Iraq war inquiry Tony Blair invasion
British military commanders are expected to tell an inquiry into the Iraq war, which opens today, that the invasion was ill-conceived and that preparations were sabotaged by Tony Blair's government's attempts to mislead the public.
They were so shocked by the lack of preparation for the aftermath of the invasion that they believe members of the British and US governments at the time could be prosecuted for war crimes by breaching the duty outlined in the Geneva Conventions to safeguard civilians in a conflict.
The lengths the Blair government took to conceal the invasion plan and the extent of military commanders' anger at what they call the government's ''appalling'' failures emerged as Sir John Chilcot, the inquiry's chairman, promised to produce a ''full and insightful'' account of how Britain was drawn into the conflict.
Fresh evidence indicates how Mr Blair misled MPs by claiming in 2002 the goal was ''disarmament, not regime change''. Documents show the government wanted to hide its true intentions by informing only ''very small numbers'' of officials.
The documents, leaked to London's Sunday Telegraph, are ''post-operational reports'' and ''lessons learned'' papers compiled by the army and its field commanders. The deep hostility of Britain's senior military commanders towards their US allies is also disclosed in the classified government documents leaked to the Telegraph.
In an interview for the Chilcot inquiry, Colonel J.K. Tanner, the British chief of staff in Iraq, described his US counterparts as ''a group of Martians'' for whom ''dialogue is alien''. He added: ''Despite our so-called 'special relationship', I reckon we were treated no differently to the Portuguese.''
Colonel Tanner's boss, Major-General Andrew Stewart, the top British operational commander in Iraq, told how ''a significant amount of my time'' had been spent ''evading'' and ''refusing'' orders from his US superiors.
At least once, according to the papers, General Stewart's refusal to obey an order resulted in Britain's ambassador to Washington, Sir David Manning, being called to the US State Department for a diplomatic reprimand - of the kind usually delivered to ''rogue states'' such as Zimbabwe.
One commander said the government ''missed a golden opportunity'' to win support from Iraqis. Another commented: ''It was not unlike 1750s colonialism where the military had to do everything ourselves.'' One, describing the supply chain, added: ''I know for a fact that there was one container full of skis in the desert.''
The ''lessons learned" report said: ''Never again must we send ill-equipped soldiers into battle.''
Significantly, the documents support what officials have earlier admitted - that the army was not allowed to prepare properly for the Iraq invasion in 2002 so as not to alert Parliament and the UN that Mr Blair was already determined to go to war.
Mr Blair had in effect promised the US president, George Bush, that he would join the US-led invasion when, as late as July 2002, he was denying to MPs that preparations were being made for military action.
Guardian News & Media;