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Chilcot Inquiry slams Blair for Iraq War: 'Blair Lied. Thousands died'

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:48 IST

What the Chilcot Inquiry says isn\'t surprising for most of the world or the UK - it was common knowledge when the UK jumped in on the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

In fact, analysts have believed for very long that the invasion of Iraq and the rise of the terror group ISIS are linked. And that that the blame for it can be placed firmly on the shoulders of two former world leaders - George W Bush and Tony Blair.

But confirmation always makes things more damning. And with quiet and understated efficiency, Sir John Chilcot, the head of the inquiry, destroyed Tony Blair\'s reputation in one day.

The report, the official investigation into the UK\'s role in the war, has found that Blair - who was the leader of the Labour Party and Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 - pushed Britain into the Iraq War without evidence or plan.

The only saving grace for Blair is that it cleared him of any "deliberate deception".

The report is significant because at the time, a vast majority of the British population opposed the invasion with over a million people marching through London alone, but the Blair government still went ahead with joining the US in rooting out Saddam Hussein on flawed intelligence. Worse, troops were sent into battle without the proper kit, leading to many deaths that could have been avoided.

As Sir John noted, the suffering and anguish of the Iraqi people continues to this day, so it was all for nought.

The investigation was launched in 2009, and was supposed to be completed by 2010. But it took seven years and ended up costing taxpayers over 10 million pounds ($13 million). The final report is over 2.6 million words long and includes the testimonies of 150 witnesses, and over 150,000 documents including memos from Blair.

Jeremy Corbyn, an anti-war activist, says: "Frankly it was an act of military aggression on a false pretext - (which) has long been regarded as illegal".

The 10 key points of the report

War was NOT the last resort

As Sir John Chilcott said in his opening statement: "We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted," he said. "Military action at that time was not a last resort."

No real proof that Saddam had WMD

The report has determined that intelligence "had NOT established beyond doubt" that Saddam Hussein was continuing to produce chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Also read: Chilcot's verdict: the Iraq War was a failure of oversight and planning

It adds that it was important to make a distinction about what WMD actually meant because it can vary from nuclear weapons to mustard gas. Blair "obscured" the nature of the threat by using the phrase WMD continually without explaining exactly what that meant, the report said.

Saddam Hussein was NOT an imminent threat

Sir John said: "Military action in Iraq might have been necessary at some point. But in March 2003 there was no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein. The strategy of containment could have been adapted and continued for some time."

"The majority of the UN Security Council supported continuing UN inspections and monitoring," he added.

But Blair still told George W Bush: 'I will be with you whatever'

Notes Blair sent then US President George Bush lay bare how he was plotting a path to war just hours after 9/11 attacks. On 12 September 2001 he urged Bush to pursue nations trading WMDs, adding: "Some of this will require action that some will baulk at."

And on 3 September 2001 he told him: "It would be excellent to get rid of Saddam." In a phone call, he added: "There needed to be a clever strategy for doing this... An extremely clever plan would be required".

On 28 July 2002 - months before the government produced legal advice or an intelligence dossier for war - he told Bush simply: "I will be with you whatever".

Blair picked and chose evidence to 'make the case'

From 9/11 onwards Blair "chose tactics" to "emphasise" the threat of Iraq. He added a foreword to the September 2002 report on Iraq's supposed WMDs which had "a certainty that was not justified" inside.

And from February 2002 the government had decided "Saddam Hussein's regime could only be removed by US-led invasion."

Sir John said Blair's foreword on the infamous September 2002 dossier - claiming a weapon could be prepared in 45 minutes - was more certain about the threats than the actual Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) evidence inside.

Despite being warned that war would only serve to fuel terror

Blair had been warned by the JIC in early 2003 that an Iraq War would heighten the the threat from extremist groups. This, as the rest of the world has seen and suffered, has come true to a devastating extent particularly considering parts of Iraq lie in the deadly grip of ISIS.

JIC's verdict before war broke out said: "Al-Qaeda and associated groups will continue to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat will be heightened by military action against Iraq.

"The broader threat from Islamist terrorists will also increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti��'US/anti��'Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.

An unprepared military

Large numbers of troops were deployed without the whole Cabinet - which was "not fully aware of the risks" - either considering the decision or what would happen next.

For four whole years, "there was no clear statement of policy setting out the acceptable level of risk to UK forces and who was responsible for managing that risk."

The speed of the advance led to "serious equipment shortages" very quickly.

And resources were pushed to the limit with no backup - a "high level of risk" - after troops were sent to Afghanistan's Helmand Province at the same time.

The Ministry of Defence was also too slow to respond to the unique threat posed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), the report found.

Plans to rebuild Iraq were 'woefully inadequate'

The report says devastatingly: "The UK failed to plan or prepare for the major reconstruction programme required in Iraq."

Also read: Explainer: Why Tony Blair has apologised for the Iraq War & the ISIS

Things got messier when US interests started diverging from those of the UK and continued to grow further apart over time.

The "bearers of bad tidings were not heard" on the ground and Blair arrived in Iraq to find things were worse than he'd been told, the report said.

There was an "enduring gap" between the government's ambitions and actual capability for civilian support.

The war cost British taxpayers a fortune

The direct cost of the conflict in Iraq was at least £9.2bn - £11.83bn in today's money. In total, 89% of that was spent on military operations.

The government did not consider the cost at all when deciding whether to go to war.

Ministers were not even given estimates of how much the invasion or clean-up costs might come to.

It didn't achieve anything it set out to do

"The government failed to achieve its stated objectives," Sir John said bluntly.

"It was humiliating that the UK reached a position in which an agreement with a militia group which had been actively targeting UK forces was considered the best option available.

"The UK military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success."

Also read: Why Blair really went to war

First published: 7 July 2016, 5:37 IST
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.