Key players in Iraq War decision react to Chilcot report

Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Jack Straw were main protagonists in war decision

Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Jack Straw were main protagonists in war decision

Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Jack Straw were main protagonists in war decision

 

Former British prime minister Tony Blair says he takes full responsibility for the failings made in the Iraq War.

However, in a lengthy press conference on Wednesday afternoon, he said he does not regret the decision he took.Responding to the devastating critique in the Chilcot report of his decision to invade Iraq, Mr Blair said that Saddam Hussein had “ruled with an unparalleled brutality”.

He said for more than 20 years the regime of Saddam Hussein had been a source of conflict and bloodshed and that his was the only regime to have used weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

There was evidence al-Qaida wanted to use these weapons he said, and that the attack on the Twin Towers in the US in 2001 showed they would have used them.

He said:“The decision to go to war in Iraq and remove Saddam Hussein from power in a coalition of over 40 countries led by the USA, was the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in ten years as British prime minister.

“For that decision today I accept full responsibility, without exception and without excuse. I recognise the division felt by many in our country over the war and in particular I feel deeply and sincerely - in a way that no words can properly convey - the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq, whether the members of our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations, or Iraqis.

“The coalition planned for one set of ground facts and encountered another, and a nation whose people we wanted to set free and secure from the evil of Saddam, became instead victim to sectarian terrorism. For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.”

“I took this decision because I believed it was the right thing to do based upon the information I had and the threats I perceived.

Responding to queries from the press following his lengthy statement, Mr Blair says he can look the nation in the eye and say he did not mislead them.

He said that he did not make the wrong decision in going to war.

Alistair Campbell

Former Downing Street director of communications Alastair Campbell said the Chilcot report is the fourth inquiry to clear him of “sexing up” a government dossier on Iraq’s supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

While acknowledging that the report had uncovered “many mistakes” in the preparation for war, Mr Campbell said its core findings had “laid to rest” a string of allegations made by Tony Blair’s critics.

In a staunch defence of his former boss, Mr Campbell rejected claims that Mr Blair was “cavalier” about military action, insisting that he did everything he could to prevent war and agonised ceaselessly about its possible consequences.

“What there was was a decision, a set of decisions, which ultimately had to be made by the prime minister,” Mr Campbell said in a blog post.

Mr Campbell said “conspiracy theorists” continued to claim Mr Blair took Britain to war for oil, or to please Mr Bush or because of a “Messiah complex”.

But he insisted: “I was one of the few people who saw the process of his making the decision close up, virtually round the clock, around the world.

“Far from seeing someone hell-bent on war, I saw someone doing all he could to avoid it. Far from seeing someone undermine the UN, I saw him trying his hardest to make it work.

Mr Campbell said the world was “a better place” for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power.

Jack Straw

Jack Straw said the consequences of the decision to invade Iraq “will live with me for the rest of my life” as he acknowledged that “with hindsight” different choices would have been made.

Mr Straw, who was foreign secretary at the time of the 2003 invasion, insisted that “difficult decisions were made in good faith, based on the evidence available at the time”.

The former cabinet minister said he did not take “at face value” the intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction — which Sir John Chilcot found was flawed — and disagreed with the Iraq Inquiry’s conclusion that diplomatic options had not been exhausted at the time of the invasion.

But he acknowledged: “With the benefit of hindsight, different decisions would have been made on Iraq, and the inquiry sets out the clear lessons which need to be learnt.

“But the decisions made by me and others can only properly be judged in the context of the time. I take full responsibility for all those that I made.”