Iraq war based on ‘deceit and lies’: Andrew Gilligan

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following his capture.

Former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein following his capture.

The ex-BBC journalist who claimed the government briefing on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been “sexed up” says the invasion of Iraq was based on “deceit and lies”

Andrew Gilligan was speaking just ahead of today’s report by Sir John Chilcot which concluded that there was no “imminent threat” from then Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein - and the intelligence case for war was “not justified”.

Mr Gilligan came under intense fire in after he questioned the UK government’s intelligence reports before the invasion. In 2004 in a live broadcast on the BBC Today programme Mr Gilligan said the government “probably knew” it was wrong to claim Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could be deployed in 45 minutes, saying that intelligence had been “sexed up” to support the case for war.

He resigned from the BBC in 2004 after Lord Hutton criticised his claims.

But speaking just ahead of the Chilcot report today, Mr Gilligan told ITV that Tony Blair and then-US president George Bush had “decided to go to war, and then they retrofitted all the facts and evidence to fit the decision they had already undertaken”.

The decision to go to war was “a catastrophic blunder” which continues to have “catastrophic impacts” - such as the current situation in Syria and the UK’s decision to leave the EU, he said.

He noted that seven years and £10 million had been spent producing the Chilcot report so he hoped that “he [Sir John Chilcot] has something quite hard edged to say”.

Ministers from Prime Minister Tony Blair downwards, Whitehall mandarins and senior army officers all came in for criticism in Sir John’s report.