Iraq inquiry: UK planning for war 'wholly inadequate'


(Adam Sorenson/British Ministry of Defense, Pool, via AP, File)

London - The head of Britain's Iraq War inquiry released a damning report on Wednesday on a conflict he says was mounted on flawed intelligence, was executed with "wholly inadequate" planning, and ended "a long way from success."

Retired civil servant John Chilcot, who oversaw the seven-year inquiry, said "the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort."

The 2.6-million-word report is an exhaustive verdict on a divisive conflict that - by the time British combat forces left in 2009 - had killed 179 British troops, almost 4 500 American personnel and more than 100 000 Iraqis.

Chilcot said then-Prime Minister Tony Blair's government presented an assessment of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's weapons with "certainty that was not justified." He also found military planning for the war and its aftermath were not up to the task.

"The people of Iraq have suffered greatly" because of a military intervention "which went badly wrong," he said. But he refrained from saying whether the 2003 invasion was legal, and did not find that Blair and his government knowingly misled Parliament or the British public.

"I will be with you whatever" - Blair to Bush

Chilcot heard from 150 witnesses and analysed 150 000 documents. His conclusions are a blow to Blair, who told President George W. Bush eight months before the March 2003 invasion - without consulting government colleagues - "I will be with you whatever."

The report says Blair went to war to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Britain's main ally, only to find the UK excluded from most important decision-making about the military campaign and its aftermath.

"Mr. Blair, who recognised the significance of the post-conflict phase, did not press President Bush for definite assurances about US plans," the report concluded.

Iraq descended into sectarian strife after the occupiers dismantled Saddam 's government and military apparatus, unleashing chaos that helped give rise to the Islamic State group.


(Dan Kitwood/Pool via AP)

The report found failings by military chiefs who did not provide adequate equipment to forces in the field, and whose main post-invasion strategy "was to reduce the level of (UK) deployed forces."

The report concludes that Britain's combat mission, which ended in 2009, did not achieve the objectives laid out in 2003 and saw British forces make a "humiliating" deal with militias in southern Iraq to avoid attacks.

"The UK failed to plan or prepare for the major reconstruction program required in Iraq," the report said.

Blow to Blair

The war has overshadowed the legacy of Blair, whose government has been accused of exaggerating intelligence about Saddam's alleged weapons of mass destruction in order to build support for the invasion.

Chilcot criticised spy chiefs who failed to ensure their partial intelligence about Saddam's weapons was not hardened into certainty by government spin. He said they also failed to consider "that Iraq might no longer have chemical biological or nuclear weapons" - which turned out to be the case.

The report said the widespread perception that the government had exaggerated intelligence evidence "has produced a damaging legacy, including undermining trust and confidence in government statements."

Blair - who declined to comment on the report before publication - has always said his government did not invent or distort intelligence.

The report also faults him for making key decisions with only a few key aides rather than through collective Cabinet consultation.

Chilcot's report has been repeatedly delayed, in part by wrangling over the inclusion of classified material, including conversations between Blair and Bush. Some of Blair's pre-war letters to the president are published in Chilcot's report, but not Bush's replies.

Anti-war activists and relatives of some dead British troops hoped the report would find the conflict illegal, opening the way for Blair to be prosecuted for war crimes.

The International Criminal Court is looking into alleged war crimes by British troops in Iraq, but says has said that Britain's decision to go to war falls outside its jurisdiction.

Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
Have you downloaded the Covid-19 tracing app?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes I have
14% - 1140 votes
No, and I will not be downloading it
76% - 6259 votes
Not yet, but I plan to
10% - 793 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
17.19
(-0.51)
ZAR/GBP
22.10
(-1.20)
ZAR/EUR
20.02
(-0.60)
ZAR/AUD
12.11
(-0.56)
ZAR/JPY
0.16
(-0.73)
Gold
1851.30
(-0.58)
Silver
22.67
(-1.25)
Platinum
852.00
(+0.20)
Brent Crude
42.27
(0.00)
Palladium
2213.52
(-0.05)
All Share
54563.57
(+1.82)
Top 40
50431.90
(+1.78)
Financial 15
9825.35
(+4.51)
Industrial 25
73849.46
(+1.23)
Resource 10
54305.25
(+1.59)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo