14 Jan 2013

Where is Chilcot's Iraq inquiry report?

Where is the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war, four and a half years after it was established and two months short of the tenth anniversary of the invasion?

A million words in, the inquiry team has been withered by illness and exhaustion, not a little of which has been caused by the intransigence of the political machine to regurgitate the papers of the time.

The resistance to its completion and publication are reportedly the political classes who supported and led the war effort – the very people most likely to be targeted by the inquiry findings. The fear is that the delays will become so protracted that the next election (2015) will be permitted to become yet another delaying force.

We don’t hear much from Sir John Chilcot. When last heard from he indicated that sometime in 2013 those fingered by the inquiry would be shown the evidence and allowed to respond – it doesn’t sound like a speedy process. Whitehall was suggesting that the report might be published at the end of last year.

Now it’s the end of this year and maybe later still.

The danger is that this awful episode – what many regard as the worst UK foreign policy disaster since Suez – will have happened so long ago, that those who will be seen as having been responsible will be allowed to slink off into the long grass of history.

Impact of Iraq

All over the Maghreb and the Middle East the world is paying the price for the decision to invade Iraq. Iraqi al-Qaeda are repeatedly being reported in Syria, fighting on the rebel side. And now they are at war in Mali.

Iraq itself is a chaotic entity, riven with division and corruption. The south is an effective Iranian fiefdom. The Kurdish north is all but an independent oil state – potentially one of the richest in modern times. The seasoned fighters, whether al-Qaeda or other, are wandering from Mauritania in the west, to Yemen, Afghanistan, and Pakistan in the east.

Why is the non-publication of potentially the most critical UK foreign policy inquiries of our generation such a low key issue?

A million people marched against the Iraq war before a shot was fired. Have they forgotten what drove them onto the streets?

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