LONDON, Dec 5, 2009 (AFP) -George W. Bush and Tony Blair's conviction that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was a threat blinded them to the lack of evidence justifying a war to depose him, an ex-UN weapons inspector said Saturday.
Hans Blix, who led the UN weapons inspection team in the run-up to the 2003 invasion, told the Daily Mail that the then US and British leaders had “misled themselves and then they misled the public” about the reason for the conflict.
The presence of weapons of mass destruction was the main justification for the US-led war in the absence of explicit UN approval, but Blix's team found nothing in the run-up to the invasion, nor were such weapons found afterwards.
“They were convinced they had their witch in front of them, and they searched for the evidence and believed it without critical examination,” the 81-year-old told the newspaper. “I'm not saying they acted in bad faith, they exercised very bad judgment.
A modicum of critical thinking would have made them sceptical,” Blix added.
“When you start a war which cost thousands of lives you should be more certain than they were.”Blix said he warned Blair not to invade, saying: “It would prove paradoxical and absurd if 250,000 troops were to invade Iraq and find very little.”He added that if Britain had been committed to seeking UN approval for the invasion in the form of a Security Council resolution, “they could have slowed the military build-up ... but that wasn't the case”.
“They eventually had so much military in the Gulf that they felt they had to invade,” Blix said.
The last of Britain's combat troops withdrew from Iraq earlier this year, but an official inquiry into the conflict launched last month has renewed questions about why Blair took the country to war and why.
The Daily Mail said that, contrary to reports, Blix had not been called to give evidence to the inquiry, which is expected to hear from Blair himself early next year.