He won’t appear before the International Criminal Court (conveniently located in Den Haag not too far from parliament) anytime soon, but the conclusions from the Dutch Iraq inquiry (PDF, in English) do show that the Dutch political support for the war was neither as easily decoupled from the actual war as the then government made it out to be nor justified by international law. Finally it has been officially confirmed what we all knew or at least suspected back then, that the existing UN resolutions on Iraq were never sufficient legal justification for the war. Not that anything will come from it, but at least we saw our beloved prime minister embarassed and humiliated.
I’m still reading the report as a whole, but the conclusions reached by the inquiry don’t contain any real surprises. That the war was illegal as well as immoral I knew anyway, that the decision to support the war was reached long before it was discussed in parliament, for entirely different reasons than officially stated, wasn’t news either. It was clear from the start that the CDA-led government was led by its traditional policy of “Atlantic solidarity”, a desire to engage with the US and be seen as a dependable ally of it, a lesser form of the British delusions of a special relationship. The war was never assessed on its merits, the possible outcomes were not taken into account.
Though the material support of the Netherlands for the war was small, the political effect of its support was to lend a veneer of respectability to what was essentially an unilateral US war. The distinction between “political but no military support” was completely unclear and largely elided outside the Dutch political debate, presented by the US as if it meant we had given our full support. Again, not a surprise.
Some common themes emerge from the inquiry’s conclusions, which are also coming to light in the British Chilcott inquiry. There’s the dodginess of the legal reasoning for the war, as well as the exagerration of the available evidence for WMDs — turns out the Dutch intelligence services were much more skeptical about this than the government told us at the time, shock horror. More important is the utter disdain for the democratic process shown by both governments. In the Dutch case, the inquiry concludes that the decision was rammed through parliament and went entirely against the wishes of a majority of the voters.
However I’m still convinced that the massive protests against the war in the Netherlands helped convince the government from active participation in the war, against their own instincs, as they realised they could not overcome the combination of active voter hostility and parliamentary resistance to this, including from their own MPs, at a time when the domestic political situation was far from stable. This is not directly supported by the inquiry’s conclusions, but reading between the lines the formula of “political support, but no military support” looks like a typical Dutch compromise position taken by an internally divided government unwilling to turn this disagreement into an open conflict. Interestingly during part of the runup to the war the government coalition included the LPF, the party of Pim Fortuyn, which was largely against the war, not something you’d expect considering its background…
(All of the above analysis is a bit late in the day I admit, but I’ve been busy…)