Tony Blair Finally Apologizes for All the "Mistakes" Made During the Iraq War
One of the key members of the "coalition of the willing" that invaded Iraq in 2003, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, said Sunday he was sorry for building a misleading case for the Iraq War and failing to adequately plan for the power vacuum and widespread violence that emerged in its wake.
In an interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, Blair also counted the formation of the Islamic State group as one of the unanticipated consequences of the war and said its planners bore some "responsibility" for its rise.
"I can say that I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong because, even though he had used chemical weapons extensively against his own people, against others, the program in the form that we thought it was did not exist in the way that we thought," Blair told Zakaria, seemingly acknowledging that he, the Bush administration and others involved in the war should have done better at determining the status of Saddam Hussein's chemical weapons programs.
The United Kingdom committed thousands of troops to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. The Week reports British forces saw 136 soldiers killed in action and "43 killed in other cases, including friendly fire and suicide," between 2003-2009. It also reported British involvement cost around about $10 billion.
In the CNN interview, Blair acknowledged some faults of the invasion but defended the integrity of the people planning it, saying that while the original strategy for the war may have faltered, the region is more stable today than it would be otherwise.
He said he's sorry "for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime ... I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam. I think, even from today in 2015, it is better that he's not there than that he is there.
"Of course, you can't say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015. But it's important also to realize, one, that the Arab Spring which began in 2011 would also have had its impact on Iraq today, and two, ISIS actually came to prominence from a base in Syria and not in Iraq."
Blair's admission of fault comes on the eve of the release of the Chilcot report, which the Guardian describes as a "long-awaited" investigation into the U.K.'s involvement in the conflict. As the paper noted, Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon responded to the interview by calling it part of Blair's "spin machine."
Some U.S. politicians who are still actively seeking office have stumbled around the issue, particularly Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, who has been forced to run on his older brother George W. Bush's record on the war despite opinion polls showing a majority of Americans consider it a mistake.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney, for his part, continues to insist he has no regrets about the war.
Zakaria's interview with Blair will air Monday on CNN at 9 p.m. Eastern as part of a one-hour special on modern Iraq, Long Road to Hell: America in Iraq.
Oct. 26, 2015, 9:29 a.m.: This article has been updated.