A devastating verdict on a war that became Blair’s legacy

Morning View
Morning View

In a sense the long awaited Chilcot Report into the Iraq war has told us little that we did not already know.

It became clear as soon as the 2003 invasion was completed that it was based on flawed intelligence, because no weapons of mass destruction were found.

It also became clear in the years after then that there had been a determination at the highest level of the Tony Blair government to support George Bush’s push for regime change.

It is further patently clear that the invasion greatly destabilised the region, and probably led to many more civilian deaths than would otherwise have happened in Iraq.

The Chilcot Report gives authority to another view that had long ago become widely held – that there was inadequate planning for the aftermath of the invasion, and thus that the Blair government was culpable for the chaos that followed (although not as culpable as the American government, which seemed to be no better prepared, although Washington’s failures were of course outside the remit of Chilcot).

It is surprising that Chilcot has concluded that evidence of the threat from Saddam Hussein was not sexed up, which seems to give weight to the Hutton Inquiry, which was discredited when it was published in 2004 (a sad end to the career of a much respected former lord chief justice of Northern Ireland).

Overall, however, the report is a devastating verdict on the legacy of Tony Blair’s premiership. With hindsight it would be better if the war had not happened.

This is a shattering thought for the relatives of the 179 British service personnel who were killed, but the findings might give them a sense of understanding and closure.

It is important, however, to be vigilant about witch-hunts that could follow. It will be an outrage if servicemen are prosecuted for war crimes when they were sent into battle on a false premise.

And we must dismiss any holier-than-thou bids to capitalise on the report from Britain’s violent enemies, including apologists for republican terrorism. Hussein was an internationally dangerous, mass murdering brute. Removing him was a mistake, but the overthrow of his vile regime was no tragedy.