Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain went to war alongside the United States in Iraq in 2003 on the basis of flawed intelligence that went unchallenged, a shaky legal rationale, inadequate preparation and exaggerated public statements, an independent inquiry into the war concluded in a report published on Wednesday.
The long-awaited report by the Iraq Inquiry Committee, led by a retired civil servant, John Chilcot, takes up 12 volumes covering 2.6 million words, four times longer than “War and Peace,” and took seven years to complete, longer than Britain’s combat operations in Iraq. It concluded that Mr. Blair and the British government underestimated the difficulties and consequences of the war and overestimated the influence he would have over President George W. Bush.
The result amounts to a broad indictment of Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war that overthrew Saddam Hussein and its aftermath, and it portrays Mr. Blair as trying without success to restrain Mr. Bush, to push him to obtain full United Nations Security Council authorization and to warn about the difficulties of the war — and deciding to go to war alongside Washington nonetheless.
Judging that Britain should stand by the United States, Mr. Blair told Mr. Bush in a private note as early as July 28, 2002, “I will be with you, whatever.” Mr. Blair knew by January 2003 that Washington had decided to go to war to overthrow Mr. Hussein and accepted the American timetable for the military action by mid-March, pushing only for a second Security Council resolution that never came, “undermining the Security Council’s authority,” the report concludes.
The report is likely to underline in Britain the sense that Mr. Blair was “Washington’s poodle,” the phrase widely used by Mr. Blair’s critics at the time. The report says the lessons from the British government’s conduct are that “all aspects” of military intervention “need to be calculated, debated and challenged with the utmost rigor,” and decisions, once made, “need to be implemented fully.”