The Chilcot Report on the UK invasion of Iraq has finally been released, seven years after it was announced, and many years after its completion (it was delayed for years over the release of government documents and memos that were contained in its pages).
It's safe to say that no independent entity or news agency has read the whole report yet (though the Guardian has a clever crowdfunding effort to comb through its pages). But from the outset, one thing is clear: Tony Blair had no real basis to take the UK into war, and his decision resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands, the displacement of more than a million people, and set the stage for the current ISIS crisis in the region.
Incredibly, Blair has argued that the report exonerates him.
One of the most damning soundbites from the report was a memo from Blair to GW Bush reading, "I will be with you whatever," which is a part of a series of communications between the two leaders in which they start from the conclusion that they want to invade Iraq and topple the Saddam Hussein government, and work backwards to figure out how to present the evidence that will make the case that they have no choice but to do this.
The Guardian has a must-read tick-tock of the aftermath of the report, as various UK political figures weigh in (Jeremy Corbyn, the embattled left wing Labour leader who comes from the opposite side of the party to Blair, has suggested that Parliament could take action against Blair based on the report).
The report also bitterly criticises the way in which Blair made the case for Britain to go to war. It says the notorious dossier presented in September 2002 by Blair to the House of Commons did not support his claim that Iraq had a growing programme of chemical and biological weapons.
The then Labour government also failed to anticipate the war's disastrous consequences, the report says. They included the deaths of "at least 150,000 Iraqis – and probably many more – most of them civilians" and "more than a million people displaced". "The people of Iraq have suffered greatly," Chilcot says.
Chilcot does not pass judgment on whether the war was legal. But it says the way the legal basis was dealt with before the 20 March invasion was far from satisfactory. The attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, should have given written advice.
Help us report on the 2.6m word Chilcot report
Chilcot delivers crushing verdict on Blair and the Iraq war
[Luke Harding/The Guardian]