The final judgement

Now we finally know what we had long suspected. When US and British forces invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein had no chemical weapons; he had no biological weapons; he had no nuclear weapons. In fact, he had no banned weapons at all. That is the considered judgement of the Iraq Survey Group, set up by President Bush to prove his case for removing the Iraqi dictator, and released in Washington last night.

The ISG report proves precisely the opposite. The much-maligned international regime of weapons containment had functioned exactly as it was supposed to. After his failed effort to annex Kuwait, Saddam Hussein was progressively disarmed.

Establishing this truth has required half a dozen top-level inquiries on either side of the Atlantic, the spending of millions of dollars and pounds, the dispatch of hundreds of UN weapons inspectors over the years, and - since the removal of Saddam Hussein - the work of 1,200 inspectors who scoured the country under the auspices of the US-directed Iraq Survey Group.

Oh yes, and it took a war, a war in which thousands of Iraqis, more than 1,000 Americans and more than 100 British and soldiers of other nationalities have died. Iraq is a devastated country that risks sliding into anarchy. And what has it all been for?

After the war officially ended, President Bush and his chief ally, Tony Blair, kept telling us to wait patiently for the ISG to report. In that time, they have changed their story many times over, editing the words, trimming the sense for the possibility that the threat might not have been as great as they had thought.

Perhaps there were no weapons, Mr Bush said, but he would have gone to war anyway. Even if there were no actual stockpiles, Mr Blair and his ministers said, there were "weapons programmes". Last week, the programmes themselves evaporated. Mr Blair told us (almost) straight the intelligence was wrong. "I can apologise for the information that turned out to be wrong," he said, without actually doing so, "but I can't sincerely, at least, apologise for removing Saddam."

Mr Bush's case for war is also unravelling. His Defence Secretary let slip this week that there was no "hard evidence" for a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qa'ida. The second US viceroy of Iraq, Paul Bremer, said US troop numbers had been grossly inadequate for the job they had to do. Troop numbers had been an ideological decision.

Now that the ISG has reported, it is clear beyond doubt that Iraq's deadly weapons capacity boiled down to a glint, if that, in Saddam Hussein's eye. In one of the more shameless examples of pre-emptive "spinning", even from this Government so addicted to "spin", the Foreign Secretary told us yesterday that, "the report highlights the nature of the threat from Saddam in terms of his intentions and capabilities in even starker terms than we have seen before". Try parsing that. Try translating it into plain English.

The ISG report tells us in no uncertain terms that the invasion of Iraq was grounded in little more substantial than figments of a fevered, post-11 September, imagination. The international "consensus" that Saddam Hussein constituted a global threat was incorrect. So much for UN Resolution 1441 that gave the US and Britain their spurious excuse for war.

There was a failure of intelligence, on either side of the Atlantic, of historic proportions, the reasons for which need to be identified as a matter of urgency. More gravely, though, there was a historic failure of judgement on the part of a small group of national leaders. Trust us, they told us. They were credulous, they failed to consult broadly enough, they failed to exercise due responsibility - and they were wrong.

Spanish voters have already given their verdict on the judgement of their former prime minister. Australians have their chance this weekend. Americans should use their vote in less than four weeks' time to express their disgust with a President who rushed their country into so unnecessary and damaging a war. We British will probably have to wait at least until next year.

In the meantime, the very least that Mr Blair should offer is a full apology. An apology for asking us to trust him so unconditionally. An apology for the lives of the British servicemen and the Iraqis that have been so needlessly lost. An apology for his judgement that turned out to be so flawed on a matter so crucial as peace and war. The final verdict will then rest, as it should, with the voters.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £10,000 Uncapped - Part Time

£7500 - £10000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness chai...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer - 2nd & 3rd Line

£25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The IT Support Engineer is needed to ass...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Officer

£15000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: It's an exciting time for this ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Mid Software Developer

£22000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones