Six years late and stretching to 12 volumes, the Chilcot Report into the Iraq War is finally released today. Jack McKeown and Aileen Robertson speak to those determined to get the truth behind the most controversial war of modern times.
Jack Straw. Geoff Hoon. Gordon Brown. And, above all, Tony Blair.
Today the men responsible for promoting, instigating and financing Britain’s role in the Iraq War finally find out how history will judge them.
The Chilcot Report – all 2.6 million words of it – is released this morning, fully seven years after it was set up by Gordon Brown when he was prime minister.
Among the issues Sir John Chilcot’s report will look at are the build-up to the invasion, the UK’s role in war itself, the infamous dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, and Britain’s part in Iraq’s post-war occupation.
Britain lost 179 soldiers in the 2003 invasion. America sacrificed 4,491 service members. And at least 150,000 Iraqis were killed during the conflict, with around 500,000 dying after the war but as a result of it.
Tony Blair, prime minister when Britain invaded Iraq, has said he will not make any comment until the report is made public.
The International Criminal Court (ICC) has indicated the former Labour leader will not be liable for prosecution, reiterating its conclusion 10 years ago that the decision to go to war is not within its jurisdiction.
A number of MPs are expected to try to use an ancient law to try to impeach the former prime minister once the findings are published.
Former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said there “has to be a judicial or political reckoning” for Mr Blair’s role in the Iraq conflict while shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the “processes” of how Britain ended up at war must be examined “so we never ever get into this tragic, tragic mess again with such loss of life”.
Some Labour Party insiders think Jeremy Corbyn has been clinging to the leadership so he can call for his predecessor to be tried as a war criminal on the back of the report.
Fife was hit hard by the Iraq war, with three soldiers from the Kingdom killed in a single incident. Black Watch soldiers Sergeant Stuart Gray, 31, Private Paul Lowe, 19, and Private Scott McArdle, 22 died in an ambush near Baghdad just days after their deployment.
Private Marc Ferns from Glenrothes also lost his life in an improvised bomb attack in August 2003.
Many soldiers who survived Iraq physically came back with terrible mental trauma and some have since taken their own lives.
Catherine Kinnear lives near Strathmiglo in Fife. Her son Gary fought in Iraq, serving with the Black Watch on their first tour in 2003. He went missing in November that year and his drowned body was found in the River Tay just over a month later.
Although the reasons for Gary’s death remain a mystery, his mother says his experiences in Iraq changed him irrevocably.
“When our sons went out to Iraq they were fine and when they came back they were damaged with PTSD,” she said.
“It’s always the Black Watch that gets sent out first. It’s always them in harm’s way.”
Remarkably, Ms Kinnear had to fight tooth and nail to receive a copy of the Chilcot Report.
She was told she was not eligible for a printed copy because her son Gary had not died in Iraq.
Ms Kinnear said: “Whatever they have seen out there, we don’t know what is going through their heads. They will have seen bodies lying around and everything.
“Some soldiers have tried to kill themselves because of what they have seen out there.”
She was initially told she was not eligible for a free copy of the report when she phoned the Iraq inquiry office.
Hard copies of the executive summary cost £30 to buy, with the full twelve volume report costing £767. The full report and summary will be available to read for free online once after it is released today.
When she pressed her case, explaining what happened to her son, Ms Kinnear was offered a free copy. However, she is concerned parents whose children committed suicide following their experiences in Iraq have not been offered free access to the report.
She added: “I think some of the mothers and fathers whose soldier boys have died because of what they have seen should get a copy too.”
Ms Kinnear is clear on what she would like to see from the Chilcot Report: “I’d like to see why we went in there in the first place. Give us a good enough reason. Was it just for oil? Just for money?
“Tony Blair should be tried for war crimes. If it had been a normal constituent like you or me who had done this we would be in jail. Because they’re a bit high up MPs think they can get away with doing anything. It’s people’s lives they’re playing with.
“Tony Blair was always called Bush’s lapdog and he was. And Bush – he was happy to send young men over there to die as long as it wasn’t his own children that were fighting.”