Chilcot’s Inquiry – Stranger Than My Own Fiction

After waiting 7 years we finally have Sir John Chilcot’s report on the lead up and prosecution of the Iraq War based on the inquiry he lead. For the grieving and wounded I doubt it will bring much closure, whatever that means?

As those of you have been kind enough to read, I too have used the background to the Iraq war for my own scribblings in the Demise Trilogy (available at all good book stores – well Amazon and Lulu anyway)  The backdrop to the story is how a conspiracy manipulated data to make the dossiers used to justify the war more compelling. Little did I know that that was close to what the report has unearthed. Of course we already knew much of this. The farcical claim of a 45 minute of WMD attack on the UK was just that. Anyone who looked at weapons capability in Iraq knew this was a joke, in my view a criminal misrepresentation of the capability of weapons. To claim the UK was at risk was so far wide of the mark it beggar’s belief that anyone in Intelligence or Senior Military allowed such rubbish to be proposed in a Parliamentary document. In this respect I would not expect the political leadership to know. They are not experts they depend on advice yes the rubbish was allowed to stand unchallenged.

During a previous life I had the opportunity to be involved in some of the work used to monitor Iraq after the end of the first Iraq war. This was led by UN weapons inspectors and was part of the cease fire agreements put in place after that conflict.  Part of my role was to assess Iraq’s weapons capability and to then brief my colleagues on their remaining weapons systems.  When the claim came out in 2002/3 as a support for the war I was personally astounded. I was out of the military by then but nevertheless that assessment seemed amazing given the state of their weapons complexes which were bombed every time Saddam threw the Weapons Inspectors out of the country.

At the time of the war I used to state the right war for the wrong reasons. I meant that Saddam had to go because he was in constant breach of the ceasefire obligations and certainly intended to get WMD back, not that he had it right then. He continuously threatened his neighbours vowing revenge. Blair has defended himself by stating that Saddam had to go and he would do it again. That may be true but he did not have to go then nor in that manner and certainly not for that reason. We were already fighting a difficult war in Afghanistan and to redeploy troops to a different theatre was madness and again should have been challenged. Saddam was not going anywhere.

I say back about WMD because he had used chemical weapons against Iran and then against his own Kurdish minority. He had had not used them in the first war simply because he was threatened by the USA of the consequences if he did. Not that that stopped the deployed military being issued with NBC suits and medication in case they were used. During and after the first Iraq war, for the liberation of Kuwait, chemical weapon sites were attacked and stockpiles destroyed. Even after the second war some small residual caches were found left over from the Iran Iraq war which were mostly rusting artillery shells which were unsafe to fire. By the time the second war came around there was virtually nothing left to attack.

The fighting of that war leaves a sour taste due to the tactics employed. Many have concentrated on the failings in equipment and strategy of the British forces and the lack of planning for after the war.  It is not the military’s job to plan peace. Their job is to win a war as quickly and effectively as possible. There were major errors in this plan. In particular the destruction of main infrastructure which caused so many problems after the war. For example destroying whole power stations when sub-stations would have created the same effect. Useless destruction of main bridges. The Iraqi military was pitiful, especially after the first Gulf war. Their ability to fight as an Army was so degraded I’m surprised the war lasted as long as it did. The liberating armies became oppressive conquerors and subject to guerilla warfare because the hearts and minds cannot be won when there is no security, no water and no power.  From a military assault point of view overwhelming force is the key to win quickly but that is where civilian control comes in.

I have previously commented on the lack of military experience in Government on both sides of the Atlantic and in all political parties. Actually it is not just military experience but experience of anything other than politics.

There were 650 MPs in parliament who had a vote on going to war. The action was approved 412 to 149. As you can see not all MPs voted. Currently, approximately 50 have served in the Armed Forces. As decisions are normally taken primarily in Government and directly supposedly in Cabinet it is interesting to note the Chilcot findings on the lack of wider decision making outside the Prime Minister’s office and the failures of the senior military and Intelligence chiefs. MoD Procurement needs culling – perhaps a few days on the front-line with the equipment they procure would get their priorities right. As for the treasury Brown was far more interested in undermining Blair than he was in ensuring that the UK’s forces had the right equipment, size and funding to carry out government, Blair/Bush policy.

As I have written on previous blogs, Parliament is sovereign it really is time that our MPS not only served their party but their country. There is no bigger decision then going to war, or not. I would like to think that some of the MPs might actually know what they are arguing about. The evidence suggests they do not and cannot be bothered to find out. After all it is far more important to spend time briefing against your enemies in your own party than planning for real enemies and threats to the country. For evidence look at the Blair/Brown actions also going on at this time. The evidence before the war was out there. The distrust of the dossier was known yet we went to war on a false promise.

The pitiful state of our current armed forces is for another day’s writing except – We have Aircraft Carriers being built with no aircraft. Our contribution to Syria is barely a squadron of planes. Our Royal Navy, once the commander of the seas, has barely enough ships to patrol a harbour. Our response to Putin is to send 500 troops to Eastern Europe two years after the events. We’ve even stopped allowing the Red Arrows to display at our primary Air Show. Let’s hope we never face a real threat. If we did someone else could take seven years to write a report that will change nothing.

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Ramblings on a Referendum

IMG_0169 I’ve just returned from a week in Las Palmas in The Canary Islands of Spain, don’t worry this is not trip advisor. Away from the UK my wife and I missed the Scottish referendum election and much of the ongoing horrors in Iraq, Syria, Ukraine alongside the Ebola crisis. Not that these events have gone away, even the referendum will have ramifications for months in the UK as the politicians will decide which of the bribes they proposed to the Scottish electorate will be fulfilled – oh and England, Wales and Northern Ireland may get some constitutional change too. How generous, although the argument now seems to be either: from Labour on what the impact will be on reducing the ability of Scottish Labour MPs to vote on English matters; the Conservatives need something to continue their fight with  UKIP.
Meanwhile another group of MPs continue to receive their salaries and benefits of MPs without ever attending Parliament or taking up their seats. Sinn Féin step forward no news there.

As I discussed in a previous post the whole referendum process for Scotland was anything but democratic for the rest of the UK in the end 55% of those voting which was 85.5% (thanks for bothering, but what happened to the other 15%) of the 4.3m, or 3.6m decided the future of 64m. We had the unedifying view of all the main political parties disappearing to Scotland with vague promises on DevoMax which they had all decided previously should not have been on the ballot. Promises put forward by Gordon Brown, so we can all believe those!. I think the SNP were right to describe this as a pointless halfway house if Scotland really wanted control it had to vote yes. Further devolved powers do not make us more united. Of course the independence movement failed to mention the real problem – with so much legislation decided by Brussels or other treaty obligations even an independent Scotland would not have had that much control just like Westminster does not. That was if the EU (Spain may well have vetoed), NATO (would take defence commitments) and the UN (they will take anyone) accepted applications. What about the World Bank, IMF, World Health Organisation these international institutions are all part of legislative and economic power base of the world. Would an independent Scotland have joined the European Space Agency? Perhaps it was this and the currency uncertainties that tipped the balance in favour on a no. Who knows perhaps it was the colour of the flag that appealed.

The Liberal Democrats (remember them they are still in the Coalition) have proposed a federal organisation of the UK as part of the reform. My son who has studied this stuff likes the idea. If it creates another layer of bureaucracy which the previous Labour regional assembly proposals did then I would be against. Labour wants to follow the example of London for more power to big cities but then what about those of us that do not live in big cities? Whatever happens Parliamentary reform is long overdue we should have far fewer MPs given the devolved powers already and even fewer in the Lords. Perhaps 500 MPs with devolved powers to regional parliaments and 250 in the Lords – elected please.

Meanwhile the Pope thinks World War 3 is effectively under way due to the conflicts throughout the world. Not quite; however brutal and the number of conflicts. Clearly it makes no difference to the victims whether the Pope thinks it’s a World War or not but human history is full of mostly unreported conflict. The battles in Africa seem never ending mostly based on tribal divisions made worse by the colonial false borders. There seems no easy resolution of the Syria conflict without supporting Assad, the very man the Western powers (and others) wanted removed, in order to defeat the allegedly bigger threat of ISIS, IS or ISL.

The appalling beheading on video of hostages adds to the fear element in the West allowing/forcing the politicians to act as if that one death is worse than the death from Ebola, Malaria, AIDS, or cancer. Horrific yes but so is a bomb from a coalition aircraft or a shell from an ISIS fighter. Remember those wonderful pictures of precision bombing. Someone’s son, brother, father, daughter, sister or mother has just been publicly killed. No squeamishness from western media in showing that video, but of course the victims are not journalists or aid workers. Not that we know who was in the vehicle or building alongside the fighter. The famous unverified reports beloved of BBC speak especially when dealing with sensitive subjects, must not get in trouble with the government when the next license fee discussion is under way even to the point of not reporting a story about a famous tennis player in case his view influences (only during voting day) the Scottish Referendum – really? The BBC’s efforts not to fall foul or the Electoral Commission are sometimes laughable, just like the promises of constitutional reform which we will now have to sit through.