In the bitter aftermath of the Iraq invasion, Tony Blair was many times accused of sending British troops to war on a deceit.
Today’s leaked documents shed no new light on the most oft-rehearsed of those charges – that he lied about, or exaggerated, the threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. But they will make uncomfortable reading for the former prime minister in the light of some of his other claims.
In President George W Bush’s January 2002 State of the Union address, fresh from what then looked like a victory in Afghanistan, he ratcheted up the rhetoric against Saddam Hussein. He named Iraq as one of three states in an “axis of evil”, promising: “I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer.”
It was seen, correctly, as a statement of intent. The American people backed a war on Iraq. But in sceptical Britain, the idea threatened to cause problems for President Bush’s closest foreign ally.
Throughout most of 2002, Mr Blair’s consistent line was that – though military action could not be ruled out – no decisions had been made, no British military preparations were in train, and any action had to be pursued through the UN. That, today’s documents make clear, was not correct.
On July 16, 2002, he was questioned by the chairmen of all the Commons select committees. Donald Anderson, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, asked him directly: “Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq?” “No,” said Mr Blair. “There are no decisions which have been taken about military action.”