The legal basis for Tony Blair’s decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003 was “far from satisfactory,” according to the findings of the highly anticipated Chilcot Report.
Although the inquiry, released on Wednesday after years of delay, stopped short of calling the military action illegal, deferring to a “properly constituted and internationally recognized court,” the report did question the way in which the legal basis ahead of the March 20 invasion was handled.
“We have, however, concluded that the circumstances in which it was decided, that there was a legal basis for UK military action, were far from satisfactory,” Sir John Chilcot said when the report was released.
The 2.6-million-word report is particularly critical of Lord Peter Goldsmith, the attorney general at the time of the Iraq war. Chilcot concludes that Goldsmith, who had told Blair war without a second UN resolution would be illegal, only to change his mind just days later, should have put his legal advice in writing.
“Given the gravity of the decision, Lord Goldsmith should have been asked to provide written advice explaining how, in the absence of a majority in the Security Council, Mr Blair could take that decision [to go to war],” the report reads.
Chilcot notes that during a March 17 meeting between Cabinet and Goldsmith, ministers showed little interest in questioning the attorney general on why his advice had changed.
“There was little appetite to question Lord Goldsmith about his advice and no substantive discussion of the legal issues was recorded.”
Former Prime Minister Blair argued in a statement released on Wednesday morning that the report’s findings clear of him of lying and indicate he “acted in good faith.”
“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.