Why Blair is the guy whose face is on the placard

Tony-Blair-war-criminal-posterRichard Nixon famously told a press conference that he was ‘not a crook’. And in the sense that the late US president was never found guilty of anything whatsoever, the statement is factually incontestable.

Likewise, Tony Blair is not a war criminal, even though contention to the contrary is a longstanding commonplace among anti-war campaigners, repeated endlessly on social media to this day. Continue reading

Chilcot: Establishment writes its own rules to evade embarrassment

david cameron and tony blairThe Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war (March-April 2003, nearly 12 years ago) was set up in 2009 and took public evidence from its last witness in 2011. The announcement yesterday that the report after 6 years on inquiry is being strung out until after the election this May is truly scandalous. Cameron has tried to wash his hands of it by saying that he is not responsible and the inquiry is independent doesn’t wash. He closed down the Gibson inquiry into alleged UK involvement in US rendition when it became clear that its revelations could be highly embarrassing to the UK authorities, so there is no question that he could set a time limit for the Chilcot inquiry if he really wanted to.

What makes it all the more scandalous is not that more time is needed to complete the report (it has been completed), but rather that those criticised in the report have been given the option of indefinitely delaying its publication as a result of being given prior access to what it says about them and then being allowed endlessly to prevaricate by haggling over every detail they don’t like. On a matter that affects the whole nation and has left an abiding imprint of deep shame, this is outrageous. Continue reading

Chilcot: what we need is determination to hold criminals to account for their crimes

Tony-Blair-war-criminal-posterWhat we already know is damning enough. The UK went to war over Iraq because Bush wanted British support, and at the Crawford summit in April 2002, 11 months before the war started, Blair in effect committed to providing that, though the exact terms of that surrender to Bush still remain secret.

The rationale for war however was not easy to find. Bush initially favoured saying Saddam Hussein was somehow involved in the 9/11 attack, but there was no evidence for that whatsoever. So Blair settled on finding proof of large-scale activity by Iraq in WMD. However, since the UN inspectors left in 1998, the evidence was almost non-existent. Continue reading

What exactly is Blair so terrified about us finding out on Iraq?

Blair, pic by Kennard PhillipsThe news that Chilcot has surrendered to the civil service establishment in not publishing the full evidence about the Iraq War is as depressing as it was predictable. He was told by Gus O’Donnell, the head of the civil service in 2011, that there was no way he could publish all the evidence that he and his Inquiry members had seen, the implication being that the most revealing and controversial parts of the evidence had to be kept firmly hidden under lock and key.

What he should have done of course, on grounds of the need for full accountability in the national interest, was to defy the dead hand of the civil service suppression of the truth and published the full evidence ‘without fear or favour’, or at least published it all in redacted form (i.e. blacked out) so that we would all know the extent of the crucial evidence being withheld. Continue reading

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. Continue reading