“An intervention that went badly wrong”: The UK’s vast Iraq inquiry finally gives its verdict

Was it really 13 years ago?
Was it really 13 years ago?
Image: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque
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“An intervention that went badly wrong, with consequences to this day.”

That is the conclusion of Sir John Chilcot, the chairman of a seven-year-long enquiry process into the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war, which publishes its final report—all 2.6 million words of it—today (July 6). Speaking ahead of the report’s publication in London, Chilcot said:

We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.

We have also concluded that the judgments about the severity of the threat post by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction—WMD— was presented with a certainty that was not justified.

He also said that planning for the aftermath of the war was inadequate, and that the government—led by Tony Blair at the time—failed to achieve its objectives.

As the massive report is read, some questions about Britain’s role in the Iraq war will finally be answered. The inquiry aimed to “learn the lessons” of the war in Iraq, according to Gordon Brown, the former UK prime minister who commissioned the investigation back in June 2009. The report’s length and complexity reflect deeply contentious issues.

Between 2003 and 2009, 179 British service personnel were killed in Iraq. Over that period and beyond it, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were also killed. Estimates vary considerably as to the number of Iraqi dead, and no official figure has ever been published.

Chilcot spoke at length about the role of Blair, the British prime minister who took the decision to go to war in Iraq, noting that Blair “overestimated” his influence over US foreign policy.

Blair has been repeatedly accused of lying during the decision-making period that took the UK to war. Much of this criticism focuses on his assertion, in dossiers produced before military intervention was taken, that Saddam Hussein was developing chemical and biological weapons. Such “weapons of mass destruction” could be deployed against western targets within 45 minutes, the government claimed.

The intelligence behind these claims was later shown to have ”serious flaws.”

Chilcot said that the inquiry had not made any judgement—and was not equipped to do so—on whether the invasion was legal.