Families fear Chilcot 'whitewash' ahead of Iraq war report publication


The long-awaited official inquiry report into Britain's bitterly contested invasion of Iraq will finally be published today amid calls for Tony Blair to be held to account for taking the country to war.

Thirteen years after British troops crossed into Iraq and seven years after the inquiry began work, Sir John Chilcot will deliver his verdict on the UK's most controversial military engagement of the post-war era.

The former Whitehall mandarin has said from the outset he would not rule on whether the invasion in 2003 was legal in terms of international law, pledging to provide a "full and insightful" account of the decision-making process.

Sir John Chilcot
(David Cheskin/PA)

But that is unlikely to quell the clamour for some form of legal action against the former prime minister if - as many expect - he is strongly criticised by Sir John and his inquiry panel.

Relatives of some of the Britons killed in the Iraq war have arrived in London as their wait for answers over the conflict entered its final hours. Families insisted they have not been told what is in Sir John's historic report.

The report is due to be unveiled by Sir John at the Queen Elizabeth II centre in Westminster.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair (right) alongside former US President George Bush
(Fiona Hanson/PA)

Mark Thompson, whose son, Private Kevin Thompson, 21, from Lancaster, died in 2007 from injuries he suffered when his truck was attacked in Basra, said he felt "nervous" ahead of the publication.

He told the Press Association: "We've all been told nothing. We know just as much as you do. It's nerve-wracking for all the families. It is going to be very nervous because none of us know what to expect."

Thompson added: "There's not a lot to say, really, because it's going to take a long time to get through it all."

The long-awaited report will be boycotted by relatives of some of the 179 Britons killed in the conflict, who fear it will be a "whitewash".

Royal Scots Dragoon Guards taking a break after a night of fighting in Southern Iraq

Master Engineer Gary Nicholson, 42, from Hull, was one of 10 servicemen who died when their Hercules C-130 aircraft was shot down in 2005.

His mother Julia said: "It will be a whitewash. I'm absolutely disgusted. I'm not going because it will be a whitewash. Tony Blair has got blood on his hands. He will have covered his back and (George) Bush's back."

Janice Procter, whose son, Private Michael Tench, 18, from Sunderland, was one of the youngest British soldiers to die in Iraq when he was killed in 2007, said: "It's been horrendous, I'm very apprehensive about this. This man (Blair) has put 179 kids to the slaughter - there's no justice. It (the report) is not going to give me any closure or comfort."

She added: "I'm not going down on the day, I'm not going to waste two hours of my life reading it."

British troops from the 2nd Battalion Light Infantry during an evening patrol
(David Cheskin/PA)

The father of Lieutenant Alexander Tweedie, 25, from Hawick in the Scottish borders who died in 2003, said he expected the report to be damning of Tony Blair.

Gavin Tweedie said: "I'm hoping that Tony Blair is heavily criticised but more than that I don't know what to expect. I think he (Mr Blair) will be but we have to wait and see."

Tweedie said he was unable to make the trip to London but had asked for a copy of the report to be sent to him and his wife.

Sir John Chilcot
(Matt Dunham/PA)

Sarah O'Connor, whose brother, Sergeant Bob O'Connor, was killed in action when his Hercules plane was shot down in 2005, said the length of time it had taken to complete the report made "a mockery of the inquiry system".

She said: "For many people this has been - from the first knock on the door - that next step. But it has taken so long. At the beginning, Sir John came around to the families and said we were at the forefront of the investigation. I had such faith in this process.

"But it has been like the toner cartridge in a printer. What has started off strong and bold has now become just a faint line. The length of time it has taken to get this has made a mockery of the inquiry system - for Iraq, for Rotherham... Anybody who has found themselves on either side of the scales, this has taken too long. It's been a farce."