Sir John Chilcot says Tony Blair wasn't 'straight' over Iraq
On the anniversary of his landmark report, Sir John Chilcot said the former Prime Minister had acted on “belief” rather than “fact” in making decisions that led to the 2003 conflict.
The inquiry chairman said Mr Blair had been “emotionally truthful” in setting out his justifications for going to war during the seven year inquiry, but said he didn’t believe he had been “straight”.
“I think any prime minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her,” he told the BBC. “I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.”
A spokesman for Mr Blair said that “all these issues” had been dealt with.
The Chilcot Report found that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein posed ‘’no imminent threat’’ at the time of the invasion of his country in 2003, and the war was fought on the basis of “flawed” intelligence.
The report concluded “that the judgments about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, WMD, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
It also revealed that prior to the Commons vote authorising military force in Iraq, the then-Prime Minister had sent a message to US President George Bush saying: “I will be with you whatever”.
While giving evidence to the inquiry, Mr Blair denied he had taken the country to war on the basis of a “lie” over Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
The SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman Stephen Gethins MP said Sir John’s comments were a “damning” assessment of Mr Blair’s evidence to the inquiry.
“There must be accountability for the actions that led to the UK’s biggest foreign policy mistake in recent history,” Mr Gethins said.
“A mistake that we continue to live with as do millions of Iraqis who have seen their country blighted by terror and conflict.
“The decisions taken by the UK government led the country into a war that has caused the deaths of 179 UK armed forces personnel and almost 200,000 Iraqi civilians, and it led the world into the nightmare of instability in the Middle East.
“We must have accountability - and confidence that such grave mistakes cannot happen again.”
Before the general election, a group of MPs including Alex Salmond had been seeking to bring Mr Blair before the House of Commons to face claims that he misled parliament.
In a now infamous claim, Mr Blair told MPs that Saddam Hussein was developing weapons of mass destruction, and later said intelligence showed they could be deployed within 45 minutes.
Sir John’s report found Mr Blair presented the case for war with “a certainty which was not justified” based on “flawed” intelligence about the country’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) which was not challenged as it should have been.
Following the report’s publication, Mr Blair said that, while the Chilcot Report contained “serious criticisms”, it showed “there were no lies, Parliament and the Cabinet were not misled, there was no secret commitment to war, intelligence was not falsified and the decision was made in good faith”.