Chilcot inquiry: Blair apologises for Iraq War but says deaths were 'not in vain'

'I accept full responsibility... without exception, and without excuse'

Adam Withnall
Wednesday 06 July 2016 14:19
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Blair accepts responsibility

Tony Blair has apologised to the families of those killed in the Iraq War - but refused to say sorry for the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Responding to Sir John Chilcot's highly critical report on the Iraq War, the former Prime Minister said he "cannot and will not say we made the wrong decision".

Mr Blair suggested he was actually vindicated in the Chilcot report of "lying" or deceit in the build up to the war, and urged the public to respect that the decision to invade "was made in good faith"

"I accept full responsibility... without exception, and without excuse," he said, for issues surrounding the way the decision to go to war was made, even though he said he did not agree with all Chilcot's findings.

He nonetheless said that if Saddam Hussein had been left in power in 2003, he would have theatened world peace again, and that for all its challenges, Iraq now has a government that is internationally recognised.

Mr Blair said Chilcot supported the evidence that Saddam Hussein intended to go back to developing nuclear capabilities if sanctions were lifted, and urged members of the public "to put themselves in my shoes as Prime Minister".

"You've seen the intelligence mount up on weapons of mass destruction. You have to consider the possibility of a 9/11 here and your primary responsibility as PM is to protect your country," he said.

Mr Blair said he would never agree "that those who died made their sacrifice in vain", and added that the world was a better place without Saddam Hussein.

In his report, Sir John Chilcot found that Mr Blair had convinced himself with unjustified certainty that Iraq’s President had WMDs, when intelligence reports had not established "beyond doubt" that they existed.

Sir John Chilcot did not use the word “lie” – in fact his report specified that it “is not questioning” Mr Blair fixed belief - but his damning conclusion is that the former Prime Minister deliberately blurred the distinction between what he believed and what he actually knew.

Mr Blair has never apologised for the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, which the Chilcot report suggests led to around 150,000 deaths up until 2009.

In October, with the report on the horizon, he did say he was sorry - but only for two specific aspects of the invasion. Then, he said he apologised "for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong" and "for some mistakes in planning". He added: "I find it hard to apologise for removing Saddam."

In his speech on Wednesday, Mr Blair repeated his qualified apologies on those two points, and also insisted he did not unequivocally pledge Britain to war.

He defended a note sent to George W Bush telling him "I will be with you, whatever", saying it meant he would "be with the USA in dealing with this issue".

Mr Blair said he continued to work in the Middle East today because of his personal involvement in Iraq, saying: "I will carry the decision with me for the rest of my days.

But he said: "What I cannot do and will not do is say we made the wrong decision.

"I believe I made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it."

For seven years the nation has awaited the publication of the Chilcot report on Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War. It has now finally seen the light of day, and at 2.6m pages long is one of the largest reports ever published. To help you make sense of it all, and get the latest commentary, we have published a series of articles on the inquiry and the fallout from the UK's intervention in Iraq.

Tony Blair convinced himself Iraq had WMDs – but intelligence 'did not justify' his certainty

How to read the report in full

Intelligence on WMDs exaggerated to justify going to war, report finds

A timeline of the Iraq War and the disasters that ensued

What happened to the key players in the Iraq War?

Chilcot? Chaff? Dodgy dossier? an Iraq War glossary

Who is Sir John Chilcot, the ex-civil servant leading inquiry into the Iraq war?

The inside story of how Tony Blair led Britain to war in Iraq

Who were the 179 British soldiers who died during the Iraq War?

How many UK soldiers died in Iraq? And at what cost? The war in numbers

The 7 key questions of Chilcot answered

Tony Blair, the Iraq War, and the words of mass destruction that continue to deceive

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