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News Release 6 July 2016
Overlooked parts of Chilcot Report suggest military commanders share blame for war
The Chilcot Report raises questions over the role of armed forces leaders in the run-up to the Iraq war, suggesting they lobbied for a greater UK role in the invasion.
Drawing attention to overlooked parts of the report after it was released today, the Peace Pledge Union (PPU) said that the armed forces, as well as politicians, must be held to account. The PPU is the UK's leading pacifist network.
Despite John Chilcot’s criticisms of the Blair government, he said when launching his report this morning that the armed forces deserve “our gratitude and respect”.
However, the Chilcot Report itself suggests that armed forces leaders recommended a large UK contribution to the invading force. It states that, “The primary impetus to maximise the size of the UK contribution and the recommendations on its composition came from the armed forces.” (Executive Summary, paragraph 811).
The report suggest this request may have come directly from Admiral Michael Boyce, then Chief of the Defence Staff (Section 6.1, paragraph 968).
The report also states that armed forces culture prevented “truth from reaching senior ears” (Executive Summary, paragraph 863).
The PPU said that commanders who issued orders to invade Iraq should be condemned, not praised. The PPU has long urged forces personnel to refuse orders to fight.
The PPU is one of Britain’s longest running peace organisations. Its early members included Jack Straw’s father, Arthur Straw, who was imprisoned for refusing to fight in the second world war.
Symon Hill, Co-ordinator of the Peace Pledge Union, said:
“We are pleased to see John Chilcot drawing attention to the flimsiness of Tony Blair's case for war. But Blair did not invade Iraq single-handedly. Blair could ignore the British public because he knew soldiers would do what they were told. If we are to learn lessons from the Iraq war, let's recognise that democracy is not served by the existence of a large body of people who are required to obey orders without question, even orders to kill.
"No institution should be immune from criticism. The armed forces - rooted in violence, hierarchy and the recruitment of vulnerable teenagers - must be challenged.”
Notes to editors
The PPU is a UK-based pacifist network whose members pledge not to support war and to work instead for the removal of the causes of war. The PPU’s work includes challenging militarism, promoting active nonviolence, providing educational resources on peace and encouraging remembrance for all the victims of war. Founded in 1934, the PPU is the oldest secular pacifist organisation in the UK.
The PPU is known for its production of White Poppies, which were worn by around 110,000 people in 2015.
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Symon Hill on 020 7424 9444.