Announced on 15 June 2009 by then prime minister Gordon Brown, the inquiry was tasked with examining Britain’s role in Iraq from the run-up to the war, the military action and its aftermath, spanning a period from 2001 to 2009. Predicted to take a year, the inquiry has instead taken seven and has cost £10m. The finished report runs to 12 volumes and 2.6m words.
Tony Blair deliberately exaggerated the threat posed by the Iraqi regime as he sought to make the case for military action to MPs and the public in the buildup to the invasion in 2002 and 2003, the Chilcot inquiry has found.
In his forensic account of the way Blair and his ministers built the case for military action, Chilcot finds the then Labour prime minister – who had promised US president George W Bush, “I will be with you, whatever” – disregarded warnings about the potential consequences of military action and relied too heavily on his own beliefs, rather than the more nuanced judgments of the intelligence services.
In particular, Chilcot identifies two separate, key occasions in the buildup to the conflict, against the background of mass protests on the streets of London by the Stop the War coalition, when Blair appears to have overplayed the threat from Iraq and underplayed the risks of invasion.
“In the House of Commons on 24 September 2002, Mr Blair presented Iraq’s past, current and future capabilities as evidence of the severity of the potential threat from Iraq’s WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]. He said that, at some point in the future, that threat would become a reality,” Chilcot says.
But Chilcot argues instead: “The judgments about Iraq’s capabilities in that statement, and in the dossier published the same day, were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”
The inquiry finds that the report which subsequently became notorious as the “dodgy dossier” was deliberately aimed at maximising the perceived threat from Iraq.