Lasting damage from conflict

The Iraq war was an intervention that went badly wrong with consequences still being felt to this day.

Lessons need to be learned for future conflicts.

After months of waiting, Sir John Chilcot has released his damning report on the United Kingdom's involvement in the Iraq war.

The report says former prime minister Tony Blair overstated the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, sent ill-prepared troops into battle and had wholly inadequate plans for the aftermath.

Sir John says the 2003 invasion was not the last resort action presented to MPs and the public.

There was no imminent threat from Saddam - the intelligence case was not justified.

The war was not popular in Britain and it should be remembered more than one million individuals took to the streets in 2003 in opposition to the path to war.

Those people will seize the report's judgement Saddam did not pose an immediate threat as justification for their opposition.

But those seeking action against Mr Blair will be disappointed - but probably not surprised - the panel, which did not include any lawyers, has not expressed a view on whether military action was legal.

However, families of British troops who died in the conflict are discussing ways for Mr Blair to be prosecuted for war crimes.

For his part, Mr Blair remains defiant on the central decision to go to war.

The decision to commit troops was the most agonising and momentous decision in his decade as prime minister and something he will carry with him for the rest of the days.

Mr Blair admits the intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong, the aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever imagined and a nation whose people the UK and the United States wanted to set free from Saddam became instead victims of sectarian terrorism.

"For all of this, I express more sorry, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe,'' Mr Blair said.

Whether Mr Blair does truly remain regretful, only he can know for sure.

He certainly sided quickly with former US president George W. Bush during the decision to go to war.

Memos released as part of the Chilcot report showed Messrs Blair and Bush were openly discussing toppling Saddam as early as December 2001, when the UK and the US had just launched military action in Afghanistan.

Mr Blair assured Mr Bush in a memo the UK would be with him "whatever'', adding if Mr Bush wanted a wider military coalition he would have to get the UN backing, make progress on Middle East peace and engineer a shift in public opinion in the US, UK and the Arab world.

The war overshadows the legacy of Mr Blair, who swept into power as a new-style Labour leader, one not reliant on union support for his time in Parliament.

His arrogance as leader, and his willingness to support Mr Bush through some brutal conflicts, will provide lasting damage to his reputation.

The Chilcot inquiry was set up in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who took over from Mr Blair and was under pressure to provide a public accounting of the conflict.

Sir John and his panel heard from 150 witnesses and analysed 150,000 documents.

The report has been repeatedly delayed, in part by disputes over the inclusion of classified material.

There are two main lessons to be taken from Sir John's report.

Assertions by governments of various threats in overseas jurisdictions need to be closely scrutinised and not taken at face value by MPs or voters.

The consequences of actions, such as the Iraq war, need to be considered carefully - before the actions are taken.

The military mission to Iraq was undermined by a failure to plan for the country's reconstruction and by a surge in chaos and violence the invaders should have seen coming.

A country has been ruined, nearly beyond repair, trust has been shattered, and reputations trashed.

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