Seven years, endless delays and over two million words later John Chilcot’s Iraq Inquiry at last sees the light of day. A great deal of speculation and expectations surrounded the report, families of those killed in the Iraq war hoped to find that the war was justified, that loved ones died for a valid casus belli. Meanwhile, critics of the Blair government hoped for a report that would expose conspiracy and skulduggery. Unfortunately for the families for the 179 people killed in the conflict, Chilcot reprimands Blair’s invasion of Iraq, stating there ‘was no imminent threat’ from the Saddam regime and the invasion was not a ‘last resort’.
In his public statement, Chilcot stated ‘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’. Defenders of Blair have been quick to pin blame on the UK’s intelligence services claiming that, based on the knowledge provided at the time, the decision to invade seemed justified. However, in a statement about the enquiry, Prime Minister David Cameron called for MP’s to stand by their decisions and take responsibility.
The inquiry also showed evidence of both Blair and Bush having pre-planned the invasion of Iraq. Blair remains adamant that 9/11 changed his premiership and therefore, the removal of violent dictators in The Middle East such as Saddam was necessary. Chilcot went on to say ‘Mr Blair suggested that the US and the UK should work on what he described as a “clever strategy” for regime change in Iraq, which would build over time’. The two concluded that an invasion was required to remove Saddam from power. A UN ultimatum was proposed forcing Saddam to either ‘readmit inspectors or face the consequences’.
On July 28th 2002, Blair wrote to Bush stating that he would be with him ‘whatever’.
Shortly before the invasion began, Blair was asked to confirm that ‘Iraq had committed further material breaches’ in order to justify invasion under resolution 1441, a resolution intended to offer Saddam a chance to comply with disarmament obligations. Blair would confirm the rumour the next day, however, the inquiry states ‘the precise basis on which Mr Blair made that decision is not clear’.
In a House of Commons speech in 2002, Blair warned of the future capabilities of Iraq under Saddam, Chilcot judges Blair’s fearmongering was ‘not justified’.
Blair’s conduct both during the invasion also came under fire, many stating that the military were dangerously ill equipped. Particular fierce criticism has been placed at the Snatch Land Rover armoured vehicle, dubbed ‘the mobile coffin’. Infamous for its inability to withstand improvised explosive devices and mines. It has been estimated that 37 British servicemen and women were killed in them.
Blair’s long term plan on rebuilding Iraq after invasion has also come under scrutiny; many MP’s now believe that there was insufficient planning after the fall of Saddam. Chair of the Defence Select Comity Julian Lewis believed that neither Bush nor Blair had enough knowledge of Iraqi history to be able to successfully rebuild the country, stating that Bush ‘didn’t know the difference between a Sunni or a Shia’. Critics have lambasted Blair’s long term plan as believing that once the dictatorship was removed, democracy would simply rise in its place.
Interestingly, the inquiry refrained from a decision on whether or not the invasion was legal, instead explaining that a final decision on the legality of the Iraq War could only be decided an internationally recognised court. In spite of this, Chilcot stated ‘the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory’.
Chilcot also condemned the British government’s failure to achieve its set objectives in Iraq. A tearful Tony Blair responded to the report, ‘I accept full responsibility. Without exception and without excuse’. He continued ‘for all this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe’.
Many are now left wondering about the political fallout from The Chilcot Report. The left of The Labour Party (who have often found themselves grinding against the Blairite wing) have seized the opportunity to call for the arrest of Blair as a war criminal; Jeremy Corbyn himself claimed that the war ‘has long been regarded as illegal’.
The effects of the Iraq War can still be seen worldwide, the publication of The Iraq Enquiry by John Chilcot is a watershed moment in British politics, destined to be remembered as one of the most damning documents in British history.