Iraq war report could get Tony Blair impeached—9 years after he left office

The report will look at the intelligence failures that led to Britain's involvement in Iraq, and whether then-Prime Minister Tony Blair misled parliament and the public about the his intentions to take part in the 2003 US invasion.

by VICE News
Jul 5 2016, 9:05pm

Britain's Prime Minister Tony Blair (C) visits British troops in Basra, southern Iraq December 17, 2006. Picture taken December 17, 2006. (Eddie Keogh/Reuters)

A long-awaited report detailing the United Kingdom's involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq will be published on Wednesday, and it may accuse former prime minister Tony Blair of lying to get the country into the war.

The probe — commonly referred to as the "Chilcot report" after Sir John Chilcot, a retired civil servant who led the inquiry — was launched in 2009 by then-Prime Minister Gordon Brown. It will look at the intelligence failures that led to Britain's involvement in Iraq, and whether Blair misled parliament and the public about the his intentions to take part in the US-led invasion in 2003.

The report is also expected to examine the lack of planning for post-war reconstruction and governance.

Investigators interviewed more than 150 witnesses, and the final version is expected to exceed 2 million words, which would make it roughlyfour times as long as Le Tolstoy's War and Peace.

A group of parliamentarians, led by Scotland's former first minister Alex Salmond, hope the inquiry proves that Blair agreed to go to war in Iraq with the US one year before he told Parliament and the British public about his intentions.

Involvement in the war was wildly unpopular in the UK, and protests against the country's involvement drew hundreds of thousands to London's streets, and prompted members of Blair's government to resign in protest.

"Chilcot heard a lot of evidence on the critical factor of whether Blair pre-committed himself to war, so I'm hoping the former PM gets nailed on that," Salmond told Time. "If he pre-committed, everything that followed started with that decision — that's the key to this."

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It's possible — although very unlikely — that Parliament could impeach Blair if the report shows that he misled the public. That in and of itself would be remarkable, since Blair hasn't been in office since 2007, and the impeachment procedure hasn't been used since 1848, when a former foreign minister made a secret deal with Russia that upset Parliament.

While largely symbolic, an impeachment could prove humiliating to Blair, because Parliament could put him on trial. It takes a simple majority of Parliamentarians to vote for a conviction, which could theoretically result in a lifelong ban from public office and imprisonment.

While admitting that the decision to invade Iraq was a mistake, Blair has defended his position and insists he did not mislead the public.

"I think when you go back and you look at what was said, I don't think anyone can seriously dispute that I was making it very clear what my position was," Blair told the BBC in May.

The inquiry will be released in conjunction with hundreds of declassified documents, including 29 letters that Tony Blair wrote to then-US president George W. Bush leading up to the invasion.

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The documents could include details about the Bush administration's rationale for the war, which was also based on flawed intelligence about Saddam Hussein's alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Between 2003 and 2009, 179 British troops died in Iraq, along with 4,424 Americans.

The lowest estimates for the number of Iraqi civilians who died due to the war and the violence it unleashed are around 110,000, while other studies say the death toll might be more than five times that many.

British combat operations in Iraq ended in 2009, and the few hundred UK military trainers who remained in the country left in 2011, the same year the US military withdrew from Iraq.

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