Louise Kettle
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The Chilcot inquiry
Political-legal tensions in going to war and the art of the possible for the Public Record
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On 17 March 2003 the British government, under the leadership of Prime Minister Tony Blair, agreed to join a coalition of thirty-eight other countries in an invasion of Iraq. The coalition’s mission, with the United States taking the lead, was to topple the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, destroy the threat of weapons of mass destruction and bring peace, security and democracy to the Iraqi people. It was one of Britain’s biggest national security decisions of the twenty-first century. From the very beginning, the decision to go to war had been controversial. There was considerable media criticism, Cabinet resignations and large-scale street protests. Under significant political pressure, the then Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, announced the establishment of the Iraq Inquiry, one month before British combat forces left Iraq. This chapter examines the events surrounding the Iraq Inquiry. It discusses the rationale for the establishment of the inquiry, the challenges and significance of the inquiry for the Public Record and its impact on the subsequent historiography of the Iraq War. In addition this chapter uses the official and historical records gathered by the inquiry to demonstrate some of the competing political-legal tensions in planning a war. Finally, it warns of the current gaps and biases that exist in the Public Record on the war in Iraq and finishes by offering some reflections on the challenges related to placing information related to national security into the Public Record.

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The Official Record

Oversight, national security and democracy

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