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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