The UK Spent Over $13 Million On An Underwhelming Iraq War Inquiry

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Russ Read Pentagon/Foreign Policy Reporter
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The seven-year-long inquiry regarding the United Kingdom’s participation in the 2003 invasion of Iraq cost British tax payers no less than the equivalent of $13.4 million, according to British government estimates.

While the 2.6 million word report, released Thursday, certainly rebukes former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government for bringing the U.K. into the war, it offers little information that was not previously available to the public. Furthermore, it does not conclude the legality of the war, nor does it claim that Blair misled the public or the U.K. Parliament when he pushed to join the invasion.

The so-called Chilcot report, headed by former British civil servant John Chilcot, is the result of a seven-year inquiry that intended to “identify lessons that could be learned from the Iraq conflict.” Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced its establishment in 2009 in response to public outcry regarding the controversial means that brought the U.K. into the conflict.

Chilcot said during the launch of inquiry that he hoped it would “help ensure that, if we face similar situations in future, the government of the day is best equipped to respond to those situations in the most effective manner in the best interests of the country.”

Most of the funding allotted to the inquiry went towards staffing costs, which ranged from $1,025,556 to $1,542,988 per year. The inquiry’s largest single expenses involved renting out the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster, which was used to conduct public hearings on four separate occasions. Another significant expense involved the use of British military transport aircraft to travel to Basra, Iraq. The air expense alone cost approximately $73,180.

In a piece for Commentary Magazine, Max Boot of the Council on Foreign Relations pointed out the redundancy of the report.

“Not even the war’s staunchest supporters would deny at this late date the basic thrust of the inquiry’s conclusions,” said Boot. “By now, the mistakes are obvious to all.”

“All that the inquiry has really added to the sum of public knowledge are more details and absurdities.”

Indeed, Boot points to the reams of newspaper articles and well-documented books that have preceded Chilcot’s findings, such as “Endgame” by Michael Gordon and Bernard Trainer, as well as “Fiasco” by Foreign Policy’s Tom Ricks.

Many British citizens who were vehemently against the U.K.’s involvement in the war were hoping for a more stinging indictment of Blair and his government. Despite the inconclusive findings, some critics are still accusing Blair and his government of war crimes and blame him for the deaths of British soldiers lost during the invasion and subsequent occupation.

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn apologized Thursday on behalf of his party for the “stain” that Blair, a former party leader, left on Labour’s legacy. Blair responded to the report by expressing his “sorrow, regret and apology” for the “failures” regarding Iraq, but said he stands by his decision.

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