TONY BLAIR HAS expressed his sorrow and regret for the Iraq War, but maintained that his actions were taken in good faith.
At a press conference today in central London, an emotional Blair said that while the Chilcot Report found the British decision to go into Iraq was made before military intervention was a last resort, it was “the last moment of decision” for him.
He said that he accepts full responsibility for the decision, but asked that the British people accept that he had done so because he thought it was the right thing to do.
It was the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in ten years as British Prime Minister.
“For that decision today I accept full responsibility without exception and without excuse.
I recognise the division felt by many in our country over the war and in particular I feel deeply and sincerely – in a way that no words can properly convey – the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq, whether the members of our armed forces, the armed forces of other nations, or Iraqis.
“The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong.
“The aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted and bloody than ever we imagined. The coalition planned for one set of ground facts and encountered another, and a nation whose people we wanted to set free and secure from the evil of Saddam, became instead victim to sectarian terrorism.
For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.
However, he said that he could not say that he took the wrong decision.
“There was no lies, there was no deceit, no deception.
“I can look the country in the eye and say I did not mislead them.
“If I was back in the same place, with the same information, I would take the same decision.”
However, Blair was uncompromising on whether the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was, at its very core, the right one.
“At moments of crisis such as this, it is the profound responsibility of the person leading the government to make a decision.
I knew it was not a popular decision. I did it because I believed it was right. Because leaving Saddam in power would be worse for the world.
He said that the wisdom of the judgement he made could only be debated by asking whether the world is safer now than when Saddam Hussein was in power. He said that without intervention Iraq would be like the “nightmare of Syria” right now.
He asked the public to put themselves in his shoes as the leader of a world power in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
“I ask people to put themselves in my shoes as Prime Minister.
You are now in the face of a new and virulent type of terrorism. You have to at least contemplate the occurrence of a 9/11 here in British soil.
He said millions of Britons would have taken the same course of action.
“None of this excuses
“It shows that in the world we live in all decisions are difficult.
All a decision maker can do is make a decision on what one believes is right and that is what I did.
Blair rejected the report’s assertion that there had been a “rush to war”.
“We had come to the point of binary decision; remove Saddam or not, be with America or not.
“I did not have the option of delay. I had to decide. I thought of Saddam, of his character, his regime. I took this decision with the heaviest of hearts.
He said that the pain of taking casualties in far away lands had made countries reluctant to get involved in foreign fights. He said that the west needed to make a decision
“Many will find it impossible to reconcile themselves to the decision or my motives in taking it.
“There will not be a day in my life where I do not think about what happened.”
He added that the war in Iraq was the reason he spends so much time in the Middle East now.