The long-awaited report of the Iraq Inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot has presented a damning indictment of the role of the then Prime Minister Tony Blair in leading the United Kingdom in alliance with the United States into a war in 2003 before “peaceful options for disarmament” had been exhausted.
“Military action at that time was not a last resort,” Sir John concluded.
The highlights of the 6375-page report was read by Sir John at the Queen Elizabeth II Hall in Westminster even as a protest demonstration by the Stop War Coalition was being held outside.
In a presentation that was temperate in tone, but pulled no punches, Sir John in his time-line of the run-up to the declaration of war against Saddam Hussein in 2003 and thereafter — including a summary of lessons learned from the disastrous policy decision — came to other important conclusions.
The first is that the judgments of the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction were “presented [to the British Parliament] with a certainty that was not justified.” Second, the outcome of the invasion was underestimated by Mr. Blair, “despite explicit warnings.” Third, planning for an Iraq after Saddam was “wholly inadequate,” and finally, the government “failed to realize its stated objectives.”
In the report Mr. Blair emerges as not just an obedient junior ally of U.S. President George Bush, but as a powerful backer sometimes a step ahead of the U.S. President, first in pushing for regime-change in Iraq, and then endorsing military invasion as a means to carry it out. Without a United Nations mandate for invasion, the U.K.’s decision to go to war amounted to “undermining the authority of the Security Council” the report states.
Mr. Blair in a misleading statement to parliament in September 2002 warned that Saddam had chemical and biological capabilities that posed a threat to the U.K. “with a certainty that was not justified,” the report states.
Mr. Blair did not establish clear ministerial oversight in planning and preparation for the war; and its post-war efforts in Iraq “never matched the scale of its challenge” the report concluded.
While military action in Iraq “might have been necessary at some point,” the Report notes, in March 2003, when the U.S.-U.K. led coalition entered Iraq, “there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein.”