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Tony Blair's Predecessor Criticizes Him Over Iraq War

  • Tom Rivers

Tony Blair, 9 Dec 2009 (file photo)

Tony Blair, 9 Dec 2009 (file photo)

John Major says the current inquiry into the war raises some very big, important questions regarding the British government's stated aims for invading Iraq

Tony Blair's already tarnished reputation has taken another blow with former prime minister John Major now questioning his successor's motive for joining in the invasion of Iraq.

Looking back to the events of nearly seven years, Mr. Major says he - at the time - believed Mr. Blair when he would outline his reasons for going to war.

"I supported the Iraq war because I believed what the prime minister said. I had myself been prime minister in the first Gulf war and I knew that when I said something I was utterly certain that it was correct and I said less than I know," he said. "I assumed the same thing had happened and on that basis I supported reluctantly the second Iraq war."

Interviewed on the BBC, Mr. Major refused to be drawn on whether he thought that Mr. Blair deliberately misled the country when he took Britain to war.

Mr. Major said it is for others to judge. A high-powered inquiry into Britain's entry and involvement in the Iraq war is currently under way in London and Mr. Blair will give evidence in the coming weeks.

Just last month, Mr. Blair was asked in a BBC interview what he would have done if he had known that Saddam did not hold any weapons of mass destruction in 2003. His response came up just short of saying he would have made the case for regime change, but he did say he would have had to couch his arguments for British involvement differently.

And that argument, as John Major says, is fraught with problems.

"The argument that Saddam Hussein was a bad man and therefore must be removed simply will not do," he added. "There are many bad men around the world who run countries and we do not topple them. And indeed, in earlier years we had actually supported Saddam when he was fighting against Iran. So, the argument that someone is a bad man is an inadequate argument for war and certainly an inadequate and unacceptable argument for regime change."

Mr. Major says it is imperative for the inquiry to determine whether Blair's cabinet knew that there were serious doubts about whether there actually were any weapons of mass destruction in the weeks and months ahead of the invasion.

He adds, concerns about the war here need to be addressed if public trust in British politics was to be restored.