By Robin Beste
Stop the War Coalition
22 November 2009
The Iraq inquiry, chaired by Sir John Chilcot, begins its public hearings on Tuesday 24 November. Whether it turns out to be the whitewash clearly intended by Gordon Brown’s choice of the inquiry's committee members will be determined by how it deals with the latest revelations of secret Government reports, leaked to the Telegraph.
The reports show beyond dispute that Tony Blair had decided as early as February 2002 that Britain would join George Bush in waging an illegal war on Iraq, which began a year later in March 2003.
Despite this decision having been taken, throughout 2002 and up to the invasion, Blair lied repeatedly to MPs and the public, claiming that Britain’s objective was "disarmament, not regime change" and that there had been no planning for military action.
Because the lies had to be concealed from Parliament, only a tiny number of officials were involved in the planning process for war.
The result, say the Government reports, was a "rushed operation" "lacking in coherence and resources" which caused "significant risk" to troops.
Operations were so under-resourced that some troops went into action with only five bullets each. Others had to deploy to war on civilian airlines, taking their equipment as hand luggage. Some troops had weapons confiscated by airport security.
Skis in the desert
One army commander described the supply chain as "absolutely appalling", saying: "I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert."
The reports describe the war itself as a "significant military success" but only because the British forces faced a "third-rate army," adding that "a more capable enemy would probably have punished these shortcomings severely."
It was Blair’s lies and concealment that explain the almost complete absence of contingency planning once the military operations were completed. British forces were so "ill-prepared and equipped to deal with the problems in the first 100 days" that they could not safeguard Iraqi civilians.Military commanders are expected to tell the inquiry that this was because preparations were sabotaged by Blair's government in its attempts to mislead the public. They believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes, for breaching the duty of occupying armies, as stated in the Geneva convention, to safeguard civilians in a conflict.
These secret Government reports show why Gordon Brown initially intended that the Iraq Inquiry should be held in private.
When he was forced by public uproar to make the inquiry public -- albeit with the inquiry chairman’s discretion as to how much -- Brown then chose a committee for the inquiry which was clearly aimed at exonerating the warmongers. On the evidence of these leaked reports, Tony Blair is incriminated in war crimes that have left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British soldiers dead.
Sir John Chilcot was apparently shocked by the unanimity of the military families who lost loved ones in the the Iraq war and who, in giving evidence to the inquiry, insisted there should be no "whitewash" and that if the accusation of war crimes is proven then Tony Blair must be held to account, as must others in the government at the time who knew the scale of the lying Blair was using to justify an illegal war.
That said, Stop the War is not holding its breath as to the outcome the inquiry.