Today the Iraq Inquiry has published its final report into the UK’s policy on Iraq, covering the run up to, the conduct of, and the planning for the period following, the Iraq War.
The Iraq Inquiry made a number of critical conclusions, in particular that:
· The UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted.
· The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were presented with a certainty that was not justified.
· The circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.
· Despite explicit warnings the consequences of the invasion were underestimated.
· The planning and preparations for Iraq after the war were wholly inadequate.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair responded to the publication of the report, stating that:
· “The report makes clear there were no lies, Parliament and cabinet were not misled, there was no secret commitment to war, intelligence was no falsified and the decision was made in good faith.”
· “The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong – the aftermath turned out to be more hostile protracted and bloody than ever we imagined. The coalition planned for one set of ground facts and encountered another.”
· “The inquiry rightly dismisses the conspiracy theory that I pledged Britain unequivocally to action at Crawford in April 2002.”
In response to the report and the Mr Blair’s comments, David Davis MP said:
“Sir John Chilcot and the Iraq Inquiry have produced an authoritative report, based on substantial evidence.
We now know that the intelligence on which the case for war was made was flawed. Indeed, it was described as ‘sporadic and patchy’. But when the intelligence was presented to Parliament and to the public these flaws were glossed over. Mr Blair himself described the intelligence as ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’ to Parliament.
Similarly, the opposition to a second UN resolution was represented as unconditional by Mr Blair, even in the motion before the House. This was not the case, French opposition was in fact linked to the requirement for further inspections. The Government knew its stance was a lie, as has been confirmed by Sir Stephen Wall, who gave evidence to the Inquiry.
8 months before the war, at a time when he was telling the House of commons that he was not committed to conflict, Mr Blair wrote to George Bush saying that the UK would follow the US ‘whatever’. And in the same note Mr Blair said that “getting rid of Saddam Hussein is the right thing to do,” indicating that regime change was indeed the objective for the war. There is no basis for such an action in British law.
Mr Blair also claimed that March 2003 was a now or never moment, a binary choice. But it was Mr Blair who had made it a binary choice. By committing the UK to supporting the US, and by committing the UK to the US’s timetable we closed off diplomatic options. The prior commitment made it very difficult for the UK to then withdraw support at the eleventh hour.
The report has uncovered misleading statements, but assigns no blame for them. It shows failures of process, but not individual failures. In this the report has been too timid. Mr Blair made much of the pressures following the 9/11 attacks. But this should have been an argument for getting it right, not an excuse for getting it wrong.
The decision to go to war was part of a cascade of mistakes that resulted in the careless destruction of a nation, our complicity in the use of torture, our ceding of the moral high ground, and an increased risk of terrorism at home.
There is no doubt the decision to go to war was a failure of government, from start to finish, and in particular a failure of Tony Blair as Prime Minister. If any lessons are to be learned from this report, decisions so important to the future of the country must never again be taken in such a manner.”