Small Wars Journal

Chilcot Report: British Inquiry Finds Iraq War 'Went Badly Wrong'

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 9:03am

Chilcot Report: British Inquiry Finds Iraq War 'Went Badly Wrong'

Chris Hannas, Voice of America

The head of an inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War said Wednesday the conflict was "an intervention that went badly wrong with consequences to this day."

Former civil servant John Chilcot spoke as his panel released a long-awaited report that drew on several years of public hearings and analysis of 150,000 documents.  They were trying to answer whether the U.S.-led invasion was necessary and whether the unrest that followed should have been anticipated.

"Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein," Chilcot said.

He said the decision to go to war was made before the international community had exhausted opportunities to contain and disarm Iraq and that judgments about the extent of the threat from weapons of mass destruction were presented "with a certainty that was not justified."

​​No WMDs

No weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.

Chilcot said the risks of internal strife and al-Qaida activity in Iraq, as well as regional instability, were explicitly noted before the invasion began.  He also said former Prime Minister Tony Blair had been warned that military action would increase the threat Britain faced from al-Qaida.

Blair has rejected accusations that he acted dishonestly in making the case for a war that killed 179 British troops.

"Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein, I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country," he said Wednesday.


Inquiry Slams Blair Over Iraq War, Reveals Secret Commitment to Bush by Reuters

Scathing Report Slams Blair Over Botched Iraq War by Associated Press

UK Report Criticizes Tony Blair, Legal Basis for Iraq War by Wall Street Journal

UK Chilcot Report on Iraq War: Findings at a Glance by BBC

Long-awaited British Inquiry into Iraq War Finds Failure at Multiple Levels by Washington Post

UK: Chilcot Report on Iraq War Offers Devastating Critique of Tony Blair by New York Times


Bill C.

Thu, 07/07/2016 - 4:45pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Re: the "Shadow Wars" article by Paul Rogers (, one is reminded of the 1975 item by Andrew Mack, entitled: "Why Big countries Lose Small Wars: The Politics of Asymmetric Conflict," and, specifically therein, his following (annotated) observation:

"As I have noted above, in none of the asymmetrical (great power verses much less powerful entity) conflicts did the local insurgents have the capacity to invade their metropolitan opponents' homeland. It necessarily follows that insurgents (therefore) can only achieve their ends if their (much more powerful) opponents "political" capability to wage war is destroyed."…

It is in this light (the desire to retain the political capability to wage war and, thus, to be able to both stay in the theater of operations for the long-term and in the fight indefinitely) that, I suggest, the West has adopted such a "Shadow War" strategy and associated techniques (to wit: those associated with the primary use of special operations and air forces).

Again, however, and as outlined below, one does not immediately see how this such "light footprint" approach -- much like the earlier "heavy footprint" approachs -- necessarily leads to the West's desired ends, to wit:

a. The populations of these outlying states and societies abandoning their traditional ways of life, their traditional ways of governance and their traditional values, attitudes and beliefs. And, in the place of these,

b. Adopting modern western such ways, values, etc.

Or should the above ends (fundamental and complete state and societal transformation) -- and the use of the "light footprint" approach (to retain the political capacity to wage war in such ends' behalf) -- simply be understood within the context of the "long war" that we hear so much about?

Bill C.

Wed, 07/06/2016 - 6:26pm

In reply to by davidbfpo

Re: Professor Paul Rogers' thoughts above, to suggest that:

a. Where the West got it wrong, at the beginning, was with regard to the premise upon which the West based their actions; this being, the premise of "universal (in this case 'Western') values:"

Paul Wolfowitz: "To win the war against terrorism and, in so doing, help share a more peaceful world, we must speak to the hundreds of millions of moderate and tolerant people in the Muslim world, regardless of where they live, who aspire to enjoy the blessings of freedom and democracy and free enterprise. These are sometimes described as "Western values", but, in fact, they are universal."

Omar Sharif: The "East" will never have a democracy because people like him "prefer to go to the neighborhood sheik." ... "I lived in America for a long time. Only 10% of all Americans have a passport. In other words, 90% never left America," said Sharif. "They don't know anything." Sharif said that he spoke with President Bush before the beginning of the Iraq War and told him that Arab nations are made up of sects resistant to becoming democratized. "I said to Bush, even before he entered Iraq: Forget about all that. We, the Arabs... We are not like [regular countries]," said Sharif. "You will drown there. After being asked what Bush's response was, the actor stated: "He didn't believe me."…

b. Where the West appears to get it wrong today is in believing that the targeted killing of ISIS, AQ etc., supports will, somehow, overcome this fundamental problem of differing values, outlined somewhat immediately above.

Thus, this reality of differing values, and the problem this presents to a West which is still bent on transforming outlying states and societies more along modern western political, economic and social lines; these being critical aspects of the "wider dimension" (to wit: beyond simply Blair and Iraq) which Professor Rogers wants us to look to?


Wed, 07/06/2016 - 4:26pm

After a very long wait the Chilcot Report has finally arrived and has extensive coverage today, although the sheer bulk means it will take weeks before it is fully absorbed.

I too was skeptical that with a retired senor civil servant, or "mandarin" would produce anything of note. A Guardian journalist sums up well many people's reaction: 'The Chilcot report is an unprecedented, devastating indictment of how a prime minister was allowed to make decisions by discarding all pretence at cabinet government, subverting the intelligence agencies, and making exaggerated claims about threats to Britain’s national security.

This is not the whitewash sceptics had previously predicted the inquiry by the former senior Whitehall mandarin would be'.
See for more:…

Professor Paul Rogers writes well and his latest comment ends with: 'If this week’s debate over the Chilcot Report concentrates almost entirely on Blair and Iraq and does not even begin to recognise this wider dimension, it will have been a tragic missed opportunity to address where the West has really gone wrong'.

Peter Oborne, a conservative journalist with an independent streak, wrote a short book before the report was published and Paul Rogers reviewed it here:…?

Today the media focus has been on the politicians, notably Tony Blair and the senior civil & military leadership - who were found wanting.

Tony Blair's statement today is of note and he does accept FULL responsibility: