Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair says he won’t unilaterally accept the findings of the Chilcot inquiry into his handling of the Iraq invasion. Leaks have suggested that it is expected to be heavily critical of Blair, but will not call for criminal charges against him.
During his Sunday show, BBC Presenter Andrew Marr stated that the inquiry could confirm the long-standing accusation that Blair, who was Prime Minister between 1997 and 2007, decided to invade Iraq months before a public discussion, and that the intelligence evidence for the war was put together to justify the March 2003 offensive.
“It is hard to say that when I haven’t seen it [the Chilcot report],” said Blair, who has been allowed to study passages concerned with him prior to publication. “But I think when you go back and you look at what was said, I don’t think anyone can seriously dispute that I was making it very clear what my position was.”
The specifics of the case against Blair focused on a series of confidential meetings, including one in the White House with George W. Bush, in which he said that the invasion of Iraq was a done deal, regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction could be proven to be in the hands of Saddam Hussein (as it were, none were eventually found). He also reportedly used his access to highest intelligence clearance to create the notorious “dodgy dossier,” which claimed that Iraq could deploy biological weapons in 45 minutes.
Without absolving himself directly, Blair said that he would welcome the fall-out from the inquiry, when it is published in July.
“The thing that will be important when it [publication] does happen is that we have then a full debate. And I look forward to participating in that. Make no mistake about that. It is really important we do debate these issues.”
The inquiry, overseen by the civil servant John Chilcot, has taken an astonishing seven years, due a process known as Maxwellisation, due to which every person facing serious accusation is allowed to study them, and write their own riposte, before publication. The final document is expected to reach 2.6 million words – over four times the length of War and Peace.
A leak from the inquiry from an inside source, published by the Sunday Times last week, claimed that Blair and his ministers “won’t be let off the hook” for misleading the public about their intent to go to war, and are also in line for “absolutely brutal” criticism of their handling of the country, after Saddam Hussein was toppled.
At the same time another anonymous source told the Telegraph on Saturday that Blair and other senior officials will not face public prosecution for anything disclosed by Chilcot, “as the report will not make any judgements on the legality or anything like that because it is not the purpose of the report.”