The Chilcot Report, the U.K.’s official inquiry into its participation in the Iraq War, has finally been released after seven years of investigation.
Its executive summary certainly makes former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who led the British push for war, look terrible. According to the report, Blair made statements about Iraq’s nonexistent chemical, biological, and nuclear programs based on “what Mr. Blair believed” rather than the intelligence he had been given. The U.K. went to war despite the fact that “diplomatic options had not been exhausted.” Blair was warned by British intelligence that terrorism would “increase in the event of war, reflecting intensified anti-US/anti-Western sentiment in the Muslim world, including among Muslim communities in the West.”
On the other hand, the inquiry explicitly says that it is not “questioning Mr. Blair’s belief” in the case for war — i.e., it is not accusing him of conscious misrepresentations. Blair is already spinning this as an exoneration, saying the report “should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies, or deceit.”
But consider that for as long as the Chilcot commission has existed, the U.K. and U.S. intelligence communities have probably fought over the language of the executive summary.
So the place to look for the less adulterated truth about Blair and the U.K. government is in the rest of the report’s 2.6 million words, including footnotes and newly declassified documents.
Consider this July 28, 2002, letter from Blair to George W. Bush. The first thing you’ll notice is its tone: It sounds like an adult trying to placate a heavily armed 8-year-old. “I will be with you, whatever,” Blair writes. “Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do.” But, he writes, “Suppose it got militarily tricky.” And suppose “the Iraqis feel ambivalent about being invaded.” Blair suggests Bush not go it alone. “If we win quickly, everyone will be our friend.”