How important is the Chilcot Inquiry for Britain more than seven years after the inquiry was announce? Do you expect any real impact of the inquiry on politics, society? Read few comments.
Louise Kettle, Assistant Professor, University of Nottingham
Despite the long delays in publication the inquiry is still extremely important – not least for the families who lost loved ones in Iraq and who are hoping for answers. The inquiry will seek to establish exactly what happened in the run-up and during the war and – perhaps most importantly – identify lessons for the future. It has long been agreed that the Iraq War was unsuccessful but the report is likely to consider the long-term implications for the war, including the link to radicalisation and the violence which continues to be experienced in the region. This will be an important recognition of the consequences of British actions.
The impact of the Iraq inquiry will be felt politically. Firstly, it is expected that a number of senior politicians, military figures and civil servants will come under criticism. Secondly, it will re-ignite already warring factions within the Labour party and allow the Liberal Democrats (as the only party that voted against the Iraq War) to regain a voice in parliament. To what extent the impact is felt within society will depend upon how the identified lessons are implemented.
Michael Smith, Former Intelligence Officer, Award-winning Journalist, Author
I don’t think we are going to learn that much. Most of it we already know and this will be official confirmation. One of the key things people say they are looking for is when Tony Blair agreed to go to war. This is seen as a key date because it will show he was lying about the intention to go to war after that date and, according to his opponents in Parliament, could allow him to be impeached. Personally, I think this is hot air and nonsense. I don’t believe there will be any official action against Blair and no-one could think less of him than they do now so putting his decisions in context can only make him look better. More to the point, we already know that he agreed to go to war in April 2002. It was in the Downing Street Memos. See my blog.
I worry that the thing that will be missed by Chilcot is the illegal air war which that decision sparked. I’ll be blogging later on that. But in May 2002, the rules of engagement over the southern no-fly zone in Iraq were changed so that US and UK aircraft could attack the Iraqis if their air defence radars locked onto the aircraft (previously it had to be a missile launcher that locked onto the aircraft to spark a response). So every time an allied aircraft overflew southern Iraq, it triggered the radar and gave the pilot an excuse to attack. This was used to bomb all Iraqi communications and radar sites, and other military locations, effectively beginning the air war phase of the war long before parliament, the US Congress, or (allegedly) the UN backed military action.
What it will do I hope start the process of closure for the families whose loved ones died but the clamour to punish Blair will keep things going and cause yet more upset, and inevitably disappointment, for the families. It should also make governments think twice before we do this thing again, something which was sadly lacking when David Cameron ordered the attacks on Libya, with similar catastrophic results for the people of Libya as had already occurred in Iraq and Islamic insurrection which continues in both countries to this day.
Anthony Glees, Professor, Director, Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies, University of Buckingham
We’ve had 5 inquiries into the Iraq war and the policies of Tony Blair’s government (2X ISC reports on WMD, 1X Foreign Affairs Select Committee of Parliament, 1X Hutton and 1X Butler) and none of the have been able to identify the ‘smoking gun’, namely an order from Blair to MI6, Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service, to ‘find’ non-existent WMD in Iraq.
I would be very surprised if Chilcot were now to find that ‘smoking gun’ evidence not least because if it existed, it would still be very, very secret.
However, that’s not what I think happened: I think Tony Blair’s statement that the intelligence was ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’ will be criticised because it made the intelligence more certain than it could ever be — or to put it another way, intel that is ‘extensive, detailed and authoritative’ is still only secret intel, it’s not necessarily the truth.
It’s ironic that Tony Blair was the first UK prime minister who actually wanted the public to see the secret intelligence he was getting. A terrible mistake perhaps.
What I think will happen is that Tony Blair will be (properly) condemned for a failure to understand the internal dynamics of Iraqi society properly after Saddam was removed. It was shambles and he must be criticised for that (I criticised him myself for this — but not for the attack itself).
I also think it is possible that Dearlove will be criticised for overselling his intelligence products to a naive Blair who was almost certainly keen to buy the products; he’s become a silly man, supporting Brexit in the popular press which might indicate he realises his reputation is about to take a hit and he wants to make a counter-move. Also I think Scarlett, head of the JIC, may come in for criticism, allowing too much leeway to Alistair Campbell.
Knowing Sir John Chilcot very slightly he’s well aware of the need to defuse explosive situations. But I think he’s an honest man and if there were something explosive he’d not hide it.
Was Blair a ‘war criminal’? I think this is a ridiculous assertion: a war crime is a crime which is committed under cover of war. It is not a crime to wage war. It is a crime to wage a war against humanity or a war of extermination against a people. Blair didn’t do that.
Paul Arnell, Reader in Law, Aberdeen Business School, Robert Gordon University Aberdeen
The Chilcot inquiry examines important issues relating to the political decision making process in the area of the use of force in international affairs. Its significance, however, is lessened by a combination of the length of time taken to complete it and the timing of its release. It’s timing is very unfortunate in that UK politics is experiencing an upheaval of historic dimensions following the vote to leave the EU and the resignation of the Prime Minister. The consequences of the report, therefore, have likely been diminished. The lasting effect may be limited to an addition to the historical record and, perhaps, a widening of the individuals and institutions participating in the decisions to use armed force.
James Denselow, Writer on Middle East politics and security issues
The Chilcot Inquiry is long awaited and anticipated. I believe that it is more likely to focus and shape the historic legacy of Tony Blair rather than genuinely change foreign policy in the country going forward. It may finally allow the country to ‘move on’ from the Iraq war which has cast a long shadow over the country since 2003.