Shortly after Britain withdrew the remainder of its troops from Iraq in 2009, the Iraq War Inquiry, also known as the Chilcot Inquiry, was set up by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. The intention was to evaluate how decisions before and leading up to the war were made. Over the last seven years the inquiry has been headed by Sir John Chilcot, who held a range of positions in the British government throughout his career.
After seven years, Sir John has announced the inquiry is finally ready to be released.
“The main expectation that I have,” he said, “is that it will not be possible in the future to engage in a military or indeed a diplomatic endeavour on such a scale and of such gravity without really careful challenge analysis and assessment and collective political judgement being applied to it.
“There are many lessons in the report but that probably is the central one for the future.”
Sir John has also indicated he hopes the report will give some sense of peace and acknowledgement to the families of the 179 British troops who were killed in the Iraq war.
“I have been very conscious from the start that the families have high expectations and wishes to know the truth of all that happened, in particular where their relatives were affected. I hope they will feel when they see the report that the broad questions they have in mind will have been, if not resolved, answered to the best of our ability.”
“But the key point I would like to make is by revealing all the base of evidence we have, they can see our conclusions and why we have reached them but they can make up their own minds on the basis of the evidence.”
He also made it clear the panel did not hesitate to call out and criticize the actions of individuals and institutions when called for.
“I made very clear right at the start of the inquiry that if we came across decisions or behavior which deserved criticism then we wouldn’t shy away from making it. And, indeed, there have been more than a few instances where we are bound to do that.”
According to Sir John, the inquiry was such a “massive undertaking” that it demanded seven years of work instead of the one year previously anticipated. The panel reviewed a grand total of 150,000 documents. The final work will contain 2.6 million words and span 12 volumes plus a summary. The report will be free and available to the public on the Iraq Inquiry’s website.