John Prescott, Britain’s deputy prime minister at the time of the Iraq War said Sunday the country broke international law when it invaded Iraq in 2003. The statement came days after the release of a controversial report on the matter.
A seven-year inquiry, also known as the Chilcot report, concluded Wednesday with criticism of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s role in the handling of the Iraq War. The report, however, did not rule on the legality of the war.
“As the Deputy Prime Minister in that Government I must express my fullest apology, especially to the families of the 179 men and women who gave their lives in the Iraq War,” Prescott wrote in the Sunday Mirror, accepting his share of blame while critiquing the Blair government.
Eight months before the 2003 invasion, Blair told the then U.S. President George W. Bush: “I will be with you, whatever”— sending 45,000 British troops into battle without exhausting the options of peace, the inquiry concluded, according to Reuters.
“In 2004, the U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq War, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right,” Lord Prescott wrote.
Prescott also praised Jeremy Corbyn — Labour leader and veteran anti-war campaigner — for apologizing on behalf of the Labour Party to the relatives of those who were killed and suffered injury in the war.
There has been a wave of public opinion in Britain with calls for Blair to face criminal action over his decision to take military action — leading to the deaths of 179 British soldiers and more than 150,000 Iraqi civilians over the six years that followed, Reuters reported.
“I will live with the decision of going to war and its catastrophic consequences for the rest of my life,” Prescott said, as a part of his apology.