The release of the Chilcot Report into the circumstances under which the United Kingdom took part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003 has raised fresh questions of how Australia came to join the unfortunately named “coalition of the willing.”
Initial reactions to the Chilcot Report came from John Howard, Australian Prime Minister at the time of the formal announcement of the decision to become part of that coalition. Howard essentially argued that it was the “right” decision, taken on the basis of the best available intelligence at that time.
The current Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has expressed similar views. Both Howard and Bishop are lawyers, although that is not immediately obvious from their expressed views. Neither seems to have even a basic grasp of the principles of international law, or indeed even the law of evidence.
Successive Australian governments of both major political persuasions have refused to conduct a formal inquiry into the circumstances under which Australia joined the Iraq invasion and occupation. This is probably because both major parties are culpable in ignoring both the law and the evidence.
It is therefore important to look at the origins of Australia’s involvement, not only because of the Chilcot Report, but because what we now know about the decision making process discredits the protestations about “faulty intelligence” and good faith claims about ridding the world of an “evil dictator”, all designed to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East.
The legal starting point is Article 2 of the United Nations Charter, a document that Australia was instrumental in formulating. Article 2(3) of the Charter provides:
“All members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
Article 2(4) further provides:
“All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any State.”
These two provisions are rarely cited in the context of Iraq and were completely ignored in the legal opinion provided to the Australian government.
The Charter does of course provide an exception to the general prohibition on the use of force, and that is in the self-defence provisions of Article 51. A nation may of course act in self-defence if attacked by another State. As is well settled law, there must be an actual or imminent threat of an armed attack; the use of force must be necessary; and the force used must be proportionate.
No sensible argument can be mounted that Australia was threatened by Iraq, either directly or indirectly. Claims to the contrary, made in early 2003 by the Australian government do not withstand scrutiny.
A decade of sanctions had enfeebled Iraq’s military capacity as well as exacting a devastating toll upon its civilian population. An estimated 500,000 Iraqis, mainly women, children and older persons, died as a direct result of the sanctions. Former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright callously described those deaths as “worth it” to dismember Iraqi society.
The post-invasion death toll is well in excess of a million people. Again, it is a measure of the callous indifference to the truth about the invasion’s consequences that the Australian media persistently refer to the death toll as “more than 100,000”. While literally true the effect is to dramatically understate the true human costs of the invasion.
The only operative provision of Article 51 therefore is that force may be used pursuant to a resolution of the Security Council authorizing the use of force. Circumventing that restriction was in fact one of the central preoccupations of the UK and Australian governments.
In November 2002 the Security Council passed Resolution 1441 and the key issue was whether or not that Resolution constituted such an authorization. Chilcot devoted considerable space to this legal question, devoting the whole of Part 5 of the Report to the legal maneuvering that went on.
Suffice to say at this point that the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion, including the whole of the UK Foreign Office legal team, considered that it was insufficient to justify the use of force.
Prime Minister Howard set out the political argument for Australia to join the coalition attack on Iraq in an address on 4 February 2003 to the Australian Parliament. This was on the eve of US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s ill-fated address to the Security Council.
Howard assured the House that the government would not make a final decision to commit to military conflict (although troops had already been deployed to the Middle East) “unless and until it is satisfied that all achievable options for a peaceful resolution have been explored.”
This is to be contrasted with one of the central conclusions of the Chilcot Report that the diplomatic alternatives to war had not been pursued as far as was possible. The reasons for this will become obvious.
Howard further made the unequivocal statement that “the Australian government knows that Iraq still has chemical and biological weapons and that Iraq wants to develop nuclear weapons.” The presumed evidential basis for this bold assertion was apparently British and US intelligence. Again, the Chilcot Report refers to the opposite conclusion. The views of the intelligence agencies were much less forthright than the political spin put on them by the British Prime Minister. The same was equally true of Howard’s claims.
Howard even went so far as to repeat the discredited claim that “uranium has been sought from Africa (sic) that has no civil application in Iraq.” This was essentially an echo of George Bush’s infamous 16 words in the State of the Union address in January 2003. In fact, the 2002 US National Intelligence Estimate described that “intelligence as “highly suspect.”
This followed an investigation on behalf of the US intelligence agencies by Ambassador Joseph Wilson in February 2002, a year before Howard’s statement to Parliament that concluded that reports of Saddam Hussein seeking uranium or Yellow cake were “unequivocally wrong.”
Undeterred by the real evidence, the Howard government introduced a resolution into the House on 18 March 2003 to seek authorization for Australian military action in Iraq. The resolution relied in part on assertions about Iraq’s continued possession and pursuit of weapons of mass destruction in defiance of Security Council Resolutions. The resolution before the Australian parliament also claimed that resolutions 678, 687 and 1441 provided “clear authority for the use of force against Iraq.”
In support of this extraordinary claim, Howard tabled in the House the legal advice upon which the government purportedly relied. He said that the advice was consistent with that provided to the UK government by its Attorney-General Lord Goldsmith.
At best, that was a partial truth. In fact, the terms of Resolution 1441 provided that should Iraq be found to be in material breach of its obligations, then the matter was to be returned to the Security Council for its assessment and consideration. There was nothing in Resolution 1441 that expressly or impliedly authorized the resort to force without further consideration by the Security Council.
This was known to the UK Government because in February 2002, more than a year before the invasion, all 14 members of the Foreign Office legal team had advised the government that in their opinion Iraq could not be attacked without a specific further authorization from the Security Council.
This was also the view of the UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. He provided Tony Blair, the then UK Prime Minister with a detailed analysis, which reached the same conclusion. As the Chilcot Report makes clear, Blair did not provide his Cabinet with a copy of Goldsmith’s opinion. To do so would have undermined the propaganda campaign then in full swing.
Blair was not prepared to seek a resolution from the Security Council authorizing force because he knew he could not command the necessary support from the Council, even discounting the likely French and Russian vetoes. It is logically contradictory to claim, as Howard did, that the Security Council resolutions authorized force, and refuse to test that as Goldsmith had advised was the prudent course because one knows that such authorization would not be forthcoming.
Instead of confirming what the legal opinions had advised, both Blair and Howard continued to make unequivocal statements that Saddam Hussein was defying Security Council resolutions, concealing weapons of mass destruction, and pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
Chilcot again found that there was no proper basis for these statements, including the evidence of the two independent inspectors, Mohammed al-Baradi and Hans Blix that they could find no evidence of any weapons or weapons program, and that Saddam Hussein was co-operating with the inspection teams.
Goldsmith’s detailed opinion was finally provided to the Cabinet on 7 March 2003. It was clearly not what Blair and the others intent on war wanted to hear. Goldsmith was therefore sent to the United States where he conferred with Bush’s legal advisers.
Goldsmith duly returned to the UK and in a written answer to a question in the House of Lords in 337 words reversed the position he had carefully set out over 12 pages of legal argument only ten days earlier. Goldsmith’s answer said in effect that the alleged material breaches by Iraq of Resolution 678 (which dealt with the ceasefire after the first Gulf War in 1991) “revived” that resolution.
Professor Vaughn Lowe, professor of International Law at Oxford University has written, “there is no known doctrine of the revival of authorizations in SecurityCouncil resolutions” (2).
Apart from Professor Lowe, the overwhelming weight of legal opinion was that Goldsmith’s new position was untenable. A 551-page report from a Dutch Commission of Inquiry headed by a former President of the Dutch Supreme Court reported on 9 October 2010 that the 2003 invasion of Iraq “had no basis in international law.” That Dutch Report received very little coverage in the Australian media.
Sir Michael Wood used almost identical words in his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry. Sir Michael was the Senior Legal Adviser at the foreign Office at the time of the invasion. He told the Inquiry:
“I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law.” Sir Michael went on to say: “In my opinion, that use of force had not been authorized by the Security council, and had no other basis in international law.”
Whether John Howard knew about the unanimous opinion of the Foreign Office’s legal team, or Goldsmith’s detailed analysis of 7 March 2003 is not known. If he did, he did not mention it. Howard told the Australian parliament that the advice he had received was “consistent with” the UK advice. He could only be referring to Goldsmith’s 337-word parliamentary answer, because manifestly Howard’s legal advice, tabled at the same time, did not reflect either Goldsmith’s original advice, the Foreign Office legal advice, or the weight of world legal opinion.
Although the Chilcot Report did not state a specific legal view on the issue, it is clear from a reading of Part 5 of the Report where 169 pages are devoted to detailing the processes by which the legal positions were pursued, concealed from the Cabinet, modified and ultimately misrepresented, that 1441 could not operate as an authorization for the use of force, much less the “revival” of earlier resolutions.
Other critics have been less reticent. Professor Phillipe Sands QC, professor of international law at University College London said in June 2010 that documents disclosed at the Chilcot Inquiry showed that Goldsmith had a 180 degree turn in his opinion between 7 March and 17 March 2003 “in the total absence of any new facts or legal considerations.” (3)
Lord Alexander, a former head of the Bar Council of England and Wales thought Goldsmith’s 17 March 2003 answer was “risible” and said so publicly on 14 October 2003. (4)
So where did John Howard obtain legal advice so against the weight of authority? Unlike in the UK where the government at least sought the advice of its most senior legal adviser, the Attorney General, the Howard government instead obtained an opinion from two middle level public servants.
Their opinion does not acknowledge that the weight of legal opinion differed from theirs. Their interpretation of the Security Council resolutions was plainly wrong, “risible” to borrow Alexander’s terminology. They provided no evidence for concluding that Iraq was in material breach of Security Council resolutions as Howard had asserted. They also accepted the doctrine of “reactivation” when such a notion, as noted above, is unknown in international law.
As former Commonwealth Solicitor-General Gavan Griffiths wrote:
“The Australian and UK legal advises are entirely untenable. They furnish no threads for military clothes. It is difficult to comprehend that the fanciful assertions (they are not arguments) of the two advices have been invoked by Australia and the UK to support the invasion of another State.” (5)
In both the UK and Australian cases, seeking legal opinions was in reality no more than window dressing, a fig leaf of attempted respectability. The decision to go to war against Iraq had been made early in 2002.
The Cheney Task Force, with its maps dividing up Iraq’s oil riches among western oil companies was one motive for waging an unjustified and illegal war of aggression. Meeting the wishes of the Israelis as set out in the 1982 Yinon Plan was another. Saddam Hussein’s decision to trade oil in other than US dollars was also a crucial factor.
At one time, Saddam Hussein had been a US ally. The British and Americans had supplied the weapons of mass destruction he used during the war with Iran in the 1980s. Once their objectives differed Saddam Hussein became expendable, and ‘regime change’, a much favoured and practiced American option became the policy.
Further confirmation of this, were it needed, comes from the report of the head of MI6, Sir Richard Dearlove, following a visit to the US. What is now known as the Downing Street Memo was written on 23 July 2002, eight months before the invasion, and well before legal opinions, UN Inspector’s Reports, or parliamentary debates.
The Memo stated in part:
- Military action was now seen as inevitable.
- President Bush wanted to remove Saddam Hussein through military action, justified by a conjunction of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.
- Intelligence was being fixed around the policy.
The facts did not matter. A policy decision had been taken and nothing could be allowed to divert the policy objective of invading Iraq and stealing its resources.
It is a reasonable inference that the Australian government was fully aware of this. Precisely what they knew and when they knew it must await the establishment of a proper inquiry. We do know however, that the views of the two Ignoring the major foreign intelligence agencies, the Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) and the Office of National Assessments (ONA) were disclosed in a report of the parliamentary joint committee in December 2003.
The DIO and ONA had concluded:
- The threat from Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was less than it had been a decade earlier (1991)
- Under sanctions that prevailed at the time, Iraq’s military capability remained limited and the country’s infrastructure was still in decline.
- The nuclear program was unlikely to be far advanced. Iraq was unlikely to have obtained fissile material.
- Iraq had no ballistic missiles that could reach the US.
- There was no known chemical weapons production.
- There was no specific evidence of resumed biological weapons production.
- There was no known biological weapons testing or evaluation since 1991.
- There was no known Iraq offensive weapons research since 1991.
- Iraq does not have nuclear weapons.
- There was no evidence that chemical weapon warheads for missiles had been developed.
- No intelligence had accurately pointed to the location of weapons of mass destruction.
Ignoring the evidence (not an honest belief as pleaded then and now) and an overt willingness to join US foreign policy misadventures has led to one of the greatest policy debacles in Australian foreign policy history. It has resulted in the deaths of more than a million Iraqis and millions more displaced and their lives destroyed.
It has given rise to the threat of Islamic terrorism that plagues countries throughout the Middle East, North Africa and as recent events have shown in France and other European nations.
The Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals following World War 2 called a war of aggression “the supreme international crime differing only from other crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
That the principal perpetrators of the Iraq War, Bush, Blair and Howard, have thus far escaped accountability for waging a war of aggression is unconscionable. Australia must have a Chilcot type inquiry and judicial processes must follow their inevitable conclusions.
James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law.
Denmark has decided to spare its former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen the embarrassment his British colleague Tony Blair experienced for involving his country in the war in Iraq by keeping vital documents away from the public eye.
Unlike the United Kingdom, which last week published the Chilcot Report, which unleashed strong criticism of Tony Blair’s Iraqi venture, Denmark decided to block a secret note regarding the 2003 Iraq War from public access, obviously with the intention of shielding its former Prime Minister and NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen from similar scrutiny.
Whereas a batch of documents, including communications between Blair and former US President George W. Bush, were made available for public download after the publication of the Chilcot Report, a similar 14-year old document written by Rasmussen amid preparations for the US-led invasion of Iraq will be kept under wraps, Jyllands-Posten reported.
According to Denmark’s parliamentary ombudsman, Danish law prohibits the publication of such material, which was described as “potentially damaging for other countries.” Therefore, the document will be kept classified in accordance with the controversial 2013 Freedom of Information Law.
The debated document relates to a meeting between Rasmussen and then-US Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz in 2002, which is widely believed to have pushed Denmark into the US-led campaign to oust former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Remarkably, Copenhagen opposes the very idea of shedding light on Denmark’s involvement in the bloody war, which threw Iraq into chaos and left millions dead as the nation was turned into a battleground. In 2015, Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen controversially cancelled a government inquiry into the Iraq War shortly after taking office.
A number of opposition politicians have been calling for the document to be made public, despite the perpetual blockade by the government. The background for Denmark’s military involvement in the wars in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan should be examined through an independent investigation, the Red-Green Alliance stated. According to party spokesperson Eva Flyvholm, Denmark should investigate this painful period to be able to learn from its mistakes and look forward, the Danish newspaper Extra Bladet reported.
Denmark has been a loyal NATO associate ever since it joined the alliance as a founding member. Over the past decades, Danish soldiers fought in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya. Anders Fogh Rasmussen was Danish Prime Minister from 2001 to 2009, whereupon he went on to become NATO Secretary General and remained in office until October 2014.
Ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair cited dubious child mortality figures as part of his justification for invading Iraq when he was grilled by MPs, the Chilcot report has revealed.
In the run up to the Iraq War, Blair claimed Iraq’s child mortality rate was 130 deaths per 1,000, a figure he obtained from a long-discredited source, the Iraq Child and Maternal Mortality Survey (ICMMS).
This is despite the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) telling Downing Street there were no reliable figures for Iraq’s infant mortality rate.
The former PM repeated the claim when testifying before the Chilcot inquiry in 2010, after he was asked whether the invasion had been good for the Iraqi people.
“In 2000 and 2001 and 2002 they had a child mortality rate of 130 per 1,000 children under the age of five,” Blair told the Chilcot inquiry.
“The figure today is not 130, it is 40. That equates to about 50,000 young people, children, who, as a result of a different regime that cares about its people – that’s the result that getting rid of Saddam makes.”
According to economist Professor Michael Spagat, Blair was wrong about the figures and should have known better the first time he used them to justify war in 2003.
Writing for the Conversation, Spagat said the ICMMS data was flawed and hugely unreliable.
“As the Chilcot report notes, no fewer than four subsequent surveys plus the 1997 Iraqi census failed to confirm the ICMMS data, which found a massive and sustained spike in child mortality in the closing years of the 20th century,” Spagat wrote.
The former PM was also told by one of his own government department’s that the figures could not be trusted.
In February 2003, Downing Street asked the FCO for data on child mortality rates in Iraq in a bid to strengthen the argument for war.
The FCO replied, in now declassified correspondence, that there were “no truly reliable figures for child mortality rate” in Iraq. It went on to describe the ICMMS statistics as having “relied on some Iraqi figures” and been “proved questionable.”
According to Spagat, Blair’s private secretary then “iron[ed] out the nuances in the FCO’s spot-on analysis,” leaving the former PM to reference the discredited child mortality figures in his party speech in 2003.
Spagat said “there was no excuse” for Blair to repeat the incorrect claim in 2010, because the figures were already widely discredited.
“All in all, this affair is a remarkably good example of how complex information can end up being manipulated thanks to political imperatives and time limitations,” Spagat writes.
“But it still doesn’t explain why Blair held onto the discredited figure for so long.”
The Scottish National Party, under Alex Salmond, has long been associated with opposition to illegal and immoral wars. Salmond was one of the few MPs who opposed the bombing of Serbia, and campaigned actively against the invasion of Iraq, subsequently supporting Plaid Cymru’s Adam Price in his attempt to impeach Tony Blair. Like Jeremy Corbyn he has been responding to the publication of the Chilcot report; like Jeremy Corbyn he is calling for Blair to be charged with war crimes.
What exactly is the position of the Scottish National Party with regard to global peace and justice?
The foremost objective of the Scottish National Party is Scottish independence. Beyond that, it has been obliged to position itself as the centre-left party of Scotland, there being scarcely room on the right along with Labour and the Tories, and espouses certain left-wing causes such as the question of upgrading Britain’s nuclear missile system, Trident. However a commitment to Scottish independence and opposition to nuclear weapons do not in themselves add up to an ethical view on global affairs.
Despite Salmond’s stance on Iraq, the SNP, with Salmond as party leader, voted with the Government and Labour Opposition to bomb Libya in 2011. It should be noted that both Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell voted against the motion, along with 11 other MPs. The reasons given for their No vote are varied and convincing. That of Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion, went : ’Given the West’s colonial past, its history of adventurism and support for dictatorship in the region, its failure to enforce UN resolutions in Palestine and the legacy of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, I think its motives in Libya will always be in doubt.’ Quite so.
The SNP clearly did not see it that way. As Steve James puts it:
Since coming to power in Edinburgh in 2007, the [SNP] has repeatedly made clear it is willing to support British military actions, particularly if a UN flag is flying over the slaughter of the day—including in Libya. […] The SNP has repeatedly made clear that they support NATO, the European Union, a struggle against Russia, and increased spending on frigates, fast jets and long-range reconnaissance aircraft.
The SNP’s line on Syria could be seen as being consistent with its position on Iraq, in that it opposed the overt bombing of the country (ostensibly ISIS in Syria) in December, 2015. When talking to the press after the vote was passed Salmond made a lot of sense (as he usually does), pointing out the lack of a proper strategy to deal with Islamic State.
However the elephant present in the chamber when the bombing of Syria was debated was the UK government’s known support for the extremist militants fighting the legitimate government in Syria, see here and here. Neither Salmond’s statement on the ‘bomb Syria’ vote nor Nicola Sturgeon’s contain any proposal for the obvious moral alternative, to stop supporting armed extremists, mostly imported, and instead help the Syrian people fight these terrorists. There is nothing said by either politician to suggest that the SNP does not support in principle the proxy war on Syria and enforced regime change.
It is obvious to all and sundry that there is a gross contradiction between the West’s claims to see terrorism and the growth of ISIS as a major threat, while in real terms prioritising the overthrow of the Syrian government who is actually fighting them on the ground. By not pressing the UK government and the EU to actually help the Syrian people fight jihadi extremists, instead of providing those same extremists with moral and material support, the SNP has shown itself to be just as compromised as the Labor and Conservative parties.
The Yinon Plan
Many active users of social media who follow global events will be familiar with General Wesley Clark’s revelation in 2007 about the US plan, after having already invaded Afghanistan, to take out 7 further countries in 5 years. It was made known to Wesley Clark a couple of weeks after 9/11 that the US planned to invade Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and finally Iran.
Likewise, many people will be familiar with Oded Yinon’s ‘Strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties’, a proposal to further Israel’s interests by destabilising the whole of the Middle East. The plan operates on two essential premises. To survive, Israel must 1) become an imperial regional power, and 2) must effect the division of the whole area into small states by the dissolution of all existing Arab states.
The objectives of the proposal articulated by Wesley Clark clearly further those of the second premise of the Yinon Plan. Furthermore, leaked documents (such as Clinton’s emails) confirm that Israel’s interests are paramount for US foreign policy. The same documents show that the decision to take out Syria had been made at least by 2006, but probably much earlier.
Given the catastrophic progression of wars from Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya to Syria, all strongly promoted and either actively waged or heavily sponsored by the West, Israel and their ally Saudi Arabia, there is no moral or intellectual justification for seeing these wars as anything but a cold-blooded plan to destabilise the greater Middle East and fulfill the Yinon plan.
There is little in the actions of the SNP (and many of their supporters) to suggest that they do not support in principle this path of destruction. Nicola Sturgeon declared her unequivocal support for the Israel lobby by putting on a blue nose to celebrate Yom Ha’atzmaut, which translates as something like ‘Destroy Palestine Day’.
Support for Israel, and for the Israel-backed programme of regime change in the Middle East, is a thread that runs through the Scottish independence movement.
The main Scottish ‘leftist’ pro-independence blogs, while they probably opposed the Iraq war, have abandoned any pretense at a moral perspective when it comes to global affairs. Rev. Stuart Campbell, the editor of Wings over Scotland and a strong supporter of the SNP, has wisely avoided commenting on issues such as the Syria conflict, focusing on what he knows best, i.e. Scottish affairs. However Campbell forms a mutual admiration society with one Stephen Daisley, a journalist with STV News who has been termed a ‘hate-filled and crazed right-winger’ by ex-UK ambassador Craig Murray. Daisley authored a quite extraordinary article attacking those who criticise Israel, which fully justifies Murray’s categorisation, offering such objective analysis as, ‘Why deny the Holocaust when you can throw it back in the Jews’ faces by fictionalising Gaza as a concentration camp? Why hurl rocks at a Jew in the street when you can hurl endless vexatious UN resolutions at Israel?’
Daisley’s article was published 24 August 2015. On the same day Wings over Scotland tweeted (not, I hasten to add, in reference to Daisley’s article, but also not for the first time)
Daisley promoted Wings over Scotland’s crowd fundraiser in February 2015, while until late last year his blog was listed among the suggested links on Wings over Scotland’s Home Page.
The other major pro-indy blog, Bella Caledonia, which has been praised by such notable Scots as Irvine Welsh, has come out strongly in support for enforced regime change in Syria, posting, for example, an article What is to be Done about Syria by determined propagandist for the ‘revolution’, Mohammed Idrees Ahmed. To be fair to Scotland, the article attracted a number of negative (or appalled) comments, but editor Mike Small responded to criticism by digging himself into an ever deeper hole, and disappointed readers were left in no doubt of his support for illicit regime change in Syria.
It is widely assumed that the next country in the sights of the NATO/Israel alliance will be Iran (although with all the recent sabre-rattling about Russia, one could be forgiven for thinking that country may be next in the firing line). It has also been widely assumed that the progression to war on Iran, either through direct military intervention or via a bogus revolution on the Syria model, is impeded by the failure so far to achieve a resolution in Syria that satisfies the NATO/Israel alliance, and that the ‘West’ will not move its attentions to Syria until the Syrian situation is resolved.
Quite how long Iran is safe from the predatory NATO/Israel alliance is hard to say. But those wanting to move against Iran sooner rather than later met in Paris on 9-10 July 2016, at a rally called Free Iran: Our Pledge Regime Change. This is an annual event convened by the People’s Mujahedeen of Iran (PMOI), more commonly known as the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq or MEK, which was until 2012 on the US prescribed terrorist list. Daniel Larison in the hardly left-wing American Conservative described MEK in less than glowing terms.
… the MEK is probably best-known for its role fighting on the side of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war against their own country. That is one of the chief reasons why the group is still loathed by almost all Iranians in Iran and around the world. The idea that this group speaks for dissident Iranians is nonsensical and insulting to the latter, and the fantasy that such an abusive, totalitarian cult has any interest in the freedom of Iranians is laughable even by Washington’s low standards.
The touted 100,000 participants included a number of politicians and other dignitaries such Prince Turki al-Faisal, ex-intelligence chief from Saudi Arabia, who talked of the importance of overthrowing an oppressive regime, but obviously could not go too deeply into the question of human rights, and Newt Gingrich, a potential running mate for Donald Trump.
It is well known that the MEK has close ties with pro-Israel lobby groups, so perhaps it should not surprise that convenor Maryam Rajavi paid a special tribute to Elie Wiesel, who won a Nobel Prize for his book on his holocaust experience. Now Elie Wiesel is considered by all except the most hardened Zionists as a fraud and a hypocrite, and certainly nothing like the great messenger for humanity described by Rajavi. Again, it is difficult to see such concern for the priorities of the Israel lobby resonating with the people of Iran.
The sentiments of the conference are also supported by a number of Anglican bishops. This episcopal empathy with Iranian Christians might inspire more conviction if the same had been shown for Syrian Christians. However a Google search for such an outpouring of compassion found only an article in the very unlikely Spectator, asking that Cameron Should Listen to Syrian Bishops Not the Anglican Ones. My search for “UK Bishops grateful to Hezbollah for protecting Syrian Christians” was no more successful.
Very proud to be sharing a platform with such august company as Prince Turki al-Faisal and Newt Gingrich were three MPs from the Scottish National Party:
Despite all these years of bloody war in the greater Middle East, the implications of attending a conference dedicated to regime change were clearly lost on the SNP representatives.
The PMOI/MEK have an unsavoury reputation as terrorists and manipulators. The rally itself was a blatant display of hypocrisy of the highest order, with participants giving standing ovations to Turki al-Faisal of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as he lectured on oppressive regimes. His hostess Maryam Rajavi, who aspired to ‘win the hearts and minds of the Iranian diaspora’, stood on the same platform as al-Faisal and spoke of Iran as the source of terrorism and extremism, completely disregarding the fact that Iran (unlike Saudi Arabia) support no terrorist groups, but the legitimate government of Syria. Participation in such an event does the organisations that the delegates represent no favours.
Anyone who puts too much trust in the integrity and consistency of politicians is headed for disappointment. But for the Scottish National Party to allow three of its MPS to be associated with an organisation and event of such ill repute is an exceptional display of poor judgement, quite apart from what this says about the party’s values.
It is likely that when the decision is made to go for Iran, the NATO/Israel alliance will go for the more deniable ‘revolution’ option, though they will be hoping for more credible partners than the MEK. The chances of such an organisation ever managing to acquire credibility as an Iranian opposition within Iran are minimal. However the case of Syria has shown that as long as their governments are not actually invading or bombing, the British and American publics are quite happy to put up with blatant hypocrisy and hardly less blatant support for murderous extremists.
Whatever method is chosen to wipe out Iran, we needn’t look to the Scottish National Party to stand in the way.
Sir John Chilcot’s report into the war in Iraq contains 2.6 million words and took seven years to complete yet there is one story which was untold in the dossier. It is the story of how two heroic GCHQ (Government Communications HQ) staff sacrificed their careers and ambitions in order to try and stop the most powerful country in the world from invading Iraq, and thereby preventing the slaughter of innocents.
One of the women, whom I called “Isobel”, came to see me after an anti-war gathering I addressed at Bristol University. It was towards the end of 2002 and I had recently returned from an investigative assignment in Iraq, convinced more than ever that Saddam had no weapons of mass destruction (WMD). However, as an anti-war journalist, very few of my colleagues in Fleet Street’s mainstream media wanted to run a story saying there were no WMD in Iraq, even though this was also the conclusion of the UN’s chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, and his team of experts.
“Isobel” gave me a top secret document which turned out to be the biggest and most damning intelligence leak since World War II. I wondered how I could get the story out to the wider world that America was so desperate to push for war in Iraq that it was prepared to use blackmail against individuals sitting on the UN Security Council to get its wish.
The document made it quite clear that Britain’s spy agencies would do the spade work to seek out and dig dirt on council members which could then be used against them to secure their votes for war. It was sensational.
All of the information was contained in an email from America’s National Security Agency (NSA) to Britain’s GCHQ. British spy agencies were “ordered” by their American counterparts to spy on all members of the Security Council to try to ascertain how they would vote in the event of Bush and Blair seeking UN approval for the war in Iraq.
When “Isobel” handed me the document I was working as a freelance journalist and automatically thought the best way to place it would be at the Daily Mirror which, under editor Piers Morgan, was one of the few Fleet Street titles to adopt an anti-war position. Intelligence stories are always difficult to prove and, without compromising my contacts at GCHQ, I was unable to supply the Mirror with anything other than the original email, although I had used an intelligence contact to verify its authenticity.
The war drums were beating ever louder when it was returned to me with disappointing news; it would not be used by the Mirror. In hindsight, the story was so massive that I should have gone straight to Morgan to try and persuade him to run it.
By this time it was early February and, realising that it had a limited shelf life, I contacted a former colleague at the Observer and told him what I had. I met with Martin Bright in a small cafe in London’s West End and knew straight away that he would give it his best shot as he realised the importance of the document.
It took a full three weeks for Bright, assisted by the Observer’s then defence correspondent Peter Beaumont and US editor Ed Vulliamy, to stand up the story and persuade the editor, Roger Alton, to run with it. It was years later before I discovered that political editor Kamal Ahmed did his best to persuade Alton to dump the exclusive.
There were even attempts to trash my personal reputation as a journalist and reminders bordering on hysteria about the Sunday Times’ embarrassing faux pas over the 1980s hoax “Hitler Diaries”; it was a desperate attempt to dissuade Alton not to use the story but it went ahead and the scoop soon travelled around the world. Sadly, days later, Iraq was invaded and the story was swamped by “Shock and Awe” headlines. Now it is virtually forgotten, but I often wonder if it would or could have altered the course of events had we been able to get the story published in early February 2003.
The woman who handed me the document – “Isobel” – and her colleague Katharine Gun, a 29-year-old Mandarin translator who also worked at GCHQ in Cheltenham, were arrested. When their homes were raided and searched by police, “Isobel” got a message to me; I was in Bahrain at the time and sent Bright a text message saying simply, “Shit, hit & fan”.
Recalling events some five years later, Martin Bright wrote in the New Statesman : “The email was sent by a man with a name straight out of a Hollywood thriller, Frank Koza, who headed up the ‘regional targets’ section of the National Security Agency, the US equivalent of GCHQ. It named six nations to be targeted in the operation: Chile, Pakistan, Guinea, Angola, Cameroon and Bulgaria. These six so-called ‘swing nations’ were non-permanent members of the Security Council whose votes were crucial to getting the resolution through.”
According to Bright, “It later emerged that Mexico was also targeted because of its influence with Chile and other countries in Latin America, though it was not mentioned in the memo. But the operation went far wider – in fact, only Britain was specifically named as a country to be exempt from the ‘surge’.”
Verifying the document as genuine proved the most difficult task and Blairite journalists embedded in the Observer newsroom continued to whisper in the editor’s ear about conspiracy theories, Russian forgeries and even a double bluff scenario by GCHQ spy chiefs to flush out traitors.
In the end, Vulliamy simply telephoned the NSA’s Maryland HQ and asked to speak to the author of the email. Within seconds he was put through to Frank Koza’s office and the man himself answered the phone. Although he refused to comment on the story, the call proved that Koza did indeed exist and was not some invention of the Kremlin’s spooks.
The story was published on 2 March 2003 but it became clear that the US president was going to go to war come what may and that he wasn’t going to rely on UN support. Thanks to Chilcot, we now know that Blair had already given his unconditional support to Bush in September 2002.
Gun and “Isobel” were arrested for alleged offences under the Official Secrets Act, but the attorney general at the time, Lord Goldsmith, dropped the case at the 11th hour on 26 February 2004. Had the case gone ahead, it would have been both sensational and embarrassing for the US and Britain. Today I wonder if that is why Chilcot chose to ignore the story, which has been recounted in part by Bright. The shenanigans of what went on inside the Observer newsroom were provided in more detail by award-winning journalist Nick Davies. He decided to break Fleet Street’s unwritten rule by investigating his own colleagues, in order to expose how the mainstream media subverts the truth.
In his book “Flat Earth News”, Davies gave us a scathing critique of the media; not just some of it, but all of it. Davies’ most damaging dirt is reserved for Kamal Ahmed, the man who – with no prior experience – was appointed as political editor of the Observer after Patrick Wintour moved to the Guardian. The more obviously qualified Andy McSmith was overlooked by the new editor, Roger Alton, whose sympathies were generally right-wing. According to Davies, both Alton and Ahmed were open to endless manipulation by Downing Street, which resulted in uncritical stories about the “findings” of the now notorious “dodgy dossier”.
There were other blatant lies published about Saddam’s alleged connections to Al-Qaida and his arsenal of WMD. Journalists like myself who supported the anti-war movement and individuals like Blix and the US’ Scott Ritter were demonised and ridiculed for holding to a narrative which differed from that of the pro-war lobby.
The British and American media ware manipulated by people inside newsrooms who were under the influence of the Bush and Blair camps, manipulation the like of which we can see continuing today in the attacks against anti-war Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. The pro-war lobby appears to be infecting all walks of life, including the media and government.
I don’t know if Chilcot was persuaded to ignore the story of the GCHQ leak or if he simply over-looked it, but as whistle-blower Kathryn Gun writes here, it was a missed opportunity. If nothing else, this is a cautionary tale which serves as a warning about the kind of desperate measures that the US and British governments are prepared to take to get their own way, especially on matters relating to the Middle East. If that means blackmailing, eavesdropping and intercepting the private communications of UN Security Council members, there are those in Washington and London ready, willing and able to do it.
Seven years after it was commissioned and 13 years after the Iraq War began, the Iraq Inquiry’s report on Britain’s part in the invasion has been published – and the fallout has begun.
The headlines are already an excoriating verdict on Tony Blair’s actions before, during, and after the invasion: Crushing Verdict on Blair and the Iraq War, Iraq Invasion “Not Last Resort”. And yet, in a most British way, an upper limit has still been imposed on the criticism, first and foremost by Sir John Chilcot and his committee.
Faced with the politics as well as the evidence – dare anyone put Blair in a position to face war crimes charges, or even dare to accuse him of abusing his power? – Chilcot steered clear of the L-word.
In fact, the word “lie” does not appear once in the Executive Summary. The only time that “lying” is used refers not to Blair, but to Saddam Hussein: “When Iraq denied that it had retained any WMD capabilities, the UK Government accused it of lying.” Nowhere does the report invoke a more colourful, if politer, formulation of the conclusion: that the intelligence for the invasion was “sexed up” on the orders of the prime minister’s office.
As David Cameron said of the report after its release: “Deliberate deceit? I can’t find a reference to it.”
So how does Chilcot manage to pull off this balancing act, going just far enough in the criticism to chide Blair while not opening up the full extent of the former prime minister’s actions?
The “lessons” of the report’s Executive Summary are a demonstration of the inquiry’s agility and care. Here’s the opener:
The decision to join the US‑led invasion of Iraq in 2003 was the product of a particular set of circumstances which are unlikely to be repeated. Unlike other instances in which military force has been used, the invasion was not prompted by the aggression of another country or an unfolding humanitarian disaster. The lessons drawn by the Inquiry on the pre‑conflict element of this Report are therefore largely context‑specific and embedded in its conclusions. Lessons on collective Ministerial decision‑making, where the principles identified are enduring ones, are an exception.
“Unlikely to be repeated”. Given that assurance, we do not need to draw out the specific consideration of the extent of the Blair Government’s manipulations – apparently because we will not face another situation in which a prime minister might dare to go so far.
Which, of course, pushes aside the essential point. The point of Blair’s accountability is that his conduct, which arguably could be held responsible for the deaths of 179 British personnel and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, was exceptional.
Releasing itself from the unwelcome burden of judgement, the report is free to set out a series of general recommendations, all of which implicitly say “don’t lie” without actually using those words.
Here is the report’s cautious framing of the September 2002 order from Blair and his advisor Alastair Campbell:
It was a mistake not to see the risk of combining in the September dossier the JIC’s [Joint Intelligence Committee’s] assessment of intelligence and other evidence with the interpretation and presentation of the evidence in order to make the case for policy action.
As can be seen from the JIC Assessments quoted in, and published with, this report, they contain careful language intended to ensure that no more weight is put on the evidence than it can bear …
Organising the evidence in order to present an argument in the language of Ministerial statements produces a quite different type of document.
To be fair to Chilcot, the Lessons cite “a damaging legacy, including undermining trust and confidence in Government statements” from the episode. But the report’s Executive Summary declines to address the question of whether Blair is culpable, much less of what crime. It merely says that, because of the manipulation of the intelligence, “it may be more difficult [in the future] to secure support for the Government’s position and agreement to action”.
And so it goes throughout the lessons, with damning phrases appropriately reined in:
Constant use of the term “weapons of mass destruction” without further clarification obscured the differences between the potential impact of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons and the ability to deliver them effectively …
There may be evidence which is “authoritative” or which puts an issue “beyond doubt”; but there are unlikely to be many circumstances when those descriptions could properly be applied to inferential judgements relying on intelligence …
The need to be scrupulous in discriminating between facts and knowledge on the one hand and opinion, judgement or belief on the other …
The need for vigilance to avoid unwittingly crossing the line from supposition to certainty, including by constant repetition of received wisdom.
And so Tony Blair, free from a full reckoning for his words and actions, can posture, as he did within an hour of the report’s release, that there was “no falsification or improper use of intelligence”, “no deception of Cabinet”, and “no secret commitment to war”.
Let the Stop the War movement’s protesters wave their “Bliar” signs all they want; they have yet to be officially vindicated. A few minutes after his predecessor’s response to the report, David Cameron told parliament that “at no stage does [Chilcot] explicitly say that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead people”.
And that, after 13 years, is that.
In the wake of the Chilcot report’s release, which details the the U.K.’s role in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, current U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s anti-war speech from 2003 has been making the internet rounds.
Speaking at a rally in Hyde Park in London on February 15, 2003, on a day where over 600 similar demonstrations against the invasion of Iraq were occurring worldwide, the then-British MP delivered a bold speech to a crowd of nearly 2 million people.
While Corbyn is currently embroiled in turmoil, with “Blairites” in his party turning on him since last week’s EU referendum results, where senior members of his Cabinet have resigned and 172 Labour MPs have signed a vote of no confidence in his leadership, he still maintains his anti-war convictions.
But sources say he won’t resign until former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair is “crucified” for his imperial aggression against Iraq, details of which can be found in the Chilcot report.
Here are five of the most powerful quotes from Corbyn’s Hyde Park anti-imperial speech.
1. “I find it deeply distasteful that the British prime minister can use the medieval powers of the royal prerogative to send young men and women to die, to kill civilians and for Iraqis to die.”
Corbyn expressed his disgust that Blair could make the decision to go to war on his own and declared that he wanted a vote in British Parliament.
2. “8,000 deaths in Afghanistan brought back none of those who died in the World Trade Center.”
Addressing those who justified the war as it would bring more peace and security to the world, Corbyn listed the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan, a country that was being pummeled with U.S. imperial might soon after 9/11 in the so-called war on terror.
3. “This will set off a spiral of conflict, of hate, of misery, of desperation, that will fuel the wars, the conflict, the terrorism, the depression and the misery of future generations.”
Predicting early the cyclical nature of such offensives, Corbyn warned that going to war in Iraq will not only cause unnecessary destruction and grief, but would produce more of it in years to come.
4. “Those … George Bush, Tony Blair … who want war, they are the ones who are isolated and alone and desperately searching for friends.”
Looking among the nearly 2 million people that had gathered in London that day to voice their opposition against war, Corbyn cited it is they, the demonstrators, that are united and that the political leadership of those looking to incite more war are the ones left scrambling for supporters.
5. “British government stop now, or pay the political price.”
Signing off with this terse statement, the crowd roared with applause as Corbyn exited the stage.
Watch his full speech below:
Many people have suspected there was a plan to topple countries, such as Iraq, that are also enemies of Israel, the US, and UK, security analyst and former UK army officer Charles Shoebridge told RT.
The Chilcot Report on the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war was finally released, after seven years of investigation. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair said he apologized for the mistakes made in planning and executing the intervention but he stood by the decision to go to war. He also dismissed accusations that his decision undermined the UN Security Council’s authority.
RT: Blair says Russia and France would have vetoed Iraq intervention at the Security Council. So is that fair justification for his decision to invade Iraq?
Charles Shoebridge: No, if anything, it is saying publicly as indeed many of us were saying at the time that: “It has been ruled unlawful, but therefore I am going to go ahead anyway.” After all, other than self-defense, which is clear and was clear at the time – notwithstanding how it was marketed at the time – that there was no imminent danger from Saddam Hussein; notwithstanding how much of the intelligence community, much of our politicians, and indeed much of the UK and US media tried to spin it into some kind of imminent threat.
Therefore, there was no imminent treat, so self-defense couldn’t be invoked. It would have to be by a UN resolution in the Security Council to allow that action to take place. Of course Blair knew that. But in some ways possibly France, particularly at the time and Russia even maybe perhaps unwittingly played into Tony Blair and George Bush’s hands by announcing that so publicly beforehand that they would veto it if it went to a UN Security Council resolution.
The reason they were going to veto, remember, is because the UN’s own arms inspectors hadn’t completed their work. They wanted to give a chance to Hans Blix and others to find those weapons that the US and the UK were claiming existed. Hans Blix and the inspectors were saying at the time to the US and the UK intelligence services: “Give us that information, give us that intelligence. We will go and check this out!” That intelligence was never forthcoming. That in itself, along with all the other aspects that are contained in this report, many of which are still to emerge, because it is still going to have very close scrutiny. It is of course questionable as to the extent to which that intelligence was reliable, and whether people knew it was reliable at the time.
RT: Tony Blair also said he regretted that parliament had voted against intervention in Syria. What do you make of that?
CS: It is an interesting line in one of his memos from 2001 – as far back as that to Bush – saying that shortly after 9/11 seeing the opportunity to attack Saddam; saying in many ways it could be interpreted as: “Ok, we’re looking at toppling Saddam, we can move on to Syria and Iran at a later stage.” Many people have suspected over the years that there was a plan, of which Iraq was just a part, to topple countries that by coincidence, some might say, are also enemies of Israel, of the US, and the UK, notwithstanding their own geopolitical situations. But that aside, it is really clear that much of the intelligence we know from Chilcot, that it was badly assessed; it was ill-thought-out and ill-informed intelligence in the first place. It was rushed; it wasn’t correctly assessed and analyzed properly.
It will still leave many, including so many in the intelligence community, who will ask the question, which doesn’t seem to have been addressed, or at least the accusation has not been made by Chilcot, as far as I can see at this stage whether there was any deliberate falsification of that intelligence; whether MI6 particularly and… other actors within the US and UK intelligence establishment deliberately falsified or exaggerated intelligence to support the government of the day and Tony Blair in a decision already made to go to war.
It seems that in many ways the security services have been let off lightly, because they have been condemned not for dishonesty, deceit, or perhaps even for illegal activity – which many suggest has taken place – but for gross incompetence, which at the end of the day that intelligence – some would argue and argued at the time, was intended to justify going to war. Once that war decision was taken and war happened, of course it doesn’t matter if subsequently it was found that intelligence was faulty, or even didn’t exist, because some would argue that the whole purpose of it was to justify the war, not be the real reason behind it.
Time for people to demand US ‘war criminals’ face charges
When US and UK forces invaded Iraq, the country had not one weapon with which to resist, and had been totally disarmed and starved down by the sanctions, said Sara Flounders the head of the International Action Center.
RT: What do you expect to be Washington’s reaction to the inquiry? Do you expect anyone to be held accountable for what happened?
Sara Flounders: Of course the US wants to bury this immediately and Pentagon officials refuse to study it. But the real question the people of the world should be asking is: “When do the war crimes trials start?” Clearly this war by every count, and once again confirmed in this report, was a criminal violation of international law by every measure and by every standard. Any discussion that doesn’t involve a war crimes trial against these criminals that destroyed Iraq and led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, left a whole society in ruins, and has led to the terror that we face on a global scale today. Anyone who is isn’t asking that question and is going to push this off for further study or bury it – is not in any way serious, or really part of the cover-up. This report which was to take a year, took seven years, 12 volumes. It is ridiculous and yet it must be used as a basis to demand accountability of these criminals in Britain and certainly here in the US.
RT: How likely is it that the US will hold a similar investigation?
SF: The US won’t discuss their criminal conduct in any way whatsoever and they have refused to account for this war. I don’t expect them to respond to this, or to their use of torture; their use of tens of thousands of people detained in the war on terror; their massive destruction of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of Libya – on all of these they are silent. Yet, I think this is a time for the people of the world to demand that they be charged as criminals.
RT: David Cameron has given his take on the report, saying lessons should be learned. So have lessons been learned?
SF: The lesson they want to learn is that they didn’t do proper planning on what to do with the occupation. And that meant that there was enormous resistance by the people of Iraq in a heroic stand, yet completely unable stop the occupation, the destruction of Iraq and the conscious plan – which was a British and US plan on using sectarian violence to divide and as a way of overcoming the resistance they faced to the occupation.
RT: Given the findings of the report, which said Blair had presented the existence of weapons of mass destruction as a certainty which wasn’t the case, and the fact the conflict left Iraq in ruins, how do you assess Blair’s decision to invade the country?
SF: The report says it wasn’t right, it wasn’t necessary, it wasn’t justified, it was ill-prepared, and that Iraq presented absolutely no threat. Whether one more imperialist power piled on, which would be France to that invasion, or not, wouldn’t have made it anymore right, or wouldn’t have made Iraq anymore of a threat. Iraq had not one weapon with which to resist, and had been totally disarmed and starved down by the sanctions that had gone on for 12 years before the actual invasion and occupation. And this was well understood. There were UN inspectors across Iraq…
It took seven years for Sir Chilcot and his team to reach a set of conclusions that every Brit capable of thought understood back in November, 2013.
The inquiry produced a damning assessment of Blair’s conduct as well as the British military. But the Chilcot Inquiry failed to expose the crucial close ties between Blair’s criminal war, the Jewish Lobby and Israel.
At the time Britain entered the criminal war against Iraq, Blair’s chief funders were Lord ‘cashpoint’ Levy and the LFI (Labour Friends of Israel). The prime advocates for the immoral interventionist war within the British press were Jewish Chronicle writers David Aaronovitch and Nick Cohen. The attorney general that gave the green light for the war was Lord Goldsmith.
In 2008 The Guardian revealed that the “Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) successfully fought to keep secret any mention of Israel contained on the first draft of the controversial, now discredited Iraq weapons dossier.”
Israel was conspicuously engaged in the vast production of WMDs. If Britain and America had any genuine concerns about WMDs, bombing Tel Aviv would have been the way to go.
In 2003 some intelligence experts insisted that Iraq’s WMD dossier was initially produced in Tel Aviv and only ‘sexed up’ in London.
Since the Iraq war, the same Jewish Lobby has mounted enormous pressure on western governments, promoting more Zio-centic interventionist wars in Syria, Libya and Iran. So why did the Chilcot Inquiry fail to address this topic?
This crucial failure by Chilcot was to be expected. In 2010, highly respected veteran British diplomat Oliver Miles had something to say about the Jewish make-up of the Chilcot Inquiry. Two out of the five members of the inquiry were Jews, pro war and Blair supporters.
This is what Miles wrote in the Independent :
“Rather less attention has been paid to the curious appointment of two historians (which seems a lot, out of a total of five), both strong supporters of Tony Blair and/or the Iraq war. In December 2004 Sir Martin Gilbert, while pointing out that the “war on terror” was not a third world war, wrote that Bush and Blair “may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill” – an eccentric opinion that would seem to rule him out as a member of the committee. Sir Lawrence Freedman is the reputed architect of the “Blair doctrine” of humanitarian intervention, which was invoked in Kosovo and Afghanistan as well as Iraq.
Both Gilbert and Freedman are Jewish, and Gilbert at least has a record of active support for Zionism. Such facts are not usually mentioned in the mainstream British and American media, but The Jewish Chronicle and the Israeli media have no such inhibitions, and the Arabic media both in London and in the region are usually not far behind.”
Miles’ point was valid, and proved correct. The Chilcot Inquiry wasn’t just destined to fail. It was designed to subvert any scrutiny of Israel and its hawkish pro war lobby.
The Chilcot Report gave the British public what it wanted. It blamed Blair for failing in his responsibilities to them. But the report’s focus on Blair, diplomacy, the military and intelligence failures concealed the Lobby that was pulling the strings.
The much-edited Chilcot Report finally arrived and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has issued a pretty-sounding apology for his party’s decision to go to war in Iraq in 2003. He called it the most serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years and “a stain on our party and country”.
It’s unfortunate that he dignifies the evil Iraq war conspiracy by suggesting it had anything to do with policy of the British people. It was a private venture, pledged in secret, by a Labour prime minister and his closest henchmen, and backed by the Cabinet. Those across the parties who subsequently supported the New World Order gangsters who hijacked our blood and treasure for their own criminal ends did so either out of blind obedience to external influence or because they were too stupid or lazy to exercise due diligence in questioning what half the British public knew to be misinformation or downright lies. Either way they failed the people who elected them and were responsible for the deaths of countless hundreds of thousands, endless misery of millions more and the destruction of civilisation in the Middle East.
And from that day to this the Labour Party has sheltered them. Corbyn’s apology is nowhere near enough. Words are easy. Action is what matters, so that the lesson is well and truly learned and nothing of this sort can happen again.
First and foremost it was not so much a foreign policy disaster as a flat-out war crime for which Blair as chief perpetrator must be tried. And so must his Cabinet, who carry collective responsibility. Millions won’t be satisfied until they see Blair carted off to The Hague in orange jumpsuit and shackles. Other holders of public office involved must also be dealt with. And swiftly.
Furthermore it is not right that families of servicemen killed or wounded should have to find the resources to bring charges. We are talking about ministers of the Crown, and the Crown should prosecute.
There will be mega-trouble if heads don’t roll.
And what about rank-and-file Members of Parliament who carelessly authorised this unwarranted and bloody aggression? Both Labour and the Conservatives need to atone for the appalling blunder by removing every one of them from public office. Never was the charge of bringing party and country (and indeed the whole of the Western world) into disrepute so fitting.
Interestingly the saintly Theresa May, current Home Secretary, regular church-goer and leading contender in the Conservative leadership race, is one of them. It is unthinkable that someone with such devastatingly poor judgement is about to become our new Prime Minister.
Although Chilcot was not the Establishment cover-up which many feared, it’s also true that it doesn’t tell us much that we didn’t already know.
The long-awaited and much-delayed Chilcot report, published today, provides a damning indictment of the New Labour government of Tony Blair and the lies that were told in the lead-up to the disastrous Iraq war.
The Iraq war was ‘not a last resort’ but in fact a war of choice. ‘Peaceful options’ were not exhausted.
In 2003, there was “no imminent threat from Saddam Hussein” – contrary to what Blair and the neocons told us. Intelligence had “not established beyond doubt” that Iraq had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, despite us being told it was a sure thing that Saddam had WMDs.
While supporters claimed the war was “legal”, and haughtily dismissed those of us who called it a “war crime”, Chilcot found that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for war were “far from satisfactory”.
We knew that the Iraq war was not a ‘last resort’ as UN weapons inspectors in Iraq were not allowed to finish their job. We know that the war was illegal- as it had no UN sanction- and was a war of aggression and not a war of self-defense.
The Nuremberg judgement, following World War Two, was quite unequivocal on the subject:
War is essentially an evil thing. Its consequences are not confined to the belligerent states alone, but affect the whole world. To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
And although Chilcot does not directly accuse Blair of ‘deceit’ (that would be a step too far for the Establishment figures on the panel), common sense and logic also tells us that if Blair and Bush had genuinely believed Iraq had WMDs that could be launched within 45 minutes they would not have invaded. The very fact that the US and the UK did attack Iraq, proves that the leadership of those two countries knew the WMD claims to be false.
Saddam was attacked not because he had WMDs, but because the war lobby knew he didn’t have any. To hold otherwise is to expect us to believe, that just for this one occasion, the rules of deterrence did not apply. By the same people, incidentally, who tell us we need our own WMDs to deter attack!
As to what happened post-invasion, we really don’t need Sir John Chilcot to tell us that the “planning and preparations for Iraq after Saddam Hussein were wholly inadequate” – we saw with our own eyes how the country imploded after the events of March 2003.
Iraq had no history of suicide bombings before the illegal invasion – it’s had over 2,000 since then.
Well done, Bush and Blair! You really ‘liberated’ the Iraq people all right. From their bodies.
The question now that Chilcot has finally been published is: What happens next?
Tony Blair was damaged goods before today: he’s now reached the point of no return. A few weeks ago I wrote about attempts to impeach Blair for lying to Parliament – those moves are now likely to intensify.
Labour’s anti-war leader Jeremy Corbyn – who’s been fighting off a Blairite-led coup against his own leadership – called the Iraq war “an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext”. He also said the war “fueled and spread terrorism across the region” – making reference to the suicide bombings in Baghdad this weekend which killed over 200 people.
Meanwhile, a woman who lost her brother in the Iraq war said that Tony Blair was “the world’s worst terrorist”.
“There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair”, said Sarah O’Connor.
But while Blair must take the lion’s share of the blame for Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war, this is not just about one man. His willing accomplices in the British Establishment must be held to account too. We not allow these people evade responsibility for the death and destruction they helped unleash throughout the Middle East.
Alistair Campbell, Blair’s spin doctor, cited Oxford University academic Vernon Bogdanor, in his defense today.
“My conclusion,” said Bogdanor (as quoted by Campbell) “is that there are no easy answers, that Bush and Blair were faced with an almost impossible dilemma, and that all of us should be very grateful that we were not in their shoes and did not have to make their difficult decisions.”
But Campbell doesn’t mention that Bognador was a signatory to the Statement of Principles of the uber neocon pro-war Henry Jackson Society.
In fact, Bush and Blair did not face an “impossible dilemma”, but chose to launch a war of aggression against an independent state which posed no threat to either Britain or America.
With the Middle East in turmoil and terrorism spawned by the Iraq invasion, killing civilians in the west and elsewhere in the world, it’s now time for a proper reckoning.
Politicians who voted for the Iraq war and who voted against an inquiry into it need to be publicly named and shamed and de-selected by their local parties.
Labour patrons of the Henry Jackson Society and other pro-war organizations need to be expelled without further delay and the anti-war George Galloway, who predicted accurately everything that would happen if Iraq were invaded, needs to have his expulsion from the Labour party rescinded.
We should also not forget the pernicious role played in the lead-up to the invasion by a clique of pro-war journalists (more accurately described as neocon propagandists) who regurgitated Establishment lies and who demonized anti-war protestors as “Saddam apologists” who had “blood on their hands” and who were “betraying the Iraqi people”.
These laptop bombardiers must be held to account too for what they did – with the Nuremberg tribunals’ indictment of pro-war Nazi propagandists arguably providing the precedent if/when there is an Iraq war crimes trial. Until that happy day, no one should ever believe a single thing they read by these individuals ever again. They deserve to be treated as total pariahs and certainly not invited into television studios to impart their ‘wisdom’ on foreign policy.
What’s made things worse and which explains why there is so much public anger, is that the Iraq war lobby, far from showing any contrition over what they did, have simply ‘moved on’ from Iraq to push for more wars. As the bombs continue to go off in Baghdad, Tony Blair himself has become a multimillionaire with a huge property portfolio.
The same rancid crew of politicians and journalists who supported the Iraq war were also – it needs pointing out – cheerleaders for the military intervention against Libya in 2011 (which as well as destroying the country with the highest living standards in Africa, also precipitated the current migrant crisis), and for military action against a secular Syrian government battling ISIS and Al-Qaeda in 2013. These people are also, incidentally, bellicose supporters of “tougher action” against Russia and – as Glenn Greenwald has noted – some of them are also at the forefront of the campaign against RT.
The endless war lobby (surprise, surprise), don’t want us to ‘Question More’ – but merely accept, like sheep, the WMD-style lies we’re fed by our ‘superiors’.
While we rightly castigate Blair and call for him to be put on trial for war crimes, we shouldn’t let David Cameron and Conservative Party foreign policy hawks off the hook either. ‘Call Me Dave’ consistently voted for the Iraq war and in office he’s carried on Blair’s disastrous ‘Divide and Destroy’ foreign policies.
While the word ‘Iraq’ should be engraved on Blair’s tombstone, ‘Libya’ should be on Cameron’s. The British Prime Minister has also played a malevolent and highly destructive role in relation to the crisis in Syria. If Cameron had got his way in 2013 and got Parliamentary approval for bombing the Syrian government, then it’s likely that ISIS and al-Qaeda affiliates would now be in charge of the whole of the country. That’s what the Blairites and neocons- who claim to be fighting ‘a war on terror’ appear to have wanted.
Significantly, Cameron was keen to stress in Parliament today that the Chilcot report doesn’t mean that we should rule out future military interventions.
“We should not conclude that intervention is always wrong. There are unquestionably times when it’s right”, he said.
Even now, after all the death and destruction their polices have caused, the war lobby and supporters of ‘liberal interventionism’ are trying to ensure that it’s still ‘business as usual’.
It’s up to the British people – whose taxes go to pay for these ‘military interventions’ – and whose children (unlike those of the political/media elite) are more likely to die in them, to say ‘Enough is Enough’.
Out with the serial warmongers, the serial liars and the war propagandists who never go anywhere near a war-zone, and in with those – like Jeremy Corbyn – who support international law, oppose wars of aggression and who have respect for the sovereign rights of independent nations in a genuine world of equals. If we meekly allow the architects and enablers of the Iraq war and their accomplices to get away with it scot-free, it will be a stain on our collective conscience. We can’t let it happen if we’re to retain our humanity. Or if we want to prevent more wars of aggression in the future.
The Chilcot report is around 2.6m words long- but the essence of what happened in 2003 can be summed up in just eight: The British government lied. One million people died.
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The death toll from the horrific recent Iraq bombings has risen over 250. If Blair had not been absolutely determined to attack Iraq on the basis of a knowing lie about WMD, they would be alive now, along with millions of other dead. ISIS would never have taken control of territory in Iraq and Syria. Al Qaeda would never have grown from an organisation of a few hundred to one of tens of thousands. We would not have a completely destabilised Middle East and a massive refugee crisis.
Do not expect a full truth and a full accounting from the Chilcot panel of establishment trusties today. Remember who they are.
Sir John Chilcot
Member of the Butler Inquiry which whitewashed the fabrication of evidence of Iraqi WMD. The fact is that, beyond doubt, the FCO and SIS knew there were no Iraqi WMD. In the early 1990’s I had headed the FCO Section of the Embargo Surveillance Centre, tasked with monitoring and preventing Iraqi attempts at weapons procurement. In 2002 I was on a course for newly appointed Ambassadors alongside Bill Patey, who was Head of the FCO Department dealing with Iraq. Bill is a fellow Dundee University graduate and is one of the witnesses before the Iraq Inquiry this morning.
I suggested to him that the stories we were spreading about Iraqi WMD could not be true. He laughed and said “Of course not Craig, it’s bollocks”. I had too many other conversations to mention over the next few months, with FCO colleagues who knew the WMD scare to be false.
Yet Chilcot was party to a Butler Inquiry conclusion that the Iraqi WMD scare was an “Honest mistake”. That a man involved in a notorious whitewash is assuring us that this will not be one, is bullshit.
Sir Roderick Lyne
A good friend and former jogging partner of Alastair Campbell.
Last time I actually spoke to him we were both Ambassadors and on a British frigate moored on the Neva in St Petersburg. Colleagues may have many words to describe Rod Lyne, some of them complimentary, but “open-minded” is not one of them.
If the Committee were to feel that the Iraq War was a war crime, then Rod Lyne would be accusing himself. As Ambassador to Moscow he was active in trying to mitigate Russian opposition to the War. He personally outlined to the Russian foreign minister the lies on Iraqi WMD. There was never the slightest private indication that Lyne had any misgivings about the war.
From Uzbekistan we always copied Moscow in on our reporting telegrams, for obvious reasons. Lyne responded to my telegrams protesting at the CIA’s use of intelligence from the Uzbek torture chambers, by requesting not to be sent such telegrams.
Sir Lawrence Freedman
Lawrence Freedman is the most appalling choice of all. The patron saint of “Justified” wars of aggression, and exponent of “Wars of Choice” and “Humanitarian Intervention”. He is 100% parti pris.
Here is part of his evidence to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution on 18 January 2006:
The basic idea here is that our armed forces prepared for what we might call wars of necessity, that the country was under an existential threat so if you did not respond to that threat then in some very basic way our vital interests, our way of life, would be threatened, and when you are looking at certain such situations, these are great national occasions. The difficulty we are now facing with wars of choice is that these are discretionary and the government is weighing a number of factors against each other. I mentioned Sierra Leone but Rwanda passed us by, which many people would think was an occasion when it would have been worth getting involved. There was Sudan and a lot of things have been said about Darfur but not much has happened…
… Iraq was a very unusual situation where it was not an ongoing conflict. If we had waited things would not have been that much different in two or three months’ time and so, instead of responding either to aggression by somebody else, as with the Falklands, or to developing humanitarian distress, as in the Balkans, we decided that security considerations for the future demanded immediate action.”
Sir Martin Gilbert (died in course of Inquiry)
Very right wing historian whose biography of Churchill focussed on Gilbert’s relish for war and was otherwise dull. (Roy Jenkins’ Churchill biography is infinitely better). Gilbert was not only rabidly pro-Iraq War, he actually saw Blair as Churchill.
Although it can easily be argued that George W Bush and Tony Blair face a far lesser challenge than Roosevelt and Churchill did – that the war on terror is not a third world war – they may well, with the passage of time and the opening of the archives, join the ranks of Roosevelt and Churchill. Their societies are too divided today to deliver a calm judgment, and many of their achievements may be in the future: when Iraq has a stable democracy, with al-Qaeda neutralised, and when Israel and the Palestinian Authority are independent democracies, living side by side in constructive economic cooperation.
A governor of the FCO institution the Ditchley Foundation – of which the Director is Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK Ambassador to the UN who presented the lies about Iraqi WMD and was intimately involved in the lead in to war. So very much another cosy foreign policy insider.
So, in short, the committee – all hand-picked by Gordon Brown – could not have been better picked to ensure a whitewash.
Over 50% of the British population were against the Iraq War, including for example many scores of distinguished ex-Ambassadors, many military men and many academics. Yet Brown chose nobody on the Inquiry who had been against the Iraq War, while three out of five were active and open supporters of the war.
Do not expect to see this truth reflected in any of the mainstream media coverage.