U.K. Report Slams Britain's Role In Iraq Invasion

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Britain's role in the 2003 invasion of Iraq is the subject of a major report published in London today. The relationship between former U.S. President George W. Bush and then-Prime Minister Tony Blair is under the spotlight in the inquiry, revealing that Blair "overestimated his ability” to influence Bush’s decisions on Iraq. The so-called "Chilcot Inquiry" also damningly found that the U.K.- and U.S.-led invasion of Iraq was "not a last resort. Our colleagues over at Refinery29.co.uk have taken a look at the findings. Here's what you need to know.
After seven years, the Chilcot Inquiry, the United Kingdom's official finding on what led to the country's participation in the Iraq war, has been released.

The report has been a long time coming, costing the country almost $13 million and taking almost as long as the Iraq war itself. It totals 2.6 million words — four times longer than Tolstoy’s War and Peace.

Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians and 179 British soldiers died in the conflict, which began in 2003 under Prime Minister Tony Blair. Many families of those killed are still looking for answers and will hope the report can provide them, along with a huge portion of the population who took to the streets to protest the war and remain angry to this day.

The inquiry was set up by ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown in 2009 to look into the run-up to the U.S.-led conflict and its aftermath. It is named after Sir John Chilcot, a retired civil servant, who led it. More than 120 witnesses gave evidence, including Blair himself, military chiefs, and ministers.

It will no doubt take days for journalists to go through the whole 12-volume report, but here’s what we know about its contents so far.

The invasion of Iraq wasn't the only option.

Chilcot said the U.K. invaded Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted, and as such, military action was “not a last resort," as reported by The Guardian.

Blair overplayed the threat posed by the Iraqi regime.

The intelligence used to justify the invasion was “presented with a certainty that was not justified,” Chilcot said. In other words, Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat from Iraq and downplayed the risks of invading the country.

Chilcot said Blair “relied too heavily on his own beliefs, rather than the more nuanced judgments of the intelligence services.”

Post-invasion planning was extremely poor.

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Chilcot called the planning and preparations for Iraq after the invasion “wholly inadequate,” saying: “Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated.” The war was therefore, he said, a failure, as “the government failed to achieve its stated objectives.”

Blair overestimated his influence over the U.S.

The then-U.K. prime minister “overestimated his ability” to influence President George Bush’s decisions on Iraq, Chilcot said.

Blair had offered Bush his backing unconditionally, but Chilcot said: “The U.K.’s relationship with the U.S. has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement. It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgments differ."

Blair still believes he made the right decision to go to war.

In a statement on the report released by Blair’s office, the former PM said he sticks by his decision to lead the U.K. into war and remove Saddam Hussein, saying he “took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.”

However, he acknowledged the criticisms made about the “preparation, planning, process, and of the relationship with the United States.” He called these “serious” and said they “require serious answers,” adding that he will respond to them later today.

Blair also said he doesn’t believe the removal of Hussein caused the terrorism we see today.

The British public is still furious about the war.

People are protesting in central London, outside the building where Chilcot delivered his findings, calling on Blair to be punished.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas said she believes that Blair is a “war criminal,” adding: “[The Chilcot report] confirms what we know, that Tony Blair lied when he took this country to war on a false prospectus,” the Huffington Post reported.

Supporters of Stop the War, a campaign group that was heavily involved in the anti-war protests in 2003, read out the names of Iraqi and British people who died.

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