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7-Year Analysis Finds British Hastily Entered Iraq War


Thirteen years on, Americans are still arguing over the decision to invade Iraq in 2003, and we're not the only ones. Britain has been doing its own exhaustive examination of why its political leaders decided to join that invasion, the faulty intelligence underlying that decision and Britain's military failures in the war that followed.

That long inquiry reached its conclusion today with the release of an independent report. It heaped particular blame on former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his close alliance with former President George W. Bush. Lauren Frayer reports from London.


JOHN CHILCOT: Good morning, everyone. My colleagues...

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: In a conference room next to Westminster Abbey, former civil servant John Chilcot read out his findings after an investigation that lasted seven years, longer even than Britain's combat operations in Iraq.


CHILCOT: It is now clear the policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.

FRAYER: His report was damning, but not surprising. It found that military action was not a last resort, that Saddam Hussein posed no imminent threat and that then Prime Minister Tony Blair rushed into war before all the evidence was in. It also revealed secret conversations between Blair and then President George W. Bush.

In 2002, the summer before the war in which Blair told Bush I will be with you whatever. That revelation that Britain promised to back the U.S. unconditionally whatever the circumstances is what rattles people here. And it prompted a frank discussion in Parliament today with Prime Minister David Cameron pounding his fist on a podium.


DAVID CAMERON: Look, I don't believe the United States is always right about everything, but I do believe our partnership with the United States is vital for our national security.

FRAYER: Outside a nearby church, mourners read out the names of some of the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and 179 British troops who died in the war.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Warrant Officer Class 2 Colin Wall, Royal Military Police. Corporal Dewi Pritchard, Royal Military Police.

FRAYER: Sarah O'Connor's brother Sergeant Bob O'Connor was one of them. She was asked for her reaction to the report.


SARAH O'CONNOR: Personally, for myself, anger. I've gone back to that time when I learned that my brother had been killed. And there was one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of and his name is Tony Blair...


O'CONNOR: ...The world's worst terrorist.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) War criminal.


UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) War criminal.

FRAYER: Protesters outside called for war crimes charges. Chilcot has no power to recommend criminal proceedings, but families say they're considering civil lawsuits. At the end of the day, Blair called a news conference to defend himself. He said the Chilcot report proves he acted in good faith and in what he believed to be the best interest of his country. But he looked like he had aged much more than the 14 years since those photo ops at Bush's ranch in Texas. Today, his voice broke as he discussed failures of intelligence and the invasions bloody aftermath.


TONY BLAIR: For all of this, I express more sorrow, regret and apology that may ever know or can believe.

FRAYER: He began as one of Britain's most popular prime ministers and also one of the youngest. He won three elections, but now the Iraq War is his legacy. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Frayer in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.