After seven years’ work, the Iraq Inquiry (known as the Chilcot Inquiry) has finally released its 2.6m-word report on the UK’s role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The Conversation has stayed with the story throughout the week; here’s what our expert authors have to say.
Louise Kettle sums up the inquiry’s top line: that the Iraq War and its disastrous aftermath emerged from a wholesale failure of oversight and planning that allowed faulty assumptions to escape vital scrutiny.
In particular, the intelligence services come in for a serious kicking from Chilcot. Jamie Gaskarth explains how the Joint Intelligence Committee in particular failed to stop the equivocal assessment of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction from being “presented with a certainty that was not justified”.
Paul Rogers examines the invasion’s catastrophic aftermath, which is still unfolding today. He explains that while there was, in fact, a clear post-invasion plan, it was hopelessly inadequate for dealing with what actually happened. More ominously still, the West seems to have learnt nothing from its failure.
Of course, one individual dominated the report’s executive summary and the reaction to it. Scott Lucas points out that even though the report heavily criticises Blair and his close associates, it declines to accuse him of outright deceit – a delicate balancing act that will infuriate the protesters waving their “Bliar” placards.
But Blair is far from off the hook. Fears that the report would be a whitewash designed to exonerate him proved unfounded – and as Feargal Cochrane writes, regardless of Blair’s escape from explicit charges of deception and bad faith, the Iraq War and the hundreds of thousands of deaths it caused have already written him a sad political epitaph.
As Owen Thomas sees it, the report’s biggest lesson comes out of Blair’s muscular interventionist worldview. Unless the West rethinks its approach to security from top to bottom, he writes, it is doomed to repeat many of Bush and Blair’s mistakes.
Getting it wrong
John Jewell takes a look at the mainstream media, which eagerly condemned Blair once the report was released – but which too readily accepted the terms of debate in 2003, and thereby allowed the discussion of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction to proceed as it did.
And as for the war’s outspoken critics, who took to the streets of London in their hundreds of thousands (or even millions)? James Strong takes them to task as well, pointing out that while there was plenty of sentiment against the war, it was too speculative and too resigned to the inevitable to make much of a difference.
But did the UK’s furious protesters have a point when they said the invasion was ultimately about oil? Perhaps – but not in the way they thought. Bulent Gokay explains that even if oil exploitation wasn’t a specific motive for the war, its position in the global balance of power is so fundamental that the intervention in Iraq simply can’t be fully explained without it.
While it’s far from the damp squib some expected, Chilcot’s final report is not without its problems. After all, the hard facts are one thing, but healing truth and meaningful reconciliation are something quite different. James Sweeney explains how the report falls short on both measures, looking to other countries’ experience with the trauma of conflict and just how difficult it is to make sure justice is served.
Philip Cunliffe also suggests that Britain take this opportunity to ask why, exactly, its establishment is so convinced that costly retrospective inquries are the best way of getting to the bottom of the country’s problems.
There’s still plenty to pick over, and The Conversation will feature more analysis in the coming days as the report’s findings are further digested.