U.K.’s Long-Awaited Chilcot Report into Iraq War Criticizes Legal Basis for Invasion

Wall Street Journal – by JENNY GROSS and ALEXIS FLYNN

LONDON—A high-profile inquiry into the U.K.’s role in the Iraq war delivered a scathing account of the decision by the government under then-Prime Minister Tony Blair to join the invasion, saying the legal basis for doing so was “far from satisfactory.”

The long-awaited findings, published in a roughly 6,000-page report Wednesday, concluded that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed assessments of intelligence and that the seriousness of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was presented with a certainty that wasn’t justified.  

The report also said that the U.K. embarked on military action before peaceful options were exhausted and that plans for the postconflict phase were “wholly inadequate.”

The report is the culmination of an inquiry, led by retired civil servant John Chilcot, launched in 2009 by the then-governing Labour Party to address public criticism of the case made for the war and preparation for reconstruction, among other issues.

Some 179 British military personnel died in the U.S.-led invasion and occupation, which Mr. Blair had justified with assertions that the regime had weapons of mass destruction—a claim that turned out to be false. The invasion and subsequent instability in Iraq had resulted in the deaths of more than 150,000 Iraqis by July 2009, most of whom were civilians, the report said.

A total of 4,491 U.S. service members were killed in Iraq between 2003 and 2014, according to the U.S. military.

Mr. Chilcot said the inquiry wasn’t expressing a view on whether military action was legal, which was a decision for a court. “We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided there was a legal basis for U.K. military action were far from satisfactory,” he said.

Responding to the report at a news conference, Mr. Blair said he accepted “full responsibility without exception and without excuse” for the decision to go to war. It was “the hardest, most momentous decision” he took as British prime minister, he said, but he said he felt it was the right thing to do “based on the information I had.”

“Intelligence assessments turned out to be wrong” and the aftermath turned out to be more protracted and bloody than imagined, he said.

Criticism of Mr. Blair over his role in the conflict has grown since he left office in 2007, with some calling for him to be prosecuted as a war criminal. Outside the central-London building where Mr. Chilcot presented his findings, anti-war protesters shouted chants and waved banners emblazoned with “Bliar.”

The report revealed conversations between Mr. Blair and then-President George W. Bush in the lead-up to the decision to go to war that show Mr. Blair was already considering military action before he had parliamentary and legal support.

In a note to Mr. Bush in July 2002, Mr. Blair wrote: “I will be with you, whatever,” adding he was “keen on a coalition, not necessarily military but politically,” according to the report. By January 2003, Mr. Blair concluded that the “likelihood was war.”

Two month later, Parliament voted in support of invading Iraq, and British troops entered Basra in April. Mr. Chilcot noted it was the first time the U.K. participated in an invasion and full-scale occupation of a sovereign state since World War II.

The consequences are still felt in the Middle East and Iraq. More than a decade after the intervention, Iraq’s stability is increasingly fragile, marked by deadly insurgent attacks across its capital and growing public anger toward the government. Over the weekend, at least 172 people were killed in a suicide bombing in central Baghdad in what is thought to be the deadliest single attack in the city since 2007.

The U.K. role continues to shape the British public’s appetite for military involvement in foreign wars and comes as the country reassesses its role in the world following the June vote to leave the European Union.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said in Parliament on Wednesday that the U.K. must learn lessons from its mistakes, but said it would be wrong to conclude that the U.K. couldn’t rely on the judgments of its intelligence services or that intervention is always wrong.

“Britain has and will continue to learn the lessons of this report, but as with our intervention against Daesh in Iraq and Syria today, Britain must not and will not shrink from its role on the world stage or fail to protect its people,” he said, using another name for Islamic State. Mr. Cameron added that Britain would continue to stand with “our U.S. allies.”

The report said that the U.K.’s Joint Intelligence Committee, which reviews threats to security at home and overseas, failed to make it clear that the prewar intelligence on Iraq’s weapons capabilities was uncertain.

“The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt either that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued,” the report said. It added that the committee didn’t examine the hypothesis that Iraq might no longer have such weapons.

Mr. Chilcot said the report took so long to produce because of its unprecedented scale and because the panel needed agreement on the material it could publish from the government archive, including cabinet discussions and discussions with other heads of state.

The panel scrutinized more than 150,000 government documents, with access to an unprecedented public declassification of Joint Intelligence Committee papers, key cabinet minutes and records of conversations and memos between a British prime minister and a U.S. president. During public hearings, the inquiry heard from more than 150 witnesses, including Mr. Blair in 2011. The result was a 13-volume report, containing 2.6 million words, that cost more than £10 million to produce.

The relatives of servicemen and women slain in the war campaigned for years for an inquiry. Sarah O’Connor, whose brother Sergeant Bob O’Connor was killed in 2005, said its release had unraveled 11 years of healing since her sibling’s death, reigniting the anger that she felt when she learned he had died.

“There is one terrorist that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist,” she said.

Roger Bacon, the father of Major Matthew Bacon, who died in Basra in 2005, said he hoped that the inquiry’s findings would prevent a future rush to war on a flimsy premise. “This must never happen ever again,” he said.


2 thoughts on “U.K.’s Long-Awaited Chilcot Report into Iraq War Criticizes Legal Basis for Invasion

  1. The report is undoubtedly a whitewash disguised as criticism. It’s much less damaging to admit to making mistakes than to own up to deliberate deception.

    That intelligence wasn’t merely inaccurate. It was deliberately falsified by Zionist agents, such as those working within neocon Douglas Feith’s “Office of Special Plans.” The pieces of the puzzle are all a matter of public record; all one has to do is put them together. Iraq was clearly invaded to benefit Israel at the expense of the US and other countries.

  2. “There is one terrorist that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist,” she said.”

    Doesn’t hold a candle to Bush or Kissinger.

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