Newspaper headlines: Iraq War report and Blair fallout

The Chilcot report into the Iraq War, and what it means for former Prime Minister Tony Blair, dominates the press.

Every paper leads with Sir John Chilcot's inquiry and pictures Mr Blair on its front page.

"After seven years and at a cost of more than £10m, the Iraq inquiry delivered a withering verdict on the former prime minister's conduct before the 2003 invasion and the failure to plan for its aftermath," reports the Times.

"Sir John Chilcot, a career civil servant, robustly criticised the parts played by intelligence chiefs, cabinet ministers, military commanders and senior Whitehall officials.

"Declassified notes from Mr Blair to President Bush exposed the depth of Mr Blair's commitment to the war and how he overestimated his ability to influence US policy.

"In July 2002, eight months before the conflict, Mr Blair began a note to Mr Bush saying: 'I will be with you, whatever.'

"Fears that the report would be a whitewash dissipated as the families of Britons who died in the war digested its contents, which ran to 2.6 million words."

Mr Blair has apologised for the outcome of the war - but said he would make the same decision again given the same information.

The Telegraph says: "Mr Blair was criticised in the report for presenting intelligence about the threat posed by Iraq with 'a certainty that was not justified'.

"At an emotional news conference, in which Mr Blair's voice frequently faltered, he acknowledged that some of the families of the dead could 'never forget or forgive' him for what happened."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Sir John Chilcot's report took seven years to complete

The Guardian produces a special eight-page supplement analysing the war, its build-up and aftermath.

"Looking tired, his voice sometimes croaking with emotion, Blair described his decision to join the US attack as 'the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in 10 years as British prime minister'," it reports.

"Blair's extraordinary two-hour press conference came after Chilcot published his long-awaited report. In the end, and seven years after hearings first began, it was a more far-reaching and damning document than many had expected. It eviscerated Blair's style of government and decision-making."

The i says the inquiry painted a picture of cabinet ministers being cut out of key decisions ahead of military action.

The Financial Times says the report amounts to an excoriating verdict on the UK's political, military and intelligence establishments, all of which were implicated for misjudgements and, occasionally, ineptitude.

"It reserved particular criticism for Mr Blair," continues the FT.

The Mail says the report "savaged" Mr Blair for his conduct at every stage of the process that "dragged Britain into the catastrophic war".

For the Express, the report published a "litany of failure" in its account of the government's preparation for the conflict.

The Sun states that Mr Blair's reputation was in ruins after the inquiry "revealed a conflict doomed from the start by failures and deceptions".

The Mirror says the report "unleashed a blistering attack" on the former prime minister over a "string of blunders".

The Star says the report found a series of "unforgiveable blunders" by politicians, military chiefs and intelligence services were to blame for the campaign.


Litany of sorrows

In a leading article, the Times says the report will serve as the definitive account of a military experiment that went disastrously wrong for want of basic planning and due diligence.

"Saddam is no more, but the price of his removal has been immeasurable," it says. "A total of 179 British service personnel died in a mission never accomplished.

"Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians have perished in a revival of historical Sunni-Shia bloodletting that grinds on to this day.

"Trust in British competence abroad has been shattered. To a dismaying degree, so has trust in British governance at home."

The Telegraph calls the report a "litany of sorrows".

It continues: "While the worst post-war decisions were taken by Americans with little regard for British views, that does not excuse poor UK preparations, especially in regard to properly equipping British troops.

"Sir John notes that responsibility here rests with Tony Blair, whose oversight of Britain's planning for post-war Iraq was deficient and will be a permanent scar on his reputation.

"The impression given by the report is of a Downing Street too absorbed in fixing the political case for war to worry much about its aftermath."

Image copyright PA
Image caption Tony Blair has been roundly criticised in the press

The Guardian believes that by blindly following Mr Bush, Mr Blair ruined a country, shattered trust and trashed his own reputation.

"As always in matters of military aggression, the humane perspective has to start with the victims," it says. "Since the US-led, UK-backed invasion of Iraq in 2003, estimates of the lives lost to violence vary from a quarter of a million to 600,000.

"The number of injured will surely be several times that, and the number of men, women and children displaced from their homes is put at between 3.5 million and five million, somewhere between one in 10 and one in six of the population.

"There is no disputing the vicious brutality of the regime that ran the country before, but there is no serious disputing, either, that the suffering captured in these statistics of war are of another order to anything that would be endured in even tyrannical times of peace."

The Mail is pleased the report is not a whitewash, the Mirror says Sir John was thorough and fair while the Sun calls Mr Blair negligent and naive.

For the Financial Times, the report is a comprehensive and coruscating indictment of British policymaking in the run-up to the conflict and and its aftermath.


Haunted mannequin

"Bob Monkhouse observed that the secret to success in showbusiness - and, by extension, politics - is sincerity. 'If you can fake that', he said, 'you've got it made'," writes Patrick Kidd in his political sketch in the Times.

"Some feel that Tony Blair owed all his success to a skill at faking sincerity. Perhaps yesterday we saw the actor without his make-up."

The Telegraph's Michael Deacon says Mr Blair would not apologise for the invasion of Iraq, no matter how sorry he looked.

"And he did look sorry: sorry in the sense of wretched, miserable, diminished. His skin was waxily gaunt. His eyes were wearily pouched. He looked like a haunted mannequin," he continues.

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Media captionPolitical commentator Lance Price and London Evening Standard political correspondent Pippa Crerar join the BBC News Channel to review Thursday's front pages.

"As for his voice: it was worn, drained, at times rasping, at others pleading - and at others, hoarsely defiant. At the beginning, he kept faltering and leaving unnatural gaps, as if his throat were dry, or he were gulping for breath.

"What to make of it all? An honest plea for understanding from a broken man? Or a performance, an immaculately executed impersonation of one?"

The Guardian's John Crace agrees that Mr Blair looked "crushed, a shrunken skull peering out of a dark suit towards a hostile audience. A man flayed and laid utterly bare".

"Tony's eyes burned with the conviction of martyrdom," he writes. "He wasn't a naughty boy, he was the Messiah. And he was heaven-bent on carrying on fighting a war he had long ago lost."

Oliver Duff, editor of the i, says it was a masterclass in appearing to accept culpability, while picking apart the charge sheet.


Bale out

The other main story trailed on the front pages is Wales's defeat to Portugal in the semi-finals of Euro 2016.

The Times says the Welsh players left the tournament with plaudits ringing in their ears after a series of performances that exceed the wildest dreams of their fans.

As the paper reports: "At least 20,000 Welsh fans formed a sea of red in the Parc Olympique Lyonnais to see the biggest match in the nation's history.

"Back home millions watched on television the team that has united a rugby-playing nation around football fever amid the odd snigger at England's dismal failure.

"No one had expected Wales to get this far in their first major tournament since 1958.

"Indeed, few observers thought that they would even qualify, and their performances have become the stuff of legend."

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Gareth Bale and his team-mates have had a superb run at Euro 2016

The Express describes how Welsh hearts were broken by two goals in three minutes as Portugal sent the country's football heroes crashing out.

The Mirror says the players will head back to Cardiff on Friday for what will be an amazing reception from thousands of proud fans.

Wales crashed out of Euro 2016 but will still return home heroes, declares the Star.

The Sun says the battling Dragons were finally slain - but went out with their heads held high.