The author of an exhaustive seven-year public inquiry into the UK going to war with Iraq under Tony Blair has said the former prime minister was "not straight" to the public.
John Chilcot, speaking publicly for the first time since the report was published last year, told the BBC that Blair was "emotionally truthful" about his reasons for taking the country to war, but that he relied on his "beliefs" more than facts.
British and American troops invaded Iraq in 2003, and troops remained formally stationed in the country until 2011. A hundred and seventy-nine British troops were killed, and hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the conflict and ensuing regional instability.
Chilcot's report into the war was scathing. One of the central pillars of the justification for invading – the claim that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction – was presented to the public with, the report said, a "certainty that was not justified".
Asked by BBC presenter Laura Kuenssberg if Blair had been truthful with the country over his reasons to invade, Chilcot responded carefully: “Can I slightly reword that to say I think any prime minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her. I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.”
He continued: "I think it was, from his perspective and standpoint, emotionally truthful, and I think that came out also in his press conference after the launch statement.
"I think he was under very great emotional pressure during those sessions, he was suffering. He was deeply engaged. Now, in that state of mind and mood you fall back on your instinctive skill and reaction, I think."
A spokesperson for Blair's office told the BBC that "all these issues" had been dealt with.
Following the interview (read a full transcript of it here), Major General Tim Cross, who advised the PM on the invasion, told BBC Breakfast that Blair's emotions had been significant. “Sir John didn’t say that he [Blair] did not tell the truth, but obviously his emotions had a big impact on his decision-making process.”
Cross described being with Blair in Kosovo, and said the then leader "literally wept" when meeting victims of the bitter conflict in refugee camps.
Meanwhile, Alastair Campbell, formerly Blair's head of communications, seriously criticised the BBC's coverage on Twitter.
Rose Troup Buchanan is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
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