Chilcot Report open thread

As the Chilcot Report is published, we’ll bring you reaction and analysis from a Liberal Democrat perspective.

I’m thinking back to 15 February 2003. It was a beautifully sunny, but absolutely freezing day. I spent it with my family marching through Glasgow in protest at the proposed military action in Iraq. My husband doesn’t do much in the way of political campaigning. In fact, in the last couple of decades, he’s taken to the streets precisely twice. Once was for this march and the other was to campaign for Britain’s place in the European Union in the run-up to last month’s referendum.

My 3 year old was in a buggy waving a paper dove and still remembers that day.

When the Chilcot Inquiry was announced back in 2009, I was interviewed for a BBC News feature. I was a bit worried that the inquiry would just be another great big pot of whitewash.

Ms Lindsay says her feelings about the war have changed little in the six years since she went on the march.

“It was the first time I had ever been on anything like that. Deep down I think people thought it wouldn’t change anything but we had to give it a try, and I’d do the same again.

“I was totally against the political decision to go to war. I have nothing but admiration for the troops that went out there to do their job.

“I feel that everything we were worried about when we were protesting against the war has come to pass.

“It hasn’t made us any safer and it’s damaged Britain’s international standing in the world. If there had been a better building of an international coalition things might have been different.”

She is prepared to give the inquiry a chance but is dubious about its worth.

“I think we have to give the inquiry a go but at the moment I’m not convinced it will achieve much.

We are about to find out…

Iraq is a failed state because of Labour’s war – Farron

Before the report was published, Tim said:

The consequences of Tony Blair’s decision to take us to War in 2003 are still playing out in Iraq and beyond.

Just this Sunday 165 people have died in a suicide attack in Baghdad, adding to the nearly half a million Iraqis who have been killed in Iraq since 2003.

Tomorrow they will be in all of our thoughts alongside the families of the service men and women who were lost in the sands and cities of Iraq, doing their duty and serving their country.

Due to lack of proper post-conflict planning, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have fled their country as refugees, millions of Iraqi children have missed out on education, and another generation of young people have grown up without a hope for the future.

Bush’s and Blair’s choices have created a failed state which continues to be the source of extremism and instability across Middle East.

Their Tory cheerleaders like Iain Duncan Smith and the party chief at the time, Theresa May, must also be held to account for their votes.

Tim also accused the former Prime Minister of lying to the public:

Blair knowingly lied to the public to justify this war, and his actions have damaged public trust, damaged the UK’s standing in the world and crippled the ability of the UK to make humanitarian interventions. It is time he accepts responsibility and acknowledged his catastrophic mistake.

Chilcot slams decision making on Iraq War

Sir John Chilcot is speaking at the moment. So far he has said that:

Peaceful options had not been fully explored

The WMD claim was “presented with unjustified certainty.”

That the decision making process as tow heather the invasion would be illegal was far from satisfactory

That post Saddam planning was wholly inadequate.

That the consequences of the invasion were not fully explored.

No whitewash in sight

The only good words Chilcot had were for the troops who had to implement such poorly thought through plans with inadequate resources.

There is no wiggle room for Tony Blair. The Government he led is criticised for inadequacy in decision making and planning.

It’l take a while for all 2.5 million words to be read and analysed, but the conclusions are clear.

You can read the Executive Summary, which has just been published, here.

“I’ll be with you whatever”

A memo from Blair to Bush in July 2002.. Damning.

Farron: Charles Kennedy’s judgement has been vindicated in every respect

Blair was fixated in joining Bush in going to war in Iraq regardless of the evidence, the legality or the serious potential consequences.

Daesh has arisen from the complete absence of any post conflict planning by the government.

Charles Kennedy’s judgement has been vindicated in every respect. I hope those in the Labour and Conservative parties who were so forceful in their criticism of him and the Liberal Democrats at the time are equally forceful in their acknowledgements today that he was right. An absence of scrutiny by the Conservative party opened the door for Blair and the Labour Government to pursue a counter-strategic, ill-resourced campaign.

I hope Sir John Chilcot’s findings can in some way provide comfort to the families of the British servicemen and servicewomen who lost their lives, and to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives and a generation has been shaped by this illegal war.

Far from being Bush’s passenger, Blair was his co-pilot in taking this catastrophic decision which has destabilised Iraq, provided the hotbed for Daesh and tarnished Britain’s reputation around the word.“

Rennie – Blair should have shown Charles Kennedy’s judgement

This thorough report shines a bright light on this dark period of our country’s impact on the world. With the praise from victims’ families, Sir John Chilcot shows the utter failure of Tony Blair’s government in decision making, preparation and execution of the Iraq War.

When Charles Kennedy led opposition to the conflict he did so based on analysis of the evidence with a considerable degree of caution. Perhaps if Tony Blair and his government had adopted the same analysis and caution then we may not have seen the failure that was the Iraq war.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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11 Comments

  • To call it “Labour’s War” is an exaggeration – had the Tories (apart from Ken Clarke and his admirable group of opponents) voted against the war, the large group of Labour rebels, and Charles Kennedy and the Lib Dems would have won the day.

  • My first reaction is that the report appears hardly “Damning” and “Devastating” for Blair….What it seems to boil down to is “Blair overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq and the UK should be able to disagree with the US”….

    Translated that sounds like, “A big boy bullied him into it and he should’ve stood up for himself”…

    My mum used to tell me that……….

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '16 - 12:09pm

    Ian Duncan Smith was Tory leader at the time and inveigled into the government’s decision making. He should answer for his judgement on that issue and not be led into other issues such as his resignation as Tory leader or subsequent actions.
    Charles Kennedy was obviously right on the information available to him at the time and the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party was right to support him unanimously.
    We should not ignore the fact that Syria was governed at the time by the Baath Party President who had come to power in a military coup or that Syria had been part of the previous coalition which had fought against Iraq in Kuwait, nor that Iraq had a bloody war with Iran, or that Iraq had used missiles against Israel at that time. Perceptions matter in political conflicts and threats of war, so, it is at least arguable that the Iraqi dictator found it convenient that neighbouring countries thought that Iraq might have possessed some kind of weapons of mass destruction and might be willing to use them. This is an equivalent in the Near East and Middle East of the policy of deterrence used by NATO during the Cold War.
    We should factor in what Robin Cook said about the “hanging chads” of the US Presidential election in Florida, which would not have happened with stubby pencils marking paper ballots. We should not ignore the alleged lack of transparency in the computer systems which replace the old technology. We should be aware of the risk of conspiracy theories in November 2016 in USA. There is a precedent for taking a decision to the US Supreme Court, which is currently one member short, scandalously.
    Would the invasion and occupation of Iraq have happened if George W Bush had the experience and judgement of his father? Would the invasion and occupation of Iraq have happened if Al Gore had been US President?

  • Eddie Sammon 6th Jul '16 - 2:59pm

    Before I study the report properly I want to say the current state of Iraq is not only to do with Bush and Blair or even the terrorists or the Iraqi government. Gordon Brown and Barack Obama pulled the troops out and left a power vacuum which terrorists have filled. It was a hard decision of course, but I still think relevant.

    Never again must we be prepared to sacrifice so much life for so little gain or to be as naive about the consequences.

  • Richard Underhill 6th Jul '16 - 3:24pm

    David Cameron uses the word “never” too often, both today and generally.

  • Nom de Plume 6th Jul '16 - 6:19pm

    For what it is worth, the impression that remained with me from the Iraq War was seeing cruise missiles flying into buildings in Baghdad, particularly those of the ministry of the internal affairs. It came to symbolize for me the folly of the whole endeavour.

  • Denis Loretto 6th Jul '16 - 7:55pm

    I watched quite a lot of the initial post Chilcot debate in the Commons today. Given the clear verdict of Chilcot as to how fundamentally wrong it was to go to war in March 2003 , I was taken aback by the number of MPs (mainly on the Labour benches) who were at pains to set out how terrible Saddam Hussein was etc etc. In other words they were still seeking to justify at least to some degree their decision to vote for war. At one point the Conservative member for Basildon & Billericay said “Why can’t we just say that, however misled we think we were, we were wrong.”. Cameron merely said “Members must look at the Chilcot Report and make up their own minds.”
    Much as so many were saying “We must lessons from this.” how can they start to learn anything if they cannot bring themselves to say “We got this one wrong.”

    Remarkably 52 of the 53 Liberal Democrat MPs (those were the days!) attended the debate on March 18 2003. They all had exactly the same information, no more no less than any other members. Every one of the 52 were led by Charles Kennedy into the no lobby. So even if we have to be generous and acknowledge that many others were misled and misinformed we are at least entitled to demand from them now an admission that they simply were tragically and devastatingly wrong.

  • @Denis Loretto
    Lib Dem “opposition” to the war has been much exaggerated with time.

    Admirable though he was, and right as he’s been proven to be, Charles Kennedy did not quite foresee all the terrible consequences of the war in the way he’s being widely credited for today. If he had, one might assume that he’d have been against the war under any circumstances; but in fact, as he made clear in his Commons speech on the night of the final vote, his main objection was merely the fact that no new UN resolution had been obtained. Had that resolution materialised, then Kennedy would have voted for the war – but the disastrous consequences of that decision would certainly have been exactly the same.

    Blair’s great folly was that he allowed himself to be taken in by Bush’s child-like faith in the power of US-style liberty. Bush genuinely believed that all one had to do was forcibly remove a dictator and set up elections and a vibrant liberal democracy would spring up organically in no time. In the unreal atmosphere post-911, Blair became seduced by the idea – but it didn’t work. It’s obvious to us now that it would not work, but it was not so obvious back in 2002/2003.

    Incidentally, given that Tim Farron has toay declared the war “illegal”, and Blair a “liar”, I think it’s only right to point out that Chilcott reached neither conclusion.

  • John Barrett 7th Jul '16 - 9:45am

    Denis Loretto – as you say “Remarkably 52 of the 53 Liberal Democrat MPs (those were the days!) attended the debate on March 18 2003. They all had exactly the same information, no more no less than any other members. Every one of the 52 were led by Charles Kennedy into the no lobby.”

    I was one of the 52 sitting just behind Charles, listened to every debate and spoke in a few, and one thing which continues to amaze me to this day is the line from Blair, Straw and many Labour MPs that it was the need to get rid of Saddam Hussein which justified military action; while Blair, Straw and the Labour party made the offer in Parliament that Saddam could stay in power if he would give up his WMD.

    Clearly he had no WMD to give up, but no journalist ever asks Blair or Straw about why, if getting Saddam was the justification for military action, they were also happy for him to remain in power.

    If they were pressed on this issue it might expose just how keen they were to go to war in support of Bush, regardless of the facts on the ground. Remember, the weapons inspectors asked for more time to finish their work, but were stopped – again to rule out the option that they might confirm no WMD existed.

    The other explanation the Chilcot report has not explored, but which might explain things – is that Tony Blair is in fact insane.

    The more I see of him, and after yesterday’s performance at his press conference, the more this could well be true.

  • @ John Barrett ” The other explanation the Chilcot report has not explored, but which might explain things – is that Tony Blair is in fact insane”.

    With the very honourable exception of you, John, I think that explanation could be appropriate to a great many politicians of all parties. Narcistic egos with psycopathic tendencies in need of approval isn’t always the best recipe for executive action.

    Just watched the Leadsom Campaign launch and see no reason to change this view. Scottish independence within Europe becomes less unattractive every day.

  • Denis Loretto 7th Jul '16 - 12:20pm

    @John Barrett
    Thank you very much, John, for your on-the-spot account. The points you make about the debate are incontrovertible. The interview of Blair by John Humphreys this morning (an excellent and unusually reticent performance by Humphreys) showed not “insane” tendencies in Blair but rather a deeply tortured conscience. The enormity of facing the appalling consequences of the decision he used his great persuasive powers to draw from Parliament in 2003 is just too much for him. And people I respect such as Ben Bradshaw in Daily Politics, as I type, are in the same boat.

    George Galloway, for whom I have little respect but who is now talking, makes the rather apposite analogy of Japanese soldiers emerging from the jungle and swearing continued allegiance to the Emperor. As I have said above, no-one who voted for this action can properly say he or she is learning the appropriate lessons until they say “I acted honestly as I saw the information before me at time but in the light of what has happened and the measured verdict of the Chilcot Report I made the wrong decision.”

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