(Photo: Creative Commons)
Sir John Chilcot may not have directly accused former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, of deliberating lying or being deceitful in leading Britain into invading Iraq with the US. But it was all buried away in his long overdue 6,275-page report. The former senior civil servant spelled out that the war was needless and Blair developed a “clever strategy” for regime change in Iraq, which would build over time.
“We have concluded that 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,” Chilcot damningly said in the opening statement of his meticulous findings. “There was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. The strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time. The majority of the UN Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring.”
Not only was Blair and his coerced Government discredited but the intelligence services were compromised too. Evidence “had NOT established beyond doubt” that Saddam was continuing to produce chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. The former premier himself “obscured” the nature of the threat by using the phrase WMD continually without explaining exactly what that meant, the report said.
As expected, the best kept secret that Blair told US President, George W Bush, “I will be with you whatever” was confirmed to be true. The notes between the two leaders lay bare how a path to war was being laid just hours after 9/11 attacks. Two years before the invasion, UK Prime Minister confided that it was “excellent to get rid of Saddam” but also cautioned “there needed to be a clever strategy for doing this… An extremely clever plan would be required.”
Much has already been revealed about the dodgy dossier incriminating Blair. The dossier was “designed to make the case and secure Parliamentary and public support for the government’s position” that urgent action was needed, the report said. Falsely it was “intended” to be “seen as the product” of the independent Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC).
Despite being warned explicitly by the JIC in early 2003 that an Iraq war would fuel terrorism they were not listened to. “Al Qaeda and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq.” The extent of the threat became far worse with the subsequent rise of the Daesh in Iraq and Syria.
The effects of the war were harrowing. In human terms, there were over 600,000 Iraqis killed with almost 4,500 American soldiers and 179 military from Britain. In financial terms, the cost was staggering with some estimates putting $3 trillion to cover US funding as well as the impact on the country’s budget and economy.
In response to the report, Blair apologised for any mistakes made, but refused to do so for the decision to go to war. It was made in “good faith,” he insisted. Conspiracy theories had “falsified” his position. He clung to his claim that it was better to have removed Saddam and that the hundreds of thousands that were killed did not die “in vain.”
Yet the testimony spelled out among the 2.6m words was that the threat posed by Iraq was grossly overstated based upon exaggerated intelligence at best and where British soldiers were sent to into battle ill-equipped and ill-prepared without any real plans for the aftermath.
From the personal experience of being at dozens of Downing Street briefings at the time and at the annual Labour Party Conference in Blackpool prior to the invasion, it can be said that the Prime Minister was obviously refusing to listen to any dissenting voices and warnings about what the consequences would be. The more than one million who protested in London also confirmed this.
It was contrived in so much that the British cabinet did not even see Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith’s full legal advice before the conflict and the fact that it was changed within days to try to justify the war as ‘legal.’ “Given the gravity of this decision, Cabinet should have been made aware of the legal uncertainties,” Chilcot said.
As part of his damning legacy, Blair destroyed what little trust was left in politicians and Government. What it shows is how far ministers are really unaccountable and a cynical lack of concern about grave human rights violations on such a massive scale. Whether or not the former Prime Minister is now a broken man, the decision to go to war was much worse than just being a poor judgment. No excuses can be acceptable.