The independent Chilcot Report was expected to report rapidly, but such was the volume and detail of the evidence examined and the sensitivity of its conclusions that in the end it took seven years. It runs to 12 volumes and 2.6m words and the final summary should be compulsory reading for all who will in future be tasked with the heaviest decision for any government, to commit our forces to war. 179 British servicemen and women lost their lives alongside 24 British civilians and over 150,000 Iraqis. The consequences for their loved ones of our failures in Iraq have been appalling and the terrorism and violence continue to this day across the region and worldwide.
Chilcot is damning in his conclusions including that:
• Military action was not a last resort as all peaceful options had not been exhausted
• Policy on the Iraq invasion was made on the basis of flawed intelligence assessments. This assessment was not challenged as it should have been, preferably by an independent body
• The continuing threat from weapons of mass destruction was presented with unjust certainty
• The circumstances in which the legal basis for military action were established were "far from satisfactory" and the authority of the United Nations Security Council was undermined.
• There was too "little time" to properly prepare. The risks were neither "properly identified nor fully exposed" to ministers, leaving our troops dangerously exposed as a result of inadequate equipment.
• Plans for post-Saddam Iraq were wholly inadequate
• The consequences of the invasion were underestimated and this left a space for extremists to flourish.
I listened to Tony Blair's apology and his acceptance of responsibility but like many was aghast to hear that he would take the same course of action again.
Next week Parliament has dedicated two full days to debate this crucial report and how this should influence the future conduct of those who advise on or take the final decisions to take us to war. Whilst I do not feel that the lesson from the Chilcot Report is that we should never engage in military action, it should be a last resort and all future governments must make sure that the grave lessons are learnt from this catalogue of disasters.