Every national newspaper today led on the Iraq Inquiry’s criticism of former British prime minister Tony Blair.
The formerly pro-war Sun had probably the most eye-catching front page, “Weapons of Mass Deception”, and inside columnist Trevor Kavanagh admitted that with hindsight the war had been a mistake.
- February 9, 2018
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He said: “The Butcher of Baghdad was a tyrant. But he kept control. His fall created a vacuum now filled by fanatics who make him look like a saint.”
In its leader column The Sun said: “Sir John Chilcot’s report did not accuse our former Prime Minister of lying about Saddam’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
“Yet Blair accepted dubious evidence of them without question, ignoring contradictions and warnings. He used them to sell the war to Parliament, the nation — and The Sun — with his silky oratory.”
The Daily Mail, which opposed the war, was even more hard-hitting in its front-page, describing Blair as a “Monster of delusion”.
The Daily Mirror was able to reflect that it was one of the few newspaper titles to make the right call back in 2003 when it wholeheartedly opposed the war.
Brian Reade wrote: “At the height of the anti-war protests in 2003 Tony Blair defiantly stared down his critics by declaring ‘history will be my judge’.
“Now, 13 years on, history delivered its solemn verdict: Guilty.”
At the Times (which backed the war), columnist David Aaronovitch reflected on the fact that he supported the war and the removal of Saddam Hussein and says it is unfair to place the full blame for the disaster on Blair.
“Let’s be clear about one thing. The key players in the Iraq invasion were the United States and Saddam. The US would have invaded without Britain. Even if Jeremy Corbyn had been PM and George Galloway his foreign secretary, the invasion would still have happened. It is solipsism to pretend otherwise.
“The issue for Britain was whether to give or withhold support. Blair thought it far better to offer support and by doing so to exert leverage on the terms and conditions of the impending military action. Maybe if the target had been someone less belligerent and scornful of the international community than Saddam, he wouldn’t even have done that.”
The once pro-Iraq war Telegraph also offered some balance against the argument that Iraq was all Blair’s fault.
Columnist Con Coughlin blamed the current instability in Iraq on US president Obama for pulling US troops out of the country in 2011.
The Guardian attracted some criticism for its headline: “Tony Blair unrepentant as Chilcot gives crushing Iraq war verdict.”
Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges noted on Twitter: “What Blair said: ‘more regret, sorrow and apology than you can ever know or can believe’. What Guardian said: ‘Tony Blair unrepentant’.”
The Independent, which also opposed the war back in 2003, said that Blair was “spinning on their graves” in its digital edition from page. This was a reference to his press conference performance yesterday and the estimated 150,000 civilian death toll of the Iraq conflict.
Today’s national newspaper front pages: