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TONY Blair needs to be held to account for leading Britain into the Iraq war, a bereaved Hampshire mother has said.
Sally Veck, whose Army medic daughter Eleanor Dlugosz was killed in Iraq war aged just 19, spoke out after being told what she had suspected, that the decision to take them into the conflict was based on flawed intelligence that was not properly challenged.
In a highly critical report Sir John Chilcot yesterday laid bare the failings at almost every level from the quality of intelligence, to the way the information was presented as a case to go to war, how badly equipped the army were to cope with it and the lack of any clear strategy post-invasion.
Outlining “equipment shortfalls”, Sir John said : “There was little time to prepare three brigades and the risks were neither properly identified nor fully exposed to Ministers.”
Mrs Veck sat in the London conference room with other bereaved families and listened as Sir John delivered a summary of the report which was also highly critical of the lack of post war planning, concluding: “The scale of the UK effort in post-conflict Iraq never matched the scale of the challenge.
“Whitehall departments and their Ministers failed to put collective weight behind the task.”
Back at her Meon Valley home she said: “I am just relieved, that is all I feel. Relieved that we finally heard what we all thought. I am so glad it wasn’t all swept under the carpet.”
She said she now intended to study the full findings of the report which runs to 12 volumes, but said she was with other bereaved families that would be seeking legal action against Tony Blair.
“He was responsible, he was in charge, he has got to be accountable and face up to what happened.”
Mr Blair said that he took “full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse” but said that he hoped people would respect his decision and judgement based on the information he had at that time.
But that didn’t stop criticism over Mr Blair’s handling of the decision to go to war.
New Forest East MP Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said: “It seems to me that the report finds that the Prime Minister of the day over sold the strength of the intelligence that was available.
“He seems to have made up his mind that he wanted a particular result and exaggerated the evidence in order to get it .”
Of the lack of preparation for the armed forces, identified in the report, Dr Lewis said: “It is always the case that we spend less on defence in peace time and therefore when conflict arise, usually unexpectedly, our armed forces often have to fight with inadequate resources and equipment.”
He added that politicians and the public had to accept that when faced with a decision of whether to go to war to topple a dictatorship, the public and politicians had to accept that “there would be no good outcome”
John Denham, the former Labour MP for Southampton Itchen, who resigned from the government in protest at the decision to go to war, said: “I think it has been confirmed really what we already knew that this was a bad decision.
“The government conduct throughout shows up a lot of flaws around the decision making with key decisions not being properly scrutinised or recorded “It appears that post invasion plans were just as much of a shambles as the decision to go to war.
“The challenges of post Iraq development were not properly dealt with and the report suggests our attitude was that it appeared to be somebody else’s job.”
TIMELINE: Hampshire soldiers killed in Iraq
March 2003: Staff Sergeant Chris Muir, 32, of Romsey, Hampshire. Army School of Ammunition, Royal Logistic Corps. Army Staff Sergeant Muir was the third British bomb disposal specialist to die in Iraq, during an operation to dismantle munitions.
Sept 2004: Corporal Marc Taylor, 27, of Ellesmere port but based in Winchester, was one of two soldiers killed when their convoy came under fire on the outskirts of Basra.
January 2005: Acting Lance Corporal Steven Jones, 25 of Fareham, Hampshire. Royal Signals. Lance Corporal Steven Jones, 25, was one of ten servicemen killed in an RAF Hercules crash Feb 2006: Captain Richard Holmes, 28 of Winchester. 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment. Captain Holmes was one of two soldiers killed instantly when an improvised bomb went off next to his armoured Land-Rover in the southern city of Al Amarah.
Nov 2006: Corporal Ben Nowak, 27, 45 Commando Royal Marines. Born in Liverpool, his father Jim lives in Bursledon. He was one of four military personnel who were killed on the Shatt al-Arab River near Basra when a makeshift explosive was detonated by remote control as their boat passed underneath.
April 2007: Private Eleanor Dlugosz, 19, of Southampton. Royal Army Medical Corps. Army medic Pte Duglosz, from Swanmore, was killed when the armoured Warrior vehicle she was travelling in was hit by a bomb blast.
June 2007: Major Paul Harding, 48, of Winchester. 4th Battalion, The Rifles. Died in a mortar attack in Basra. He was one of the Army’s most experienced soldiers, with 30 years service in the Royal Green Jackets and The Rifles.