AFTER SEVEN LONG YEARS, full verdict of chilcot NAILS former british pm
TONY BLAIR took Britain into war in Iraq before all “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted,” Sir John Chilcot said yesterday in the damning conclusion to his seven-year inquiry.
Campaigners frustrated by continued delays of the publication date had feared the final report could be an “Establishment whitewash” absolving Blair of major failings.
But the 2.6 million word report finally presented in London, to an audience which included families of the 179 British service people killed, was scathing about decisions taken by both the former PM and military commanders.
Speaking at the QE II conference hall where the inquiry had been held, Sir John said he found “military action at that time was not a last resort” and Saddam Hussein posed “no imminent threat” at the time of the invasion.
The report tore apart the credibility of the evidence of Iraq’s nuclear capabilities which were provided by the security services and said it was presented to Parliament “with a certainty that was not justified.”
The last Labour government’s policy on Iraq was made on the basis of “flawed intelligence and assessments,” he concluded.
The report confirmed that Blair had told former US president George W Bush: “I will be with you whatever” before “undermining the (UN)security council’s authority” by taking military action without the support of all members.
Sir John suggests generously that Blair “overestimated his ability to influence US decisions on Iraq.”
Blair expressed “sorrow, regret and apology” as he held court with the press for two hours after the report’s publication.
But he insisted he had done the “right thing” and said the world was a “better place” without Saddam Hussein.
While Blair accepted the report contained “serious criticisms,” he said it showed Parliament was not misled, there was no secret commitment to war, intelligence was not falsified and the decision was made in “good faith.”
But University of Westminster academic Dr Aidan Hehir describes his record of events as “preposterous” and said he was “engaged in wilful deception” at the time.
Green MP Caroline Lucas went further, saying he “lied to Parliament and the public to invade Iraq.”
And Stop the War said: “It is clear that he used lies and deception to get his way, that the war was unnecessary and illegal and that everything was done to ensure it went ahead.”
The report also criticised the Ministry of Defence for being too slow to respond to the threat of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) to troops and in supplying better-protected patrol vehicles.
The consequences of the invasion were “underestimated” and the preparation for Iraq after deposing the dictator were “were wholly inadequate,” it added.
In summary, Sir John said: “The government failed to achieve its stated objectives.”