The Dutch Iraq Report – No Mandate, No Introspection

The Netherlands joined the US as part of the Iraq Stabilization Force (SFIR) in the province of Al-Muthanna in Southern Iraq until March 2005. From the start there were requests for an official inquiry into the government’s decision to support the US during the invasion (politically, not military). These requests were based upon doubts about the legal basis for the war. The report was published this week and more or less destroys the Dutch argument for supporting the invasion. This support was based upon Saddam Hussein’s refusal to comply with UN resolutions and because he possessed weapons of mass destruction. This argument was flawed from the onset since the objective of the US and the UK was regime change; as a small country it makes no sense to have other aims and arguments for an invasion of which you do not support its main objective.

Chairman David’s presentation of the report is very clear (download it here, it has a large English summary). The Dutch loyalty with the US and UK took precedence over the need to ensure the legality of the invasion. There was no UN mandate for the attack according to the committee:
BBC News – Dutch inquiry says Iraq war had no mandate

It said “the wording of [UN Security Council] Resolution 1441 cannot reasonably be interpreted as authorising individual member states to use military force”.

Iraq’s alleged breach of Resolution 1441, which gave Iraq “a final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations”, was used by the coalition, and the Netherlands, to justify its invasion.

However, a memo from the time by Dutch foreign ministry lawyers, subsequently leaked, suggested the war was in fact illegal under international law.

The inquiry said there was no evidence to support rumours that the Dutch military took part in the invasion.

Dutch PM Balkenende initially refuted all the main (negative) conclusions of the report and supported the positive ones, but later had to back away.
The alliance and loyalty with the US and UK led to a political tunnelvision in which information that countered their goals and intentions was ignored and (as importantly) not shared with parliament.

Not part of the inquiry, but part of my research has been the role of the invasion in Iraq (and the whole trajectory leading up to it) in the identification of Muslim youth with the idea of global Muslim ummah and Jihad in Iraq. The invasion was important in at least two ways:
1) Jihadi propagandists published texts, leaflets and videos about atrocities against Iraqi’s, Afghani’s and other Muslims elsewhere and, moreover, linked them with perceived injustice against Muslims in Europe for example by Dutch politicians attacking Islam (Hirsi Ali, Wilders, Van Gogh). In strong compelling images and words they connected seemingly different cases to eachother under the header of War against Islam (see also Nesser, subs).
2) The attack on Iraq took place from March 20 to 1 May 2003. Also in the period the Arab European League (AEL), a militant Belgian organization of ‘angry’ and ‘proud’ Muslim youth (see here Van der Welle), trying to set up shop in the Netherlands, failed to appoint a leader in April 2003. The intended leader refused after a controversy of his alledged radical views and the newly appointed board wasn’t strong enough to cope with the external pressure by press and security agencies. The failure of this democratic, albeit controversial and militant, organization combined with the (then already) flawed democratic process leading up to the invasion, led to two related conclusions among Dutch radicals about democracy: 1) Democracy is not an effective way for Muslims to claim compensation for their grievances and, even worse b) the democratic process is detrimental for Islam and Muslims.

See also Muqtedar Khan and John L. Esposito. Part of this is rhetoric, but rhetoric doesn’t mean it is any less ‘real’. The anger and disillusionment among parts of the Muslim youth at that time in 2003 can not be overemphasized; it laid the foundation for a trajectory of radicalization leading up to the murder of Theo van Gogh in 2004. Interestingly, but not suprising, is that the Dutch decision of going to Iraq and Afghanistan and its support for the US is hardly ever considered in counter-radicalization reports and plans rendering the Dutch state blind for all kinds of transnational aspects of Muslim youth’s lifeworlds. You don’t have to be a Muslim radical, or a radical or a Muslim to criticize the state of affairs in the past. But that almost 7 years after still no introspection takes place shows most of all that the tunnelvision still exists: the whole Iraq war is reduced to a matter of international laws and agreements.

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