Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair gave the British people something Americans have never gotten from President George W. Bush: an apology.
“I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. I also apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the [Saddam Hussein] regime,” Blair said.
Blair goes on to concede that there is a link between the invasion of Iraq and the rise of the Islamic State. When asked whether the war was the “principle cause” in the rise of ISIS, Blair responded that there were “elements of truth” in that.
The text for some relevant portions of Blair’s interview with CNN is below, courtesy of Politico.eu:
On the folly of invading Iraq
CNN: Given that Saddam had no WMDs, was the war a mistake?
Blair: I apologize for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong. […] I also apologize for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime. But I find it hard to apologize for removing Saddam.
On whether it lead to the rise of IS
CNN: When people look at the rise of IS, many people point to the invasion of Iraq as the principle cause. What do you say to that?
Blair: I think there are elements of truth in that. Of course you can’t say that those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.
On being branded a war criminal
CNN: You went from being called the most successful British politician of your generation to being called a war criminal. How has that made you feel?
Blair: When I think of my ‘crime,’ if you like, which is removing Saddam, and we’ve watched Syria unfold with hundreds of thousands dying…and we have stood back and — we in the west bear responsibility for this, Europe most of all. We’ve done nothing. That’s a judgment of history I’m prepared to have.
By the way, I always point out to people, I did actually win an election after Iraq. But I agree it’s been a…it’s been a huge political problem.
Blair’s full interview was with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria and will air Sunday.