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Chilcot Scathing Verdict on Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War








Former Prime Minister Tony Blair's justification, planning and handling of the Iraq War involved a catalogue of failures, a seven-year inquiry concluded on Wednesday in a scathing verdict on Britain's role in the conflict.

Sir John Chilcot's public statement, Iraq War inquiry 




Eight months before the 2003 invasion, Blair told U.S. President George W. Bush "I will be with you, whatever", eventually sending 45,000 British troops into battle when peace options had not been exhausted, the long-awaited British public inquiry said.





John Prescott [above0  deputy prime minister when Britain went to war with Iraq in 2003, says the invasion by UK and US forces was "illegal"

John Prescott, who was deputy prime minister when Britain went to war with Iraq in 2003, says the invasion by UK and US forces was "illegal".

Writing in the Sunday Mirror, he said he would live with the "catastrophic decision" for the rest of his life.

Lord Prescott said he now agreed "with great sadness and anger" with former UN secretary general Kofi Annan that the war was illegal.
He also praised Labour's Jeremy Corbyn for apologising on the party's behalf.

Lord Prescott also said Prime Minister Tony Blair's statement that "I am with you, whatever" in a message to US President George W Bush before the invasion in March 2003, was "devastating".


"A day doesn't go by when I don't think of the decision we made to go to war. Of the British troops who gave their lives or suffered injuries for their country. Of the 175,000 civilians who died from the Pandora's Box we opened by removing Saddam Hussein," he went on.

Lord Prescott said he was "pleased Jeremy Corbyn has apologised on behalf of the Labour Party to the relatives of those who died and suffered injury".


He also expressed his own "fullest apology", especially to the families of British personnel who died.

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


Many Britons want Blair to face criminal action over his decision to take military action that led to the deaths of 179 British soldiers and more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians over the following six years.

Critics also say it fuelled a deep distrust in politicians and the ruling establishment. The report was issued 13 days after Britons delivered a stunning blow to their political leaders by voting to leave the European Union.




The inquiry, which was given unprecedented access to confidential government documents and took longer to complete than British military involvement in the conflict itself, said Blair had relied on flawed intelligence and determined the way the war was legally authorised was unsatisfactory.

The threat posed by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's supposed weapons of mass destruction - the original justification for war - had been over-hyped and the planning for the aftermath of war had been inadequate, it found.




"It is an account of an intervention which went badly wrong, with consequences to this day," said the inquiry chairman, former civil servant John Chilcot.

In a lengthy and passionate defence lasting almost two hours, Blair explained his decision to back Bush and go to war alongside the United States in March 2003, at a time when the inquiry said Saddam posed no imminent threat.



"I did not mislead this country. There were no lies, there was no deceit, there was no deception," the former prime minister told reporters, looking gaunt and strained but growing animated as he responded to questions.

"But there was a decision, and it was a controversial decision ... to remove Saddam and to be with America. I believe I made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it."

The only Labour prime minister to win three general elections, Blair was in office for 10 years until 2007 and was hugely popular in his heyday, but Iraq has severely tarnished his reputation and legacy.

"I WILL BE WITH YOU"




The inquiry report, running to 2.6 million words, or more than four times the length of "War and Peace", shed light on the interaction between Blair and Bush in the months leading up to the invasion, which has long been the subject of speculation about secret deals and pledges.

In a memo dated July 28, 2002, eight months before the invasion, Blair told Bush: "I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties."

'Please stop saying I was lying,' says Blair after Iraq war inquiry

Outside the building where Chilcot delivered his findings, protesters chanted "Tony Blair, war criminal". But the report itself stopped short of saying the war was illegal.

"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," Chilcot said.

Reg Keys, whose son, 20-year-old Lance Corporal Thomas Keys, was killed in Iraq, said: "We all know who the key players are ... who took part in this most shambolic episode in British politics. We would like to see all those key players face some form of accountability."

He added: "If that's through the legal channels, then we will look at that and see what's viable and appropriate. It has been passed over to lawyers."

BLAIR'S SORROW

Blair said he would take the same decisions again, and that he did not see the action as the cause of terrorism today, blaming outside forces for continuing sectarian violence in Iraq and the legacy of the Arab Spring for the emergence of Islamic State militants.

However, he acknowledged mistakes had been made.

NO STRATEGIC SUCCESS

The report listed a catalogue of mistakes, saying the war was poorly-resourced, badly-planned and in the turmoil that followed the invasion, there was a total failure to conduct a reappraisal of policies with the only strategic objective to cut troop deployment numbers.

"It fell far short of strategic success," the report said.

Chilcot said Britain did not have the capacity to engage in campaigns in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and said it was humiliating that the military in 2007 had had to make a deal with a militia that had become dominant in the southern Iraqi city of Basra which Britain was supposed to control.

Iraq is still struggling with the widespread violence unleashed by the war. On Saturday, 250 people were killed in Baghdad's worst car bombing since the U.S.-led invasion.

"I wish Saddam would return; he executed many of my family but he is still better than these politicians and clerics who got Iraq to the way it is," said Kadhim Hassan al-Jabouri, an Iraqi who was filmed attacking Saddam's statue with a sledgehammer after the invasion.

Others said they were grateful to Washington and London for ending his dictatorship.

The purpose of the inquiry was not to point fingers but for the British government to learn lessons from the invasion and occupation that followed.

"We cannot turn the clock back but we can ensure that lessons are learned and acted on," Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron told parliament.

"It is crucial to good decision-making that a prime minister establishes a climate in which it's safe for officials and other experts to challenge existing policy and question the views of ministers and the prime minister without fear or favour."

Jeremy Corbyn, the current leader of Blair's Labour Party and a fervent pacifist, told parliament that the war was an act of aggression based on a false pretext that had fuelled and spread terrorism across the Middle East.

"I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war," he said in a later speech.



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