21 Jan 2015

No Chilcot report on Iraq: absolutely no surprise

No one knows how to delay an urgent inquiry into serious misjudgments, mistakes, and misdoings, better than the British ‘system’. And when it comes to the delay, no one knows better how to hide their tracks than the ‘system’.

They frustrated the Northern Ireland Inquiries; the investigation into the defections of Philby, Burgess and Maclean; the investigation into the Queen’s former Art Curator Sir Anthony Blunt; and the Denning inquiry into the Profumo affair – although as Denning was a judge, sitting on his own, they were less effective.

Once again there are delays in play; this time with the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War. Tony Blair is currently the British politician the media finds it easy to hate. But it is questionable how much he’s had to do with the delay.

The finger of suspicion points to the civil and security services – particularly where they overlap. Unlike the politicians, there are elements of both the civil service, and the security services, who are still ‘on deck’.

Culturally they are inseparable from those who have moved into positions of power above and beneath them. For the good of the ‘firm’ now, then, and in the future, ‘least said soonest mended’ would seem to be the order of the day.

We know enough about the antecedents of the Iraq war to know that there was serious distortion of ‘intelligence’.

Read more: Chilcot Iraq inquiry delayed… again

The construct of the ‘dodgy dossier’ with its ridiculous claims of Saddam’s capacity to strike British interests within 45 minutes of giving the order to fire; and this possession of weapons of mass destruction were straight forward lies. But who was complicit in the deceit has still not been completely clarified.

Those of us, like myself, who had worked for extended periods in Iraq before the invasion knew the terrible dangers of attempting to alter the power structure there. We understood the delicate balance and inter-weaving of Sunni and Shia Muslims.

We knew that if you removed a secular leader, even a tyrant, like Saddam Hussein, the consequences would be inter religious civil war.

In the days before the invasion, the foreign office (which was almost completely excluded from the ‘made in Downing street’ process of going to war) managed to prevail upon Tony Blair to listen to four of Britain’s top academic specialists on Iraq.

They briefed him on the inadvisability of attacking Iraq. They gave him, in unison, a history lesson of how Britain had made repeated mistakes in Iraq in the past.

Their united advice was ‘don’t touch it prime minister’. One of the academics told me that at the end of the briefing Mr Blair simply said: “I’ve heard what you say… but you do agree, don’t you, he (Saddam) is a very bad man”.

Read more: Iraq war 10 years on: what have we learned?

It is questionable even now, how much the politicians who agreed to the war, whether American or British, knew anything much of the differences between the Sunni and Shia religions and how those divisions affected Iraq society.

Some four million people were displaced by the war. At least 100,000 were killed. Above all, the ‘allies’ concluded their engagement by allowing a renowned Shia separatist to dominate the governance of the country alienating the Sunni population. The Sunni ISIS war to establish a Sunni caliphate was the almost inevitable consequence.

It is hard to exaggerate the scale of the Iraq disaster and its global consequences. Those who were involved in bringing the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war about will be relieved that the ‘system’ has done its stuff. No Chilcot report any time soon.

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11 reader comments

  1. Verity says:

    Recommend this book for insight on the intelligence that was available to those in power on the run up to the Iraq war. http://www.amazon.co.uk/Extreme-Prejudice-Terrifying-Story-Patriot/dp/1453642757

  2. Old Geezer says:

    It is highly probable that the Labour Party are scared witless about what will come out in the Chilcot report. Chilcot and “the system” are doing what they can to delay the report in the hope that when it does come out, the actual war will be almost forgotten by the media. It is known as “looking after your own”

  3. Philip says:

    Part of the problem is that we’ve allowed this sort of thing through the hands of lawyers. So anyone criticised has the right to see what is said & presumably attempt to rebut or tone it down.
    It also seems to me that the way government works at the centre guarantees these levels of shared complicity and ambiguity. In an era when a documentary record (electronic or hard copy) can be accessed, many of the more sensitive decisions are taken verbally, with only those who “need to know”. Ministers may make their preferences known without giving direct orders. there are plenty of exceedingly intelligent, ambitious & amoral people around them (including civil servants regrettably) who understand the nods & winks and do whatever is required….and will have got their due reward, of course. The link between the politicians, the semi-politicians like Campbell & the Special Advisers, and the civil servants may well be little documented…and many of those involved have an obvious interest not to come clean. We should also never underestimate the ability of such people to (a) find the expedient words and information and (b) be utterly ignorant about what these words refer to or what the consequences of these words are. These are policy- and word-mongers. You can see not just in Iraq & Afghanistan, but in the failures of so many big government projects that the people at the centre of government have little grasp of what goes on beyond the finely-tuned words they produce. And words will be the substance of Chilcott. So inevitably every word will be crawled over.
    Chilcott will have to rap a few knuckles & comment on the then system of government at the centre – but there will be no smoking gun.

  4. Richard Simkin says:

    How refreshing to read Jon Snow’s assessment of Chilcot. The pithy analysis is streets ahead of that of the BBC News coverage. But then again, Channel 4 News makes the BBC look so self serving and even flimsy. I would love to know the financial outlay of the two news broadcasters – it would, I bet, show that big expenditure does not mean superior news coverage.

  5. David Henderson says:
  6. Mike Harland says:

    In 1976, when I was doing the linguistic exams for GCHQ, I was given a piece to translate about some people called the Shiites. I had never heard of them before, but it was only a few years later that the name began to resonate. Our secret service knew who they were then and their relationship to the Sunnies, and that is still what the Middle East is still about.

    Luckily, I never got the post and became an academic instead, but it taught me lot about how the country and global politics works and how much the ‘establishment’ knows but never tells (or rather, refuses to allow anything to be told).

    The same goes for “mystery” figures in Thatcher’s cabinet with unsavoury proclivities towards children that all of us appear to know the identity of, but nobody dare say, just as a new document today “must remain secret” because the ‘establishment’ deem it too sensitive.

    PREEMPTION is a familiarly key word in global warfare, but it is also now firmly ingrained in current global politics and finance: few recognise it as the true scourge to any real concept of Democracy today. Just as the Markets ‘factor in’ any global risks and changes before they get a chance to rock any indexes (pace the unexpected Swiss two fingers approach!), and just as any presumed enemies are ‘taken out’ before they have even committed their crimes, so our politicians have ‘factored in’ the redactions and ‘taken out’ the body bags from the Chilcot Enquiry.

    We live in a world of “futures” and “hedge funds” where the elites count their “options” and gamble with our lives from the top of their ivory Bingo Towers and Casinos. Orwell had it all sussed out … he was just 30 years too early in his literary pre-emption of what the modern state would entail.

    Once Miss [Dis]May’s latest Big Brother government sound-bite of a “war on NON-violent extremism” takes hold, there will be no place even for your blog, Jon … your quizzical voice will have been “pre-empted” … in fact, I can read your growing cynicism and self-censorship already. ];O))

  7. Ken Baker says:

    Surely Blair and Bush must be take full responsibility albeit that the ghastly neocons egged them on. I have never met anyone who has worked and lived in the middle east agreeing with that foolish, foolish war. I have worked extensively in moslem countries and I am sad to say my own father flew Sopwith Pups in Mesopotamia at the end of WW1 to enforce the lash-up the British created in that area! It seems to me that there has to be a great “organic” rehash in Iraq and Syria and we have to hope that the so called ISIS will overplay its hand and implode. We must not intervene again. Iran and Saudi Arabia will have to get involved and that could get very unpleasant.

  8. Adrian Wait says:

    Quite Right – However…. Chilcot Report will now not be published before the general election in what has been called a “betrayal of the British public”.

    * Child Abuse – Feral Establishment – Feral Elite – Parliament…. How Long?
    * Hillsborough Justice for the 96…. How Long?
    * Orgreave Assault and Justice Denied… How Long
    * ‘Blacklisting’ lives broken… How Long?
    * Deaths & Suicides due to DWP, Freud, Duncan-Smith… How Long?
    * the list goes on and on… for Justice Delayed is Justice Denied… How Long?

    Perhaps it would help if we could rediscover investigative journalism?

  9. Paul says:

    If the Chilcot committee had been employed on a fixed fee basis, I’m sure the report would be out by now. But on an hourly rate, with lawyers involved, why are we surprised that the inquiry is being “spun out”?

  10. Beauferal says:

    Are these realities created by those who have managed to achieve positions of power which then enable them to control the world in ways that are mostly of benefit to themselves? Is the world and the people in it an impossibly complex mixture too intricate to make right? I feel so aware of how we all attempt to live the best lives we can, but we don’t all want the same things. I want peace and solutions, but I fear life is not about providing that kind of answer.

  11. Alan says:

    In 2003 there were few dissenting voices, the media on the whole couldn’t get enough of war. The spectacle of the media pushing the war agenda irrespective of facts continues. The Chilcot inquiry will find it’s ‘patsies’ but the deceivers continue unabated.

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