The Iraq War was one of the most controversial foreign policy decisions in recent history. In 2003, when Tony Blair – prime minister at the time – announced he would be putting troops on the ground in Iraq, along with troops sent from then-President of the USA, George W Bush, it caused a great deal of divide in the House of Commons and in Britain.
Mr Blair presented his argument for war by claiming that intelligence showed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction which he was prepared to use. Both Britain and the US framed the military action as liberating Iraq from an evil dictator and preventing the use of WMD. Since then, it has been proven that Iraq did not have any WMD, increasingly causing the public to believe that the Iraq war was about gaining territory and oil as well as boosting relations with the US.
In 2009, two years after Tony Blair left office, his replacement as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, ordered an inquiry into the Iraq war. Seven years on, the Chilcot report has finally been released and families of the 179 British personnel killed are hoping for justice. However, it’s not just the soldiers killed in action, but also those who later returned home and committed suicide while suffering with PTSD. The strategy of dehumanising both oneself and the enemy in Iraq resulted in some of the highest suicide rates among American veterans ever. It is also for the 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens killed in the war, making it a hugely disproportionate conflict.
Chilcot is about the reasons why Tony Blair led us into the Iraq war from which troops were returned home in 2009.
Families have waited seven years for the 2.6 million-word report on the war which included speaking with Mr Blair and key officials involved in the war during the inquiry.
Last night the Prime Minister, David Cameron, was given his copy of the report and at eight o’clock this morning, some family members of those killed and journalists were given their copy to read.
This morning, Sir John Chilcot spoke about his inquiry before it was published. He said that he concluded that military action “was not the last resort” and that planning before and after the occupation of the sovereign state was “wholly inadequate”.
Sir John also concluded that “the UK chose to join the invasion before peaceful options had been exhausted.”
What is clear from his words is that Mr Blair agreed to go to war alongside Mr Bush eight months prior to the case being made to Parliament. He continued to say that when there was any grounds for legal action, they were “far from satisfactory”.
The report also exposed one of Mr Blair’s private memos to Mr Bush, in which he wrote: “I will be with you, whatever”. This memo was prior to any case being made for the invasion and went against warnings that the UK faced an increased threat from Al Qaeda by invading Iraq.
Another damning verdict was that Mr Blair “undermined” the United Nations Security Council’s authority and that the claims that Iraq had WMDs were made “with certainty that was not justified”. This is possibly the biggest blow to Mr Blair’s defence as he has always claimed that intelligence he was given proved that Iraq had the weapons. As a result, the quality of intelligence was also criticised in Sir John’s report and the implication it makes is that a spin was put on the weak intelligence provided and manipulated into a compelling argument to invade Iraq.
Since the publication of the report at 11 o’clock this morning, Mr Blair has responded to the findings that blatantly condemn his largest foreign policy decision during his time in office. The former Prime Minister said: “I’ll take full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.”
Families of soldiers killed have responded to his statement by questioning the ‘New Labour’ creator’s failure to “look [them] in the eye” despite him previously refusing requests to meet with those affected by loss and tragedy.
What happens now is uncertain. But what is sure is that Tony Blair will more than likely be viewed as the Prime Minister who misled the British public and his own government in order to invade Iraq. In recent weeks, a group of MPs led by the former leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, will consider an attempt to impeach Tony Blair. However, it has also been said that there will be a full consideration of all possible legal action against Mr Blair in response to the findings of the Chilcot report.
You can read the report here.