Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Chilcot Report - At last

The long, long, overdue Chilcot Report on British involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq will finally be published on Thursday 6th July.

The enquiry was began in 2009 and has lasted over 7 years. Pre-release briefings suggest that the report will be difficult to read due to its excessive length, and that it will distribute blame so widely and thinly that in the end no one is held accountable. But let’s wait and see. Few people would wish their names to go down in history next to the author of the infamous Hutton Report, so perhaps Sir John Chilcot has managed to produce something more credible and useful?

The report publication has certainly been causing concern amongst those most directly responsible for British involvement. Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, for example, have been working feverishly to ensure that the current labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is deposed before the report is published, but with one day to go it looks like they have failed. Corbyn has stated his intention to call for legal action against Blair if justified by the Chilcot Report, so the stakes are high.

To what extent the report will cover issues around British military casualty reporting, the different methods used for documentation of Iraqi casualties, and accountability for military policy and practice remains unclear. Likewise, it is not clear whether the report will address issues such as British special forces involvement in large scale undercover assassination campaigns, and British involvement in the mistreatment and torture of prisoners of war. So the scope of the report as well as its contents will be of wide interest.

Finally, it is interesting to see the BBC being remarkably robust in its criticism of the British involvement over the last week. Jeremy Bowen’s reports and references to the Chilcot report are getting airtime. Their Panorama documentary is also a good primer and reminder of some of the human issues that the weighty Chilcot Report will be addressing.