A bloody shambles: Blair didn’t tell truth about WMDs, didn’t tell truth about deal with Bush, and didn’t the truth about warnings of fallout– how Britain went to war in Iraq
Chilcot report: Tony Blair convinced himself Iraq had WMDs – but intelligence ‘did not justify’ his certainty
Damning conclusion finds former Prime Minister deliberately blurred lines between what he believed and what he knew
Andy McSmith, Charlie Cooper
Tony Blair convinced himself that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though the secret intelligence reports he had been shown “did not justify” his certainty, Sir John Chilcot concluded.
In a direct contradiction to what Mr Blair asserted to the Iraq Inquiry, Sir John found that he and George W Bush were made fully aware of the risk the country could descend into sectarian violence after the fall of Saddam Hussein, yet went to war regardless.
The issue of whether the then Prime Minister lied to Parliament to justify the UK’s involvement in the invasion of Iraq has been a source of damaging controversy for more than 13 years.
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And while Sir John did not use the word “lie” – in fact his report specified that it “is not questioning” that Mr Blair believed in those non-existent WMDs – his damning conclusion is that the former Prime Minister deliberately blurred the distinction between what he believed and what he actually knew.
Sir John said the risks of internal strife, regional instability and the burgeoning of al-Qaeda in Iraq “were each explicitly identified”, yet planning and preparations for Iraq after Hussein were “wholly inadequate”.
He also criticised intelligence chiefs for allowing the Prime Minister to get away with misrepresenting what they had told him when he presented his now notorious dossier to the House of Commons in September 2002.
“The judgements about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and in the dossier published the same day, were presented with a certainty that was not justified,” he said.
“The Joint Intelligence Committee should have made clear to Mr Blair that the assessed intelligence had not established ‘beyond doubt’ either that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued.” …
Sir John’s report damningly added that as the prospect loomed that the US was going to invade Iraq whatever the British decided, the intelligence chiefs gave “no consideration” to the possibility that Saddam Hussein was – for once –telling the truth when he said that his regime had destroyed all the chemical weapons it possessed and used in the 1980s.
During August 2002, Tony Blair became worried about speculation that the US and UK had decided to invade Iraq but were not telling the public. His response to that pressure was to present Parliament with the dossier summarising the available intelligence, and a foreword in which he put his own interpretation on what he believed it meant. His foreword included the discredited claim that “military planning allows for some of the WMDs to be ready within 45 minutes of an order to use them.”
According to the Chilcot report: “The deliberate selection of a formulation which grounded the statement in what Mr Blair believed, rather than in the judgements which the JIC had actually reached in its assessment of the intelligence indicates a distinction between his beliefs and the JIC’s actual judgements.
“The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons.
“Nor had the assessed intelligence established beyond doubt that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued… The dossier made clear that, as long as sanctions remained effective, Iraq could not produce a nuclear weapon.”
The Iraq government announced in November 2002 – four months before the invasion – that it no longer had any weapons of mass destruction, but Mr Blair refused to believe it. Speaking on the telephone to President George W. Bush the following month he said that the Iraqi declaration was “patently false” and that he was “cautiously optimistic” that weapons inspectors would be able to prove that the Iraqis were lying. Two days later, he issued a statement saying that “this obvious falsehood” meant that Saddam Hussein had “rejected the pathway to peace.”
Sir John’s report concluded: “The decision to use force – a very serious decision for any government to take – provoked profound controversy in relation to Iraq and became even more controversial when it was subsequently found that Iraq’s programmes to develop and produce chemical, biological and nuclear weapons had been dismantled. It continues to shape debates on national security policy.
“Although the coalition had achieved the removal of a brutal regime which had defied the United Nations and which was seen as a threat to peace and security, it failed to achieve the goals it had set for a new Iraq.”
From September 2002, six months before the invasion, Foreign Office and intelligene reports raised the alarm that the war would create an “easier environment for terrorists” and the destabilisation of the country.
An FCO paper on Islamism in Iraq, shared with the Americans in December 2002, even foreshadowed the rise of extremist groups like Isis which went on to exploit the chaos of post-war Iraq.
It warned that it was likely groups would be looking for “identities and ideologies on which to base movements” and anticipated that a number of emergent extremist groups would use violence to pursue political ends.
Isis, which 11 years after the invasion declared a caliphate in Iraq, remains in control of vast swathes of the country, including its second city Mosul. The group claimed responsibility for Sunday’s bombing in Baghdad, the death toll of which has now risen to 250– the worst such attack since the invasion in 2003.
“Mr Blair told the inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance,” Sir John said, as he released the report in London on Wednesday morning.
“We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and al Qaeda activity in Iraq, were explicitly identified before the invasion.”
Chilcot Report: Bereaved families say Tony Blair is ‘the world’s worst terrorist’ and we want to see him in court. Relatives of servicepeople killed in Iraq are looking to use the report as the basis for legal action – with Tony Blair one of their main targets: here.