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On Wednesday, Sir John Chilcot, the head of the United Kingdom’s Iraq war inquiry, delivered a damning, 2.6-million-word report on Britain’s decision to join the United States invasion of Iraq in 2003. “We have concluded that the UK chose to join the invasion of Iraq before the peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted,” Chilcot said in a statement. “Military action at that time was not a last resort.”

While Saddam Hussein was “undoubtedly a brutal dictator,” the retired civil servant said, not only was military action against him not a last resort, but the legal justification was “far from satisfactory.” Arguments about the threat posed by Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction “were presented with a certainty that was not justified.”

“Despite explicit warnings, the consequences of the invasion were underestimated,” Chilcot said. “The planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate.”

By the time British combat forces withdrew in 2009, more than 150,000 Iraqis had been killed, as had 179 British troops and almost 4,500 Americans. More than a million Iraqis were displaced as a result of the conflict. “The people of Iraq have suffered greatly,” Chilcot said.

The report specifically criticizes former prime minister Tony Blair’s conduct and decision making. “Mr. Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance,” Chilcot said. “We do not agree that hindsight is required. The risks of internal strife in Iraq, active Iranian pursuit of its interests, regional instability, and Al Qaida activity in Iraq, were each explicitly identified before the invasion.”

The inquiry also found that Blair had overestimated his ability to influence US policy. “The UK’s relationship with the US has proved strong enough over time to bear the weight of honest disagreement,” Chilcot said. “It does not require unconditional support where our interests or judgments differ.” In a private memo to President George W. Bush, written months before the invasion began, Blair declared his unconditional loyalty: “I will be with you whatever.”

Blair held a rushed press conference on Wednesday, defending himself and his administration by invoking the terror attacks of September 11, 2001. From the Guardian:

His premiership changed completely on 9/11, he says.

It was the worst terrorist attack ever.

He says for more than 20 years the regime of Saddam Hussein had been a source of conflict and bloodshed.

Hussein ruled with an unparalleled brutality. His was the only regime to have used WMD. There was evidence al-Qaida wanted to use these weapons. And 9/11 showed they would have used them.

Blair also criticized the contemporary “addiction” to believing the worst of people.