Sir John Chilcot has issued a damning report into the British Government’s actions before and during the Iraq war.
In a statement introducing the 2.5 million-word report, Sir John said that the war was not a last resort; that Prime Minister Tony Blair presented evidence on weapons of mass destruction “with a certainty that was not justified”; and that planning for post-war Iraq was “wholly inadequate”.
The report does not have the authority to make a definitive judgment on whether the war was legal. But Sir John, who had taken seven years to issue the report, said he had concluded that the circumstances on which the legal decision was taken were “far from satisfactory”.
Sir John said that the collapse of Iraq in the aftermath of the war could have been foreseen, and “did not require the benefit of hindsight”.
The report also criticised the process of decision-taking, saying that the Cabinet should have been given more information about the “legal uncertainties” of going to war.
Since the war in 2003, reports suggest that the number of Christians in Iraq has fallen from 1.5m to around 500,000, due to instability caused by the conflict and the rise of ISIS.
The report reveals that concerns were raised by the Iraqi Christian community prior to the war.
“The Iraqi Christian community was concerned that it risked marginalisation, with some senior figures worrying about what would happen to their community if the current Iraqi regime fell or changed,” the report said, referencing feedback given by a junior official from the British embassy in Amman following a seven day visit to Iraq in January 2002.
The report was published at 11.20am. It goes into great detail over the planning of the invasion, the collaboration between Blair and President George W Bush, and the British governments actions during the war.
Sir John concluded: “All aspects of any intervention need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigour and when decisions are made, they need to be implemented fully. He added that neither was the case with regard to the British government’s actions.
In a statement Tony Blair said “the report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit.”
“Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country,” he said.
However, he added that “the report does make real and material criticisms of preparation, planning, process and of the relationship with the United States” and that he “takes full responsibility for any mistakes without exception or excuse.”
“I will at the same time say why, nonetheless, I believe that it was better to remove Saddam Hussein and why I do not believe this is the cause of the terrorism we see today whether in the Middle East or elsewhere in the world,” Blair said.
Lord David Alton told the Catholic Herald: “Today’s genocide against the region’s minorities has its origins in the failure to plan for the future and, as Sir John Chilcot has concluded, it doesn’t need the benefit of hindsight to see what the absence of a post war strategy would lead to.
“We must all now reflect with great care on the report’s findings – based on 2.6 million words contained in 13 volumes – not least on how public confidence and trust in political processes and leaders can be restored.”