Chilcot: what will happen when the Iraq report finally comes out?

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Tomorrow the Chilcot Report will be released. It was set up to examine the decision to invade Iraq in 2003. After being set up by the Last Labour government in 2009, it is the product of seven years’ work.

What is happening on Wednesday?

Sir John Chilcot is publishing his report on the Iraq Inquiry. At 11am he’s due to give a speech running through the main points. After the speech, which expected to be roughly 20 minutes long, the report will be published online.

Beforehand, the families of those who died in the conflict will have been able to read an embargoed copy of the report.

Why did publication take so long?

It was originally assumed the report would take two to three years. The committee considered lot of evidence, some which arose fairly late into the investigation. There was a debate about how much of Tony Blair’s correspondence with George W. Bush would be released along with how many other previously confidential information.

Those mentioned in the report have had the opportunity to see a draft copy of a report and correct any inaccuracies as well as respond to any criticisms before its publication. This process is known as “Maxwellisation” – and earlier this year a separate report has been commissioned into the use of the process in public services due to concerns it was causing unacceptable delays.

Also because it’s 2.6 million words long, which would take any committee a while to write.

Why was it launched in the first place? 

It was set up by Gordon Brown in June 2009 after sustained pressure from politicians, including then leader of the Opposition David Cameron, as well as Nick Clegg, and the public. Over the past six years, £10,375,000 has been spent on producing the report.

By the time the report was launched, many, including Sir John Chilcot, had acknowledged that the rationale for military intervention – that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) – were inaccurate.

Who will get criticised and why?

Much attention will be focused on Blair, who was Prime Minister when the war started. It’s expected to be critical of Blair and those around him for the preparation made in the run-up to going to war.

However, it’s unlikely to only criticise politicians, as many others involved in the decision, including military generals and civil servants, have been heavily scrutinised while producing the report. Richard Dearlove, who was head of MI6 at the time, is expected to be singled out for putting gloss on the intelligence which was used to claim Hussein had WMDs.  

The report is expected to address Blair’s failure, along that of Bush, to plan for the aftermath of the intervention. After toppling Hussein, Blair had no satisfactory plans for filling the resulting political vacuum. Since then, Iraq has seen significant political instability.

Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary, at the time of the invasion, is expected to be subject to extensive criticism over mistakes in the run-up to military action, as well those generals judged to have failed in planning for the conflict and its aftermath.

Will Tony Blair be called a “war criminal”?

No – the inquiry so far has made it clear they cannot make any legal judgements. However, they are expected to point out mistakes, errors in judgement and procedural questions that led to the decision to go to war.

 

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