But ex-PM insists UK was still right to invade Iraq
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair says he will take full responsibility for any mistakes amid the publication of the Chilcot report on British involvement in the 2003 US-led invasion in Iraq.
Blair nonetheless underscored that the report released yesterday supported positions that he has long held, including that he made no secret commitment to go to war at a meeting with former US President George Bush in April 2002.
Blair highlights there was no “falsification of intelligence”, though the inquiry found the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”.
Blair repeated his contention that it was “better to remove Saddam Hussein” than allow the Iraqi leader to stay in power. He said: “I do not believe this (Saddam’s removal) is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world.”
Retired civil servant John Chilcot, the head of Britain’s Iraq War inquiry, said in his damning report that the conflict was mounted on flawed intelligence, was executed with “wholly inadequate” planning, and ended “a long way from success”.
Chilcot, who oversaw the seven-year inquiry, said “the UK 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.
Chilcot said “the people of Iraq have suffered greatly” because of a military intervention “which went badly wrong”.
However, he refrained from saying whether the 2003 invasion was legal, and did not find that Blair and his government knowingly misled Parliament or the British public.
ANGER: Protesters posing yesterday as Tony Blair and George Bush and (below) Blair in Iraq in 2005