Some will always believe that Tony Blair took the country to war in Iraq on a lie, but the most damning charge emerging from the Iraq war inquiry so far is that Britain went to war on a wing and a prayer. The main charges, after four weeks of cross examination, are that Britain had minimal influence over American diplomatic and military strategy, did not plan correctly for the aftermath of war, and utterly misconstrued post-war Iraqi society. It is these charges as much as whether intelligence was doctored that are likely to make the Labour political class squirm when they give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry starting in January.
The chronology to disaster that has seeped from the inquiry makes sometimes shocking reading. It is after all the first time the British diplomatic and military establishment have had to discuss openly their secretive relationship with the US in the run-up to the war.
The diplomats have been freed to disclose their distaste for the simplicities of the neo-cons in Washington, their limited entry points into Washington bureaucratic in-fighting and their shuffling admission that they went to war knowing the aftermath was unplanned – a "known unknown" in the immortal words of US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, one of the villains of this inquiry so far.
Yet what has emerged already from the 12 sessions with British defence, intelligence and diplomatic officials is the extent to which Britain seemed to slide into war, ultimately with little Whitehall resistance. The inquiry has also shown the extent to which Whitehall went to war ignorant of Iraq's near economic collapse, or the risks of a Sunni-Shia civil war. ...
Lieutenant General Sir Freddie Viggers, the chief British military representative in Baghdad after the war, told the inquiry: "We suffered from the lack of any real understanding of the state of that country post-invasion. We had not done enough research, planning, into …the country coming out of 30 years of the Ba'athist regime, the dynamics of the country, the cultures, the friction points between Sunni, Shia and Kurd." ...
Admiral Lord Boyce, the former chief of defence staff, said "I could not get across to the US the fact that the coalition would not be seen as a liberation force and that flowers would be stuck at the end of rifles and that they would be welcomed and it would all be lovely."
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Prince Charles campaigned actively against the Iraq war