Chilcot: the Forest Beyond the Long Grass

In July 2009 John Chilcot opened an Inquiry into the lessons of the Iraq War. Mr Chilcot was a senior civil servant and over the past six years seems to have been singularly unfitted for the task. It was a case of the great and the good inquiring into the lies and mistakes and  scandals of the Iraq War not caused by the military but by the elected politicians and the civil servants of the time – in other words the great and the good. I would expect a civil servant to be well practiced in the art of kicking difficult problems far into the forest beyond the long grass, and Mr Chilcot has not changed my expectation by his conduct of the Inquiry. 

It seems that more than five years is not enough for Mr Chilcot to come up with a report. He is waiting on people that he might criticise in his report to respond to criticisms in draft, it seems, and the wait will continue until after the next election (which will be held in May this year) so that the British electorate cannot know when they vote what the politicians were up to in this shameful episode of British History.

The cost of every war is very high and the Iraq War was no exception. In order to (in my view) puff the vanity of Mr Bush and Mr Blair more than 134,000 people died, about 6,000 of which were soldiers, the infrastructure of a nation was devastated and today Iraq is a nation in turmoil where it is just as unsafe for ordinary people to go about their lives as it was when the dictator Saddam ruled country.

Mr Chilcot’s Inquiry might (it is possible) show that the war was illegal, which will leave serious questions for Mr Blair and Mr Brown to answer, including the prosecution of them and other cabinet members for conducting an illegal war.

When the war was first announced my uninformed reaction was that it was illegal and that Iraq could have no weapons of mass destruction (whatever they might be) after suffering so many years from a trade embargo. My instinct about the weapons of mass destruction was right and I expect history will show that my instinct about the legality of the war was also right.

Mr Chilcot (appropriately knighted precisely because he was a senior well paid well pensioned civil servant) has serious questions to answer when Parliament asks him to explain the delay. I expect he will resort to the long honoured tradition of trying to confuse his answers will elegant statements which are designed to shroud meaning rather than communicate.

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