Friday, 26 June 2009
Fast forward to June 2009: with his own back to the wall, Brown turned to the same forces that had on more than one occasion helped save Blair — Mandelson and Campbell. Mandelson’s vital role in the period between the local elections and the Monday after the announcement of the European results is well documented. In return for securing the loyalty of wavering Cabinet ministers, the prince of darkness secured his 30-word job title, one of the largest departments in Whitehall history and confirmation of his status as the number two in government. Not known until now is one vital part of their negotiation. Mandelson — on Blair’s behalf — set down specific conditions for the Iraq war inquiry. The deal, I am told, was explicit. Not only would the hearings be fully in private, but the committee would, as with Hutton, be manageable. Brown was instructed to ensure that the members of the inquiry would, in the words of one official, ‘not stir the horses’. Brown readily acquiesced. He was not in a position to do anything else. It was a done deal, even before James Purnell sent alarm bells through Downing Street with his resignation on the night of 4 June.
Brown, Blair and Mandelson were quite prepared for the fury of the anti-war brigade, the Guardianistas, as people like myself are referred to. The New Labour project was, after all, conceived on the idea of embracing important figures on the right and discarding people on the liberal left who care about issues such as civil liberties and ethics in foreign policy. They were surprised, however, by the number of great and good in Whitehall and the armed forces who denounced the idea of an inquiry in private. A number of figures in Downing Street, the Foreign Office and the Cabinet were unhappy with this arrangement. Ed Balls, for long Brown’s closest confidant but hardly a soulmate of Mandelson’s, was one of the first to express his misgivings in public. David Miliband accepted the terms, but was not altogether pleased.
Brown and Mandelson should have anticipated the concern of the military top brass. Many of these figures have long been furious about the government’s approach to Iraq. I saw this for myself, in microcosm, in the autumn of 2003. I was visiting an officers’ college, as part of my book promotional tour. I decided to tone down my standard introductory remarks in order not to come across as offensive and unpatriotic. I completely misread my audience. They were vituperative, under the cloak of ‘Chatham House rules’, about Blair’s massaging of the intelligence, about the lack of military preparedness, the lack of planning for the occupation, amid a general sense that soldiers were being sent to die for party political gain. That is the message Blair has been desperate to avoid being aired in public.
Essential reading, particularly the last bit in bold. An attempt at a closed-doors stitch up, which has been derailed because of massive Establishment and Armed Forces anger. There are plenty of people with stories to tell...
In the vein of John Kampfner's post, here is my own observation. In late 2003 I ran a small discussion workshop (part of instructional techniques training) and the participants were a fairly mixed but representative bunch of personnel although all of us were of modest rank. My discussion was on the theme of Iraq - did the war meet the tests of legality, morality and national interest. It was a very good discussion, never make the mistake of assuming that the Armed Forces have a neutral political opinion (as Churchill did in 1945) and I was surprised by the outcome. Only a narrow majority (by show of hands) expressed the view that the war was justified - even in late 2003! The substance of the discussion was very interesting, as most personnel were drawing on their experiences or knowledge of the Balkans and the consequences that had arisen from UN and international inaction. This was only a one-off workshop, but I think it represents a striking truth - where there was support for Iraq, this was largely based on historical viewpoints of action versus appeasement (I suspect that the long shadow of WW2 featured in many minds) rather than any conviction of a real threat from Iraq, Saddam Hussein or WMDs. Given that mindset, I am not surprised of an enormous backlash from those who were in uniform at the time, following the lack of WMDs, the lives lost, and the well-known equipment and funding failures.
Here's a snippet I heard that shows Blair at work. An esteemed senior officer I know was briefing Blair on the air defence network in the wake of September 11 2001. Apparently it was SOP (standard operational procedure) for Blair to simply get up and walk out with his advisers when he had heard enough from such experts, without any courtesies...presumably a New Labour tactic of putting people firmly in their box.
Tuesday, 23 June 2009
As we know, both Blair and Campbell have tried to wriggle out of public accountability by lobbying for the inquiry to be held in private, as Brown initially stated. As we know, there has been an enormous backlash from generals and air marshals, the lords Butler and Hutton of the eponymous inquiries, politicians of all parties (including from the Labour benches) as well as the public at large.
Brown has backed down (although he should not be criticised for backing down as this is a welcome development) and the chair of the inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, has indicated that the majority of the inquiry will be public and that Blair will be expected to give evidence in public. Chilcot has also indicated that he will seek military expertise as part of the inquiry and that he will consult with the leaders of the opposition parties – David Cameron and Nick Clegg.
So far, so good. The importance of this inquiry cannot be overstated. There is an element of self-interest as well: Labour – and this current government – will forever be tarnished by the stain of Iraq unless its legacy is a full and transparent public inquiry which leaves no stone unturned. I personally would be deeply grateful to Brown if this was his legacy, which could heal many divisions and restore the reputation of his party and government.
However, more work and more pressure is required. A public inquiry is not necessarily a robust inquiry. It depends on the remit and the format.
The remit as it stands does not cover a long enough period: the inquiry needs to consider the period as far back as the first Gulf War of 1990 and the ceasefire resolution, as well as Op Desert Fox of 1998. The entire events of this period do not need detailed consideration but the inquiry would need to look specifically at weapons inspection, sanction monitoring and intelligence assessments.
The format must be inquisitorial with cross-examination and legal counsel for witnesses. Hutton is a good model for an inquiry, but the death of Dr Kelly was far more clear-cut with counsel for the government and counsel for the Kelly family. An Iraq inquiry would be more difficult to organise along these lines but not impossible. Two rounds of hearings could take place, the first to establish a narrative with points of contention and dispute and the second to allow cross-examination on these points of contention, probably with a case “for” the government and a case “against” the government with multiple representations made through a single barrister. I’m not a lawyer but I’ve been through inquiries and hearings and it is perfectly possible to structure an inquiry with informal hearing sessions (the first stage) and formal inquiry sessions under oath with counsel (the second stage). There’s the issue of whether evidence is under oath, but as this is a non-judicial inquiry that is not likely. However, I suppose a judicial inquiry could follow under certain circumstances. Nevertheless, the format of this inquiry must be robust – presumably Blair and Campbell are hoping to be questioned by Sir David Frost or Andrew Marr.
There would be very little dispute over closed sessions where this was required for critical issues of operational effectiveness or classified intelligence. However, I sense a possible government get-out clause. Most intelligence relating to Iraq from 2002 and 2003 would be UK-US Eyes Only, normally secret or top secret with additional restrictive caveats. There are protocols for sharing of intelligence between the UK and US as well as protocols for critically sensitive intelligence. The normal protocol is that shared intelligence will not be disclosed without the permission of the originator, and I do not believe that the US will allow disclosure of supplied intelligence even to an inquiry with evidence sessions behind closed doors. It is worth checking Butler, to see what was released to that inquiry, but the pattern of US co-operation with inquiries and inquests has been lamentable. It is tempting to believe that the situation may be slightly different now – seven years after the war and with an Obama administration – but I doubt it, as the culture of government secrecy always remains. So it may be very difficult to scrutinise intelligence where release is not authorised. However, it will be possible to hear evidence from intelligence and military personnel who played a role in such matter, even if the primary material is not released. These sessions may well need to be behind closed doors, but a case needs to be made to justify it. Also, by reviewing the Hutton and Butler material, some time can be saved – although there have been subsequent leaks and disclosures since these two inquiries, and these leaks are likely to continue. Another reason for closing the doors will be on issues of military operational effectiveness and personnel security – special forces personnel, details of precise equipment capabilities and operational tactics. I think these would be very limited to a few specific situations and scenarios, mainly relating to special forces operations and tactics and precise details of equipment capabilities and limitations. These should be very limited. Nevertheless, it is vital to get the issue out on the table at the start to avoid being bounced into a cover-up when it is too late.
I hope that the debate tomorrow will cover all these issues. I think – eventually – we will get the inquiry that is needed and there is the will on all sides to see it through, despite vested interests. Thankfully those vested interests are largely without power or influence and a whitewash is hopefully beyond their grasp.
Sunday, 21 June 2009
There are signs of divisions at the highest levels of government over the issue, with Shaun Woodward, the Northern Ireland Secretary, defending the initial decision to hold the inquiry in private.
Mr Woodward highlighted the example of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, into events in January 1972 in which 27 people died, which began in 2000 and has still not reported. He said that the British public would not accept an Iraq war inquiry that lasted nine years, adding that public inquiries took years to conduct and often involve judicial review.
"The public want to learn lessons and learn them fast . . . nine or ten years to get an answer is not enough," he said.
Lies and bullshit. The complexity of staging an inquiry into events some thirty-odd years ago cannot be overemphasised, especially when murder (or other) charges could result. However, this enquiry also has a well-established reputation as over-complex even considering these factors!
A public Iraq inquiry would be far more straightforward. The documents are available (probably!) and a lot of the evidence has been considered by Hutton and Butler...not all of it, and not in completeness. The boards of inquiry and inquest reports will also be available for many of the deaths in action that would need to be looked at. Hutton was run in public and under cross-examination, and nothing less will suffice for an Iraq inquiry. Blair must be cross-examined under oath in public.
If the inquiry is fixed, the legitimate conclusion will be that it has been fixed because of lobbying by Blair and Campbell who therefore have plenty to hide.
The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.
Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.
Reported in the Observer
A ludicrous plan anyway.....there were no-fly zones with US military aircraft operating anyway, the Iraqis would not be stupid enough to shoot down a UN plane (never heard of a U-2 operating on a UN mission - US probably wouldn't permit it) and a U-2 typically flies well above the reach of most anti-aircraft missiles.
Nothing to fear equals nothing to hide....
These people are crapping themselves at the prospect of being held to account. If this inquiry is held behind closed doors, and the principal architects are not questioned thoroughly, then the legitimate and overriding conclusion will be that there is something nasty to hide.
Friday, 19 June 2009
On the Iraq inquiry, Independent article wrong
Guardian online have quoted me accurately, whilst this morning's Independent misrepresented my position, on the Iraq war inquiry.
The Guardian was quoting what I said at an event at the Commons last night, in which Robert Peston of the BBC, Tory MP Alan Duncan and I were garnering 'cash for questions' to raise money for the Journalists' Charity, formerly the Newspaper Press Fund. Not surprisingly, one of the questions was whether I agreed with Gordon Brown's decision that the Iraq war inquiry should hold evidence sessions in private.
I said to the room full of journalists that they would probably not like what I had to say. 'There have been several inquiries on this and those who are critical of the government's policy on Iraq will only accept the findings of any inquiry that says the government was wrong. So the Hutton Inquiry, which completely cleared the government - you didn't want to hear it.'
There was a bit of jeering from some of the hacks at this point, so I reminded them that we were also cleared by the select committee inquiries. I then said it was not an open and shut case that the inquiry should be held in public, and added, as quoted by the Guardian, 'it frankly won't make any difference to them because they've made their minds up, these critics of the government, whatever comes out. The question then becomes whether you genuinely want to have an inquiry which finds out exactly what happened and that tries to learn lessons.'
I said that on balance, I thought GB made the right decision, but 'it is not a straight-forward decision. Unless it is black and white, the modern media cannot cope with it.'
I can see the arguments for both sides - openness and transparency favours a public inquiry; but it may well be that the inquiry will do a better job freed from the frenzy of 24 hour media. GB's point about the Bloody Sunday Inquiry - still going after eight years - was also well made.
I also think that Sir Robin Butler, who doubtless agreed it was right to have held his own inquiry in private, was somewhat in score-settling mode, and that while some military are arguing for it to be in public, many others would have strongly argued the opposite had GB announced a public inquiry. Like I said, it is not a straightforward decision.
As for the Independent, it carried a piece suggesting I had been closely involved in discussions prior to the announcement and that I had been instrumental in persuading GB to go down the private route. This is not so. Until last Thursday, when I attended a Labour fundraiser at which the PM was speaking, I knew no more than I had read in the papers. That evening, one of his advisors told me he was going to be announcing the inquiry within the next few days, the panel had been decided and agreed, it was a genuine 'lessons learned' inquiry and the Opposition were being consulted that day.
Number 10 alerted me at the weekend that the statement was likely to be on Monday. I was told there was a discussion going on as to whether some sessions should be public, with the bulk of evidence in private. I made the point that I thought it should be very clearly one or the other, that whichever it was could be strongly defended, and that if there was anything in between, there was a risk of ending up with the worst of all worlds.
Given the journalist, one of the ones who normally checks, did not do so on this occasion, and others might be tempted to repeat what he said also without doing so, I thought I should clear this up.
1. 'There have been several inquiries on this and those who are critical of the government's policy on Iraq will only accept the findings of any inquiry that says the government was wrong. So the Hutton Inquiry, which completely cleared the government - you didn't want to hear it....we were also cleared by the select committee inquiries'.
The Hutton Inquiry was the only inquiry which heard evidence in public.
Hutton did not completely clear the government. Despite the wide range of evidence, the conclusion of the inquiry narrowed significantly to focus on the use of intelligence as related to the accusations made in the BBC broadcast by Andrew Gilligan and the events which led to the suicide of Dr Kelly.
As well as a hatchet job on the BBC, Hutton also concluded that the Joint Intelligence Committee was "subconsciously influenced" by the goverment and the MOD had been af fault for not informing Dr Kelly that the media strategy would include naming him. Hutton's conclusions are almost universally viewed as at odds with the evidence which indicated that the wording of the dossier had been altered to present the strongest possible case for war within the bounds of available intelligence, that some of these changes had been suggested by Alastair Campbell, that reservations had been expressed by experts within the Intelligence Community about the wording of the dossier, that David Kelly had direct contact with the dissenters and had communicated their reservations (and his own) to several journalists, that - following Kelly's decision to come forward as one of Gilligan's contacts - Alastair Campbell and Geoff Hoon had wanted his identity made public, that the Prime Minister himself had chaired a meeting at which it was decided that Dr Kelly's name would be confirmed by the Ministry of Defence if put to them by journalists, that Kelly's name had been confirmed after journalists had made multiple suggestions to the MOD press office.
2. I also think that Sir Robin Butler, who doubtless agreed it was right to have held his own inquiry in private, was somewhat in score-settling mode.
There were good reasons for Butler to hear the inquiry in private as it focussed on intelligence matters. Any Iraq inquiry will have material to draw upon from both Hutton and Butler.
Why would Butler want to settle a score?
3. ...while some military are arguing for it to be in public, many others would have strongly argued the opposite had GB announced a public inquiry
Utter bullshit. This makes a completely irrelevant and entirely misleading claim based upon an unprovable hypothetical situation - typical Campbell. Fact: the overwhelming majority of military commentators want a public inquiry - check out the Army Rumour Service. Fact: repeated Boards of Inquiry and Coroners' Inquests have found repeated flaws and failures in equipment, and in some cases the MoD has accepted liability. A challenge to Campbell: find a military commentator in favour of a private inquiry - and I don't mean making up two officers as Labour did when they planted a letter in the Times regarding the scrapping of the Sea Harrier (some of us know enough to search the active and retired lists of officers, for example).
4. Number 10 alerted me at the weekend that the statement was likely to be on Monday...
Why exactly are Number 10 alerting the great man regarding Iraq Inquiry statements???
Campbell is very nervous and will do anything to stop a public inquiry which could damage his reputation. The same is probably true for Blair (if he cares - he is virtually the Son of God now). There is no direct threat to the government from a public Iraq inquiry that holds Blair and Campbell (and Hoon) accountable - in fact, it would probably do the Labour Party some good. The reason there is no direct threat is that such an inquiry could not topple the Prime Minister (directly or indirectly through toppling Campbell) as he left office two years ago.
Although immune to losing their jobs (because they lost them ages ago) both Blair and Campbell have made new careers trading on their reputations. A public Iraq inquiry could do massive reputational damage, even if it is highly unlikely that Campbell or others would end up in Milosevic's old bunk in the Hague. Such reputational damage could cause massive career damage - would anyone buy volume 2 of the Campbell diaries (did anyone buy volume 1 other than journalists) or pay for his columnist punditry? What about Blair's chances of becoming EU President (or even keeping the job)?
It boils down to this equation: 179 lost lives and many thousands of war wounded* versus a handful of already-tarnished reputations.
*6,700 by 2005 according to the Independent, 4,000 flown back to Britain. Nearly 5,000 including fatalities between April 2005 and December 2006. MoD is very reluctant to release this information in complete contrast to the US. This is something the inquiry must consider - the casualties: including mental health and stress disorder cases.
Thursday, 18 June 2009
I am increasingly hopeful that MPs of all parties, peers and former commanders will help to shape a consensus inquiry and I get the impression that there is concern amongst MPs of all parties.
This is a chance for Parliament to reassert itself. It could also be a Brown legacy opportunity, one that we could all be genuinely thankful for. The pressure needs to be maintained though.
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
The generals and air marshals are now speaking up. The Tories will debate an inquiry next week. There is widespread belief that any private inquiry will be a whitewash. Evidence must be aired in public. Here’s some evidence I would like to offer up, as a former Royal Air Force Officer. I do not believe any of what I state below breaches the Official Secrets Act or compromises operational security....it certainly compromises the government of the time though. I will happily go on the record with this, with full details of my post-title, name, rank, dates of service, units etc.
1a. In 2002 I was an officer in a major headquarters role working in support of operations. Operational war planning commenced at some point in September 2002 and was literally top secret. This was understandable as military war planning must always be secret but I perceived enormous political sensitivity with regard to the preparations that reinforced the secrecy and need-to-know principle. The code name for the war planning operation was Operation WARRIOR.
1b. One of my duties was UK/US liaison in a communications support role. This dated back to before 11/09/2001. From my experience, war planning was conducted in support of Afghanistan operations very quickly after 9/11, but there was no thought given to any operations in Iraq in my area of work beyond the existing no-fly zone air policing operations over Iraq and Kuwait until early to mid 2002.
My Conclusion (1). The decision to attack Iraq was taken in mid 2002 and war planning commenced shortly afterwards, well before any UN resolution was in sight. Given the time lag between September 11 2001 and March 20 2003, it is unlikely that the untrue claim that Iraq was an Al-Qaeda stronghold even featured in the decision-making process.
2a. I travelled to the United States in the autumn of 2002 to participate in an initial conference which set the groundwork for continued liaison (in the US, in the UK and eventually in the Middle East). One of the problems we had was a software interoperability issue: our software was essentially a “patch” behind the United States. Writing the code for the patch cost money (although the private sector contractors bent over backwards to do all they could for us) so I prepared a case for a UOR – an urgent operational requirement, which is a kind of business case for the release of funding for equipment. In the meantime, the communications data was coded by hand – at risk and without validation. The UOR was authorised soon after preparation (and recognised as urgent) but the funding was not released and the upgrade was not complete until the war fighting had commenced.
2b. I was involved in communications UORs for other equipment (ships, land platforms and aircraft). I believe there was similar foot-dragging in these cases as well and it was largely due to the sheer effort of military experts and civilian contractors that these were brought into operation.
My Conclusion (2). Release of funding for operations was held off to avoid political controversy. I believe the-then Defence Secretary is guilty of maladministration and malfeasance in public office, and this led to equipment and supply problems which in turn led to, or contributed to, the loss of life.
3a. I was told by contacts in theatre and in nearby bases (cited as under potential missile threat) that there was not enough NBC (nuclear-biological-chemical) equipment (such as IPE – Individual Protection Equipment) and that some areas were stripped of equipment to supply up-threat troops (understandable under the circumstances). Periodic changes of protective suits and respirator canisters and other equipment is needed in a chemical warfare environment. One Army colleague told me obliquely: “you’d be utterly shocked at what’s going on over here.”
3b. In September 2002, on a few occasions at coffee-break time and other times, my colleagues and myself discussed the "dodgy dossier". The conclusion was that the intelligence claims were rubbish. My belief (and I think the belief of others) was that the dossier was a front for critical intelligence that could not be revealed for compelling reasons - compromise of a source, prompting of a short-notice attack somewhere. In reality, there was nothing.
My Conclusion (3). There was a glaring mis-match between the claimed WMD threat and the supply of NBC IPE. Either there was no credible WMD threat or the supply of protective equipment was utterly incompetent.
This is the sort of evidence Brown does not want made public or even considered by an inquiry. Public disclosure of this sort of evidence is necessary to identify lessons to prevent future loss of life. If General Sir Michael Jackson says he will give evidence in public, then that is good enough for all of us.
Monday, 15 June 2009
This will be quite a job - Hutton and Butler will need to be ploughed through, as well as published Board of Inquiry reports, coroners inquest reports, papers from pressure groups and organisations, and whatever else can be unearthed.
A chronology will be central to the task.
This will also require the input of subject matter experts as well as witnesses.
Anonymity? If requested - certainly.
This could be exciting - I remember the way the Hutton evidence sessions were followed with enormous media interest. In the vacuum of a closed door inquiry, there will be enormous speculation and commentary. Bring it on....
Now, how will this blog work? It will be a multi-user blog with informed posting and commentary from across the blogosphere. However, this blog will seek to elicit and publish information that the government wants to keep secret. One of the authors is a former Armed Forces officer who worked in a support role in advance of, and during, the Iraq War. There are plenty of Armed Forces personnel and civil servants who have retired since 2003 and who know a few things. I do not expect a smoking gun, but I do expect a very revealing jigsaw once the pieces are assembled. I encourage those in government and the Armed Forces to supply the remaining pieces of the jigsaw – ideally including the Cabinet minutes, which I pledge to post on here if leaked to myself. However, this blog needs to consider personnel and operational security and those “in the know” will know what that means: there are still troops in Afghanistan. The Official Secrets Act is for protecting secrets, not officials, despite what the government wants.
My initial comments on Not the Iraq Inquiry:
+ The NTNI should consider events since the First Gulf War of 1990, albeit with a light touch for the first half of that decade. The resolution invoked in 2003 dates from 1991.
+ Defence planning assumptions from the Defence White Paper of 1998 should be considered.
+ The sanctions regime operated by UNSCOM should be considered in detail up to the point of the withdrawal of weapons inspectors in 1998 (this will include UN reports and UK intelligence assessments)
+ The NTNI should consider the events leading up to, and surrounding Operation DESERT FOX as the prelude to what became the Iraq War
+ The regime change agenda of the US government from the inauguration of George W Bush should be considered prior to September 11 2001.
+ The strategic aims and planning assumptions for operations in Afghanistan from September 2001 should be considered in relation to the strategic aims and planning assumptions for Iraq.
+ UK and US foreign and defence policy from September 2001 onwards should be considered in detail, in particular the operations of government.
+ Intelligence assessments with regard to Iraq WMDs for the period September 2001 onwards should be considered in forensic detail, focusing on both internal government assessments and external information provision (the ‘dodgy dossiers’).
+ The legality of offensive operations against Iraq should be considered in detail.
+ The UN resolution process prior to operations in Iraq should be considered.
+ UK operational war planning (from 2002 onwards) should be considered in detail, including resourcing.
+ UK Defence logistics procurement and supply should be considered in detail for all periods of planning and operations, including pre-war UORs (urgent operational requirements).
+ Boards of Inquiry and coroners’ inquests into certain losses of lives should be considered in detail.
+ Coalition guidance to commanders on prisoner handling and the conduct of operations should be considered.
It is likely that the impartial consideration of all the above would result in conclusions including that:
+ UNSCOM monitoring was largely effective until scientists were withdrawn prior to DESERT FOX
+ Regime change in Iraq was considered by the US government prior to 2001, albeit probably as part of a “wish list.”
+ The events of September 11 2001 were identified – at some point afterwards – as a catalyst for an invasion of Iraq.
+ Operations in Afghanistan were severely disrupted by the preparations for, and the war, in Iraq and post-war occupation.
+ UK defence planning assumptions did not support the simultaneous conduct of two medium-intensity operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
+ Intelligence was selectively interpreted to justify the war, and embellished as a propaganda campaign prior to the war.
+ The decision to invade was taken at some point in June or July 2002 and operational war planning commenced shortly afterwards.
+ Gaps in equipment capability were identified as part of the war planning process.
+ UK equipment procurement and supply decisions were deferred until it was deemed politically expedient, to avoid loss of political support.
+ The conduct of military operations was as professional as would be expected in the tradition of the Armed Forces, and in line with established doctrine and tactics.
+ The conduct of military operations was limited by lack of troops and specific equipment and the difficulty of sustaining two medium-intensity operations simultaneously.
+ All UK Services – and their families - suffered from varying degrees of overstretch, which has now become endemic.
+ Planning assumptions for the occupation phase were grossly flawed – at the coalition level in particular.
+ There was little or no public support for the war other than the expected support for British personnel.
+ The war caused significant damage to the UK’s international reputation and relationships with other nations.
+ The war increased the domestic terrorism threat to the UK and this elevated level still persists.
That’s my starter for ten. Join the debate – reasoned and informed debate, pertinent information, but no tin-foil hats please: the truth is likely to be grubby enough. My nom de blog here is Veritas – those who were in uniform in 2002 will know what this means, and it also has another meaning that is desperately in need of application with regard to Iraq. Hopefully the next few weeks will see further inquiry debate and we can commence evidence sessions to mirror the actual inquiry.