In the annals of “things we already knew but that are now official,” a U.K. report that has been seven years in the making has determined that Tony Blair was not justified in sending Great Britain to war in Iraq. The Iraq Inquiry was chaired by ex-civil servant Sir John Chilcot, who made the point bluntly in a statement heralding the report’s long-awaited release:
“The judgements about the severity of the threat posed by Iraq’s weapons of a mass destruction – WMD – were presented with a certainty that was not justified…Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated.”
The report, clocking in at a cool 2.6 million words, can be downloaded here, but for those who are into brevity, the BBC provides a nice summary, as well as a reaction timeline.
The essential points of the report:
1. War in Iraq was not a “last resort,” and the possibility of a peaceful resolution was still on the table.
2. The intelligence was totally screwed.
3. Blair’s confident case about WMDs was “presented with a certainty that was not justified,” ie he was full of shit.
Blair issued an immediate and predictable response, in which he admitted that the intelligence was wrong and that the war itself was a disaster, but that he acted in good faith at the time. At one point, he asked journalist to “please stop saying that I was lying.” Among the documents declassified in the report were memos exchanged between Blair and George W. Bush, in which Blair, at one point in September 2002, wrote, “I will be with you, whatever.” Amusingly, Blair’s main point of contention with the report is that it did not cover what might have happened if Saddam hadn’t been removed from power.
Meanwhile, current lame duck PM David Cameron, who voted for the invasion, released a non-statement saying that “lessons must be learned,” while labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who voted against invasion, called it an “act of military aggression launched on a false pretence.”
Beyond the main players, there were also more than a few embarrassing sideshows, such as the revelation that an SIS agent turned to Hollywood to help him report on Saddam Hussein’s alleged WMD:
The Chilcot Report stops short, however, of making a decision on the legality of the war. Chilcot himself pointed out that there was no evidence given under oath, and that his own report is not binding in any way from a legal standpoint. Still, he said, “the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.” He also said that the unilateral decision to invade undermined the authority of the U.N. Security Council.
In short, there is nothing terribly surprising here, though some may find it satisfying to see the truth come out in an official inquiry. But in terms of the integrity of Blair’s decision-making, and the WMD claims he presented to the public, the report breaks very little new ground: We’ve known they were bogus for a decade and more.