Three heavy boxes of documents delivered to Karen Thornton’s door have provided some of the answers the grieving mother has been looking for over the last decade.
The publication of the long awaited Chilcot Report has come as a relief to Mrs Thornton, whose son Lee was killed in Iraq in 2006.
She and other families of the 179 British service personnel killed in the conflict are now waiting to hear from their team of lawyers looking into whether former Prime Minister Tony Blair or anyone else should face legal charges over Britain’s disastrous invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Mrs Thornton, of South Shore, was speaking on the day she received her copy of the 2.6 million word, 12-volume report which began with an inquiry in 2009.
She said the weighty document was delivered to her door in three boxes.
Like many families, she had been waiting anxiously for its publication for too long, but were relieved and pleased when it came out last week.
Now, as the dust settles on last week’s stinging Chilcot report, she said: “To be honest we were expecting a whitewash so we were relieved when it came out the way it has.
“It is quite truthful. At the end of the day it says what the families had been saying all along. Tony Blair had exaggerated any evidence of weapons of mass destruction to make his case for going to war.
“I did not think at the time we should have gone in to Iraq. We had not exhausted the alternatives.
“There was no immediate threat, He agreed with George Bush you could see that from the written assurance he gave to Bush ‘I will be with you whatever,’ most people at the time thought that. Tony Blair was trying to make a case for war.”
She said besides the terrible decision to fight the war Mrs Thornton criticised the incompetence of the army and government in not giving the service personnel the equipment they needed to do their job safely.
She said: “At the time Lee told me they were having to borrow each other’s armoured vests when they went out on patrol and their boots were melting on the ground out there.
“The snatch Land Rovers they patrolled in were not fit for purpose.
“I think Tony Blair is directly to blame for what happened to Lee. If it was not for the lies he told, Lee would still be here today.
“The families are hoping to have their day in court now with him.
“Lawyers are working with the families to find a way to bring Tony Blair or whoever was to blame to account.”
She said although Tony Blair did apologise in a speech after the Chilcot report was unveiled, she said that would never be enough. That is not going to bring Lee or the other sons and daughters who were lost back. We have to learn the lessons from this.
“We must make sure the Government never makes this kind of mistake again. I don’t know how he got away with it.”
Mrs Thornton said she felt sorry too for the people of Iraq who were left with a devastated country riven with terrorism and danger.
She said: “To leave Iraq in the state it is in is just awful.
“More than 100,000 Iraqi people, innocent people, were killed. The country is in a mess all these years later.
“It is heartbreaking to think that Lee died in vain. They achieved nothing in Iraq. Lee loved his time in the Royal Artillery but while he was serving in Iraq he said he was thinking of coming out of the army. He wrote diaries and wrote that in them.”
She said he had become disillusioned with the war there due to the situation they found themselves in. She said many of the Iraqi people the troops had gone in to help had turned on them since and had been throwing stones at them.
Mrs Thornton said: “Lee just wanted to make a difference but he saw that was not happening.”
Gunner Lee was killed in September 2006 on his second tour of duty while serving with 58 (Eyre’s) Battery, 12th Regiment Royal Artillery. He bravely volunteered to go out on patrol a day after the Regiment had lost two gunners to a roadside bomb the day before. He died from a single gunshot wound while on patrol in the town of Al Qurna, north of Basra.
Lee’s brothers Sean and Jake both joined the army after Lee. Sean was in the same regiment and is now based in Winchester teaching recruits.
Jake left the forces earlier this year. She said she was there with other families who lost loved ones in London when the report was unveiled and were in the room when Sir John Chilcot addressed the world’s press at 9am last Wednesday. She said at the time they all felt it was rightly critical of the Blair government, the mistaken premise for going to war, the lack of planning and the results and was far more damning than they expected.
“I was sitting right in front of him. I listened to his speech. We were given a summary of his report and a copy of his speech at 8am beforehand and we had chance to go through it quickly. The families were all very tense, they all felt it was such an important moment. We were all just glad that the truth finally has come out. It was not Chilcot’s job to apportion blame just to look into the facts and he has done that.”
She added: “We all miss Lee so much but nothing is ever going to bring him back.”