Chilcot Report Suggests Forces Were Ill Equipped For Iraq War

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The Law Of... pursuing justice for the fallen

With the long-awaited inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War finally being published to the public, Anna Thompson – Legal Manager for Multi-Track PI at Simpson Millar – looks at how the findings of the Chilcot Report could help injured soldiers and the families of those killed during the 8-year conflict gain access to justice.


Seven Years Of Waiting

The Iraq Enquiry – more commonly referred to as the Chilcot Report – commenced in 2009, with the express goal of identifying lessons that could be learned from the Iraq conflict.

After a series of delays, mainly caused by ongoing political developments, the report unveiled some of the key failings by the government in the lead up to, and during, Britain's involvement in the Iraq War.

For soldiers seriously injured in the conflict, and for the families of soldiers that were killed in Iraq, the 7 years of waiting has only dragged out their suffering.

During the 7 year period the families of soldiers killed in Iraq even came together to threaten a judicial review into the inquiry, as a publication date continued to remain unconfirmed and dates for a confirmation were repeatedly pushed back.

After a period of uncertainty that must have been physically and emotionally draining for all involved, the published report finally goes some way to answering the questions about the nature of the conflict, which began with the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Encompassing a multitude of subjects, ranging from the justification for war to the so called 'special relationship' between the USA and the UK, one of the main focuses for the families of those killed – and for those injured – in the conflict was how well-equipped the Armed Forces were for the conflict.

Questions Over Military Equipment

Questions over equipment have arisen a number of times in the recent history of the British Armed Forces, reaching back to the early 1990's with NATO missions during the Bosnian war.

With shocking figures released the same year as the invasion of Iraq (2003) revealing that more than half of the soldiers in the British Army paid for their own kit, because standard-issue equipment was inadequate, there was an expectation that poor equipment contributed to some soldiers losing their lives or becoming seriously injured during the Iraq War.

The problem of 'inadequate kit' has been an issue since the inquiry began, as a British ex-commander spoke out about the lack of resources and the danger posed by sub-standard gear in the military campaign in Afghanistan.

Anna herself explains how these previous equipment issues could have affected troops, as she explains:

"Having been a wife to a soldier who served during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts, I am well aware of the struggles the forces faced in the 1990s."

As many of those closely following the report expected, there was an admission in Chilcot's Report that the Army was not adequately prepared for war, and that there were gaps in key equipment.

The findings that may be particularly difficult to read for the families of those killed in the conflict are as follows:

  • There was "little time" for the Army to properly prepare for deployment in Iraq
  • Ministers failed to "properly identify" the risks involved in the conflict, which led to "equipment shortfalls"
  • For the first 6 years of the conflict, from 2003 to 2009, British Armed Forces in Iraq faced key capability gaps, namely in armoured vehicles, reconnaissance and intelligence assets, and helicopter support – it was not clear at the time who in the MoD had responsibility for articulating such gaps
  • Future decisions on British involvement in armed conflicts should feature more robust debate and more should be done to ensure that both civilian and military arms of the government are properly equipped for conflicts

Hearing definitive evidence on the fact that the British Army were unprepared and under-equipped for the conflict will confirm the worst fears of the families of those killed, as they will undoubtedly feel that their deaths could have been avoided if adequate equipment was provided.

Some of the injured soldiers and families of those killed in the conflict may have been waiting for hard evidence that equipment was inadequate for over a decade, for those this report is only the first step on the path to justice, as Anna explains:

"The results of this inquiry, which commenced in 2009 and were finally released today, show that the government was not prepared well enough to proceed to war in Iraq."

"Since 2003 and earlier the media has been flooded with stories of injured soldiers, and the families of soldiers who were killed whilst serving their country, who complained that the kit and equipment they were issued with were insufficient for the job they were expected to do."

"I would expect now a number of injured soldiers and families of those serving soldiers sadly killed as a result of this conflict to now look to pursue justice."

Ill-Equipped For War

With the ruling that the British Army were ill-equipped for the conflict in Iraq the families of those killed – as well as the soldiers who were seriously injured – now have backing from an independent body to seek damages against the government.

While compensation will not undo any of the tragedies of the Iraq War, it could go some way of adding a semblance of closure to those that have been emotionally tied to a scenario that has played out for over a decade.

The consequences of an under-prepared Army goes beyond those physically injured, as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), could be rife amongst soldiers who were serving with kit and equipment that they knew were inadequate for their job.

Anna explains how PTSD could be a considering during any settlement from the Army as a result of the Chilcot Report:

"The fact that soldiers had to go to war without the correct equipment must have been terrifying and could have contributed to PTSD."

"Symptoms of PTSD range from nightmares and hallucinations to anxiety and inability to control emotions."

"PTSD is more recognised in the USA, however it is a prominent issue facing British veterans as well, even if the MoD seem reluctant to accept the extent of the condition."

"Official statistics from the MoD claim that only 2.9% of serving soldiers and veterans in the British Army suffer from PTSD – this figure is lower than the rates amongst the general population."

Claiming For Gross Negligence

The case for claiming against the government and the Armed Forces will change depending on the circumstances of a soldier's death or injury, however the fact that Chilcot's Report makes direct reference to the Army being unprepared for the war in Iraq highlights the prevalence of the issue across the Armed Forces.

While every case will be different, it is likely that the findings from this report will see the government and Armed Forces offering settlements to those affected, especially as this report adds so much weight to the claims of those looking for justice from the Iraq War.

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