Former British prime minister Tony Blair on Wednesday defended his decision to take Britain to war in Iraq in 2003 despite a damning report on the conflict.
“I believe we made the right decision and the world is better and safer,” Blair said at a lengthy press conference following the Chilcot inquiry report.
Almost every aspect of the Tony Blair government’s actions and decisions related to the 2003 Iraq war came in for trenchant criticism from an independent inquiry, whose 2.6-million-word report compiled after seven years of forensic examination was published on Wednesday.
The report said military action in 2003 against Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein’s regime was not the last resort and that all peaceful options had not been exhausted. It further said Hussein posed “no imminent threat” at the time and the consequences of the invasion of Iraq were “under-estimated”.
It said Blair and his government led Britain into war based on flawed intelligence that should have been challenged, and that London failed to achieve its objectives in Iraq. Blair also “overestimated” his ability to influence the US, it added.
Blair, who was prime minister from 1997 and 2007, is likely to face impeachment in parliament and possible legal action by relatives of 179 British soldiers who died in the Iraq war. One family member of a slain soldier called Blair the “world’s biggest terrorist”.
Critics said the report was too late in coming and only confirmed what was already known, but its level of criticism based on the examination of thousands of documents from 2001 to 2009 was noted by those who earlier alleged the inquiry was an “establishment stitch-up”.
(With inputs from agencies)