The British government of the time was staunchly behind the American-led invasion of Iraq. Then-Prime Minister Tony Blair said intelligence justified joining the fight to topple Saddam Hussein:
“It (the intelligence) concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons which could be activated within 45 mins, including against his own Shia population,” he told the House of Commons in September 2002.
Those weapons have never been found.
Blair was President Bush’s supporter-in-chief, helping build what became known as the coalition of the willing to wage war in Iraq without UN backing. Ultimately, 45,000 British troops were sent to fight in Iraq, mainly around Basra in the south, and 179 of them died. All along, Blair insisted that the cause was just. He made several visits to the British troops, always maintaining Iraq would be better post-Saddam.
But the war divided Britain, and thousands marched to denounce what they called an illegal military operation. The one-time Foreign Minister Robin Cook resigned from the government in disgust.
The inquiry opens with Britain fighting another war, in Afghanistan, and suffering more casualties. The inquiry won’t release its findings until well after next year’s election. It’s not known if Blair’s successor Gordon Brown will be forced to say what he knew.