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Open Access Learning from the Chilcot report: Propaganda, deception and the ‘War on Terror’

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The 2016 Iraq Inquiry Report (the Chilcot report) was highly critical of the British government and its involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation. Drawing upon the authoritative material in the report, this article provides the most comprehensive and conceptually grounded post-Chilcot assessment of the empirical evidence now available regarding whether deception and propaganda were used to mobilize support for the invasion of Iraq. Employing a conceptual framework designed to identify deceptive organized persuasive communication (OPC), it is argued that the Chilcot report supports the thesis that, through distortions and omissions, deceptive OPC campaigns presented a misleading impression of both the threat posed by Iraqi WMD and Britain’s commitment to a peaceful resolution via the ‘UN route’. Moreover, based upon UK-US communications in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, the Chilcot report also provides suggestive but highly significant evidence of a broader and covert geo-strategic policy, including action against Syria and Iran, and which was underpinned by a ‘close knit propaganda campaign’. In light of this, it is argued that a major expansion of scholarly inquiry is necessary involving sustained analysis of the establishing phase of the ‘War on Terror’, the role that deception and propaganda might have played with respect to its enablement, and, more broadly, the implications of this for our understanding of propaganda and deception in liberal democratic states.
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Keywords: Chilcot; Iraq; Iraq dossier; UN route; WMD; War on Terror; deception; propaganda

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Sheffield

Publication date: March 1, 2017

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  • The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies is a new peer-reviewed, tri- annual, academic publication devoted to the study of modern Iraq. In recognition of Iraq's increasingly important position on the world stage, the time is right for a new journal dedicated to scholarly engagement with the country.
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