The Chilcot Report: Lessons to be learnt

“Blair has rightly been singled out for failing to provide proper leadership and direction from the centre, for not questioning the intelligence and his own assumptions in the light of evidence, and for not paying enough attention to how instructions were carried out.”

Hide

Sir John Chilcot’s speech introducing the Iraq’s Inquiry’s report was devastating.

Judgments about Iraq’s WMD were said to be ‘presented with a certainty that was not justified.’ Far from upholding the will of the international community and UN Security Council resolutions, Chilcot argued that ‘the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority’ by invading. Diplomatic initiatives were not given the chance to succeed as ‘Military action at that time was not a last resort’. The planning for the post-war phase was said to be ‘wholly inadequate’. Both the decision to go to war, and the conduct of operations afterward were roundly condemned. Blair was personally held responsible for mistakes of judgment, for his style of government and decision making, and for the negative outcomes that led to the deaths of 179 British service personnel and at least 150,000 Iraqis.

This is the most damaging critique of a prime minister and their government by an official inquiry for decades.

Whilst the buck should stop with the government of the day, it is important not to forget the other actors that contributed to these mistakes. The civil service failed to ensure decisions were made in the right fashion with proper mechanisms in place to implement them, and that judgments were challenged and subjected to rigorous scrutiny.

 It is clear from the testimony of officials that most of Whitehall agreed with Blair’s assumptions that Iraq possessed WMD, intended to acquire more once sanctions were lifted, and was not in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions demanding cooperation with inspectors.  Although Blair’s presentation of intelligence was at times stronger than the original assessments, published material was overseen by the Joint Intelligence Committee Chair, Sir John Scarlett, and he should have raised concerns if that was the case.

Far from dampening ministerial rhetoric, intelligence chiefs were actively contributing to the sense that Iraq was a threat, as in Sir Richard Dearlove (Head of the Secret Intelligence Service)’s personal intervention arguing for the publication of intelligence later found to be faulty on Iraq’s chemical weapons production.

Whilst the initial invasion of Iraq was a brilliant success, there was poor direction from senior military figures on how to handle the post-war occupation. One commander on the ground noted that without higher instructions ‘the best way to stop looting was just to get to a point where there was nothing left to loot’. When no WMD were found in Iraq, the upper echelons of the military seemingly lost interest in Iraq and turned their attention to Afghanistan, siphoning off equipment and reducing troop numbers in Basra even whilst the security situation was deteriorating. Lieutenant General Shirreff notes that when he visited Basra city, he found a single battalion commander with less than 200 troops to call upon to provide security for a city of 1.3 million.

Blair has rightly been singled out for failing to provide proper leadership and direction from the centre, for not questioning the intelligence and his own assumptions in the light of evidence, and for not paying enough attention to how instructions were carried out. But a deeper malaise about how the Cabinet and the civil service functions, how departments cooperate, and who is held accountable for mistakes, has been revealed by the Iraq Inquiry. Lessons need to be learned in these areas too. It wasn’t just Tony Blair that dropped the ball on Iraq.

You can also read Professor David Dunn's perspective From Iraq to Brexit: Failing to learn the lessons 

Have your say...

Feedback
  • 88952634
    External
    1. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    2. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    3. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    4. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    5. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    6. At 10:48AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    7. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    8. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    9. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    10. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    11. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    12. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    13. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    14. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    15. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    16. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    17. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    18. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    19. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    20. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    21. At 10:49AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    22. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634'`"(
    External
    23. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634-0
    External
    24. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634s3
    External
    25. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634'+'
    External
    26. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634'
    External
    27. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634'||'
    External
    28. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634'
    External
    29. At 10:50AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    30. At 10:51AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    31. At 10:51AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    32. At 10:51AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    33. At 10:51AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    34. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    35. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    36. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    37. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    38. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    39. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    40. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    41. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    42. At 10:52AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    43. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    44. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    45. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    46. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    47. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    48. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    49. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    50. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    51. At 10:53AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    52. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    53. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    54. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    55. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    56. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    57. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634

  • 88952634
    External
    58. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634'`"(

  • 88952634
    External
    59. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634-0

  • 88952634
    External
    60. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634s3

  • 88952634
    External
    61. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634'+'

  • 88952634
    External
    62. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634'

  • 88952634
    External
    63. At 10:54AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634'||'

  • 88952634
    External
    64. At 10:55AM on 11 December 2016, wrote

    88952634'

Add Your Feedback