Report slams Blair over botched Iraq war
LONDONBritain’s decision to go to war in Iraq was a failure born of flawed intelligence, lack of foresight and “wholly inadequate” planning, an official inquiry concluded July 6 in a report seven years in the making, while also slamming the then-Prime Minister Tony Blair for his role in this decision.
Retired civil servant John Chilcot, who oversaw the inquiry, said “the U.K. chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted. Military action at that time was not a last resort.”
The 2.6-million-word report is an exhaustive verdict on a divisive conflict that - by the time British combat forces left in 2009 - had killed 179 British troops, almost 4,500 American personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
Meanwhile, the report revealed that Blair told then-U.S. President George W. Bush eight months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq “I will be with you, whatever.
The report strongly criticized Blair on a range of issues, saying the threat posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction had been over-hyped and the planning for the aftermath of war had been inadequate.
Blair responded that he had taken the decision to go to war “in good faith,” that he still believed it was better to remove Saddam, and that he did not see that action as the cause of terrorism today, in the Middle East or elsewhere.
“The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong. The aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined,” the former prime minister, looking gaunt and strained, told reporters.
“For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you will ever know.”
The only Labour prime minister to win three general elections, Blair was in office for 10 years until 2007 and was hugely popular in his heyday, but Iraq has severely tarnished his reputation and legacy.
The inquiry report, about three times the length of the Bible, stopped short of saying the war was illegal, a stance that is certain to disappoint Blair’s many critics.
“We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory,” said John Chilcot, the inquiry’s chairman, in a speech presenting his findings.