Tony Blair's former spin-doctor Alastair Campbell has defended his former boss over claims he "misled the public" following the release of the Chilcot report, saying the former prime minister showed a lot of "care" when deciding if the UK should invade Iraq.
Campbell said he saw the decision making process first hand, and, "far from seeing someone hellbent on war, I saw someone doing all he could to avoid it".
Rather than undermining the UN, and being "cavalier about the consequences of war", Campbell wrote that Blair, "agonised" over the decision, and "still does".
"I saw the care he took over the decisions. I have seen the agonies it has caused him many times since and will do till his dying day. The deaths of soldiers weigh heavily on him, as do the deaths of Iraqi civilians. He knows there are things he should apologise for. But one thing he will never apologise for is standing up to one of the worst, most fascist dictators the world has ever known. Nor should he," Campbell wrote in his blog.
However, new evidence published Wednesday by the Chilcot Inquiry showed that Blair told then US President, George W Bush that "I will be with you, whatever" on the invasion of Iraq.
The pledge, it has been suggested, will be seen by critics of Blair as a 'blank cheque' for military support for the US-led action, which came eight months before the war started.
Defending Blair further, Campbell said, it was "over simplifying things" to say the politician was the "author" of the chaos the Iraq invasion unleashed in the Middle East, and unfair for him to be remembered for it, as he made "many changes to the country and to the wider world which cannot be erased from the national consciousness because of one hugely controversial issue".
Campbell said Blair accepted Iraq and the region had not advanced in the aftermath of the invasion, as hoped, but despaired that the "Blair harters" were not able to see things from his perspective, "as the man who had to make the decision".
Beyond the blame-game, Campbell said, Blair would shoulder the responsibility on behalf of everyone who acted on his decision, "he stands up for those who work for him".
Campbell noted the Chilcot Inquiry was the fourth now to clear him of any wrongdoing with regards to the WMD (weapons of mass destruction) dossier presented to Parliament in 2002 and said he hoped the allegations "we have faced for years – of lying and deceit to persuade a reluctant Parliament and country to go to war, or of having an underhand strategy regarding the respected weapons expert David Kelly – are laid to rest".
The "truth", Campbell wrote, was that the "so called sexing up" of intelligence reports never happened. There was also, "no lies or deceit, contrary to what Jeremy Corbyn has just said", and no "secret deal" with Bush. But, he conceded, there was "mistakes in intelligence but no improper interference with it", and "bad planning" for the aftermath: "Many mistakes and shortcomings made alongside successes".
While accepting Sir John's report had intimated that the Iraq War was a mistake, Campbell said, the report does accept that "ultimately leaders have to make decisions, and especially the tough ones".
Speaking on BBC's World At One programme, Campbell reiterated many of the points he made in his blog.
He said he did not believe that people had been "misled" and although the report highlighted many of the long-held criticisms of Blair and the Government, it also "lays to rest a lot of the allegations of lying and deceit".
Campbell added that Sir John "does recognise that Tony Blair was trying to influence the Americans and did have some success".
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