James Tapsfield, Martin Robinson, Tim Sculthorpe and Richard Spillett — Mail Online July 6, 2016
Tony Blair’s reputation was today lacerated by the Iraq War report as it revealed he told George W Bush they should ‘act now, explain later’ in a secret memo sent two years before the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The former prime minister was also accused of twisting intelligence about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein to justify the war that led to the deaths of 179 British soldiers and left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead – but Mr Blair insisted this afternoon: ‘There were no lies – there was no deceit’.
After seven years of deliberations, the Chilcot report found that the former prime minister overplayed evidence about the dictator’s weaponry and ignored peaceful means to send troops into the country.
In a devastating set of conclusions, Sir John found Blair presented the case for war with ‘a certainty which was not justified’ based on ‘flawed’ intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
It also said Blair had ‘overestimated’ his ability to influence US president George W Bush and the way the legal basis was established was branded ‘far from satisfactory’ and bypassed the UN and undermined the international system.
And Blair was not prepared for the consequences of Iraq War despite ‘explicit warnings’ as he doggedly pursued an invasion, Sir John’s report said.
29 secret letters Mr Blair wrote to George W Bush were published for the first time today and in July 2002, eight months before MPs voted to back an invasion, Mr Blair had told the president: ‘I will be with you, whatever’. On the day after 9/11 he told President Bush: ‘Act now, explain later’.
But after Sir John published his report today Tony Blair gave a 45-minute speech where he said Sir John proved ‘there were no lies, Parliament and the Cabinet were not misled, there was no secret commitment to war, intelligence was not falsified and the decision was made in good faith’.
And in a message to the families of the 179 servicemen and women who died in the Iraq War – who say Chilcot shows him to be ‘the world’s worst terrorist’ and he should be prosecuted – Mr Blair told them: ‘I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.’
He added: ‘I can look those families and the country in the eye and tell them I did not mislead them. What I cannot do, and will not do, is say that the decision was wrong. I think the world is a safer and better place because of it. I cannot accept that they (British soldiers) died in vain’.