The inquiry into the Iraq War is not a court and no one is on trial. So said Sir John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry, in his opening statement. He added that he was not there to determine the guilt or innocence of those responsible for the invasion of Iraq.
The object of the inquiry is simply to identify the lessons that should be learned from Iraq in order to help future UK governments who may face similar situations.
No doubt, Sir John’s inquiry will be both frank and impartial. No doubt, where appropriate, some criticism will be made of politicians and officials alike.
But although these are worthy objectives, they fall scandalously short of the crucial issue which millions of people in this country – myself included – believe this inquiry should be about.
With respect to Sir John, there is really no point in holding a further inquiry unless it does apportion blame, unless it does hold to account those who led us into this unnecessary, unwinnable and costly war in Iraq.
The inquiry should be the first step in a judicial process that brings those responsible for the disasters of the Iraq war before the courts – and could, as I shall explain, ultimately result in Tony Blair being indicted for war crimes.
Already, the inquiry has provided us with devastating details of events in the run-up to Iraq.
Sir William Ehrman, former Director of Defence and Intelligence at the Foreign Office, told it this week that British spies reported ten days before the invasion that Iraq had ‘disassembled’ what chemical weapons it had. Yet Tony Blair nevertheless pressed ahead with the war.
Then came former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer’s claim that Tony Blair and George W. Bush had signed a secret deal ‘in blood’ to topple Saddam Hussein almost a year before Iraq was invaded, and that officials found themselves scrabbling to find ‘a smoking gun’ to justify going to war.
But, despite these compelling accounts of what happened, the truth is that we already know the main lessons of Iraq: Britain was taken unprepared into war on false grounds, and the inevitable result was the destruction of Iraq, enormous loss of life and continuing political turmoil in the Middle East. Worse, the war has radicalised Muslim opinion against the West throughout the world, even spawning terrorism on the streets of London.