Thursday, July 7, 2016

Chilcot report is damning verdict on Blair's decesion to join Bush and go to war in Iraq

Blair during his press conference. (AP)
Prime Minister Tony Blair led Britain into an unsuccessful war in Iraq through a mix of flawed intelligence, "wholly inadequate" planning and an exaggerated sense of the U.K.'s ability to influence the United States, according to a damning official report on the conflict that was published Wednesday.
The government-commissioned inquiry fell short of delivering what many bereaved families sought — a declaration that the 2003 war was illegal. But its 2.6 million words give the most comprehensive verdict to date on the mistakes of a conflict whose violent aftershocks still rattle the world.
Blair, however, stood by his decision to join U.S. President George W. Bush in toppling Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
"I believe I made the right decision and that the world is better and safer as a result of it," he said.
The decision to go to war was the most contentions act of Blair's decade as prime minister between 1997 and 2007. By the time British combat forces left Iraq in 2009, the conflict had killed 179 U.K. troops, almost 4,500 U.S. personnel and more than 100,000 Iraqis.
Iraq descended into sectarian strife after the occupiers dismantled Saddam's government and military, unleashing chaos that helped give rise to
the Islamic State group.
The inquiry, which was seven years in the making and headed by retired civil servant John Chilcot, concluded that Britain joined the U.S.-led invasion "before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted."
"Military action at that time was not a last resort," Chilcot said as he published the report.

An emotional but defiant Blair told a news conference:  that going to war in Iraq was "the hardest, most momentous, most agonizing decision I took" as prime minister. He said that "I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know, or can believe,"but he added: "I did not mislead this country. I made the decision in good faith." And he said the world was a safer place without Saddam, whom he labeled "a wellspring of terror."

Chilcot said that "the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for U.K. military action were far from satisfactory." Peter Goldsmith, Britain's attorney general at the time, initially advised the invasion would be illegal without a U.N. Security Council resolution, but changed his mind shortly before war began. Chilcot said Goldsmith's reasoning was not properly examined at the time by the government.
The inquiry was set up in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Chilcot and his panel heard from 150 witnesses and analyzed 150,000 documents, but the report has been repeatedly delayed, in part by wrangling over the inclusion of classified material.  It said Blair's government presented an assessment of the threat posed by Saddam's weapons with "certainty that was not justified.""The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability and al-Qaida activity in Iraq were each explicitly identified before the invasion," he said.
The report also provides a sobering assessment of the power imbalance in the trans-Atlantic "special relationship." It includes a note from Blair to Bush written eight months before the invasion. Blair promised — without consulting government colleagues — "I will be with you whatever."
The report said Blair went to war to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Britain's main ally, only to find the U.K. excluded from most important decisions about the military campaign and its aftermath.
"Mr. Blair, who recognized the significance of the post-conflict phase, did not press President Bush for definite assurances about U.S. plans," the report concluded. It said that after the invasion, Britain had only "limited" ability to influence U.S. decisions.
The report found failings by British military chiefs who did not provide adequate equipment to U.K. forces. It concluded that Britain's combat mission "ended a long way from success" and saw British forces make a "humiliating" deal with militias in southern Iraq to avoid attacks.
Chilcot also criticized spy chiefs who failed to ensure their partial intelligence about Saddam's weapons was not hardened into certainty by government spin. He said they also neglected to consider "that Iraq might no longer have chemical, biological or nuclear weapons" — which turned out to be the case.
The report also faulted Blair for making key decisions with only a few aides rather than through collective Cabinet consultation.

No comments: