George Bush and Tony Blair sent in the troops to overthrow the Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, at a time when it was still possible for the crisis to be resolved peacefully, according to Sir John Chilcot's exhaustive inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war.
On 18 March, 2003, Tony Blair persuaded the House of Commons to give the go ahead for military action, but “at the time of the parliamentary vote, diplomatic options had not been exhausted.”
“It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been,” Sir John said, as he presented the conclusions of his long-awaited report.
The report, which took more than five years to compile, fills 12 thick volumes, and a 150 page executive summary. Its conclusions are highly critical of Tony Blair and the intelligence chiefs – though possibly not critical enough to satisfy grieving relatives of British troops who died in the conflict, who want a ruling that the war was illegal.
Mr Blair and the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw claimed that the UK was taking part in the invasion in order to uphold the authority of the United Nations Security Council, which had ordered Iraq’s President Saddam Hussein to demolish his country’s store of weapons of mass destruction.
But Sir John concluded that far from strengthening the UN, the US and UK are guilty of weakening it.
“In the absence of a majority in support of military action, we consider that the UK was, in fact, undermining the Security Council’s authority,” he said.
He added; “The inquiry has not expressed a view on whether military action was legal. That could, of course, only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised court.
“We have however concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.”
Sir John’s report is also critical of Tony Blair’s style of decision making, which others have dubbed ‘sofa government’ in which Cabinet ministers were shut out of the decision making process.
He said that a “tendency towards group-think” might have been avoided if either the Chancellor Gordon Brown, or the Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott, or Robin Cook – the main critic of the drift towards war – had been given the chance to “provide an element of challenge.”
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies