Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has accused the BBC of “putting words into the mouth” of Sir John Chilcot, the chair of a seven-year inquiry into the 2003 Iraq War, during the latter’s first interview about the findings on Thursday.
Blair made the complaint after Chilcot was asked if the former Labour leader had been as “straight as he ought to be” with the public over the UK’s involvement in the Iraq War 14 years ago.
In response to the BBC’s political editor Laura Kuenssburg, Chilcot said:
“Any prime minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her.
“I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.”
In his first interview since the 12-volume report came out last year, Chilcot suggested Blair may have based his decision back in 2003 to involve the UK alongside the US on his beliefs rather than facts.
Replying to Kuenssburg’s question as to whether Blair had given an exhaustive account of events at the inquiry, Chilcot said: “I think he gave an – what was… I hesitate to say this, rather, but I think it was from his perspective and standpoint – emotionally truthful and I think that came out also in his press conference after the launch statement.
“I think he was under very great emotional pressure during those sessions… he was suffering. He was deeply engaged. Now in that state of mind and mood you fall back on your instinctive skill and reaction, I think.”
Blair has hit out at the BBC, accusing it of being skewed against him claiming it’s clear from the transcript of the whole interview that Chilcot thinks he did not “depart from the truth.”
“The BBC headline stems from words put into John Chilcot’s mouth by the interviewer,” a spokeswoman for Blair said, before adding that five different inquiries have found that no intelligence was falsified.
The latter remark comes after the Chilcot report found that the PM had led the UK into war in Iraq on the false pretext that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s regime had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
The report found there was no “imminent threat” by Hussein at the time, and that the war had therefore been waged on “flawed intelligence.”
Blair’s remarks come after the High Court on Wednesday heard a case against an order which bans any attempt to prosecute him over the Iraq War.
The order, which was handed down by Westminster Magistrates Court back in November 2016, declares Blair immune from criminal charges.
However, Michael Mansfield QC, representing former Iraqi General Abdul-Wahid Shannan ar-Ribat, argued that in light of the Chilcot findings, Blair should be prosecuted on the charge of ‘aggression’.
Meanwhile, families of veterans from the Iraq War, that saw 172 British soldiers killed and cost the economy £9.2 million (US$11.87 million), have crowd-funded £150,000 to carry out a forensic analysis of the Chilcot report in order to put Blair on trial.