I've spent much of today reading the Chilcot report. The findings are as varied as they are damning.
I have found some clear examples of deception and illegality, and I've listed a few below.
- Sir John Chilcot reports that Sir Richard Dearlove reported in July 2002 that he had been told the US had already taken a decision on action and “the question was only how and when” (para 81 vol 6 page 582).
- If we put this next to Blair’s Statement to the House of Commons where he said the decision had not been taken and was in Saddam Hussein’s hands, it is plain Tony Blair was not telling the truth when he said: “[I detest his regime. But] even now he can save it by complying with the UN's demand. Even now, we are prepared to go the extra step to achieve disarmament peacefully”. (25 Feb 2003 : Column 124)
- Chilcot makes it clear that Cabinet were led to believe that there were a set of conditions that needed to be met arising from the Crawford meeting – whilst, Blair had promised Bush “I will be with you, whatever”. Those two things are not compatible. (Volume 2 page 72 para 416).
- Chilcot lays bare the evidence which reveals that Tony Blair discussed a plan with Bush, which was for them to publicly state they were still trying to get a Second UN Resolution, when they had given up on getting one, and that in order to proceed they would blame France: On 12 March 2003 Chilcot refers to Tony Blair’s phone call with President Bush: “In a telephone call with President Bush on 12 March, he proposed only that the US and UK should continue to seek a compromise in the UN, while confirming that he knew it would not happen. He would say publicly that France had prevented a resolution.” (para 321, pa Para 321, page 455, Vol 3, Section 3.8)
- Chilcot goes on to state that “Mr Blair told Cabinet on 13 March that work continued in the UN to obtain a second resolution and, following the French decision to veto, the outcome remained open.” (Para 410, page 472, Vol 3, Section 3.8) yet just the day before, he’d agreed with Bush that a second UN resolution was not going to happen.
- Chilcot recalls that at Prime Minister’s Questions at 12 noon, on 12 March 2003: “In a clear reference to President Chirac’s statement on 10 March but without naming France, Mr Blair drew attention to the difficulties created by countries saying that they would veto a resolution “whatever the circumstances”. Para 288, page 449, Vol 3, Section 3.8) Tony Blair did this, despite the fact that his officials had been told just before that the French Ambassador had called to say that this was not their position. (Mr Rycroft sent an urgent email to Mr Powell, Sir David Manning and other No.10 officials at 11.48am, informing them that the French Ambassador to the UK (Mr Gérard Errera) had called “on the instructions of the Elysée”. To make it plain that it was not France’s position that they would say no to any resolution. Para 290, page 449, Vol 3, Section 3.8 )
- On September 24 2002 Tony Blair made the following statement to the House of Commons about the intelligence Dossier he had published that day. He said “His weapons of mass destruction programme is active, detailed and growing.” And he said the intelligence show this was "… extensive, detailed and authoritative." (Hansard 24 September 2002, col 3) Yet, Chilcot reveals that three months earlier on 8 July, Jack Straw wrote to Blair warning of ‘weak intelligence analysis’ and a quite unrealistic US assumption that Iraqi WMD ould be easy to identify and destroy. (page 34, para 178 vol II 3.3). Tony Blair has tried to defend this by saying he got new intelligence in between but we know from the Butler Report that the Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service had detailed this as coming from a new source that was “developmental and that the source remained unproven.” (The Butler report (§578)).
It is clear that Tony Blair’s statements about what he knew went beyond what the intelligence showed and didn’t take proper account of warnings that it was weak and that the case was ‘thin’ (as we also know form the infamous Downing Street Memo.)
- On legality, Sir John Chilcot also found “Mr Blair asked Parliament to endorse a decision to invade and occupy a sovereign nation, without the support of a Security Council resolution explicitly authorising the use of force. Parliament endorsed that choice.” (page 6, para 23, Executive Summary).
- Chilcot also found that “Mr Blair was advised that it would be impossible to get agreement in the Security Council to a single resolution unequivocally providing that authority. From the end of September, Mr Blair was advised that a second decision by the Security Council would be needed to authorise military action. (page 388, para 1093, Vol 2)
- Chilcot raises very serious questions about how UNSC1441 was formulated, including the Attorney General saying he had been “prevented” “from being more actively engaged” in advising on 1441. (page 367, para 940. Vol 2). Lord Goldsmith “was not sent the records of some of the most critical discussions”. (page 367, para 945. Vol 2). Chilcot exposes that despite Tony Blair agreeing in July to discuss his advice in September, that discussion did not take place until 22 October. This is after the resolution had been agreed with the US in September. page 370, para 956-959. Vol 2
For more of my thoughts, here is a blog that I wrote for the Huffington Post.