'I'm sorry': Historic moment Tony Blair FINALLY apologises for Iraq War and admits in TV interview the conflict caused the rise of ISIS
Former PM makes the confession after 12 years of refusing to apologise
Blair says he is sorry for his conduct which has now led to 'hell' in Iraq
Says there is an element of truth that the war caused the rise of ISIS
Comes after Lord Blunkett revealed he had challenged Blair about the war
Tony Blair has finally said sorry for the Iraq War – and admitted he could be partly to blame for the rise of Islamic State.
The extraordinary confession by the former Prime Minister comes after 12 years in which he refused to apologise for the conflict.
Blair makes his dramatic ‘mea culpa’ during a TV interview about the ‘hell’ caused by his and George Bush’s decision to oust Saddam Hussein.
Tony Blair, who has finally said sorry for the Iraq War during an interview on CNN, which is due to be broadcast today
In the exchange, Blair repeatedly says sorry for his conduct and even refers to claims that the invasion was a war ‘crime’ – while denying he committed one.
Blair is asked bluntly in the CNN interview, to be broadcast today: ‘Was the Iraq War a mistake?’
He replies: ‘I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong.
‘I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.’
Challenged that the Iraq War was ‘the principal cause’ of the rise of Islamic State, he said: ‘I think there are elements of truth in that.
As well as apologising for the Iraq War, the former Prime Minister also admitted he could be partly to blame for the rise of Islamic State
The TV interview by respected US political broadcaster Fareed Zakaria, also sees Blair be accused of being George Bush's 'poodle' over the conflict
'Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.’
In the ‘trial by TV’, respected US political broadcaster Fareed Zakaria accuses him of being President Bush’s ‘poodle’ over the conflict. Blair’s confession comes a week after The Mail on Sunday published a bombshell White House memo revealing for the first time how Blair and Bush agreed a ‘deal in blood’ a year before the invasion.
A 2002 briefing note from US Secretary of State Colin Powell to the President showed Blair had secretly pledged to back the conflict – while telling MPs and British voters that he was seeking a diplomatic solution.
An edited extract of Tony Blair's interview with Fareed Zakaria of the Americn CNN TV news network
In his CNN interview, Blair candidly asks for forgiveness for his blunder in not realising ‘what would happen once you removed the regime’.
The admission makes a mockery of the statement in the Powell memo that Blair would ‘demonstrate [to Bush] that we have thought through “the day after” ’ – a reference to the consequences of invasion.
However, the bloody chaos in the region continues to this day. And in a separate development, former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett has revealed that he challenged Blair before the war about avoiding chaos after Saddam’s downfall.
The former prime minister with British troops in Basra in Iraq in 2003, soon after Saddam Hussein was toppled
Blair’s confession comes a week after The Mail on Sunday published a bombshell White House memo revealing for the first time how Blair and George Bush, picture, agreed a ‘deal in blood’ a year before the invasion
Lord Blunkett says Blair failed to give him such ‘reassurances’ – and instead placed blind faith in the two main ‘hawks’ in the US administration, Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Lord Blunkett also vented his fury that Sir John Chilcot, who is leading the long-delayed inquiry into the Iraq War, had failed to ask him to give evidence.
BLAIR'S 'MEA CULPA' COMES AFTER 12 YEARS OF NON-APOLOGIES
'I will not apologise for the conflict. I believe it was right.' House of Commons 2004
‘I don’t think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq. We should be immensely proud. I can’t take responsibility for people sending car bombs into a market place.’ TV interview , 2007
I may have been wrong, but I did what I thought was right for our country.’ When he resigned as PM, 2007
[If he had known there were no WMDs] ‘I would still have thought it right to remove Saddam.’ TV interview, 2009
‘It was a headline question. It had to have a headline answer. Answer “Yes” and I knew the outcome: “Blair apologises for war”, “At last he says sorry”. I can’t say sorry in words; I can only hope to redeem something from the tragedy of death, in the actions of a life, my life, that continues still.’ Memoirs , 2010
‘When people say to me, “Do you regret removing him”, my answer is, “No – how can you regret removing somebody who was a monster?” ’ TV interview , 2013
‘Given my front-row seat at these events, I am mystified Chilcot has not asked me to provide either oral or written evidence,’ Lord Blunkett told The Mail on Sunday.
‘I would have thought that over the six years the inquiry has been going on, Sir John would have found the time to ask the then-Home Secretary what he knew.’
Blair’s confession about the Iraq War and the rise of IS is in stark contrast to his repeated refusal to shoulder the blame for the conflict, or its long term consequences. In 2004, he told MPs: ‘I will not apologise for the conflict. I believe it was right.’
He stuck to his hard line in 2007, saying: ‘I don’t think we should be apologising at all for what we are doing in Iraq.’
DAVID BLUNKETT: ‘I WARNED BLAIR THAT TAKING MILITARY ACTION AGAINST SADDAM CARRIED RISKS'
Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett has revealed that he challenged Blair before the war
During the Cabinet meetings we held in the run-up to the Iraq War, I warned Tony Blair that taking military action against Saddam carried risks.
As the US embassy memo obtained by the Mail on Sunday correctly indicates, I was worried about the impact on our social cohesion if British muslims wrongly interpreted it as an attack on their community.
But I was also extremely concerned about what would happen after we had removed Saddam.
Make no mistake - I was in favour of the war, based on the information we were presented with. But I would have been a stronger advocate if I could have received any reassurance that US Vice-President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had a plan for ‘the day after’.
I did not receive that reassurance.
Tony was not able to say what was going to happen when combat operations were over. I think he had just decided to trust Cheney and Rumsfeld.
For understandable diplomatic reasons, the Prime Minister wanted to stay alongside and influence US leadership. However, it is now clear that the Americans had no intention of listening to us.
With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that they had decided to embark on the complete de-Ba’athification of Saddam’s Iraq by dismantling the entire Governmemt infrastructure.
This led to the disintegration of any form of functioning government, creating a complete power vacuum. Terrorists infiltrated Iraq and stirred discontent.
I am not seeking to scapegoat Tony Blair; we were all collectively to blame for deluding ourselves into believing that we had much greater sway over Washington.
But given my front row seat at these events, I am mystified that Sir John Chilcot has not asked me to provide either oral or written evidence to his inquiry.
Indeed, it is not clear to me that the degree of post-conflict planning by Britain and the US - and whether there are lessons to be learned - even forms a focus of Chilcot.
I would have thought that over the six years since the £10 million inquiry was established, Sir John would have found the time to ask the then-Home Secretary what he knew.
Time is ticking on. Given that it looks as if we will have to wait until at least 2017 for his report, I think it would be useful if Sir John could set out now the basic parameters of what he has established - or risk his entire exercise being totally discredited.
Remarkably, Blair himself predicted how the apology U-turn he finally makes today would be reported.
In his 2010 memoirs, he explained why he had so far refused to say ‘yes’ when asked if he was sorry, because he knew it would prompt damaging headlines.
‘Answer “Yes” and I knew the outcome: “BLAIR APOLOGISES FOR WAR”, “AT LAST HE SAYS SORRY”. I can’t say sorry in words.’
His apology is bound to prompt claims that he is trying to head off the scathing criticism of his handling of the Iraq War expected to be included in Chilcot’s findings.
All the key figures, including Blair and other senior Labour politicians, are understood to have been given notice of the broad thrust of Chilcot’s verdict on them, expected to be made public next year.
As a master of public relations and media manipulation, Blair may have calculated that since Chilcot is likely to accuse him of major errors of judgment, it is better for him to volunteer an apology now, rather than be forced to do so if, as seems certain, Chilcot’s damning assessment gives him little choice. The former Prime Minister’s decision to make his apology in the US, as opposed to the UK, is also significant.
Far from presenting his apology in a harsh critical light, CNN interviewer Zakaria, a personal friend of Blair, showers praise on him for being the only interviewee in the programme who ‘took responsibility for Iraq’ on camera.
Most of the others involved in the show, senior US political and military figures, blamed each other.
The Colin Powell memo – which this newspaper found among declassified US State Department documents while searching through a cache of Hillary Clinton’s recently released emails – was written in March 2002, a week before Mr Blair met Mr Bush for a summit at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
In our report, which made headlines around the world, we revealed that Powell had said Blair ‘will be with us’ should the US take military action in Iraq and that the ‘UK will follow our lead’.
Blair would handle ‘public affairs lines’ for persuading people that Saddam posed a real threat – in fact, after the war, it was discovered Blair’s claims following the Crawford summit about Iraq’s ‘weapons of mass destruction’ were false.
Lord Blunkett told The Mail on Sunday yesterday how he challenged Blair during Cabinet meetings prior to the war about the level of post-conflict planning for Iraq.
As one of Blair’s most loyal Ministers, Lord Blunkett said he repeatedly sought reassurances that the US had a coherent plan to govern Iraq after the fall of Saddam.
He added: ‘I did not receive that reassurance. Tony was not able to say what was going to happen when combat operations were over. He just decided to trust Cheney and Rumsfeld.
‘With the benefit of hindsight, we now know that they had decided to embark on the complete de-Ba’athification of Saddam’s Iraq by dismantling the entire Government infrastructure.
‘This led to the disintegration of any form of functioning government, creating a complete power vacuum. Terrorists infiltrated Iraq and stirred discontent.
‘I am not seeking to scapegoat Tony Blair; we were all collectively to blame for deluding ourselves into believing that we had much greater sway over Washington.’ Lord Blunkett echoed calls for Chilcot to release an interim copy of his findings immediately or ‘risk his entire exercise being entirely discredited’.
Significantly, in the CNN show, host Zakaria gives his own apology, telling viewers that he regrets his own initial support for the war.
He says he changed his mind after watching the post-war turmoil unfold and witnessing the bloody rise of IS. Viewers may draw the conclusion that Blair came to the same decision for the same reason.
- Blair’s apology airs on Fareed Zakaria: GPS on CNN Europe at 11am and 7pm today, and features in the documentary Long Road To Hell: America In Iraq, which airs on CNN Europe at 1am on Tuesday.