Tony Blair is under fire, yet again, over the Iraq war. This time, the focus is on the legality of the war. In the course of the Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcott, currently taking place, Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, has given evidence that he was uncomfortable about the statements made by Mr. Blair to Parliament in the run up to the invasion of Iraq.
After two previous public Inquiries, we were still some way away from finding out the full facts about the Government’s conduct of the Iraq crisis and the decision to go to war.
In September 2002, the Government published a dossier, which was laid before Parliament. The dossier contained allegations that Iraq held biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction and had reconstituted its nuclear weapons programme. The dossier was based upon the interpretation of intelligence available to the Joint Intelligence Committee. The findings in the dossier were used as a justification for going to war with Iraq. After the war, the allegations contained in dossier were discredited.
The first Inquiry, led by Lord Hutton, was tasked with finding out the reasons for the death of Dr. David Kelly, a former biological weapons expert and employee of the Ministry of Defence. Dr. Kelly was the source used by BBC reporter, Andrew Gilligan, to justify his allegation that the Government had “sexed up” the dossier. Consequently, it was alleged that Tony Blair and the Labour Government had misled Parliament. After being named as Gilligan’s source, Dr. Kelly committed suicide.
The Hutton report was published in January 2004. The report was highly critical of the journalistic standards of the BBC and Mr. Gilligan, in particular. More importantly, Hutton exonerated the Government, having concluded that the Government was unaware of the reservations, relating to the evidence about WMD, within the intelligence community.
In February 2004, the Government initiated a review into the intelligence relating to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. The review also dealt with wider issues of intelligence relating to countries of concern, other than Iraq. However, the review was not concerned with the political decision-making leading up to the war. That deficit in the remit of the review forms part of the context in which this latest story is developing.
The review was chaired by Lord Butler. Lord Butler’s report was published in July 2004. The report concluded that Intelligence had not checked their sources thoroughly enough. The intelligence was flawed. Furthermore, warnings from the Joint Intelligence Committee on the limitations of intelligence were not made clear. Read the BBC’s summary of the report here.
Many were not satisfied by the report. The exemption of political decision-making from its remit left an important gap in public knowledge which had not been filled by the time of the 2005 General election.
The Chilcott Inquiry into the UK’s role and involvement in the Iraq war was announced by Gordon Brown in June 2009. It has been ongoing since November 2009.
This Friday, Tony Blair will give evidence to the Inquiry. He will presumably provide answers to the criticisms of Lord Goldsmith. The UK has waited far too long for the full truth to come out about the Iraq war. Let us hope that we may soon, at last, get a proper insight into what really happened.