Report blasts Blair for joining Iraq war


A defiant Tony Blair defended his decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003, following the publication yesterday of a devastating report by Sir John Chilcot which mauled the ex-prime minister's reputation and said that at the time of the 2003 invasion Saddam Hussein "posed no imminent threat".

More than 13 years since the invasion, Iraq remains in chaos, with large areas held by Islamic State militants who have claimed responsibility for attacks on Western cities.

"I only ask with humility that the British people accept that I took this decision because I believed that it was the right thing to do based on the information that I had and the threat I perceived and that my duty as Prime Minister at that moment in time was to do what I thought was right".

He added: "The decision to go on in and topple him brought out a lot of assumptions that weren't brought out in the force".

In a lengthy press conference in London, Mr Blair said he would never agree that those who died and were injured in Iraq "made their sacrifice in vain".

When no such weapons turned up following the invasion, Chilcot said, Blair changed the case for war on the fly, refocusing them on Hussein's intention of getting weapons of mass destruction.

"We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory", said John Chilcot, the inquiry's chairman, in a speech presenting his findings.

He said the goal of the note was to make sure the Americans went down the United Nations route, "which they did".

In a 2002 private memo between the two leaders declassified on Wednesday along the Chilcot report, Blair wrote to the United States president: "I will be with you, whatever".

In his 12-volume document, Sir John placed the burden of responsibility on Blair and revealed the extent of his alliance with the then U.S. president George W. Bush to whom he promised an unconditional support for the invasion of Iraq in 2002.

It also found that he opted to join the invasion before all peaceful options had been exhausted and that Mr Blair had ignored warnings over what would occur in the aftermath of the invasion.

"It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments".

√ But in July 2002 Blair wrote to Bush: "I will be with you whatever".

He said he felt "more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know" for the grief of those whose loved ones died. But he says he still believes it was the right decision and the world is a safer place with Saddam Hussein gone.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who voted for war in 2003, told MPs it was important to "really learn the lessons for the future" and to improve the workings of government and how it treats legal advice. Speaking in Parliament on Wednesday, the Labour leader was heckled by some on his own side as he described the war as "an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext".