Sir Mike’s anger is particularly directed at Donald Rumsfeld who he considers "intellectually bankrupt". He accuses Rumsfeld of being "one of those most responsible for the current situation in Iraq" for his refusal to deploy enough troops to maintain law and order after the collapse of Saddam's regime, and for discarding detailed plans for the post-conflict administration of Iraq that had been drawn up by the US State Department.
Sir Mike views failure of the US-led coalition to suppress the Iraqi insurgency was down to the Pentagon's refusal to deploy enough troops. A combined force of 400,000 would be needed to control a country the size of Iraq, but even with the extra troops recently deployed for the US military's "surge" the coalition has struggled to reach half that figure. Furthermore the decision to hand control of the post-invasion running of Iraq to the Pentagon meant that "All the planning carried out by the State Department went to waste." For Mr Rumsfeld and his neo-conservative supporters "it was an ideological article of faith that the coalition forces would be accepted as a liberating army. Once you had decapitated Saddam Hussein's regime, a model democratic society would inevitably emerge."
He and other senior British officers were opposed to the Pentagon's decision to disband the Iraqi army after Saddam's overthrow, a decision he says "was very short-sighted … We should have kept the Iraqi security services in being and put them under the command of the coalition." He also reveals that he and other senior officers had doubts about the weapons of mass destruction dossier presented by the Blair government in late 2002. "Its release caused a stir in military circles", particularly the suggestion that the UK could face a threat of attack at 45 minutes' notice. "We all knew that it was impossible for Iraq to threaten the UK mainland. Saddam's Scud missiles could barely have reached our bases on Cyprus, and certainly no more distant target."
However he was satisfied about the legality of invading Iraq by careful study of the relevant UN Security Council resolutions and concluded that action was "legitimate under international law without a 'second' resolution. "Having had some part to play in putting Slobodan Milosevic into a cell in The Hague, I had no wish to be his next-door neighbour."
This is powerful stuff and a damning indictment on US policy in Iraq coming from someone who would have been intimately involved in the invasion of Iraq. It is clear that his criticisms are aimed, not at the invasion itself – he supported the action or at least considered it legal – but the way in which the government of Iraq, post-invasion, was handled. It certainly does not besmirch the memory of those who have lost their lives in Iraq over the last four years.
I would have once thought it unusual for an officer in his position to be so outspoken. However, Sir Mike’s successor, Sir Richard Dannatt went on record last year saying “The point that I'm trying to make is the mere fact that we are still in some places exacerbates violence from those who want to destabilise Iraqi democracy”. In a different field, retired general Lord Ramsbotham was certainly independently minded during his tenure as Chief Inspector of Prisons.