Posts Tagged ‘Chilcot inquiry’

Clare Short: Tony Blair lied and misled parliament in build-up to Iraq war

February 2, 2010
• Blair ‘lied’ over war preparations
• Attorney general ‘misled’ government
• Brown ‘marginalised and unhappy’
Clare Short at the Iraq war inquiry – as it happened
James Sturcke,The Guardian/UK, Feb 2, 2010,
Clare Short arriving to give evidence at the Iraq Inquiry

Clare Short arriving to give evidence at the Iraq inquiry. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Clare Short, the former international development secretary, today accused Tony Blair of lying to her and misleading parliament in the build-up to the Iraq invasion.

Short, giving evidence to the Chilcot inquiry into the war, also said that the 2003 conflict had put the world in greater danger of international terrorism.

Declassified letters between Short and Blair released today show she believed that invading Iraq without a second UN resolution would be illegal and there was a significant risk of a humanitarian catastrophe.

She told the inquiry that she had a conversation with Blair in 2002. He told her that he was not planning for war against Iraq and that the evidence has since revealed that he was not telling the truth at that point, she said.

She also said she was “stunned” when she read the 337-word legal advice on the war written by the then-attorney general Lord Goldsmith during a cabinet meeting on 17 March 2003, three days before the war began. She was forbidden by Blair from discussing it during the meeting.

“I said, ‘That is extraordinary.’ I was jeered at to be quiet. If the prime minister says be quiet there is only so much you can do.

“I think for the attorney general to come and say there’s unequivocal legal authority to go to war was misleading.”

Short, who was applauded by some audience members in public seats at the end of her evidence, said the ministerial code was broken as cabinet colleagues were not aware of Goldsmith’s modifications to his legal advice over the previous weeks. The inquiry has already heard how Goldsmith changed his mind over the need for a second resolution after visiting the US the month before the war.

Short said cabinet colleagues were unaware of the legal advice given by the most senior Foreign Office lawyers, Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmshurst, which called for a second UN resolution.

“The ministerial code said legal advice should be circulated and it wasn’t. We only had the answer to the parliamentary question [Goldsmith’s short ruling]. There was a lot of misleading of parliament too by the prime minister of the day.

“The ministerial code is unsafe because it is enforced by the prime minister and if he’s in on the tricks then that’s it. When I found out what went into it I think we were misled.”

She added that she had “various cups of coffee” with Gordon Brown, at that time the chancellor, who “was very unhappy and marginalised [in the run up to war]”.

He was disillusioned about a number of issues, not specifically Iraq, and felt Blair was “obsessed with his legacy”.

Later, Short added that after the war “Gordon was back in with Tony and not having cups of coffee with me any more”.

Asked about the cabinet meetings in the run-up to the war, Short told the inquiry that the cabinet did not operate in the manner it was required to constitutionally.

“It was not a decision-making body. I don’t think there was ever a substantive discussion about anything in cabinet. If you ever raised an issue with Tony Blair he would cut it off. He did that in July 2002 when I said I wanted to talk about Iraq. He said he did not want it leaking into the press.”

Short described cabinet meetings as “little chats” rather than decision-making opportunities.

“There was never a meeting … that said: ‘What is the problem? What are we trying to achieve? What are our options?'”

The declassified documents showed that Short believed the situation in Iraq to be “fragile” before hostilities began.

In one, written on 14 February 2003, she wrote: “Any disruption could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe. With some more time, sensible measures can be taken to reduce these risks and improve people’s prospect of stability after the conflict.”

Short told the panel that both the British and US armies failed to honour their Geneva convention responsibilities to keep order, describing the situation in the post-invasion aftermath as “mad”, with food for refugees only being ordered at the last minute.

Short said Blair persuaded her against resigning on the same day as Cook by assuring her that the UN would have the lead role in reconstructing Iraq and that George Bush would support the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

Asked why she didn’t resign earlier, she said: “If I knew then what I know now, I would have.” As for the pronouncements that the French would not back a second resolution, it was one of the “big deceits” of the British, Short said.

The French president, Jacques Chirac, could have supported military action but not while UN weapons inspectors wanted more time and it should have been given.

“There was no emergency. No one had attacked anyone. There wasn’t any new WMD. We could have taken the time and got it right. The forces weren’t ready to go in. They have said that themselves.”

Short ended her evidence by calling for a serious debate about the “special relationship” with the US, calling the current one “poodle-like”.

Short stood down from the cabinet on 12 May 2003, nearly eight weeks after the invasion.

Letter from Clare Short to Tony Blair on humanitarian planning and the role of the UN, 14 February 2003 (pdf).

Letter from Short to Blair on the UN and US roles in post-conflict Iraq, 5 March 2003 (pdf).


January 30, 2010

Socialist Unity, January 29, 2010

An Illegal War is State-Terrorism

January 29, 2010

By Yamin Zakaria, Information Clearing House, January 29, 2010

“We were convinced that all the fissile material that could be used for any weapons purposes had been taken out of Iraq, and we knew that we had eliminated and destroyed the whole infrastructure that Iraq had built up for the enrichment of uranium.”

  • Hans Blix, in a BBC Interview, Jan 2003

As the toothless Chilcot Inquiry collates the evidences from the various individuals, not many are asking some basic questions regarding the Iraq War. As a layperson, the following questions come to my mind:

  • What aggression did Iraq commit against the US and the UK that could have justified the war? How did the people of Iraq ever cause any harm to the people in the UK or the US?
  • Where are the weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was the primary pretext for waging aggression on Iraq?
  • Why was the UN Inspectors not given further time to finish their job, given that they had unimpeded access to inspect any place in Iraq and that they failed to find any evidence contrary to Iraq’s earlier declaration to the UN?
  • In the absence of such weapons, why is the UN not taking the criminals to task at the international war crimes tribunal and order the belligerent nations to pay war reparations to Iraq?

I see the above questions are at the heart of the issue regarding Iraq war. The only answer I can conclude is – the new world order is governed by the brute force of the Wild West; far from some noble principle that is applicable equally to all nations. I do not want to “move on” like Blair, I want to see justice. I want to see criminals like Tony Blair, Jack Straw and Jeremy Greenstock face the gallows for the slaughter of innocent Iraqis, yet these armed robbers are parading themselves as ambassadors of peace. It is disgusting!

The evidence given by the former Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, at the Chilcot Inquiry revealed that he had conveniently changed his mind after meeting the American Lawyers, and added pressure from Jack Straw and possibly few others, just weeks before the actual invasion is launched. Note, whilst he is mulling over this, the British troops are already there, poised to attack a nation that has been systematically disarmed for a decade. Therefore, the British government still would have gone into war with the Americans, even if Goldsmith managed to standby by his conviction. Nevertheless, if he did remain firm, it would have helped, even if it could not halt the war.

It should have taken a “smoking gun” to change someone’s mind on a serious issue of this nature, which Hans Blix and his team of inspectors with unrestricted access could not find in Iraq. Given the circumstances under which the sudden change of mind occurred, it shows that Lord Goldsmith is a feeble man; all he needed was a little ‘push’ to rubberstamp the war that was already on the verge of being launched. Unlike some of the other principled individuals, he could not standby his conviction, and if needed resign from the post. Perhaps, the folks from Spooks whispered in his ear about the fate of Dr. Kelly! So, his ears only consulted those who were bent on going to war. Indeed, it was a one-sided conversation.

Why did he not consult other lawyers with an opposing view concurrently? Why did he not consider that other major powers in the UN Security council were of the view that UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war? Why did Britain go back to the UN Security Council to seek a second resolution if the first was adequate? Being a democracy, it is imperative to discuss such matters with the Cabinet, but Jack Straw denied Lord Goldsmith that opportunity, obviously, Jack did not want to be late for the war party.

People say lawyers are shark, but Goldsmith proved to be a spineless cod! His ‘fatwa’ is like the ‘fatwa’ given to the Saudis during the First Gulf War at the last minute by some cleric, to permit the US Forces to setup base inside Saudi Arabia. By the time the Fatwa was given, the US armed forces had already arrived at the shores of Saudi Arabia, as if the fatwa was necessary. Again, the basic question, what did the Iraqis do to the Saudis?

There is no doubt the majority opinion amongst the prominent legal experts is that the UN resolution of 1441 did not authorise war, and more pertinently, this was view held by the majority of the nations inside the UN Security Council, including France and Russia with Veto powers. Therefore, the war had no mandate from the UN Security Council; it was a unilateral and barbaric act of aggression by the Anglo-US regime. Without a legal backing – the invasion was state terrorism dispensed to the innocent civilians of Iraq.

Some argue the war was necessary, as Saddam posed a threat to the region, but the region was not calling for war, with the exception of Israel. Maybe that was enough, serving Israel is enough to prove that the West are no longer anti-Semitic and they can redeem their past sins by the punishing some innocent third party, once again. Israel is a nation that routinely engages in killing innocent civilians, and is busy in the process of ethnic cleansing to make the land pure for the chosen race of God, add to that ‘accolade’, they are harvesting the organs of dead Palestinians in the true spirit of the shylocks!

Yamin Zakaria ( )

British govt lawyer: Iraq war was unlawful

January 26, 2010

Middle East Online, Jan 26, 2010

Michael Wood says use of force against Iraq had no legal basis in international law.

LONDON – The 2003 Iraq war was illegal, the former chief legal advisor to Britain’s Foreign Office told a public inquiry into the war Tuesday, three days before ex prime minister Tony Blair appears.

“I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law,” Michael Wood told the Chilcot inquiry in London.

“In my opinion, that use of force had not been authorised by the Security Council, and had no other legal basis in international law.”

Wood’s comments came as the probe’s focus shifted to the legality of the war.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst, his deputy who resigned in protest at the conflict, gives evidence later Tuesday, while the government’s senior legal advisor at the time, Peter Goldsmith, is due to appear Wednesday.

Goldsmith will likely face questions over whether he U-turned on the war’s legality. Two weeks before the invasion, he said it would be preferable to obtain a second UN Security Council resolution backing military action.

But this was not forthcoming and ten days later, Goldsmith said military action would be legal.

Blair himself is expected before the inquiry Friday, when anti-war protestors are set to stage demonstrations outside the probe venue.

Wanted: Tony Blair for war crimes

January 26, 2010

Chilcot and the courts won’t do it, so it is up to us to show that we won’t let an illegal act of mass murder go unpunished

by George Monbiot, The Guardian/UK, January 26, 2010

The only question that counts is the one that the Chilcot inquiry won’t address: was the war with Iraq illegal? If the answer is yes, everything changes. The war is no longer a political matter, but a criminal one, and those who commissioned it should be committed for trial for what the Nuremberg tribunal called “the supreme international crime”: the crime of aggression.

But there’s a problem with official inquiries in the United Kingdom: the government appoints their members and sets their terms of reference. It’s the equivalent of a criminal suspect being allowed to choose what the charges should be, who should judge his case and who should sit on the jury. As a senior judge told the Guardian in November: “Looking into the legality of the war is the last thing the government wants. And actually, it’s the last thing the opposition wants either because they voted for the war. There simply is not the political pressure to explore the question of legality – they have not asked because they don’t want the answer.”

Others have explored it, however. Two weeks ago a Dutch inquiry, led by a former supreme court judge, found that the invasion had “no sound mandate in international law”. Last month Lord Steyn, a former law lord, said that “in the absence of a second UN resolution authorising invasion, it was illegal“. In November Lord Bingham, the former lord chief justice, stated that, without the blessing of the UN, the Iraq war was “a serious violation of international law and the rule of law“.

Under the United Nations charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first “seek a solution by negotiation” (article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the UN security council only “if an armed attack occurs against [them]” (article 51). Neither of these conditions applied. The US and UK governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point the US state department even announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection (all references are on my website). Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation.

We also know that the UK government was aware that the war it intended to launch was illegal. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that “a legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to law officers’ advice, none currently exists.” In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, told the prime minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war – “self-defence, ­humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [security council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case.” Bush and Blair later failed to obtain security council authorisation.

As the resignation letter on the eve of the war from Elizabeth Wilmshurst, then deputy legal adviser to the ­Foreign Office, revealed, her office had ­”consistently” advised that an ­invasion would be unlawful without a new UN resolution. She explained that “an unlawful use of force on such a scale amounts to the crime of aggression”. Both Wilmshurst and her former boss, Sir Michael Wood, will testify before the Chilcot inquiry tomorrow. Expect fireworks.

Without legal justification, the war with Iraq was an act of mass murder: those who died were unlawfully killed by the people who commissioned it. Crimes of aggression (also known as crimes against peace) are defined by the Nuremberg principles as “planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties”. They have been recognised in international law since 1945. The Rome statute, which established the international criminal court (ICC) and which was ratified by Blair’s government in 2001, provides for the court to “exercise jurisdiction over the crime of aggression”, once it has decided how the crime should be defined and prosecuted.

There are two problems. The first is that neither the government nor the opposition has any interest in pursuing these crimes, for the obvious reason that in doing so they would expose themselves to prosecution. The second is that the required legal mechanisms don’t yet exist. The governments that ratified the Rome statute have been filibustering furiously to delay the point at which the crime can be prosecuted by the ICC: after eight years of discussions, the necessary provision still has not been adopted.

Some countries, mostly in eastern Europe and central Asia, have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws, though it is not yet clear which of them would be willing to try a foreign national for acts committed abroad. In the UK, where it remains ­illegal to wear an offensive T-shirt, you cannot yet be prosecuted for mass ­murder commissioned overseas.

All those who believe in justice should campaign for their governments to stop messing about and allow the international criminal court to start prosecuting the crime of aggression. We should also press for its adoption into national law. But I believe that the people of this nation, who re-elected a government that had launched an illegal war, have a duty to do more than that. We must show that we have not, as Blair requested, “moved on” from Iraq, that we are not prepared to allow his crime to remain unpunished, or to allow future leaders to believe that they can safely repeat it.

But how? As I found when I tried to apprehend John Bolton, one of the architects of the war in George Bush’s government, at the Hay festival in 2008, and as Peter Tatchell found when he tried to detain Robert Mugabe, nothing focuses attention on these issues more than an attempted citizen’s arrest. In October I mooted the idea of a bounty to which the public could contribute, ­payable to anyone who tried to arrest Tony Blair if he became president of the European Union. He didn’t of course, but I asked those who had pledged money whether we should go ahead anyway. The response was overwhelmingly positive.

So today I am launching a website – – whose purpose is to raise money as a reward for people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest  of the former prime minister. I have put up the first £100, and I encourage you to match it. Anyone meeting the rules I’ve laid down will be entitled to one quarter of the total pot: the bounties will remain available until Blair faces a court of law. The higher the ­reward, the greater the number of ­people who are likely to try.

At this stage the arrests will be largely symbolic, though they are likely to have great political resonance. But I hope that as pressure builds up and the crime of aggression is adopted by the courts, these attempts will help to press ­governments to prosecute. There must be no hiding place for those who have committed crimes against peace. No ­civilised country can allow mass ­murderers to move on.

© 2010 Guardian News and Media Limited

George Monbiot is the author of the best selling books The Age of Consent: a manifesto for a new world order and Captive State: the corporate takeover of Britain. He writes a weekly column for the Guardian newspaper. Visit his website at

Blair private pact with Bush on Iraq

January 13, 2010

Chilcot inquiry reveals former UK Prime Minister ‘pledged UK to war in secret notes’

The Globe and Mail

Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian News Service, Jan. 12, 2010

Tony Blair privately assured President George Bush in letters written a year before the invasion of Iraq that Britain would “be there” in any US-led attack on the country, it was revealed at the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in London Tuesday.

The disclosure came during sometimes sharp exchanges with Alastair Campbell, Mr. Blair’s communications chief and close adviser, who described Gordon Brown, the then UK finance minister, as “one of the key ministers” the former Prime Minister spoke to about Iraq.

In almost five hours of questioning, Mr. Campbell:

– Defended “every single word” in the Blair government’s now largely discredited dossier on Iraq’s banned weapons programme.

– Said Britain should be “proud” of its role in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.

– Said Mr. Blair tried to get the conflict with Iraq resolved “without a shot being fired.”

Mr. Blair wrote “quite a lot of notes” to Mr. Bush in 2002 and their substance was not shared with the cabinet, Mr. Campbell made clear. Asked if the then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, knew their contents, Mr. Campbell replied: “I very much doubt if drafts went round the system … They were very frank.” However, Mr. Campbell said they were discussed with Sir David Manning, Mr. Blair’s foreign policy adviser.

He said the tenor of the letters was: “We share the analysis, we share the concern, we are going to be with you in making sure that Saddam Hussein is faced up to his obligations and that Iraq is disarmed.” Mr. Campbell added: “If that cannot be done diplomatically and it is to be done militarily, Britain will be there. That would be the tenor of the communication to the president.”

The letters Mr. Blair wrote to Mr. Bush have been passed to the Chilcot inquiry. It has not given any indication about whether it will publish them.

Mr. Campbell was responding to persistent questioning from Sir Roderic Lyne, a member of the inquiry panel and a former ambassador. Mr. Lyne referred Mr. Campbell to a leaked document in which Mr. Manning, on a trip to Washington in March 2002, a year before the invasion, told Mr. Blair he had underlined Britain’s position to Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush’s national security adviser.

“I said you [Blair] would not budge in your support for regime change, but you had to manage a press, a parliament, and a public opinion which is very different than anything in the States,” Mr. Manning wrote.

Responding to Mr. Lyne’s question, Mr. Campbell said: “The prime minister’s overall approach was saying ‘there’s going to be disarmament. We’re going to do our level best to get that through the diplomatic route, without a single shot being fired but, if push comes to shove and the diplomatic route fails, Britain would see it as its responsibility and its duty to take part in military action’.”

Blair was determined to disarm Saddam, Campbell said. Mr. Blair’s message to the US in April 2002 was he would try to do it through UN resolutions. However, “if the only way is regime change through military action then the British government will support the American government”, Mr. Campbell said, describing Mr. Blair’s view.

The inquiry has also heard from senior British diplomats that regime change was being discussed by Mr. Blair in the US in 2002 even though, according to leaked documents, Lord Goldsmith, the then attorney general, warned Mr. Blair that military action aimed at regime change, as opposed to disarmament, would be unlawful.

Mr. Campbell stoutly defended the September 2002 Iraqi weapons dossier which stated Saddam Hussein was continuing to build up a nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons programme – claims that were shown to be without foundation after the invasion. He insisted Sir John Scarlett, then chairman of the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee, was adamant throughout that he was “100 per cent in charge” of the process of drawing up the dossier.

“At no time did I ask him to ‘beef up’, to override, any of the judgments that he had,” Mr. Campbell told the inquiry. “John Scarlett said to me ‘This is a document the prime minister is going to present to parliament, there are massive global expectations around it, and I need a bit of presentational support,’ and that is what I gave him.”

At no time did Mr. Scarlett or intelligence officers question the contents of the dossier, said Mr. Campbell.

Mr. Campbell on occasions sharply criticized the British media and played down any influence he had over journalists. Asked about the notorious claim in the weapons dossier that Iraq could deploy chemical and biological weapons within 45 minutes he said it had only been given “iconic” status by the press.

Asked if it could have been made clear that the claim only ever applied to battlefield weapons rather than longer range missiles, Mr. Campbell replied: “Obviously, but it’s not that big a point.”

He disclosed the UK’s then international development secretary Clare Short, who subsequently resigned over the war, had been excluded from discussions on the aftermath of the conflict because of fears of leaks.

“I think in an ideal world the secretary of state for international development would, should and could have been involved in all those discussions,” he said. “It was no secret that she was very difficult to handle at times. I think sometimes the military found her approach to them difficult to deal with.”

Iraq war was illegal, Dutch panel rules

January 13, 2010

Inquiry says conflict had no sound mandate in international law as it emerges UK denied key letter to seven-judge tribunal

US marines in action during the Iraq warUS Marines on the city limits of Kut, 100 miles south of Baghdad in April 2003 Photograph: Wally Santana/AP

The war in Iraq had “no basis in international law“, a Dutch inquiry found today, in the first ever independent legal assessment of the decision to invade.

In a series of damning findings, a seven-member panel in the Netherlands concluded that the war, which was supported by the Dutch government following intelligence from Britain and the US, had not been justified in law.

Continues >>

The Chilcot Inquiry: Britain’s 9/11 commission

January 8, 2010

By Maidhc Ó Cathail

Online Journal Contributing Writer

Online Journal, Jan 8, 2010, 00:24

Email this article

All too often, official inquiries are conducted by the very people who should themselves be under investigation.

In this respect, Britain’s Chilcot Inquiry on the Iraq war bears a distressing similarity to the 9/11 Commission.

In a remarkable symmetry, both inquiries involve a Jewish Zionist historian, who not only advised his country’s leader to go to war against Iraq, but actually provided the ideological justification for that unnecessary war.

Continues >>

Invasion of Iraq: The Crime of the Century

December 14, 2009

The purpose of the Chilcot inquiry is to normalise an epic crime by providing enough of a theatre of guilt to satisfy the media

John Pilger, New Statesman, Dec 10, 2009

I tried to contact Mark Higson the other day, only to learn that he had died nine years ago. He was just 40, an honourable man. We met soon after he resigned from the Foreign Office in 1991 and I asked him if the government knew that Hawk fighter-bombers sold to Indonesia were being used against civilians in East Timor.

“Everyone knows,” he said, “except parliament and the public.”

“And the media?”

“The media – the big names – have been invited to King Charles Street [the Foreign Office] and flattered and briefed with lies. They are no trouble.”

As Iraq desk officer at the Foreign Office, he had drafted letters for ministers reassuring MPs and the public that the government was not arming Saddam Hussein. “This was a downright lie,” he said. “I couldn’t bear it.”

Giving evidence before the arms-to-Iraq inquiry, Higson was the only British official commended by Lord Justice Scott for telling the truth. The price he paid was the loss of his health and marriage, and constant surveillance by spooks. He ended up living on benefits in a Birmingham bedsit where he suffered a seizure, struck his head and died alone. Whistleblowers are often heroes; he was one.

“Questionable legitimacy”

He came to mind when I saw a picture in the paper of another Foreign Office official, Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who was Tony Blair’s ambassador to the United Nations in the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was Sir Jeremy, more than anyone else, who tried every trick to find a UN cover for the bloodbath to come. Indeed, this was his boast on 27 November to the Chilcot inquiry, where he described the invasion as “legal but of questionable legitimacy”. How clever. In the picture he wore a smirk.

Under international law, “questionable legitimacy” does not exist. An attack on a sovereign state is a crime. This was made clear by Britain’s chief law officer and attorney general, Peter Goldsmith, before his arm was twisted, and by the Foreign Office’s own legal advisers, and subsequently by the UN secretary general. The invasion of Iraq is the crime of the 21st century. During 17 years of assault on a defenceless civilian population, veiled with weasel monikers such as “sanctions” and “no-fly zones” and “building democracy”, more people have died in Iraq than at the height of the slave trade. Set that against Sir Jeremy’s skin-­saving revisionism about American “noises” that were “decidedly unhelpful to what I was trying to do [at the UN] in New York”. Moreover, “I myself warned the Foreign Office . . . that I might have to consider my own position . . .”

It wasn’t me, guv.

The purpose of the Chilcot inquiry is to normalise an epic crime by providing enough of a theatre of guilt to satisfy the media, so that the only issue which matters, that of prosecution, is never raised. When he appears in January, Blair will play this part to odious perfection, dutifully absorbing the hisses and boos. All “inquiries” into state crimes are neutered in this way. In 1996, Lord Justice Scott’s arms-to-Iraq report obfuscated the crimes his investigations and voluminous evidence had revealed.

At that time, I interviewed Tim Laxton, who had attended the inquiry every day as an auditor of companies taken over by MI6 and other secret agencies as vehicles for the illegal arms trade with Saddam. Had there been a full and open criminal investigation, Laxton told me, “hundreds” would have faced prosecution. “They would include,” he said, “top political figures, very senior civil servants throughout Whitehall . . . the top echelon of government.”

That is why Chilcot is advised by the likes of Sir Martin Gilbert, who once compared Blair with Churchill and Roosevelt. That is why the inquiry will not demand the release of documents that would illuminate the role of the entire Blair gang, notably the 2003 cabinet, long silent. Who remembers the threat of the thuggish Geoff Hoon, Blair’s “defence secretary”, to use nuclear weapons against Iraq?

“Useful idiots”

In February, Jack Straw, one of Blair’s principal accomplices, the current “justice secretary” and the man who let the mass murderer General Pinochet escape justice, overruled the Information Commissioner, who had ordered the government to publish cabinet minutes from the period when Lord Goldsmith was pressured into changing his judgment that the invasion was illegal. How they all fear exposure.

The media have granted themselves immunity. On 27 November, Scott Ritter, the former UN chief weapons inspector, wrote that the invasion “was made far easier given the role of useful idiot played by much of the mainstream media in the US and Britain”. More than four years before the invasion, Ritter, in interviews with myself and others, left not a shred of doubt that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction had been disabled, yet he was made a non-person. In 2002, when the Bush/Blair lies were in full echo across the media, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Iraq in more than 3,000 articles, of which only 49 referred to Ritter and his truth.

What has changed? On 30 November, the Independent published a pristine piece of propaganda from its embedded man in Afghanistan. “Troops fear defeat at home”, said the headline. Britain, said the report, “is at serious risk of losing its way in Afghanistan because rising defeatism at home is demoralising the troops on the front line, military commanders have warned”. In fact, public disgust with the disaster in Afghanistan is mirrored among many serving troops and their families; and this frightens the warmongers. So “defeatism” and “demoralising the troops” are added to the weasel lexicon. Good try. Unfortunately, like Iraq, Afghanistan is a crime. Period.

Tony Blair Admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway

December 12, 2009

WMD were not vital for war says ex-PM ahead of appearance at Chilcot inquiry

by Riazat Butt and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian/UK, Dec 12, 2009

Tony Blair has said he would have invaded Iraq even without evidence of weapons of mass destruction and would have found a way to justify the war to parliament and the public.

[Tony Blair told Fern Britton, in an interview to be broadcast on BBC1, that he would have found a way to justify the Iraq invasion. (Photograph: BBC)]
Tony Blair told Fern Britton, in an interview to be broadcast on BBC1, that he would have found a way to justify the Iraq invasion. (Photograph: BBC)

The former prime minister made the confession during an interview with Fern Britton, to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC1, in which he said he would still have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

“If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” Blair was asked. He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove him [Saddam Hussein]”.

Significantly, Blair added: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.” He continued: “I can’t really think we’d be better with him and his two sons in charge, but it’s incredibly difficult. That’s why I sympathise with the people who were against it [the war] for perfectly good reasons and are against it now, but for me, in the end I had to take the decision.”

He explained it was “the notion of him as a threat to the region” because Saddam Hussein had used chemical weapons against his own people.

“This was obviously the thing that was uppermost in my mind. The threat to the region. Also the fact of how that region was going to change and how in the end it was going to evolve as a region and whilst he was there, I thought and actually still think, it would have been very difficult to have changed it in the right way.”

Though Blair has always argued that Iraq would be better off without Saddam Hussein, to parliament and the public, he always justified military action on the grounds that the Iraqi dictator was in breach of UN-backed demands that he abandon his weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme.

It is possible that Blair has shifted his ground in anticipation of his appearance early next year before the Chilcot inquiry. The inquiry has heard that Blair made clear to President George Bush at a meeting in Texas 11 months before the Iraq invasion that he would be prepared to join the US in toppling Saddam.

Blair was “absolutely prepared to say he was willing to contemplate regime change if [UN-backed measures] did not work”, Sir David Manning, Blair’s former foreign policy adviser, told the inquiry. If it proved impossible to pursue the UN route, then Blair would be “willing to use force”, Manning emphasised.

The Chilcot inquiry has seen a number of previously leaked Whitehall documents which suggest Blair was in favour of regime change although he was warned by Lord Goldsmith, the attorney general, in July 2002, eight months before the invasion, that “the desire for regime change was not a legal base for military action”.

Manning told Blair in March that year that he had underlined Britain’s position to Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s national security adviser.

“I said you [Blair] would not budge in your support for regime change, but you had to manage a press, a parliament, and a public opinion which is very different than anything in the States,” Manning wrote, according to a leaked Whitehall document. A Cabinet Office document also seen by the Chilcot inquiry, dated July 2002, stated: “When the prime minister discussed Iraq with President Bush at Crawford [his Texas ranch] in April, he said that the UK would support military action to bring about regime change provided that certain conditions were met: efforts had been made to construct a coalition/shape public opinion …”

Now Blair appears to be openly admitting that evidence of WMD – the purpose behind the now discredited weapons dossier he ordered to be published with the help of MI6 and Whitehall’s joint intelligence committee – was not needed to invade Iraq, and he could have found other arguments to justify it.

Blair did say in a speech to Labour party conference in 2004, over a year after the invasion: “I can apologise for the information [about WMDs] that turned out to be wrong, but I can’t, sincerely at least, apologise for removing Saddam.

“The world is a better place with Saddam in prison not in power.”

Blair told the former This Morning presenter how his religious beliefs helped him in the invasion’s immediate aftermath.

“When it comes to a decision like that, I think it is important that you take that decision as it were on the basis of what is right, because that is the only way to do it,” he said.

“I think sometimes people think my religious faith played a direct part in some of these decisions. It really didn’t. It gives you strength if you come to a decision, to hold to that decision. That’s how it supports your character in a situation of difficulty.”

Most “really hard” decisions involved a “downside and an upside either way”, he added.

Sir John Sawers, Blair’s former chief foreign policy adviser and now head of MI6, told the Chilcot inquiry on Thursday that Iraq was one of several countries where Britain would have liked regime change. Discussions took place on “political” actions to undermine Saddam, including indicting him for war crimes, Sawers said. There was no talk in 2001 in Whitehall of military action, he added.

“There are a lot of countries … where we would like to see a change of regime. That doesn’t mean one pursues active policies in that direction.”

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