British Government Says in Iraq War it was a Victim of Poor Planning from Washington

It took seven long years, 12 volumes, and 2.6 million words, but the verdict is in: when it came to Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq, “the diplomatic options had not at that stage been exhausted. Military actions was therefore not a last resort.” Worse, “the timing of military action was driven entirely by the US administration.”

In a statement announcing release of the report, The Iraq Inquiry, the report’s lead author, Sir John Chilcott, said Wednesday that,

[T]he questions for the Inquiry were:

  • whether it was right and necessary to invade Iraq in March 2003; and
  • whether the UK could – and should – have been better prepared for what followed.

“We have concluded that 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.”

Chilcott annoounced that “We have also concluded that”:

  • The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction – WMD – were presented with a certainty that was not justified.
  • Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.
  • The Government failed to achieve its stated objectives.

The picture painted by this report is not unexpected. We have seen from our own American perspective how misled we were by the Bush administration in its rush to war. This is a not uncommon failing of governments, particularly in their propensity to insulate themselves from unwanted facts.

As the inquiry damningly concludes,

“It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.”

Chilcott says, in essence, that the British (and certainly the US) government, should have known better:

Mr Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance.
We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.
Ministers were aware of the inadequacy of US plans, and concerned about the inability to exert significant influence on US planning. Mr Blair eventually succeeded only in the narrow goal of securing President Bush’s agreement that there should be UN authorisation of the post-conflict role.
Furthermore, he did not establish clear Ministerial oversight of UK planning and preparation. He did not ensure that there was a flexible, realistic and fully resourced plan that integrated UK military and civilian contributions, and addressed the known risks.
The failures in the planning and preparations continued to have an effect after the invasion.

This last is a telling rejection of the Republican line that the failures of Bush’s Iraq War are all President Obama’s fault.

The vision for Iraq and its people – issued by the US, the UK, Spain and Portugal, at the Azores Summit on 16 March 2003 – included a solemn obligation to help the Iraqi people build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours. It looked forward to a united Iraq in which its people should enjoy security, freedom, prosperity and equality with a government that would uphold human rights and the rule of law as cornerstones of democracy.

Obviously, the Bush administration took these “solemn obligations” to be little more than “suggestions,” rather similar to their view of the United States Constitution at the best of times, unless it is the Second or Tenth Amendments. Though obviously speaking only from the British perspective, and primarily of British failings, Chilcott’s words should certainly matter to American audiences as they face the specter of future foreign wars:

“Above all, the lesson is that all aspects of any intervention need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigour. And, when decisions have been made, they need to be implemented fully.”

This is all very much a “facts do matter” summary, and it is hardy surprising the Iraq War came a-cropper under the oversight of a guy (President Bush) who liked to invent his own reality from day to day, and was wholeheartedly supported in his delusions by Fox News.

Rigor is hardly something to be expected of ideologically hidebound Neocons and Republicans – or from rank opportunists like Donald Trump – to whom what you want takes precedence over what you are likely to get. Let the British government’s report be a much-needed corrective to the “fly by the seat of your pants” school of diplomacy favored by Republicans.