Tony Blair had been convinced since the 1990s that Iraq still had WMD. When none was found after the 2003 invasion it challenged not only the justification for the war but Blair’s entire mindset about Saddam Hussein. London followed the same script as the United States shifting from claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction to Saddam wanting them. The fact that the latter would not make Baghdad a threat was never mentioned as Downing Street was thrown on the defensive.
During the invasion and the month afterward there were several stories in the media about WMD. On April 7, 2003, for instance the New York Times reported that U.S. troops found four suspicious drums near Karbala that might contain nerve or mustard gas. On May 3, the head of the U.K.’s Defense Intelligence General Andrew Ridgway said a trailer had been found in Mosul that might be a mobile lab. Finally on May 16 MI6 chief Sir Richard Dearlove wrote that Iraqis were coming forward with info on Iraq’s programs. These provided hope that London’s claims about how much of a threat Iraq posed would be proven true. Instead, none of them came to fruition as Iraq had destroyed its WMD and ended its programs in the 1990s.
That led to several reviews of the decision to go to war. On July 7 parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee published a report that said it was too early to fully evaluate the government’s WMD claims but the report that Iraq could deploy its weapons in 45 minutes should not have been used in its Iraq dossier. It also found that no ministries misled parliament. That was true because PM Tony Blair completely cut his cabinet out of his war effort. He never told them the details of his choices such as telling President Bush early on he would stand with him on Iraq no matter what. The minsters therefore had little to tell parliament about what was going on within the government because they didn’t know themselves.
The American Iraq Study Group was in charge of searching for Iraq’s WMD and found everything the U.S. and U.K. believed was wrong. In October the group’s head David Kay testified to Congress on its initial findings that no WMD had turned up but that related activities and equipment had been discovered. He said that Saddam still wanted WMD. On January 28, 2004 Kay went to Congress again and told it that the conventional wisdom about Iraq was completely off. There were no WMD. On October 6 the Study Group’s final report was issued. Saddam wanted to maintain his WMD programs but the stocks were destroyed in 1991. The U.N. inspectors destroyed Iraq’s delivery systems and dismantled most of its activities. By 1996 all of its programs had been abandoned. The Iraqi threat proved to be based upon assumptions. London believed that after U.N. inspectors left Iraq in the late 1990s it restarted all of its work on weapons. This was bolstered by a series of shoddy WMD intelligence reports many of which should not have been given such importance but were because they supported what officials believed Iraq was doing.
The Blair government was not willing to admit its mistakes. Instead of coming clean that all of its arguments for war were wrong it simply shifted its rhetoric. Instead of claiming Iraq had WMD it said that Iraq wanted weapons and hid its activities from inspectors and were thus in violation of U.N. resolution which meant the war was right. That was a huge jump in logic and followed the same path the Bush administration made in America. Somehow wanting WMD made Iraq an immediate threat that necessitated regime change. This was just another example of how Blair’s beliefs on Iraq were proven wrong. He never wavered however in believing that he was right. This was why the Iraq war was such a disaster because leaders like Blair were trapped in their world views which were impervious to what was actually happening.
The Iraq Inquiry, “The Report of the Iraq Inquiry,” 7/6/16
PREVIOUS CHILCOT REPORTS
Review The Report of the Iraq Inquiry, Executive Summary
Chilcot Inquiry Sec 1.1 UK Iraq Strategy 1990 To 2000
Chilcot Inquiry Section 1.2 UK Iraq strategy September 2000 To September 2001
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.1 Development of UK Strategy and Options On Iraq, 9/11 to Early January 2002
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.2 Development of UK Iraq Strategy and Options, January to April 2002 – “Axis of Evil” to Crawford
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.3 Development of UK Iraq Strategy and Options, April to July 2002
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.4 Development of UK Iraq Strategy and Options, Late July to 14 September 2002
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.5 Development of UK Strategy and Options September to November 2002 – Negotiation of Resolution 1441
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.6 Development of UK Strategy and Options, November 2002 to January 2003
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.7 Development of UK Strategy and Options, 1 February to 7 March 2003
Chilcot Inquiry Section 3.8 Development of UK Strategy and Options, 8 to 20 March 2003
Chilcot Inquiry Section 4.1 Iraq WMD Assessments, Pre-July 2002
Chilcot Inquiry Section 4.2 Iraq WMD Assessments, July to September 2002
Chilcot Inquiry Section 4.3 Iraq WMD Assessments, October 2002 to March 2003
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