4 Feb 2015

Will the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war ever be published?

So today MPs finally debate the non-appearance of the Chilcot report into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, 1,463 days since it last took evidence.

Even in the time that has elapsed since it was set up in June 2009, the consequences of the fateful decision to go to war against the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein have become ever more daunting.

The war itself cost at least 100,000 lives, and almost certainly many more. Some 4m people are reported to have been displaced by the bombing from the air, and the fighting on the ground.

Worse, the war itself effectively destroyed both the will and the capacity of the world to deal with the subsequent events in neighbouring Syria.

The Chilcot inquiry is what many might regard as effectively an inquiry by the British establishment.


All five of the appointed inquiry team were titled – four knights and a Baroness. Only one was educated in a state school. All but one has an Oxbridge background.

One of their number, Sir Martin Gilbert, had to withdraw from the inquiry as a result of ill health. He sadly died last night.

The chair, Sir John Chilcot, was the permanent secretary of the Northern Ireland Office during the critical period of peace consolidation in the province.

But even he can never have anticipated the six years of toil, obfuscation and delay that would surround his efforts in trying to penetrate the truth surrounding Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.

In the period that the Inquiry has sat, the invasion of Iraq has come to be seen by many as one of the most disastrous political and military misjudgements since the end of the Second World War — an epithet previously long held by the British government’s decision in 1956 to invade Suez.

The Iraq war provided the midwife for the eruption of the Islamic State group.

The war also destroyed Iraq’s borders set by the British in 1926. It appears unlikely that the Iraq conceived and established then will ever be restored.

A failed war

I was one of a number of journalists who reported from Iraq in the 1980s and 90s. I witnessed the Iran/Iraq War in that period from both sides.

Like many, I was well aware of the tender balances, inter-marriages and tensions between the Sunni and Shia Muslims who populated Iraq. They have been shattered.

Indeed the tensions between Shia Islam led by Iran, and the Sunni Islam led by Saudi Arabia are now as bad as at any time in history.

There is then much at stake as MPs try to find out why the investigation into Britain’s decision to go to war remains unpublished.

It will be no comfort to those British families who lost loved ones on the Iraqi battle field to have to face the reality that the war is rapidly becoming seen as a military and strategic failure.

The absence of the Chilcot report merely compounds the pain. It will be no comfort to the British citizen to note that the war itself cost us all some £40bn.

This is a dark time in the history of our democratic processes. It is hard to see how today’s debate will lighten it.

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4 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    Having watched some of today’s committee proceedings I can safely say the report will be the usual whitewash of the guilty mass murdering British politicians. And we all know who THEY are.

    Even by British establishment standards the Iraq war was a disgusting, cowardly, lying, hypocritical act by a gang of craven, brain-dead, conscience-free lunatics. They don’t have a scrap of decency between them.

    Our military losses were a dreadful and needless tragedy but they were NOTHING compared to the hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi casualties and the millions of Middle East humanity who still suffer from the knock on affects.

    Occasionally Brit media makes a show of concern for the proceedings at the International Criminal Court. If any of you had the slightest genuine intention of seeking justice there you would campaign to see the guilty Brits and their cronies arraigned, and when convicted sent down for the rest of their disgusting lives.

    But I won’t hold my breath. After all, too many of you are part of the establishment, and bought-and-paid-for accordingly.

  2. Philip says:

    Sir John is, of course, an establishment figure and if you read his terms of reference you’ll realise that his inquiry isn’t looking for the notorious “smoking gun”. It seems to me that various fingers will be rapped and processes criticised, with proposals to avoid such in future. I suspect that the system of nods & winks which insulates the public part of government (politicians) from the secret side (the civil servants, etc) which actually carries out the work, develops the policies, provides the “evidence” and legal justifications, etc will both be criticised, but also be shown to have been effective in shielding those most directly responsible for their proper share of the blame. In such circumstances, the notion of freedom of information or open government falls down, because those involved know perfectly well how to ensure that important conversations are never recorded.
    It seems to me the only way we can prevent the worst of these abuses is to require a vote before UK forces are used in any military form, with a mandatory public, televised investigation by a suitable Parliamentary committee with the evidence for and against the action being public available on the Government website. Obviously, if we are under attack, the circumstances are different – but in every case since 1939, we’ve been the people doing the attacking (apart from Falklands – & I accept on a number of occasions we’ve gone to help others under attack) or have had sufficient time to carry out a procedure like this.

  3. Richard Heller says:

    Since the inquiry is complete but for the so-called Maxwell process, why can’t Chilcot produce a “narrative verdict” on Iraq, minus the intended criticisms? See my letter to Prime Minister on my website.

  4. Leela Neeladevi says:

    Thank you, Jon Snow, for excellent interviews, in particular the one with Jeremy Corbyn.

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