;
  5. UK PM Tony Blair was warned explicitly, but chose to underestimate the consequences of the 2003 invasion.

The report firmly points the finger at three men. US President George Bush, UK PM Tony Blair and Australian PM John Howard. Bush, as most of us know, led the charge and Blair and Howard supported him as part of the “Coalition of the Willing”, providing credibility for the invasion at the time.

Thirteen years later, we still have troops in Iraq. The removal of Saddam Hussein and the continued presence of Western forces in the region created a power vacuum and undoubtedly forged the geopolitical environment that allowed Islamic State to rise and gain support. As scores of innocents died in the region by way of collateral damage from our military intervention, the desperate became easy fodder for extremist propaganda, which used our own hypocrisy to gather momentum.

We may not be able to negotiate with extremists like Islamic State. We may not be able to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution with those that call for our extermination. What we can do, however, is end the hypocrisy that continues to feed and strengthen their numbers, their philosophy and their resolve.

We continue to look on in horror as each week brings another tragedy. We watch our leaders propose a variety of solutions – none of which will work. We continue to treat the symptoms and not the causes.

To put it simply: we cannot continue to preach calm, freedom and peace when our actions over the past two decades have represented (and continue to represent) the antithesis of these philosophies. We espouse and celebrate our democratic freedom when it is those we elected through this mechanism that have the blood of countless innocents permanently stained on their hands. We brag to the world of our moral superiority, while we continue to kill civilians by bombing from afar. Is it any wonder that IS have been so successful in recruiting so many to their cause? Until we start to practice what we preach, we continue to hand them something more powerful than any propaganda they could develop; we continue to hand them the truth of our hypocrisy.

Can we honestly look at another human being who has seen their family killed and their home destroyed by those claiming to protect them, and expect them to believe us when we tell them it was for their own good?

Don’t get me wrong, the situation with which we are now faced is more complicated than any we have faced in the modern era. We won’t and possibly can’t withdraw from the Middle East. The practical, and likely accurate argument is that withdrawal will result in handing Iraq over to Islamic State, further strengthening their power and numbers.

I’m not naïve enough to believe that our safety can ever be guaranteed. There will always be groups from all cultures, creeds or religions around the world that are built on a foundation of hate. Sometimes this hate is the deformed offspring of a well-intentioned religious philosophy, conceived through the rape and misappropriation of teachings that were never intended to be a justification for violence or terror. Like all rapes, the victims are innocent and like many rapes, the victims are blamed. We refuse to take responsibility for our contribution to the problem and continue to add insult to injury by blaming those that have had their belief system twisted and abused through absolutely no fault of their own.

We may not be able to negotiate with extremists like Islamic State. We may not be able to reach an acceptable diplomatic solution with those that call for our extermination. What we can do, however, is end the hypocrisy that continues to feed and strengthen their numbers, their philosophy and their resolve.

Also on The Big Smoke

The Chilcot report provides us with the justification and the duty to self-reflect, admit our mistakes and hold those involved responsible. The ability to take responsibility and take action, to ensure our mistakes are not repeated, is a cornerstone of the type of society that we claim to have, and the type of society that we are supposedly trying to protect.

Bush, Blair and Howard, and many others I’m sure, should now be held accountable for their crimes. How that is done and the extent to which they are reprimanded is a question for those with far more experience in international law than me. It will show others that we hold our own to the same standards that we try to enforce; that the main separation between our society and Islamic State is the ability to act in accordance with the values that underpin our society: justice, fairness, and peace. It won’t stop those fighting against us from fighting, but it could prevent thousands more from rallying to the cause.

For those that choose to join the rallying cry from those preaching fear, I understand and empathise. It’s hard not to see what’s going on without feeling fear for our safety and that of our children. But fear is a funny thing. There are two ways to approach it; you either let it control you or you conquer it.

Rallying against something you have been told to fear by others without trying to understand means you’ve already lost the battle. You let an unknown control your actions, your beliefs and your emotions. You let the ideas of others dictate your position: those with a vested interest in having that fear consume you, or those that are themselves victims of the same propaganda. You are letting the fear control you.

Conquering fear is actually quite easy in most cases, particularly when that fear is a product of manipulation. It isn’t beaten with violence, a banner or bigotry. It is beaten with education, with understanding. It is slain by the everlasting sword of truth.

Before you turn to hate, turn to questions first. Don’t accept what you are being told by someone else without verifying it for yourself (preferably from resources beyond those shared on Facebook). You might find that the things you are being told to fear don’t warrant such, and may even be more relatable than you could have imagined.


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