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Chilcot needs to say, ‘Blair lied’.

There is already enough information in the public domain to prove that Tony Blair lied says Chris Nineham

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Much of the anticipation around the release of the Chilcot report concerns what the establishment is prepared to admit about the Iraq War rather than what light it will shine on history. It has taken eight years to produce, longer than the duration of the Iraq War it is supposed to be assessing. It is 2.6 million words long, four times the length of War and Peace, and yet it is unlikely to add much to the essentials of our understanding of the events of the war or the process that led to it.

The fact is, there is already enough information in the public domain to prove beyond reasonable doubt that Tony Blair lied in the run up to the war, that the war was illegal and that it did catastrophic damage not just to Middle East but to global stability.

The Crawford controversy

As is well known, Tony Blair met George Bush at his Crawford Ranch in April 2002 to discuss plans to invade Iraq and remove Sadam Hussein. There is talk of question marks over what Blair actually said there. But in a secret memo to Blair dated 14 March 2002, David Manning, the PMs senior advisor on foreign affairs, reported on a meeting with Condoleeza Rice that he had said ‘that you would not budge in your support for regime change’. Days later, British advisor to the UN Christopher Meyer reported to Manning that he had said ‘We backed regime change’ at a meeting with Paul Wolfowitz.

None of this was revealed to parliament or cabinet on the day of the vote or at any other time. Blair’s whole approach to the war was to put together a spurious set of arguments to ‘prove’ that Saddam had weapons of mass production in order to justify what was in fact a war for regime change. This explains why Blair’s speech to parliament on that day contained a series of falsehoods about the evidence for WMD, including the lie that the UN had confirmed Iraq had chemical weapons.

The law is the law

To be legal, a war needs to be a matter of self-defense against actual or imminent attack. And its aims must be proportional. As the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith explained in the months up to the war, regime change in the case of Saddam Hussein would be illegal even if it was believed he had residual weapons of mass production. Lord Goldsmith’s final capitulation under massive pressure from Blair on the question of the legality of the war
ignored this and was based on a simple assertion from Blair that Saddam had illegal weapons. From the security intelligence that he has admitted seeing and the reports from the UN it is clear Blair knew that at the very least there was real doubt about this. 

Blair’s promise to ‘come out with all guns blazing’ if he is condemned in the report is deeply disturbing. He is going to argue that the situation in the Middle East would be worse if there hadn’t been an invasion. Most apologists for the initial invasion blame mistakes made in the occupation for the disasters that followed, and the post-invasion events will no doubt be a major focus of the Chilcot Report. But Tony Blair actually thinks the whole experience of the War on Terror has been a net gain. This is surely the definition of extremism. The millions dead, the millions displaced, the destruction of whole societies, the almost unimaginable human misery, all justified in the name of some other, imagined catastrophe.

The facts are that the World has been transformed by the war on terror. On top of the immediate carnage caused by Western invasion and bombing, the Middle East and North Africa have been plunged into permanent turmoil. Four countries in the region, Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen, are being torn apart by civil war. Other countries are intervening in these conflicts, taking us to the brink of a regional war. Terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda and IS have spread from small pockets in Central Asia over an arc of thousands of kilometres from Karachi to the Congo, bringing death and instability to whole swathes of the globe.

The importance of the report is that it will reopen the discussion about the Iraq War, and Tony Blair’s role in it. It is unlikely to do more than provide us with some more scraps of information about the way Blair and his cabal tried to hoodwink people into supporting the worst foreign policy decision in post-war British history. But at a time when the government is trying to manoeuvre us into another military operation in Libya, when Jeremy Corbyn is offering us a new foreign policy based on an end to military interventions like Iraq and when Blairite MPs are trying to destabilize Corbyn’s leadership, the interpretation of history matters.

What people want

We need to be careful about being getting too distracted by post occupation mistakes in Iraq. These were many and serious, and they should be exposed. But they can be used to divert discussion away from the primary, causal error, the invasion itself. We also need to challenge Chilcot’s terms of reference, particularly the idea that it will not apportion blame. Such an approach flies in the face of basic justice, and will do nothing to discourage future foreign policy crimes.

What the majority of people want from the next few days is an open admission that the war on Iraq was disastrous, illegal and wrong in itself, and that those who took us into it, led by Tony Blair, did so knowingly and by lying to people and parliament. Anything short of this will surely confirm people’s suspicions that the Chilcot circus has been yet another convoluted attempt at a cover up.

Over the next few days, and for as long as it takes, Stop the War will be campaigning for the truth about Iraq to be publicly acknowledged. But we will also be campaigning for justice. Because there is one other issue. Many people also want to see that being a public figure and extremely rich doesn’t exempt you from being held accountable when you commit crimes.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

Tags: iraq

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