Chilcot inquiry: What Tony Blair and George W. Bush left behind in Iraq

Updated 7:42 AM EDT, Wed July 6, 2016
02:07 - Source: CNN
Bush and Blair's war in Iraq

Story highlights

After 13 years, the Chilcot inquiry delivers damning verdict on Britain's march to war

But the findings will be of little use to Iraqis living with the consequences

If you’re in North America, go here to watch a live stream of our coverage of the Chilcot inquiry on CNNgo.

Editor’s Note: CNN International Correspondent Ben Wedeman has lived on and off in the Middle East since the 1970s and has covered Iraq extensively since the 1990s.

Baghdad, Iraq CNN —  

“Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators,” read the proclamation to the people of Iraq. These could have been the words of British Prime Minister Tony Blair or President George W. Bush at the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 

But it dates back to 1917, penned by Lieutenant General Sir Stanley Maude, the commander of British forces in Iraq. 

The British occupation that followed was messy, though not as messy as its modern U.S.-led version. Then, the people of Iraq waged a bloody insurrection against the British, who, in the process, allegedly used poison gas against, among others, the Kurds in the north. 

If Blair had read his history more carefully he might have taken Britain’s experience as a cautionary tale. Instead, side by side with Bush, he plunged headlong into what fast became a quagmire.

RELATED: Soldiers’ families seek answers, closure

The Chilcot report – the long-awaited result of Britain’s inquiry into the Iraq War – has delivered a damning verdict against the UK’s role.

What is the Chilcot report?

  • A report on Britain's role in the Iraq War, including events that led to the conflict and its aftermath
  • It has taken longer to publish than the war actually lasted
  • Commissioned by Britain's then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009
  • Written by John Chilcot, from the inquiry he chaired between 2009 and 2011
  • The 12-volume, 2.6 million-word report is almost three times as long as the complete works of Shakespeare

“Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point, but in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein,” John Chilcot, chairman of the inquiry, said Wednesday.

However the revelations will be of little use to Iraqis now. 

In the Middle East, grandiose geo-strategic master plans hatched by foreign powers invariably go awry. Iraq is no exception. 

Just how awry was painfully evident in downtown Baghdad this weekend, in the smoldering ruins left by yet another terrorist attack, where at least 250 were killed in an ISIS truck bombing.

The distraught people searching for loved ones blown to pieces or burned beyond recognition have nothing to savor in the Iraq that Blair and Bush wrought.