He said judgements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction “were presented with a certainty that was not justified”. This careful and legalistic language is dynamite for Blair.
Blair used a dossier published in September 2002 to make the case for war by insisting that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. This dossier would later become known as the “dodgy dossier”.
Blair insisted in his foreword to the dossier that “what the assessed intelligence has established beyond doubt is that Saddam has continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, that he continues in his efforts to develop nuclear weapons, and that he has been able to extend the range of his ballistic missile programme”.
In his speech to parliament on the day the dossier was released, Blair said the information was “extensive, detailed and authoritative”.
Yet the Chilcot report finds that this was baseless.
The report says, “The assessed intelligence had not established beyond doubt either that Saddam Hussein had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons or that efforts to develop nuclear weapons continued.
“It also stated that Iraq had the means to deliver chemical and biological weapons. It did not say that Iraq had continued to produce weapons.
“The dossier made clear that, as long as sanctions remained effective, Iraq could not produce a nuclear weapon.”
Even the information actually given in the dossier was uncertain. Reports produced by MI6 and the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) made “judgements” rather than certainties about Iraq’s WMDs.
A JIC report earlier that year admitted that, “Intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and ballistic missiles programmes is sporadic and patchy”.
The report does not go as far as to accuse Blair of lying or even exaggerating. The executive summary even says that, “The Inquiry is not questioning Mr Blair’s belief” that Iraq had WMDs.
But it does add that, “the deliberate selection of a formulation which grounded the statement [in the foreword] in what Mr Blair believed, rather than in the judgements which the JIC had actually reached in its assessment of the intelligence, indicates a distinction between his beliefs and the JIC’s actual judgements.”
It even criticises the JIC for not making it clear to Blair that the dossier didn’t prove that Iraq had WMDs.
But as the report acknowledges, “The dossier was designed to ‘make the case’ and secure Parliamentary and public support for the Government’s position that action was urgently required”.
Blair’s words were entirely in keeping with that aim.