A heartbroken South Tyneside mother whose Redcap son was killed by an armed mob in Iraq says she will ‘never forgive’ former British prime minister Tony Blair - after he offered a measured apology over his role in leading the country into global conflict.
Mr Blair expressed regret over failures over the use of misleading intelligence in the military invasion and the failure to plan properly for the 2003 deposing of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Corporal Paul Long, 24, and five Royal Military Police (RMP) colleagues died on June 24, 2003 after the police station they were sent to, in Majar-al-Kabir in south east Iraq, to meet police they had been tasked to develop, was surrounded and attacked.
His mother Pat Long, who has campaigned tirelessly for an independent inquiry into his death, says the ex premier’s comments come ‘too little, too late’ for her and other grieving families.
Mrs Long, from Salem Street, Jarrow, said: “Him coming out and saying this means nothing to me now.
“If Blair had thought more about what he was doing back then, my son would still be here now.
“I will never forgive him - he has blood on his hands.”Pat Long
“It is us suffering not him.
“I will never forgive him - he has blood on his hands.”
The 64-year-old feels Mr Blair is only speaking out in an atempt to soften public opinion ahead of the result of the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war being released.
She added: “I will never forgive him - he has blood on his hands.
“It’s too little, too late.
“Paul’s death is still as raw for me. It hurts more today.
“I still try to think of Paul being out there. As it hurts too much to think about what happened.”
In an interview on American television, Mr Blair admitted intelligence gathered to justify military action was ‘wrong’.
Speaking on CNN, he said: ““I apologise for the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong.
“I also apologise for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”
Asked by host Fareed Zakaria if the Iraq War was “the principal cause” of the rise of Islamic State, he was reported by the Mail on Sunday to have conceded: ‘I think there are elements of truth in that.”
He added: “Of course you can’t say those of us who removed Saddam in 2003 bear no responsibility for the situation in 2015.”
No date has yet been given for the release of the final conclusions of the Chilcot Inquiry - more than six years after the inquiry was set up by then prime minister Gordon Brown with an assurance it would take a year.
A spokeswoman for the former PM said: “Tony Blair has always apologised for the intelligence being wrong and for mistakes in planning. He has always also said, and says again here, that he does not however think it was wrong to remove Saddam.
“He did not say the decision to remove Saddam in 2003 ‘caused ISIS’ and pointed out that ISIS was barely heard of at the end of 2008, when al Qaida was basically beaten.
“He went on to say in 2009, Iraq was relatively more stable. What then happened was a combination of two things: there was a sectarian policy pursued by the government of Iraq, which were mistaken policies.
“But also when the Arab Spring began, ISIS moved from Iraq into Syria, built themselves from Syria and then came back into Iraq.