The case against Blair: 15 charges that have yet to be answered
From misleading Parliament and the nation to marginalising his most senior legal adviser. The former PM faces the Chilcot Inquiry today
Friday 21 January 2011
1. Misleading Parliament over the legality of an invasion
Blair's claim He told the Commons on 15 January 2003 that if the French issued an "unreasonable veto" at the UN, refusing to back military action against Saddam Hussein, Britain could still legally join an invasion. "That is the position that the Government have set out throughout, and it is the position that remains," he said.
The truth We now know his chief legal adviser, Lord Goldsmith, did not agree with this assertion.
The evidence In a new statement issued to the inquiry this week, the former attorney general said the Prime Minister knew his view, but ignored it. He said he was made to feel "uncomfortable" by Blair's public pronouncements.
2. Misleading the nation over Weapons of Mass Destruction
Blair's claim In a September 2002 dossier on Iraq, he stated in a foreword that it had been established "beyond doubt" that Saddam was producing WMD.
The truth We now know there were no WMD in Iraq.
The evidence The Iraq Survey Group (ISG), sent in to find evidence of WMD, came away empty-handed. On 23 January 2004, its leader, David Kay, resigned, saying no WMD stockpiles would be found. He later stated: "It turns out that we were all wrong, probably in my judgement, and that is most disturbing."
3. Misleading parliament about intelligence
Blair's claim On 24 September 2002, he told MPs the intelligence was "extensive, detailed and authoritative".
The truth It was wrong.
The evidence Appearing at the inquiry on 25 November 2009, Sir William Ehrman, former director general of defence and intelligence at the Foreign Office, said the intelligence had always been questioned.
In March 2002, it was "sporadic and patchy". An August 2002 briefing noted, "We know very little" about Iraq's chemical and biological weapons. He said by September 2002, as the dossier was being written, intelligence "remained limited".
British spies reported 10 days before the war that Iraq had "disassembled" chemical weapons.
4. Falsely blaming French for collapse of United Nations talks
Blair's claim He told the inquiry he kept good relations open with the French, but that it became clear they would not support a second UN resolution clearing the way for military action.
The truth Alastair Campbell was instructed to tell journalists that Jacques Chirac, then the French president, had said he would veto any resolution. The Government knew that was not true.
The evidence Stephen Wall, Blair's former EU adviser, told the inquiry on Wednesday, that Blair gave "Alastair his marching orders to play the anti-French card". He added: "I do recall getting a call from Joyce Quin, a former Europe minister, who said to me, 'Do the Prime Minister and Alastair know that what they're claiming Chirac said isn't what he actually said?' and I said 'Joyce, I believe they do'."
5. Exaggerating to Parliament the threat from Saddam
Blair's claim He told the Commons on 24 September 2002: "[Saddam's] weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing. The policy of containment is not working."
The truth Saddam was not posing a substantially greater risk to world security than in the past.
The evidence The inquiry team has noted it has not seen evidence saying the threat from Saddam was growing at the time of the invasion. On his first appearance at the inquiry, Blair conceded this was true. "It wasn't that objectively he had done more. It was that our perception of the risk had shifted."
6. Marginalising his most senior legal adviser
Blair's claim He has maintained he would not have agreed to military action if Lord Goldsmith had concluded it was illegal.
The truth Lord Goldsmith revealed this week that he was sidelined from discussions about Iraq while he espoused the view that an invasion would be illegal.
The evidence Lord Goldsmith told the Chilcot Inquiry that he was "no longer actively consulted" after telling Blair on 22 October 2002 that he thought an invasion would breach international law. "I was not being sufficiently involved in the meetings and discussions about the [UN] resolution and the policy behind it," he said.
7. Pressuring Lord Goldsmith into clearing military action
Blair's claim His decision to invade was based partly on legal clearance.
The truth Pressure was heaped on Lord Goldsmith to change his mind and conclude that an invasion would be legal.
The evidence The former attorney general changed his mind after meetings with Jack Straw, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British ambassador to the UN and lawyers from George W Bush's administration.
8. Misleading the nation over the threat from Iraq
Blair's claim On 24 September 2003, Blair told MPs that Saddam said "has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population". This claim also appeared in the dossier published that day. No effort was made by No 10 to correct the Evening Standard's front-page headline: "45 minutes from attack".
The truth The claim had only ever been intended to refer to short-range, battlefield weapons.
The evidence Several expert witnesses have now said the claim was meant to refer to short-range weapons such as rocket launchers. Sir David Omand, Blair's former Security and Intelligence Coordinator, has said the claim "should never have appeared".
9. Hiding his discussions with President Bush from the public
Blair's claim He told MPs in July 2002: "We have not got to the stage of military action... we have not yet reached the point of decision."
The truth Several witnesses, from Sir Christopher Meyer to Alastair Campbell, have suggested that Blair made a written commitment to join the invasion during a visit to Crawford, Texas, in April 2002. But the record of what he said to President Bush in private memos is being kept private.
The evidence Sir Gus O'Donnell, the head of the civil service, has blocked the publication of the memos, after consulting Blair. Sir John Chilcot has made clear that these documents are crucial in the shaping of the inquiry's conclusions about the promises President Bush was given over Britain's involvement in military action.
10. Hiding his discussions with President Bush from colleagues
Blair's claim There were full Cabinet discussions about Iraq.
The truth Parts of conversations he had with President Bush in the run-up to the war were deleted from Whitehall records.
The evidence Matthew Rycroft, Mr Blair's private secretary at No 10, said he routinely deleted any mention of correspondence with Mr Bush from the Government minutes. In a new statement to the inquiry, he said: "I do recall doing it on a number of occasions. I would have thought possibly about five occasions and each time for a particular reason."
11. Launching an invasion whose sole (and illegal) justification was regime change
Blair's claim He said during his first evidence session that Britain's official policy of disarmament and the US one of regime change were "a different way of expressing the same proposition".
The truth Lord Goldsmith was always clear that regime change could not be a legally justifiable reason for invasion. But that was always Blair's aim.
The evidence Alastair Campbell reveals this in his diary entry of 2 April 2002. He said a group "discussed whether the central aim was WMD or regime change" and that "TB felt it was regime change".
12. Recklessly undermining the weapons inspectors's work
Blair's claim The inspectors had "indicated that Saddam Hussein had not taken a final opportunity to comply" with UN demands. Giving them more time would have made little difference.
The truth Inspectors, led by Hans Blix, wanted more time and there was little reason for not giving it to them.
The evidence Blair was warned inspectors needed to be sure before military action went ahead. Lord Williams of Baglan, a former adviser to Jack Straw, told the inquiry this week: "In retrospect, it is difficult not to argue that the [UN] inspection process led by Hans Blix was working and had it been given enough time and resources could have continued to work and effectively prevent any new Iraqi efforts on weapons."
13. Reckless disregard for the well-being of Iraqi civilians
Blair's claim "It was better to deal with this threat, to remove him from office and I do genuinely believe the world is a safer place as a result," he said.
The truth Even conservative estimates put the total deaths of Iraq civilians at six figures.
The evidence Iraq Body Count has estimated more than 122,000 civilian deaths since the 2003 invasion. A Lancet study in 2006 put the figure at 654,965 excess deaths related to the war. The lack of an official coalition tally suggests an indifference to civilian deaths.
14. Failing to fund post-war reconstruction properly
Blair's claim At his last inquiry appearance, he blamed Iran for destabilising the country. He also blamed lack of US planning.
The truth UK planning for the aftermath had been starved of cash and resources. Senior army figures had asked for a delay in the invasion for this reason.
The evidence Major-General Tim Cross, who was sent to the US to discuss reconstruction efforts, said that planning for after the war was "woefully thin". He told the Prime Minister a delay was needed. "Baghdad was held together by chicken-wire and chewing-gum," he told the inquiry in evidence in December 2009.
15. Recklessly endangering British civilians
Blair's claim From the perspective of 2010, Britain and the world are safer because Saddam was removed in 2003. "I think [Saddam] was a monster, I think he threatened not just a region but the world," he said.
The truth Domestic terrorists have said they were motivated by the invasion. Intelligence officers also warned this would be the case.
The evidence Blair was warned by senior intelligence figures that the invasion would increase the danger of terrorist attacks in Britain. Lady Manningham-Buller, then head of MI5, said she gave the warning as "explicitly" as possible. The 7/7 bombers blamed their attack on foreign policy decisions including the Iraq invasion.
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