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Chilcot report to criticise individuals over Iraq War — but acquit Tony Blair

'There have been more than a few instances where we are bound' to criticise those involved the war, John Chilcot says

Published 05/07/2016

Tony Blair has previously apologised for aspects of the Iraq War, sparking claims of attempted
Tony Blair has previously apologised for aspects of the Iraq War, sparking claims of attempted "spin" ahead of the Chilcot Inquiry findings

Tony Blair is facing renewed calls to be held to account for the invasion of Iraq, amid speculation the former Prime Minister will not be among those criticised in the long-awaited Chilcot report.

The 2.6 million-word report is expected to criticise misjudgments that contributed to the murderous chaos that descended on the country following the 2003 invasion and continues to this day — only on Sunday at least 215 people were killed in a suicide car bomb in a Baghdad shopping district.

US president George Bush was told of Tony Blair's support in a 2002 memo
US president George Bush was told of Tony Blair's support in a 2002 memo

Sir John Chilcot confirmed in a TV interview that some individuals are criticised in the report, due to be published at 11am on Wednesday.

"The essence of this Inquiry is that the committee is impartial — we're independent of government, none of us are politicians, and we haven't set out to criticise individuals or institutions," he said.

"However, I made very clear right at the start of the inquiry that if we came across decisions or behaviour which deserved criticism then we wouldn't shy away from making it. And indeed, there have been more than a few instances where we are bound to do that.

“But we shall do it on a base of a rigorous analysis of the evidence that supports that finding. We are not a court — not a judge or jury at work — but we've tried to apply the highest possible standards of rigorous analysis to the evidence where we make a criticism."

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Those criticisms are unlikely to satisfy campaigners who for years have been demanding that Mr Blair be tried as an alleged war criminal. The website of the Stop the War Coalition, an organisation of mainly left-wing anti-war activists, includes an article by the Conservative commentator Peter Oborne arguing that “if Chilcot fails to nail Blair's lies, it's final proof our democracy is broken".

Later this month, there will be a special screening in cinemas around the country of a film presented by the ex-MP George Galloway, who was expelled from the Labour Party in 2003 on the grounds that he incited British troops to disobey orders, and incited Arab troops to fight against the British occupation force. According to the advance publicity, Mr Galloway “does not hold back from presenting his opinion on what he believes to be one of the worst crimes of the century and the hypocrisy of Tony Blair".

It has been a long wait for the report. The inquiry was commissioned by Gordon Brown, when he was Prime Minister. It held its opening session on 24 November 2009, and heard from its last witness on 2 February 2011.

The five-year wait has led to protests in Parliament that it was taking too long, but Sir John claimed the delay was unavoidable.

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"There is no doubt that it’s taken a lot longer than the government which set us up expected, or indeed what we expected at the start, but to get to the bottom of what happened over a nine-year period with all the legal, military, diplomatic, and intelligence aspects of it has proved very great," he said.

"Apart from the oral witness hearings which we've held, we had to scrutinise and analyse something like over 150,000 government documents.

“That's a huge task and takes a great deal of time if you're going to get to the bottom of all of that.

Alastair Campbell, left, vigorously denied he ‘sexed up’ the intelligence dossier on Iraq handed to then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003
Alastair Campbell, left, vigorously denied he ‘sexed up’ the intelligence dossier on Iraq handed to then Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2003

"I think getting agreement on the material that we could publish from that government archive has taken time in itself, but if we are going to give — as we believe we have — a really reliable account, we've had to get agreement from government to publish some things which are quite without precedent; cabinet discussions, discussions with other heads of state and government.”

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