The Most Important Publication of 2016

Nope – it’s not Karl Ove Knausgaard’s Some Rain Must Fall or Annie Proulx’s epic novel Barkskins or even Zero K by the master, Don DeLillo. It’s not the timely tomes Rio de Janeiro by Luiz Eduardo Soares or The Games: A Global History of the Olympics by David Goldblatt. It’s not Postcapitalism by Paul Mason or Thomas Mallon’s biography of George W. Bush, although we’re getting warmer.

It’s the Chilcot Report.

Seven years in the making (that’s a deadline missed by six years), 12 volumes, 2.6 million-words. This  investigation into Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War is a massive and damning indictment of the British Government and particularly Tony Blair.

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The investigations were led by an unassuming former civil servant, Sir John Chilcot. His demeanor and prose style are calm, measured and bureaucratic – just the opposite of media hysterics – which only serves to accentuate the dreadful findings. No one can accuse Chilcot of stirring up trouble or of following a political agenda; the report was commissioned by the government, which means this is the establishment view.

The major conclusions are as follows: the intelligence used to justify the war to a skeptical public was deeply flawed; the supposed “national security threat” posed by Iraq was not proven; Bush and Blair had not exhausted all diplomatic options before going to war; and the post-war planning for Iraq was pretty much non-existent.

The report will not bring back the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives taken or ruined by the war, nor the lost lives of 4,982 US, British, and coalition soldiers, but at least we now have an honest, spin-free, historical record of how this utterly preventable tragedy came to pass.

The report, which is freely available online, is over 6000 pages. Future historians will pore over it and wonder how such mendacity and barbarity prevailed at the dawn of the 21st century.



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