Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has apologized for taking Britain to the 2003 war in Iraq.
“I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought,” Blair said in an exclusive interview on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS that airs Sunday.
Blair was referring to the claim that Saddam’s regime possessed weapons of mass destruction, which was used by the US and British governments to justify launching the invasion. But the intelligence reports the claim was based on turned out to be false.
The ensuing war and dismantling of Saddam’s government plunged Iraq into chaos, resulting in years of deadly violence. Tens of thousands of Iraqis, more than 4,000 US troops and 179 British service members were killed in the lengthy conflict.
As the most high-profile foreign ally of former US President George W. Bush in the Iraq invasion, Blair has found his legacy overshadowed by the war, with questions and criticism following him wherever he goes.
The consequences of Bush’s decision to take America into Iraq have repeatedly reared its head this year among candidates vying for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
But he stopped short of a full apology for the war.
“I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he’s not there than that he is there,” Blair said.
The British media interpreted Blair’s apology as a tactic to prepare the ground for the publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war.
Blair, who will be aware of what Chilcot is planning to say about him in the long-awaited report into the Iraq war, moved to pre-empt its criticisms, wrote the Guardian on Sunday.
In his long-awaited report, Chilcot is expected to criticize the use of intelligence that suggested Hussein had weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the Iraq war. The former Northern Ireland Office permanent secretary is also expected to say that the UK and the US failed to make adequate preparations for the aftermath of the invasion.
The Independent has provided a chronicle to show that the British public had to wait 11 years to hear Blair’s apology.
And the Telegraph has highlighted Blair’s acknowledgement that the war on Iraq eventually led to the emergence of ISIL (or Daesh) terrorists in Iraq and Syria.
All of the key figures involved in the Iraq conflict, including Blair and other senior Labour politicians, are understood to have been given notice of the verdict on them in the Chilcot report expected to be made public next year, wrote the Telegraph.