The UK's long-awaited, much-delayed Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War, examining Britain's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is finally set to be published next summer—and it's "shaping up to be a whitewash," warns one anti-war coaliton.
Then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown commissioned the report in 2009; the panel heard from its last witness in February 2011. The endeavor is estimated to have cost approximately £10 million ($15 million USD) and has been repeatedly delayed over the past six years.
The report is now expected to be ready for publication in June or July, according to the latest update from lead investigator Sir John Chilcot.
"My colleagues and I estimate that we will be able to complete the text of our report in the week commencing 18 April 2016," Chilcot wrote in a letter on Wednesday (pdf) to Prime Minister David Cameron. "At that point, National Security checking of its contents by a team of officials, who will be given confidential access to the report on your behalf, can begin."
Chilcot explained that the "considerable size" of the report, which reportedly runs more than two million words, means it will take time to prepare the report for printing.
Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon, 19, was killed in a bomb attack in Basra in 2004, said she was "disappointed" by the news. "We thought it should be out a lot sooner than this," she told Sky News. "I thought it would be out by the end of the year, because they have everything there."
Saying the delays were keeping grieving families of slain veterans from getting "closure," a group of 29 families threatened earlier this year to sue Chilcot if he did not set a date of publication for the report. They blamed the logjam largely on the government's "Maxwellisation" procedure, which gives individuals criticized in official reports time to respond to allegations.
"It's another let-down," Gentle declared on Thursday. "It's another few months to wait and suffer again."
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Even Cameron himself, citing "the families of those who served in Iraq," said in his official response to Chilcot that he was "disappointed...that you do not believe it will be possible logistically to publish your report until early summer." The Prime Minister said he would "welcome any further steps you can take to expedite the final stages of the Inquiry."
The office of former Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile—whose role in the conflict is at the center of the Inquiry and who on Sunday admitted that the invasion of Iraq helped the rise of ISIS—issued a defensive response to Chilcot's announcement.
"The reason for his delay has been the excessive care taken to allow those who are criticized in the report to respond to those criticisms before it is published, a process which has not only held up its findings but has given them an advantage in trying to get their justifications in first."
—Stop the War Coalition
"Mr. Blair...wants to make it clear that the timetable of the Inquiry and the length of time it will have taken to report is not the result either of issues over the correspondence between him as Prime Minister and President Bush; or due to the Maxwellisation process," the statement read.
Even when it is finally published, there is no guarantee that the Chilcot report will answer critical questions.
As anti-war Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said in a speech earlier this year, "I think I shall be disappointed when it is published. I suspect that it will be full of redactions and that we will have to read a million words before we discover which bits have been redacted."
The Stop the War Coalition added Thursday in a press statement: "The reason for his delay has been the excessive care taken to allow those who are criticized in the report to respond to those criticisms before it is published, a process which has not only held up its findings but has given them an advantage in trying to get their justifications in first."
An additional eight or nine months before publication "will mean more spin and obfuscation," the coalition added. "Chilcot is the third British report into the Iraq war. Like its predecessors, Butler and Hutton, it is shaping up to be a whitewash. The long delay in publishing it is unlikely to hide that fact."
To that end, journalist and author Peter Oborne on Wednesday published his own, independent inquiry into the war.
Oborne's report, conducted in concert with the BBC, charges that Blair "misrepresented the evidence" on the existence, possession, and condition of weapons of mass destruction; "used vital testimony selectively in order to build the case for war;" stayed silent on pre-war assessments that showed invading Iraq would make the UK more vulnerable to terrorism; and blamed France "for the US/UK failure to persuade more than two other members of the UN Security Council (Spain and Bulgaria) to vote for war."
Oborne's evidence, based on publicly available testimony and "background narratives" by UK scholar David Morrison, shows plainly that "there is little reason to doubt that the Blair government misrepresented the intelligence to parliament and to the British public in order to make the case for an illegal war in which 179 British soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians died," Oborne writes.
"The invasion of Iraq was intended to deal with international terrorism. It is plain that the terrorist threat to Britain has increased beyond measure as a result of the decision to go into Iraq," he continued. "Let’s see if John Chilcot agrees."