In June 2009, Gordon Brown commissioned the Iraq Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry after its chair, Sir John Chilcot. 7 years later, the Inquiry Report is about to be published.
The terms of reference are:
Note that this does not refer to war crimes: the inquiry has not considered the question of criminality and so we can be clear now that it will not make any conclusions one way or another on this point. It is expected that many people will be disappointed by this, but it was never going to happen.
The report is an enormous piece of work. It has reviewed over 150,000 government documents. The final version is 2.6 million words long. It will be published hereat 11am today. It will be quite some time before a clear picture emerges of what the report has included, who it has criticised or praised, and what lessons can be learned from the UK’s involvement in Iraq.
Naturally, much of this touches the question of how the US decided to enter the war. Much of the delay in the report has been due to the struggle between the Inquiry and the Cabinet Office over the question and whether the Inquiry could publish notes of converations between the UK and US governments, at the highest level. In the end, an agreement was reached that the Inquiry will publish the gist of these notes, but not include the views of President Bush.
The report would be newsworthy in any case, but comes at a particularly interesting time. The Labour party is split between (broadly) its leader Jeremy Corbyn and those members who elected him on the one hand, and its Parliamentary party on the other. After a crushing vote of no-confidence Corbyn is hanging on practically in a state of siege; the Parliamentary party have threatened to run a challenger but after almost 2 weeks have failed to do so, thus prolonging the crisis. In part, this failure is because of the Chilcot report. Iraq is a divisive issue in the party and any challenger who supported the war (as most of those who were MPs in 2003 did) already has a mark against them with many members. A critical report from the Inquiry will lend ammunition to the pro-Corbyn wing, and weaken the position of the challenger.
Currently, selected journalists are reading the report, having started at 8am. By 11.35 they will publish their first take on the report. Clearly, this isn’t enough time to read the whole 2.6 million words, but that’s journalism for you. Many people will be sharing their opinions by 11.01.
The report not being published yet, I can’t give a specific topic for debate but as this a fairly major political event I thought we should have a thread on it, and as it’s about Iraq I thought Great Debates was the best option. Broadly, the question will be whether the Report has done a good job of bringing to light how the decision to go to war was made, whether its criticisms are accurate and sufficiently robust, and what - if anything - we can learn for decision making in the future.
(Cynically, the debate positions are “This proves I was right all along”; “Establishment whitewash!”; “It’s all fine, and everything is fine, it’s fine”. But I’m sure we’re better than that.)