[The result amounts to a broad indictment of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war that overthrew Saddam Hussein and its aftermath, and it portrays Mr. Blair as trying without success to restrain Mr. Bush, to push him to obtain full United Nations Security Council authorization and to warn about the difficulties of the war — and deciding to go to war alongside Washington nonetheless.]
By Steven Erlanger and Stephen Castle
Mr. Blair, the former prime minister of Britain, made a statement on the
findings of the Chilcot committee, saying he took “full responsibility” for
the decision to go to war with Iraq. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS on
Publish Date July 6, 2016. Photo by Pool photo by Wpa.
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The long-awaited report by the Iraq Inquiry Committee, led by a retired civil servant, John Chilcot, takes up 12 volumes covering 2.6 million words, four times longer than “War and Peace,” and took seven years to complete, longer than Britain’s combat operations in Iraq. It concluded that Mr. Blair and the British government underestimated the difficulties and consequences of the war and overestimated the influence he would have over President George W. Bush.
The result amounts to a broad indictment of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war that overthrew Saddam Hussein and its aftermath, and it portrays Mr. Blair as trying without success to restrain Mr. Bush, to push him to obtain full United Nations Security Council authorization and to warn about the difficulties of the war — and deciding to go to war alongside Washington nonetheless.
should stand by the Britain , Mr. Blair told Mr. Bush in a private note
as early as United States July 28, 2002, “I will be with you, whatever.” Mr. Blair
knew by January 2003 that had decided to go to war to overthrow Mr. Hussein
and accepted the American timetable for the military action by mid-March, pushing
only for a second Security Council resolution that never came, “undermining the
Security Council’s authority,” the report concludes. Washington
The report is likely to underline in
the sense that Mr. Blair was “ Britain ’s poodle,” the phrase widely used by Mr. Blair’s
critics at the time. The report says the lessons from the British government’s
conduct are that “all aspects” of military intervention “need to be calculated,
debated and challenged with the utmost rigor,” and decisions, once made, “need
to be implemented fully.” Washington
Mr. Chilcot, speaking for the inquiry as a whole, concluded that “sadly, neither was the case in relation to the
government’s actions in U.K. .” And he emphasized that Iraq ’s relationship with the Britain was strong enough “to bear the weight of honest
disagreement.” United States
The inquiry, while revealing little that changes the understanding of the war, its preparation and aftermath, pulls no punches on a deeply flawed British governmental process.
“It is now clear that policy on
was made on the basis of flawed intelligence
and assessments,” Mr. Chilcot said. “They were not challenged, and they should
have been.” Iraq
The report says: “At no stage was the hypothesis that
might not have chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons or programs identified and examined” by the Joint Intelligence
“The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt either that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued,” the report said.
“The J.I.C. should have made that clear to Mr. Blair,” who spoke of Mr. Hussein’s possessing “vast stocks” of weapons of mass destruction when there was no definitive evidence to support them, according to the report.
chose to join the invasion of U.K. before the peaceful options for disarmament
had been exhausted,” the report said. “Military action at that time was not a
last resort.” Iraq
In the end, the British government “failed to achieve its stated objectives,” the inquiry concluded, and said that “Mr. Blair overestimated his ability to influence
decisions on U.S. .” Iraq
Mr. Blair was said to have been advised by his diplomats and ministers of “the inadequacy of
plans” and their concern “about the
inability to exert significant influence on U.S. planning.” But he chose to override their
The inquiry concluded, bluntly: “Mr. Blair eventually succeeded only in the narrow goal of securing President Bush’s agreement that there should be U.N. authorization of the post-conflict role.”
Influence, it said, “should not be set as an objective in itself.”
“The exercise of influence is a means to an end,” it said.
The inquiry did not make any judgment on legal culpability. Outside the convention center where Mr. Chilcot spoke, near Parliament, demonstrators chanted and held up a sign reading: “Blair Must Face War Crimes Trial.”
In a statement issued later on Wednesday, Mr. Blair said that he took “full responsibility for any mistakes, without exception or excuse,” but he emphasized that he had not been accused of falsifying intelligence or misleading his cabinet colleagues, and that he had made no “secret commitment to war.”
Mr. Blair had previously said that he had no regrets about acting to remove Mr. Hussein from power. He has denied inventing or distorting intelligence, but he accepts that there were flaws in the intelligence process, and he says that he now understands more about the complications of the
Middle East. Once the report was published, he said in
May, he looked forward to participating in “a full debate” on the issues.
But the inquiry is quietly scathing. “The judgments about the severity of the threat posed by
’s weapons of mass destruction were presented
with eet a certainty that was not justified,” it said. Iraq
The current leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, has called the war illegal.
The verdict of the inquiry into the planning and conduct of British military involvement in
was withering, rejecting Mr. Blair’s
contention that the difficulties encountered after the invasion could not have
been foreseen. Iraq
“We do not agree that hindsight is required,” Mr. Chilcot said. “The risks of internal strife in
, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional
instability and Al Qaeda activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the
Over all, Mr. Chilcot continued, “the government’s preparations failed to take account of the magnitude of the task of stabilizing, administering and reconstructing
, and of the responsibilities which were
likely to fall to the Iraq ” U.K.
With the military also conducting operations in
, resources were stretched, having an impact
on the availability of helicopters and surveillance equipment. Afghanistan
By 2007, the British were forced to do deals with militia in the southern city of
, releasing detainees in exchange for an end
to targeting of its forces. Basra
“It was humiliating that the
reached a position in which an agreement
with a militia group which had been actively targeting U.K. forces was considered the best option
available,” Mr. Chilcot said. U.K.
Mr. Blair is blamed directly for many failings. “Despite concerns about the state of
planning, he did not make an agreement on a
satisfactory post-conflict plan a condition of U.S. participation in military action,” the
document said. “The U.K. was fully implicated” in the decisions of
the postwar Coalition Provisional Authority, “but struggled to have a decisive
effect on its policies.” U.K.
The cabinet did not discuss military options or their implications. At the same time, a laudable, “can do” attitude among the military meant that “at times in
, the bearers of bad tidings were not heard.” Iraq
The war killed about 200 Britons, including 179 British troops, almost 4,500 American personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
The Iraq Inquiry held public hearings from 2009 to 2011, taking evidence from more than 150 witnesses and analyzing 150,000 documents. The release of the report was repeatedly delayed, in part by disagreements over the inclusion of classified material, including conversations between Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush, whose communications with Mr. Blair were not released by the United States, and in part because individuals set to be criticized were allowed to read drafts of the report and respond to them before a final version was written.
Sarah Helm, the wife of Mr. Blair’s then chief of staff, Jonathan Powell,wrote on Monday about a Blair-Bush phone conversation she overheard in early March 2003, about which she took notes. In a discussion about a second Security Council resolution, Mr. Bush was described as jokey and bluff, praising Mr. Blair for his “true courage,” while Mr. Blair emphasized that “we’ve got to make people understand we are not going to war because we want to but because there is no alternative.”
Mr. Bush said: “You know, Tony, the American people will never forget what you are doing. And people say to me, you know, is Prime Minister Blair really with you all the way? Do you have faith in him? And I say: ‘Yes, because I recognize leadership when I see it. And true courage. He won’t let us down.’ ”
Mr. Blair laughed, unsure, Ms. Helm recounted, then said, “Well, it might be my epitaph.”
Follow Steven Erlanger @StevenErlanger and Stephen Castle @_StephenCastle on Twitter.