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Chilcot's Damning Verdict on Iraq War; Imagine a World. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired July 6, 2016 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN HOST (voice-over): Tonight: it is no whitewash. After a seven-year inquiry, the Chilcot verdict is in on Tony
Blair's decision to go to war with America in Iraq -- and it is damning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SIR JOHN CHILCOT: Military action at that time was not a last resort. We have also concluded that the judgments about the severity of the threat
posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction -- WMD -- were presented with a certainty that was not justified.
Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated. The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam
Hussein were wholly inadequate. The government failed to achieve its stated objectives.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Sir John Chilcot says the invasion was based on faulty intelligence that should have been challenged. Tonight, we hear
from top officials on all side of that fateful decision and its disastrous implications ever since.
AMANPOUR: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the program. I'm Christiane Amanpour in London.
It's a question that has preoccupied international affairs and poisoned British politics for more than a decade.
Was it right for Britain to join the U.S.-led war in Iraq in 2003?
And was the reason for war based on a lie?
It was a hugely controversial decision, which the inquiry by Sir John Chilcot was set up to investigate in detail. And at seven years in the
making and 2.5 million words long, it is a devastating verdict, which has now been delivered. In an emotional press conference afterwards, Tony
Blair took full responsibility and apologized.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TONY BLAIR, FORMER BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: It was the hardest, most momentous, most agonizing decision I took in my 10 years as prime minister.
For that decision today, I accept full responsibility, without exception and without excuse.
The intelligence assessments made at the time of going to war turned out to be wrong; the aftermath turned out to be more hostile, protracted
and bloody than ever we imagined.
For all of this I express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: The inquiry did not accuse Tony Blair of lying nor did it say there was a conspiracy to go to war even a year before the invasion
actually took place. So let's look back now at the events leading up to the decision in 2003.
GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: At this hour, American and coalition forces are in the early stages of military
operations to disarm Iraq, to free its people and to defend the world from grave danger.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): With that began the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a war that has haunted much of the world ever since.
The United States and the United Kingdom claimed that Saddam Hussein possessed the most deadly weapons and could use them against the West.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: There will always be some uncertainty about how quickly he can acquire a nuclear weapon. But
we don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair published that infamous report; at the time, the so-called "dodgy dossier"
on Saddam's capability.
BLAIR: He had existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45
minutes, including against his own Shia population.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): The drums of war were pounding. The U.N. weapons inspectors flew to Iraq to investigate, a U.N. resolution
threatening Saddam with serious consequences if he didn't cooperate.
But the inspectors searching the country for WMD found none. Still, demands for military action persisted.
In a defining moment, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell told the U.N. there was no doubt that Iraq did have WMD and the world must do
something. But with the Security Council --
AMANPOUR (voice-over): -- divided, Blair made the case for war to the British Parliament.
BLAIR: To show that we will stand up for what we know to be right, to show that we will confront the tyrannies and dictatorships and terrorists,
who put our way of life at risk, to show the at moment of decision that we have the courage to do the right thing.
AMANPOUR (voice-over): Parliament backed him, believing that Saddam did have weapons of mass destruction. And in the days leading up to the
war, one pollster said that around half the country backed him, too.
But more than a million Brits came out onto the streets against the invasion. And millions more joined from across the world. It was one of
the largest demonstrations in history.
But on March 20th, Operation Iraqi Freedom began. They called it "shock and awe" but 13 years later the real shock was that no WMD were ever
found, but that the American and British governments misled their people, that hundreds of thousands of ordinary civilians have been killed in a war
that unleashed forces that, to this day, terrorize the region and the world.
AMANPOUR: So as the Chilcot report became public, I got reaction to it from one who fiercely defends and another who fiercely opposes Tony
First, Alastair Campbell, who's the former prime minister's long-time spokesman and close adviser.
AMANPOUR: Alastair Campbell, welcome to the program. Now this Chilcot report was not a whitewash. It was quite damming, particularly in
what it said about going to war. It describes the Iraq War as quote, "military action at the time was not a last resort."
How do you respond to that?
ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, FORMER SPOKESPERSON FOR TONY BLAIR: I think by pointing out that ultimately the prime minister is the person who had to
make the really difficult judgments at that time. And it is true that there could have been more attempts at diplomacy.
But the reality is Tony Blair had persuaded George Bush to go down the United Nations route and, yes, there was the American buildup that was
going on with other international allies. And Sir John does say in the report that there may have come a point where military action might have
AMANPOUR: Alastair, in retrospect, do you think the prime minister might have regretted not waiting for France to get on board?
On the eve of the war, I spoke to President Chirac and I asked him, would he be prepared for a 30-day or a 60-day deadline to allow more
diplomacy, more inspections?
And he said whatever the inspectors propose, I will agree and then it has to be accepted.
This is what he said to me.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JACQUES CHIRAC, FORMER PRESIDENT OF FRANCE (through translator): We just feel that there is another option, another way, a less dramatic way
than war and that we have to go down that path. And we should pursue it until we have come to a dead end. But that is not the case yet.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: How much time had they already had over the years to deal with Saddam Hussein's relentless defiance of United Nations Security
And don't forget that, prior to that, Tony Blair had had many meetings and many phone calls and many discussions with President Chirac. But I
don't believe the French were ever going to be part of an international military coalition. And I think Jacques Chirac had made that clear both
privately and publicly.
AMANPOUR: Despite what he said to me on the eve.
But I want to ask you about something that you were intimately involved with and have been trying to set the record straight ever since
Today, the Chilcot report said the decision to go to war was based on, quote, "flawed intelligence that was not challenged and they should have
CAMPBELL: Was it challenged as in were we saying are you sure about this, are you sure about that?
Then certainly it was. The document that Tony Blair presented to Parliament about the threat that he believed Saddam's weapons of mass
destruction program posed, based upon intelligence -- and as David Cameron said in the Commons today, the prime minister, both he and Tony Blair, with
massive respect for our intelligence services -- I think most people recognize are amongst the best in the world.
And so, yes, it was challenged but also we were making clear this has to be what the intelligence community feels comfortable in putting into the
public domain. But that's the allegation we've had to live with for the last 13 years, that we lied, I falsified intelligence and I -- that I put
it in there as a way of trying to persuade a reluctant Parliament, a reluctant country to support war.
And I am pleased. That's four inquiries I've been through now and I'm glad to say that it looks like people now do finally accept there was no
so-called "sexing up" of the intelligence dossier.
There were mistakes and faults in the intelligence. That's what Sir John Chilcot said.
AMANPOUR: And, finally, any regrets?
CAMPBELL: Well, you only had to look at Tony Blair during this press conference today to know that he will feel the weight of the decision that
he took for the rest of his life.
Now I was not remotely as important, significant or as responsible for the decisions but I was part of his team. And likewise, there is not a day
goes by that you don't think about it because it was such an important part of, if you like, Tony Blair's premiership and a legacy that so many people
wish to destroy.
And so I still -- you know, I will still defend Tony Blair. I still think that he is somebody who never acted in bad faith and was genuinely
acting in what he perceived to be the United Kingdom's national interest.
And I think as you saw today, we say we like our politicians to say what they think; I don't think he's ever going to apologize for the role
that we played in getting rid of Saddam Hussein and his sons. And I don't he should, either, for all the problems that there are still in that
And let's not pretend that all the problems in that region stemmed from the U.S.-U.K. alliance, invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein.
AMANPOUR: Which in itself is a hotly debated topic and will continue to be.
But on this day, Alastair Campbell, thanks for joining me --
AMANPOUR: -- now that the Chilcot inquiry has been released.
AMANPOUR: So listening to that and joining me now here in the studio is the former British diplomat, Carne Ross, who resigned in 2004 after
giving evidence to the first official U.K. inquiry into the Iraq War.
And welcome. And there have been several inquiries, as Alastair Campbell just referred to.
First and foremost, you saw the Tony Blair press conference. That was about as fulsome as an apology as I've seen, anyway, from him. And any
public figure to put himself up there for more than two hours of press scrutiny, how did you react just to that today?
CARNE ROSS, FORMER BRITISH DIPLOMAT: I thought it was bizarre. It was a strange mixture of wheedling, pleading for understanding but also
frankly gross misrepresentation, both of history and actually what's in the report.
He and Alastair Campbell just now have said that they were not found guilty of creating a lie. Nobody's ever suggested that. But what the
report says very clearly is that they exaggerated, Number 10, Blair himself, exaggerated what we knew for a fact in the evidence on
intelligence on WMD. That's emphatic. It's not just flawed intelligence.
The presentation of that intelligence went much further than the intelligence itself justified. That's pretty serious.
AMANPOUR: So let me ask you about the intelligence because this is something that you were intimately involved in.
ROSS: I was, yes.
AMANPOUR: When they say it wasn't challenged -- and that's what Chilcot says -- flawed intelligence; wasn't challenged; should have been
challenged. You say that you did challenge it.
ROSS: Well, there was an assessment inside government over many years. the many years that I worked when I worked on it very intimately.
And that assessment was that we had questions about Iraq's past stocks. But we had no hard evidence of existing stocks.
Blair said again today that there were stockpiles of chemical weapons in Iraq. That just wasn't true. We had no evidence of that whatsoever.
We had legitimate questions about what had happened to the very considerable stocks of WMD that Saddam had undoubtedly had in the past.
But in the public presentation, what Blair did was take uncertainties and questions and turn them into certain claims. That's precisely what
happened. And that is a process of dishonesty.
AMANPOUR: One of the other things that was -- that has dogged Blair ever since the war was this notion that there was a secret commitment, a
private commitment to George Bush that no matter what, you know, more than a year before the war, that they would go to war. And it says in this
document that that didn't happen.
Are you satisfied by that?
ROSS: Well, I don't know the ins and outs of what Blair promised Bush. I mean, that's not my business. I know what I know from my work.
But I do know and I'm glad to see affirmed by Chilcot that there were better alternatives to war that were not addressed, that were not even
AMANPOUR: Well, what do you buy?
Do you buy what I just played from Chirac?
Because that was the better alternative to war.
ROSS: Well, that was very, very late in the day when there were massed armored divisions on the borders of Iraq. What I was talking about
and talked about in my evidence to Butler and to Chilcot was that containment was actually working. There was no evidence of significant
rearmament. And I'm glad to say Chilcot affirmed that today.
AMANPOUR: What do you make of both Alastair Campbell and Tony Blair, who insist that the Iraq War per se did not generate the terrorism that we
see right now?
ROSS: I don't find it credible. Again, I think Iraq is a better authorities on their own country than any of us are. And frankly, that is
one lesson from all of this that they should be attended to first. They're suffering; their views about what is best for them rather than people like
me declaring what's best for them. But the -- it's very clear there is a line of causation from the occupation to the chaos that was caused in Iraq
to the creation of ISIS. And indeed --
ROSS: -- there's an interesting, specific line, where Colin Powell and the Security Council in his infamous addressed named Abu Musab al-
Zarqawi as a collaborator with Saddam. This elevated al-Zarqawi's status as a jihadist.
He then went on to use that status to found ISIS. There's a kind of a direct link. It's not A equal to B but there is a very clear narrative of
how chaos in Iraq led to the global insecurity problem that we now confront.
AMANPOUR: Carne Ross, still an incredibly difficult situation to digest. Thank you so much indeed for being with us today.
ROSS: Thank you.
AMANPOUR: So what of that deadly chaos that we see today from Iraq to Syria and beyond?
Next: the Iraq effect, America's role and responsibility. I'll speak with Zalmay Khalilzad, who held all the top ambassadorial jobs in the
region under President George W. Bush.
AMANPOUR: Welcome back to the program.
President Obama frequently invokes the specter of the Iraq disaster as the reason to avoid interventions in Syria and elsewhere. Since the
Chilcot report rips into the lack of post-war planning in Iraq, we turn for answers now to Zalmay Khalilzad, who served during the wars as U.S.
Ambassador to Afghanistan, to Iraq and to the United Nations.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador Khalilzad, welcome to the program.
ZALMAY KHALILZAD, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO IRAQ: It's good be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: First and foremost, your reaction to the Chilcot report and particularly to the fact that it says that it defines the war in Iraq as
not the last resort. In other words, there was more that could be done before going to war.
KHALILZAD: Well, I haven't read the report. But based on what I heard when you were interviewing my colleagues previously, it seemed that
the report did not take into account -- at least it appears to me -- the urgency because the forces were there and there was a judgment that the
Security Council could not come to a conclusion to authorize force within a reasonable amount of time.
So the urgency of the forces staying in the Gulf for some time and the judgment that diplomacy had run its course and there was no prospects for
an agreement of the Security Council, made it to the President of the United States that the time for action was then.
AMANPOUR: And just briefly on Tony Blair's long apology and taking responsibility, I mean, he faced the press for more than two hours. George
W. Bush has never done that.
Just your reaction on Blair today and should Bush do the same?
KHALILZAD: Well, I didn't hear all of what Prime Minister Blair said. I have a high opinion of him. He did what he thought was the right thing
to do, given the intelligence that was available.
Also I think there has been an underappreciation of the effect of 9/11 for the decision that was made with regard to Iraq, that the problems that
were percolating in Iraq, if unattended, like we did not deal with the problem of Al Qaeda in Afghanistan --
KHALILZAD: -- prior to 9/11, could escalate and create a big problem down the road, had a big effect on the decision that both President Bush
and Prime Minister Blair made.
AMANPOUR: Ambassador, Chilcot talked about the post-Iraq War, basically saying there was a total failure of planning, especially by the
U.S., for the post-war Iraq situation. He said there was no clear plan for the de-Ba'athification of Iraq's public sector; had been agreed between the
U.S. and U.K. at the point of the invasion.
He said it had a significant and lasting negative impact on Iraq. And Blair today said we risk a situation where we're reluctant to commit any
forces for instance, in Syria.
Do you agree with that, that the Iraq debacle has prevented perhaps trying to get Syria under control?
KHALILZAD: I think that's an important point that, although in the case of Iraq at the beginning, some mistakes were made with regard to the
dissolving of the army and then not having enough forces to create a secure environment and giving de-Ba'athification to a political committee rather
than to a judiciary to implement that created the chaos.
But then at least the President Bush, through the surge, controlled the situation and Al Qaeda in Iraq was defeated. There was a modicum of
But the effect of Iraq, especially after we withdrew our forces from there, has had a chilling effect in terms of the decision-makers in the
West to do what is needed to prevent places like Syria from escalating the way it has and, therefore, it has created new problems.
Intervention created problems in Iraq. But our lack of intervention in Syria has created huge problems as well, created a bigger terrorist
problem than the Al Qaeda problem earlier when we were dealing with Iraq.
AMANPOUR: Incredibly, today, on the publication of this report, in Washington, President Obama basically said he's slowing down the removal of
U.S. forces from Afghanistan.
And I've been told by a source that the Afghans were able to use the Iraq disaster to gain that kind of leverage and to make sure that they
don't get left with no U.S. forces.
Your reaction to that?
KHALILZAD: Well, I think this is a positive decision. I think the Afghans are the beneficiary of our wrongheaded withdrawal from Iraq after
Iraq had been stabilized. And the absence of an effective policy in Syria. So the president didn't want, President Obama, to reduce the force the way
he wanted it done earlier because he feared that the situation would escalate and that it -- this will effect is placed in history, if during
his watch not only Iraq unraveled, not only terrorism increased in Syria but Afghanistan also will have unraveled.
AMANPOUR: Incredible. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, thank you so much for joining us tonight.
KHALILZAD: It's great to be with you, Christiane.
AMANPOUR: Now Tony Blair concluded his marathon 2-hour-plus press conference with this act of contrition.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BLAIR: The decisions I made I have carried with me for 13 years and will do so for the rest of my days. There will not be a day of my life
where I do not relive and re-think what happened.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: For Iraq civilians, though, there is no need to rethink. They still live the consequences of that decision every day. Imagining
that -- when we come back.
AMANPOUR: And finally tonight, Britain's Iraq inquiry was an intense act of national introspection. It was deliberate and comprehensive.
But imagine a world of dissonance between peace and war, invader and the invaded, well-worn democracy and failing state because as professional
civil servants toiled over their investigation here in quiet conference rooms in comfortable Britain, life has gone on and life has ended in Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Saddam ruled us for 35 years and he did horrible things to us. But now the Iraqi people think
we're better off with him and that's because of our politicians. We didn't accept one thief but now we have thousands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): What Tony Blair did with his American coalition partners in Iraq was a grave mistake and a mark of shame
on humanity. And its results we are now witnessing on the ground in Iraq.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): These families who lost mothers, children and women from all sects, why?
What is our sin?
Is it because we were born in Iraq?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
AMANPOUR: War has claimed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives since the invasion in 2003 and continues to do so. Iraqis were not waiting with
bated breath for the Chilcot inquiry. They were still pulling the charred remains of their relatives from a shopping center in Baghdad, which was the
largest single attack since that 2003 invasion.
They were fleeing Fallujah, as much a hotbed of war now as it was a decade ago.
And they were still living under ISIS control in Mosul, uncertain like so many of their fellow Iraqis what next month, next week or the next hour
That's it for our program tonight. And remember, you can now always listen to our podcast, see us online at amanpour.com and follow me on
Facebook and Twitter. Thanks for watching and goodbye from London.