Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair testified before a public inquiry in London about the Iraq War. Mr. Blair remains adamant the decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein was right and necessary and he'd do it again.
In long awaited testimony before the inquiry panel, former prime minister Tony Blair staunchly defended his decision to join the United States in going to war in Iraq in 2003.
He said he firmly believed Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed a serious threat. And, Mr. Blair said after the terrorist attacks against the United States September 11th 2001, he too felt Saddam had to be dealt with.
"My assessment of risk prior to September 11th was that Saddam was a menace, that he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best [of it]," said Tony Blair.
Mr. Blair said 9/11 changed the mindset. He said he shared the American view at the time that the risk of Saddam being allowed to obtain weapons of mass destruction could no longer be tolerated. Containment was no longer an option, Mr. Blair said.
Mr. Blair joined with then U.S. President George W. Bush in leading the invasion of Iraq and sent in tens of thousands of troops.
Questions remain about Mr. Blair's close ties to the Bush administration. Previous testimony at the inquiry claimed the two men had made an agreement "signed in blood" to go to war early on, at a meeting at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas 11 months before the invasion.
Mr. Blair countered that it behooves any British leader to foster a close relationship with America's president. He denied any firm agreement to go to war at the Crawford meeting.
"The only commitment I gave, and I gave this very openly, to [the] meeting, was the commitment to deal with Saddam," he said.
But, the former prime minister was also adamant about the need to stand by the United States.
"I didn't want America to feel that it had no option but to do it on its own," said Blair.
Mr. Blair responded passionately to questions about the faulty intelligence used as a basis for going to war. He said he believed in the intelligence he received. He said his government did not spice up that intelligence and he conceded he was doubtful the United Nations Security Council would take tough action against Saddam Hussein. He said a decision had to be taken.
"This is not about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception, it's a decision," he said. "And the decision I had to take was given Saddam's history, given his use of chemical weapons, given the over one million people whose deaths he caused, given 10 years of breaking UN resolutions, could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapons program?"
That was not a risk he was prepared to take, he said.
Mr. Blair did concede mistakes were made in planning for the post war period in Iraq.
His decision to invade Iraq remains highly controversial in Britain where public opinion was and remains strongly against the war.
The audience in the hearing room where Mr. Blair testified included family members of soldiers and civilians killed in Iraq. Outside, emotions ran high as dozens of protestors shouted and carried signs accusing Mr. Blair of being a war criminal.
In his testimony, Mr. Blair also warned leaders of dangers today from links between repressive regimes, failed states and terrorist groups and weapons of mass destruction. He singled out Iran.
"When I look at the way that Iran today links up with terror groups … a large part of the destabilization in the Middle East at the present time comes from Iran," said Tony Blair. "The link between Iran having nuclear weapons capability and those types of terrorist organizations it's the combination that makes it particularly dangerous."
Mr. Blair acknowledged many may not share his view. But, he said he still believes he made the right decision on Iraq and said he would do it again.