TODAY the Chilcot inquiry into Britain's decision to join the United States in going to war against Iraq will have sat for one year, although that period includes a break for the general election. The supply of relevant witnesses must be near an end. That is not to say that recent testimony has not been important. Hans Blix, the former UN weapons inspector who was a key figure in 2003, gave evidence that he had at one point advised Tony Blair that Saddam Hussein might be harbouring weapons of mass destruction. But he did not change his view that his inspectors were refused the time they needed to clarify the situation on the ground in Iraq. France wanted a delay in US-UK action to make this possible but Mr Blair knew that President Bush already had a deadline by which the invasion must begin.

Another recent witness addressed the consequences of the war. Lady Manningham Buller, the former director-general of MI5, was clear that the invasion of Iraq had radicalised young members of the British Muslim community; as a matter of common sense it is difficult to see how the outcome could have been otherwise. It is important now that the Chilcot team should deliver its report at the earliest possible while most of the principal actors are still on the stage -- consistent, of course, with good judgement and fairness about a war whose true outcome is still not clear.


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