What does the Chilcot report say about Tony Blair's role in Iraq invasion?

The 2.6 million-word Chilcot report about the British role in the invasion of Iraq was released Wednesday following a seven-year inquiry.

Kevin Coombs/Reuters/File
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, shown here in 2009. His decision to commit British forces to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was hasty and ill-reviewed, said a report released on Wednesday after a seven-year inquiry.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair’s decision to commit British forces to the 2003 US invasion of Iraq was hasty and ill-reviewed, and undermined the authority of the United Nations Security Council, said a report released on Wednesday after a seven-year inquiry into Mr. Blair’s role in the invasion.

Here are five key things to know about the inquiry’s conclusions, and the reactions to it.

A 'flawed' decision to go to war

"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," wrote retired civil servant John Chilcot, who authored the 2.6-million word report.

The report concluded that the Iraqi government under then-president Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat at the time of the invasion. Blair's government, it said, neglected to exhaust all peaceful options – and often neglect to consult senior ministers on major decisions – before heading to war.

When the WMDs didn't turn up, a new pretext was invented

Chilcot's report noted that the Blair government’s public statements about Iraq's supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction were "presented with unjustified certainty." When no such weapons turned up following the invasion, Chilcot said, Blair changed the case for war on the fly, refocusing them on Hussein's intention of getting weapons of mass destruction. "That was not, however, the explanation for military action he had given before the conflict," wrote Chilcot.

By the time British combat forces left six years later, 179 British and nearly 4,500 American troops and more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians had died. And the report said that the aftermath of the war – which has produced deep, chronic instability in Iraq as well as the rise of the Islamic State – should have been foreseen.

It didn't deem the war illegal

Anti-war activists and the relatives of some dead British troops had hoped that the report could lay the initial groundwork for Blair's prosecution for war crimes. The report stopped just short of calling the war illegal, while not quite calling it legal, either.

"We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for military action were far from satisfactory," it said. 

A remarkable memo between leaders

The inquiry also turned up an early gesture of loyalty on Blair's part to then-US president George W. Bush.

In a memo dating from eight months prior to the invasion, Blair told then-US president George W. Bush, "I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties."

Blair, wrote Chilcot, seemed to have overestimated his ability to convince the US to adjust their position.

Blair remains defiant

Until the Iraq war, Blair was a widely popular figure in Britain, and was the first prime minister from the Labour Party to win office three times.

In his nearly two hour-long response on Wednesday, he defended the decision to depose a "brutal dictator" and held up the report as proof against claims that his government had lied and manipulated evidence to support a predesigned quest for war, according to The Guardian.

"I did not mislead this country," he said. "There were no lies, there was no deceit, there was no deception."

The decision to go to war was "the hardest, most momentous, most agonizing decision I took in 10 years as British prime minister," he said.

"It was a controversial decision … to remove Saddam and to be with America. I believe I made the right decision and the world is better and safer as a result of it."

This report contains material from Reuters and the Associated Press.

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