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Why is Blair given a veto over disclosure of his dealings with Bush before Iraq war?

Bush and Blair at Camp DavidIt is now more than 2 years that the Chilcot inquiry into the origins and management of the Iraq war have been stalled in Whitehall, and it has now emerged that this is because the Chilcot panel has been told they cannot disclose 25 notes which Blair wrote to Bush, plus more than 130 records of conversations between the two, as well as information concerning 200 cabinet discussions. All of this material is obviously central to any assessment about the UK’s support for the invasion of Iraq and for subsequent decisions on Britain’s continued involvement.

So who took the decision that it should all be withheld? We now know that there was a terse exchange of correspondence about this matter between Chilcot and Gus O’Donnell who was cabinet secretary at the time of the war. Chilcot argued that the release of the official papers would “illuminate Blair’s position at critical points” before the war, but O’Donnell said that releasing Blair’s notes would damage Britain’s relations with the US and (favourite phrase of civil servants when caught in a tight corner) would not be in the public interest. But what is key to this is that O’Donnell consulted Blair before forbidding Chilcot to release them.

So why should the one person who almost single-handedly took Britain into an illegal and unjustifiable war be granted the right to veto the disclosure of documents that will finally reveal the full truth of what actually happened? Heywood, who succeeded O’Donnell as cabinet secretary, takes the same stance as his predecessor. But that’s another blatant conflict of interest since Heywood was Blair’s principal private secretary from 1999-2003 and is therefore the last person to be entitled to a say in this matter. But there are three considerations which should override:

  1. One is that the right to democratic accountability, on such an issues as to whether Blair deliberately deceived parliament and the nation in order to bow the knee to the Bush agenda, should be supreme. It should certainly not be subordinated to such unwarranted and unexplained claims of the public interest.
  2. Second, it cannot be right that the public is stripped of every last vestige of privacy by the mass surveillance secretly imposed on them, yet at the same time the nation’s leaders can weave any excuse to hide behind a bunker to exculpate themselves from the most serious charges imaginable.
  3. And third, it is absurd that Blair himself in his autobiography and Campbell and Powell, his two chief aides at Downing Street, can disclose privileged information whilst a committee of privy counsellors established by a former PM to investigate the truth cannot.

But perhaps the most important point of all is that this whole issue of blocking the disclosure of official papers would never have arisen if the committee appointed to examine the full background to the Iraq was selected by Parliament, not by the Prime Minister who had a strong vested interest to keep a lot of relevant information firmly under wraps. If that committee then reported to Parliament, not the PM, the latter would have no locus to exclude any of the information uncovered. If there is one lesson to be learnt, it is that that should be the model in future.

5 Comments

  1. Dave Roberts says:

    You haven’t answered your own question. You do this quite a lot and it’s extremely annoying. We don’t know so why ask us, your the politician?

  2. Dave Roberts says:

    Sorry, that should be “you’re”.

  3. terry sullivan says:

    because bliar and his cronies lied and sent our troops to an illegal war–why ask mr meacher?

  4. Robert says:

    The question is of course power he has the power and the ability to get away with it.

  5. James Martin says:

    You know, I used to really hate Thatcher. I would often imagine the celebrations I would have when she died. Then when she did die the only thing I could think of was that I wished it could have been Blair instead, and at that point I realised that actually my hatred for him was even greater than the wicked witch of Grantham. Bastard…

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