Quality of Chilcot report is more important than timing

Morning View
Morning View

Considerable controversy surrounds the delay to the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

Now families of soldiers killed are threatening to take legal action if the findings are not unveiled before the end of this year.

The Iraq war took place in the late spring of 2003. It was concluded swiftly, when Saddam Hussein’s vile regime fell.

For many months, it seemed that President George W Bush and his closest ally, our prime minister, Tony Blair, had been vindicated in their rush to military action.

Gradually, from early 2004, things began to unravel. Within several years, there was near anarchy in Iraq, with almost daily suicide bombings.

Almost all serious commentators now accept that many more people are dead in that part of the world than would have been the case if the war had not happened. Worst of all, the reasoning for going to war was faulty intelligence.

It was, in short, a disaster, and many people lost their lives, including hundreds of valiant British service personnel.

And yet the delay to the Chilcot Inquiry is arguably not as bad as the controversy might suggest.

It was announced in the summer of 2009, six years ago.

The Saville inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday took twice as long (it was announced in 1998 and reported in 2010).

Bloody Sunday was an appalling tragedy in which 14 people were killed. It was an indelible stain on the British Army’s honourable, even heroic, record in the Troubles.

But the events of that day in 1972 plainly pale into insignificance when considered against the hundreds of thousands of deaths of the Iraq war.

The key requirement of the Chilcot Inquiry is that it is a comprehensive report on Britain’s role in the Iraq disaster. There is a mountain of evidence to sift

If it is published soon, then all the better. But whether it stands the test of time will depend on its thoroughness.