Only a week ago, while I was pouring over my Facebook newsfeed, I came across the latest breaking news that had taken social media by storm; the Chilcot Report. Being a firm opposer of the UK-US intervention in Iraq, the Chilcot Report is for me, as it is for a lot of people, a breath of fresh air, a beacon of hope amidst total darkness. For once, it seems, the actions of the mighty global powers have been questioned and their devilry has been brought to light. It was when I was probing this report and looking through any articles I found about the Iraqi invasion, that it dawned upon me that maybe this whole issue was generated from a misconception or a misinterpretation.

The debate regarding the legitimacy of the Iraqi invasion centres around the question whether the invasion was an unprovoked assault on an independent country that may have breached international law, or if the United Nations Security Council authorised the invasion. Most defenders of the invasion point to UN Resolutions 1441 and 678. Those arguing against its legitimacy, however, also cite some of the same sources, stating that these resolutions do not actually permit war but instead lay out conditions that must be met before war can be declared. I, as an individual, believe that the invasion of Iraq was not provoked by any aggressive military action whereas the Security Council can only authorise the use of force against an ‘aggressor’, in the interests of preserving peace. It is true that Security Council Resolution 678 allows member states “to use all necessary means to uphold and implement Resolution 660 and all subsequent relevant resolutions and to restore international peace and security in the area”, but an additional Security Council resolution, which the US and UK failed to obtain, would have been necessary to specifically authorise the invasion. Mostly, Iraq’s failure to comply with past UN resolutions has been used as an excuse by the US and UK governments but that argument has to be deemed null and void since no single nation has the authority, under the UN Charter, to judge Iraq’s compliance to UN resolutions and to enforce them. Furthermore, it is clear that this was not the motive behind the Iraqi invasion since other nations such as Israel were also in breach of UN resolutions. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who was a legal adviser in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, resigned from her post because she believed that the invasion in Iraq was unlawful and that an additional UN resolution was required to authorise it. Wilmshurst says that the final word rested with Lord Goldsmith, who was Attorney General at the time. She says that although Goldsmith at first advised the government that an additional resolution would be required, but it was after Goldsmith visited the US that he had his change of mind, advising that an invasion would be lawful without any further UN action. There is every chance that there was a misinterpretation of UN resolutions and their mandate as the Chilcot Report says: “Blair seemed to labour under the impression that merely asking the UN to pass a resolution had as much legal validity as a resolution that had been passed. We feel it might have been helpful if there had been someone in the UK, other than the many millions who were opposed to the war, who had told him this.”

Maybe there wasn’t a misunderstanding and the UK and US went ahead with the invasion despite knowing they had no right to do so. But if there was a misinterpretation, then one can only wonder what might have been if Model United Nations had existed in the 1950’s so that people like Tony Blair, George Bush and those advising them could have learnt what children my age have the chance to learn today. You see, about a year or so ago, as I underwent the transition from secondary school into my O-Levels, I discovered the one activity that I now love and that will stay with me for the rest of my life; Model United Nations. I had been participating thrivingly in declamations for six years by then, but Model United Nations presented a new challenge in the world of public speaking. Having already made a name for myself in declamations across Lahore, I relished the opportunity to start my MUN career from the ground up. The basic idea of Model United Nations is to simulate a United Nations committee where numerous students, each representing a certain country, debate upon a modern world issue, prepare resolutions to solve that issue and bring other students on their side, through both formal and informal methods, so that they have a majority in the committee to get their resolutions passed. While debates and declamations are brilliant instruments in improving a child’s public speaking skills, knowledge and confidence, what makes Model United Nations so special is their ability to enhance a wide spectrum of skills and talents at the same time. As I spoke before my first MUN committee, I was subconsciously improving my impromptu speaking skills. As I gave heed to more senior delegates arguing, I, without knowing, was absorbing a lot of knowledge and was learning of new ways to construct my arguments. As someone picked on one of my many mistakes and humiliated me about it, I learnt how to think on my feet and present a counter-argument. As I tried to convince people to rally behind me, I learnt how to be diplomatic and how to make people approve of my leadership. But most importantly, I learnt how to understand, interpret and criticise past United Nations resolutions and policies and structure better and more feasible solutions and put them into words in my resolutions.

The Chilcot Report while providing a pedestal for the truth to be seen, also sheds light on the importance of Model United Nations and similar initiatives that play an unsung part in making the world a better place. After all, it is the students of today who’ll become the leaders of tomorrow and what we learn from MUNs and debates today, could become the difference between war and peace tomorrow. Soon, we’ll be making choices similar to the ones Bush and Blair had to make. Let’s hope we never forget the invaluable lessons we learn from MUN like experiences and don’t repeat the mistakes of those before us. Let’s hope the world is spared from any more invasions, destruction and conflict and let’s hope there is peace in our time.