Iraq: damning report finally surfaces

A couple of weeks ago, we posted about the MoD’s attempts to suppress information about inept practices in Afghanistan, and Toby Harnden’s revelations in the Telegraph that they sought to sabotage the publication of his book: Dead Men Risen. Now a report acknowledging what many of us already knew or suspected — that the invasion in Iraq was poorly-planned, badly handled, and based on a wholly unrealistic perspective — has come to light.

The report, as described in today’s Guardian, was suppressed for nearly a year on the authority of Air Chief Marshal Sir (now Lord) Jock Stirrup. Its contents are highly critical of British military intervention, revealing that, incredibly, they “were not prepared for counter-insurgency.” Apparently, British commanders had not contemplated the possibility that any of the Iraqi people would object to the presence of an invading force in their country.

Even more interestingly, especially in light of current operations in Libya, is the acknowledgement that “no serious attempt appears to have been made to forge a convincing coalition-wide strategic narrative.” In other words, we didn’t know why we were there. Were we liberating the Iraqi people? Securing oilfields? Or were we simply opening up lucrative new markets for British and American military contractors? At the time, no-one was able to provide a convincing answer to these questions — perhaps because there was no convincing answer.

With a new, and strikingly similar, initiative launched in Libya, are we any closer to forging such a narrative? The idea that British, French, and American forces are preventing civilian bloodshed is appealing, yet hard to believe in. The sense that more cynical motives lie beneath our intervention is difficult to escape. So we hope that, this time, we’ll get it right. We hope that the lessons of previous interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have been well learnt.

Yet, the continuing broad application of UN resolution 1973, authorising “action to protect civilians from Muammar Gaddafi”, leads us to suspect that they may not have been.

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