Good for him! Tony Blair’s got guts. In his testimony over his so-called ‘war crimes,’ he blasts pantywaists like Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, defends GW Bush, and warns of the even bigger threat from Iran.
An unrepentant Tony Blair was heckled and jeered by families of Britain’s war dead last night as he declared he had ‘not a regret’ about invading Iraq and toppling Saddam Hussein. At the end of what had been billed as his ‘Judgment Day’, the former Prime Minister made it clear he would do the same again – and warned world leaders they may soon have to take similar decisions over Iran.
Despite the deaths of up to 700,000 Iraqis and 179 British troops, Mr Blair said he felt ‘responsibility but not a regret’ as he concluded his six hours of evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.
There was uproar and shouts of ‘liar’ and ‘ murderer’ as bereaved relatives in the public gallery of the QEII conference centre in Westminster realised they were not going to receive the apology for which they had waited all day.
There was no hint of remorse. Indeed, Mr Blair even suggested the world should be grateful to him. Saddam had been a ‘monster’ and it had been right to remove him even to prevent the ‘possibility’ that he could acquire weapons of mass destruction.
He warned that Iran’s nuclear weapons programme now poses an even greater threat. And, in an apparent rebuke to Gordon Brown and Barack Obama, suggested that if he was still in power he would be championing military action.
On a dramatic day of evidence, Mr Blair:
- Revealed he decided soon after 9/11 to back the U.S. in whatever action it took;
- Said a second UN resolution was politically desirable but not legally necessary;
- Defended his claim that evidence for Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction was ‘beyond doubt’ and insisted he had believed it;
- Admitted the infamous claim that Saddam’s WMD could be deployed within 45 minutes should have been corrected;
- Revealed he rejected a last-minute offer of a ‘way out’ from the U.S., which said the UK did not need to send ground troops.
But he soon got into in his stride, joking about the recent TV interview with Fern Britton in which he suggested that if he had known Saddam had no WMD, he would simply have found a different argument for toppling him. He denied this meant he had been committed to regime change at all costs, and tried to laugh off the comments, saying that ‘with all my experience’ of interviews, he still had ‘something to learn’. Mr Blair went on to take a defiant stance on Iraq, which has come to define his premiership and left Britain deeply divided.
He insisted he acted because of Britain’s alliance with the U.S. and his firm belief that the world had to send a ‘strong message’ in the wake of the terrorist attacks of 2001. He insisted there had been no ‘covert’ deals with the U.S., but admitted had promised President Bush that Britain would help topple Saddam nearly a year before the war began. That remained his position-even though every senior Government legal adviser was advising him military action would be illegal.
He made an extraordinary attempt to shift his central argument that he acted because he believed Saddam had WMD. Mr Blair said: ‘If there was any possibility that he could develop WMD, we should stop him. That was my view then and that’s my view now.‘
One rare concession was that he should have published raw intelligence rather than the Government’s notorious dossier. He also admitted he should have corrected the way the 45-minute claim was interpreted – it referred only to short-range battlefield weapons – but claimed it had not been of great significance at the time. Mr Blair insisted: ‘This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision.
‘And the decision I had to take was, given Saddam’s history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he had caused, given ten years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons programmes or is that a risk that it would be irresponsible to take?
‘The decision I took – and frankly would take again – was if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him.’
He suggested people should recognise that the war had made the world safer, arguing that if Saddam had not been removed Iraq would now be competing with Iran to develop nuclear weapons and support terrorists. But his refusal to express any contrition left some relatives of soldiers in tears.
The former Premier admitted sharing President Bush’s view that it ‘wasn’t necessary’ to have UN Security Council support for war. Mr Blair said he wanted a ‘UN situation in which everyone was on the same page and had agreed’ because, politically, this would have made ‘life a lot easier’. But he admitted reaching the conclusion that if the UN route failed, Saddam would have to go.
Mr Blair added: ‘The American view throughout has been, “This leopard isn’t going to change his spots” – he was always going to be difficult.’ He said it had been his decision to seek UN support, and that had led to resolution 1441 giving a final warning to Saddam to comply with weapons inspectors. But he claimed that, despite Saddam failing to comply, France and Russia had made it clear they would not support a second resolution justifying military action so it had been withdrawn. Mr Blair denied this was because U.S. troops were already massed in Kuwait. UK DAILY MAIL