A well-connected retired general in the Saudi military has traveled to Israel, in the latest indication of a growing link between Tel Aviv and Riyadh which has come to light in recent months.
Anwar Eshki made the visit earlier in the week, meeting with Israel’s foreign ministry director general Dore Gold Yoav Mordechai and a number of Knesset members, the daily Ha’aretz reported.
The daily called the visit “a highly unusual one,” as Eshki couldn’t have traveled to Israel without approval from the Saudi government.
Eshki and Gold raised an uproar first in June 2015 when they held a publicized joint event in Washington, after meeting privately several times over the preceding year.
Gold attended the event a few days before assuming the role of director general of the Israeli foreign ministry.
Israeli legislator Esawi Freige, who organized Eshki’s meeting with his fellow members of Knesset, shed some light on the trip. “The Saudis want to open up to Israel,” he said.
“This is a strategic step for them. They said they want to continue what former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat started. They want to get closer to Israel. This is clearly evident,” Fregie noted.
He was referring to the former Egyptian president’s negotiations with Israel, which culminated in the Egypt–Israel Peace Treaty in 1979 – the first between an Arab state and Tel Aviv at the time.
Haaretz said that during the meeting with the parliamentarians, Eshki encouraged dialog in Israel on Saudi Arabia’s Arab Peace Initiative.
The proposal was unveiled in 2002, offering normalized ties with Israel by 22 Arab countries in return for Tel Aviv’s withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.
During an interview with the Qatari news channel Al Jazeera in April, Eshki said Riyadh would open an embassy in Tel Aviv if Israel accepted the Saudi initiative. He also said the Saudis were not interested in “Israel becoming isolated in the region.”
Back in May, Israeli newspaper Arutz Sheva reported that Saudi Arabia and its Persian Gulf allies [sic], namely Jordan and Egypt, had been sending messages to Israel through various emissaries, including former British PM Tony Blair.
They had asked Tel Aviv to resume Middle East negotiations under new terms, which included changes to the Saudi initiative, the paper said.
Most Arab governments have no diplomatic relations with Israel. Even so, reports have indicated that several of them, including Saudi Arabia, have had secret relations with Tel Aviv.
Last November, the Associated Press reported that Israel was set to open a “permanent mission” in the UAE.
In May, the Middle East Eye news portal reported that Israel and some Arab countries, including the UAE, Egypt, and Jordan, were planning to overthrow Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and replace him with former leader of the Fatah movement Mohammad Dahlan.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry traveled to Jerusalem al-Quds for talks with Israeli leaders earlier this month.
The minister outraged many Egyptians for visiting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s family, during which the two watched the Euro 2016 soccer final.
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.”
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 Chilcot report’s “findings” have virtually all been part of the public record for a decade, and it avoids key pieces of evidence. Its recommendations are essentially to continue using war as a threat and a tool of foreign policy, but to please try not to lie so much, make sure to win over a bit more of the public, and don’t promise any positive outcomes given the likelihood of catastrophe.
The report is a confused jumble, given that it records evidence of the supreme crime but tries to excuse it. The closer you get to the beginning of the executive summary, the more the report reads as if written by the very criminals it’s reporting on. Yet the report makes clear, as we always knew, that even in 2001-2003 there were honest people working in the British, as also in the U.S., government — some of whom became whistleblowers, others of whom accurately identified the planned war as a crime that would endanger rather than protect, but stayed in their jobs when the war was launched.
Chilcot makes clear that the attack on Iraq was illegal, against the British public, against the international community and the UN Charter, expected to increase terrorism, based on lies about terrorism and weapons, and — like every other war ever launched — not a last resort. Chilcot records, as reality-based reporting always has, that Iraq claimed honestly to have no nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons. Chilcot fails to explain with any clarity that one cannot legally or morally attack another nation even when it does have such things.
Chilcot does make clear the extent to which France was pushing back against war, along with Russia and Germany and Chile and China. The key supporter of U.S. war plans was the UK, and there is some possibility that a UK refusal to join in this crime might really have done some good.
But Chilcot steers away from criminal responsibility, and from the damage done by the crime. It avoids the Downing Street Memo, the White House Memo, Hussein Kamel, the spying and threatening and bribing involved in the failed effort to win UN authorization, Aznar’s account of Bush’s admission that Saddam Hussein was willing to leave, etc. This is a report that aims for politeness and tranquility.
Not to worry, Chilcot tells us, as nothing like this will happen again even if we just let the criminals walk. Chilcot claims bizarrely that every other war before and since has been defensive and in response to some attack, rather than an act of aggression like this one. Of course, no list of those other wars is provided.
Even more bizarrely, Chilcot claims that Blair and gang literally never considered the possibility that Iraq had no “weapons of mass destruction.” How you make all kinds of assertions, contrary to your evidence, that Iraq has weapons without considering the question is beyond me. But Chilcot credits with great significance the supposedly excusing grace of groupthink and the passion with which people like Blair supposedly believed their own lies. Chilcot even feeds into the disgusting lie that Blair pushes to this day that Iraqis chose to destroy their own country while their occupiers nobly attempted “reconstruction.”
Despite itself, however, Chilcot may do some good. In the United States, when James Comey describes crimes by Hillary Clinton and assures us they should not be prosecuted, most people can be counted on to lie back and accept that blindly or even fervently. Yet our friends in Britain appear less than eager to accept the attitude with which Chilcot has reported on the supreme international crime.
Tony Blair may now be impeached as he needs to be. Yes — sigh — one can and should impeach people no longer in office, as has been usefully done in both British and U.S. history. Removal from office is one penalty that sometimes follows a conviction at a trial following an impeachment; it is not itself the definition of impeachment. Blair should be tried and convicted by Parliament. He should also be put on trial by the International Criminal Court or, better, by a special tribunal established for Iraq as for World War II or Yugoslavia.
The victors in World War II used the Kellogg-Briand Pact to prosecute the losers for the new crime of launching a war. Blair violated both the Kellogg-Briand Pact and the newer, yet never used, United Nations Charter, which also bans war. While Kellogg-Briand allows no exceptions, the exceptions in the UN Charter were famously not met in the case of the war on Iraq or, for that matter, any other recent western wars.
You can sign a petition urging Blair’s impeachment and prosecution here. Of course the goal must be to build momentum for holding the chief (U.S.) war criminals accountable, pursuing truth and reconciliation, and making massive reparations to the people of Iraq and their region. What the U.S. needs is action, not a 7-year “investigation.” Our own Chilcot report, better in fact, was written long ago.
The Chilcot report could, against its own wishes, move us in that direction.
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.
Follow Neil Clark on Twitter @NeilClark66
Britain’s most reviled and discredited leader when leaving office in June 2007 allied with Bill Clinton’s rape of Yugoslavia, George Bush’s naked aggression on Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Israel’s war on Palestine.
Greed now drives him. So does selling influence, becoming super-rich over the last decade, using secretive offshore companies and trusts, remaining unaccountable for involvement in genocidal high crimes – from Belgrade to Kabul to Baghdad to Palestine.
Responsible editors wouldn’t touch his rubbish. The New York Times featured it, Blair taking full advantage, mocking a democratic process, calling Brexit a “stunning coup.”
His deplorable record as prime minister featured loyal service to bankers and war profiteers, public welfare be damned. On leaving office, he failed trying to reinvent himself.
Impossible to ignore his sordid record. He’s a warmaker, not a peacemaker, a criminal like the Clintons, Bush and Obama.
He supported Gaza’s siege and Israeli wars of aggression. His appointment as Middle East peace envoy showed occupation harshness would continue, Palestinian statehood prevented.
He called Brexit supporters insurgents, “standard-bearers of a popular revolt… encourage(d) (and) magnified by… social media…”
EU membership comes with a huge price – loss of sovereignty to Brussels, most of all to Washington, doing its bidding, backing its war agenda, enriching its privileged class at the expense of most others, and tolerating no resistance.
Blair is part of the problem. Supporting wrong over right enriched him.
The London Independent once said years of investigation showed he “prostituted himself in pursuing Mammon.” Political friends and foes alike revile him.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com.
His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks World War III.
Anthony Charles Lynton Blair, currently back in Britain, cast a dark shadow over those campaigning to stay in the European Union in the June 23rd referendum. Inflicting himself on the Britain Stronger in Europe group, he spoke at every opportunity – reminding even the most passionate Europhile of the last time he assured “I know I’m right” – Iraq.
If the “Remainers” had an ounce of sense, Blair should have been ditched in a nano-second. He is not “Toxic Tony” for nothing.
However, since the long awaited Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq invasion is to be published just thirteen days after the referendum (July 6th) it is worth revisiting more of the mistruths of which he is capable.
On March 18th, 2003, Blair stood in Parliament and listed the times Saddam Hussein’s government had said they had no weapons of mass destruction dismissing them all, including the 11,800 pages or 12,200 pages of accounting of that which they did not possess and delivered by the Iraqi delegation at the UN to the UN UNSCOM offices on December 8th, 2002.
Lest it be forgotten, the reason for the uncertainty of the length of the volume is that the US delegation simply appropriated it and returned less than 4,000 pages so heavily redacted as to be indecipherable – and without the hefty index at the back listing the Western arms companies who had, prior to the first Gulf war, sold them weapons.
Blair told Parliament loftily:
… the 8th December declaration is false. That in itself is a material breach. Iraq has made some concessions to co-operation but no-one disputes it is not fully cooperating. Iraq continues to deny it has any WMD, though no serious intelligence service anywhere in the world believes them … We … will back it with action if Saddam fails to disarm voluntarily.
Iraq, of course, was telling the truth. Blair had appointed himself Judge, jury and executioner.
And here is a real whopper:
I have never put our justification for action as regime change.
Iraq is a wealthy country that in 1978, the year before Saddam seized power, was richer than Portugal or Malaysia.
Today it is impoverished, 60% of its population dependent on food aid.
Thousands of children die needlessly every year from lack of food and medicine.
What he omitted was stated in a piece I wrote back in 1998 addressing the ever repeated propaganda. The conditions were caused directly by the US-UK driven embargo, overseen by Blair’s envoy to the UN, Carne Ross, who headed the Sanctions Committee after the August 1991 imposed embargo:
In 1989 the World Health Organization recorded Iraq as having 92-per-cent access to clean water, 93-per-cent access to high quality health care and with high educational and nutritional standards.
By 1995 the World Food Program noted that: ‘time is running out for the children of Iraq’. Figures – verified by UNICEF – record that 1,211,285 children died of embargo-related causes between August 1990 and August 1997. A silent holocaust in the name of the UN. These numbers are similar to those lost in Pol Pot’s genocide in Cambodia. It is three times the population of Kuwait in small lives. ‘After 24 years in the field, starting with Biafra, I didn’t think anything could shock me,’ wrote Dieter Hannusch of the World Food Program in l995. ‘But this was comparable to the worst scenarios I had ever seen.’
The day after Blair’s address to Parliament, Operation Iraqi Liberation began, to which he had committed the country in his visit to George W. Bush’s Texas ranch in April 2002, without telling Parliament.
Moreover, in 2009 The Mail on Sunday disclosed:
Attorney General Lord Goldsmith wrote (a) letter to Mr. Blair in July 2002 – a full eight months before the war – telling him that deposing Saddam Hussein was a blatant breach of international law.
It was intended to make Mr. Blair call off the invasion, but he ignored it. Instead, a panicking Mr. Blair issued instructions to gag Lord Goldsmith, banned him from attending Cabinet meetings and ordered a cover-up to stop the public finding out.
He even concealed the bombshell information from his own Cabinet, fearing it would spark an anti-war revolt. The only people he told were a handful of cronies who were sworn to secrecy.
Lord Goldsmith was so furious at his treatment he threatened to resign – and lost three stone as Mr Blair and his cronies bullied him into backing down.
The then Prime Minister did not alone ignore the Attorney General’s legal advice. In November 2002 “six wise men” gave Blair “bloody warnings” as to the outcome of an attack on Iraq. They were:
… all academics, expert on Iraq, the Middle East and international affairs. They had been called to the Cabinet Room to outline the worst that could happen if Britain and the United States launched an invasion.
This was a meeting that could have changed the course of history and, with better planning for the aftermath, saved countless lives – if only the Prime Minister and his advisers had listened and acted on the bloody warnings on that day in November 2002.
Dr. Toby Dodge, then of London’s Queen Mary University, foresaw with extraordinary clarity the near certain outcome, warning:
… that Iraqis would fight for their country against the invaders rather than just celebrate the fall of their leader. A long and nasty civil war could follow. “My aim that day was to tell them as much as I could, so that there would be no excuses and nobody saying, ‘I didn’t know.’
Others who shared their extensive expertise were Professor George Joffe of Cambridge University, Sir Lawrence Freedman, Professor of War Studies at King’s College, London and a Blair adviser, Professor Charles Tripp of the School of Oriental and Asian Studies, Steven Simon, Director of the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and Professor Michael Clarke, then of King’s College, London. Before the gathering they were warned: “Don’t tell him not to do it. He has already made up his mind”, Dr. Dodge told The Independent.
Blair and his Cabinet had: “… no plan for what would happen after the invasion. The approach was, ‘The Americans are heading this up. They will have a detailed plan. We need to follow them’ ”, said Professor Joffe. However in reality, a year’s planning by the State Department for the invasion’s aftermath: “was junked. They were making up policy on the hoof.”
Professor Joffe also explained the complexities of Iraq’s power structures with Tony Blair seemingly disinterested in the potential cultural, societal and political minefields, responding with kindergarten simplicity (re Saddam Hussein) “ But the man is evil, isn’t he?”
A chameleon-like absorption of George W. Bush, his political circle and his Generals’ simplistic “good guys”, “bad guys” rhetoric.
Steven Simon had little faith in bringing democracy to Iraq at the barrels of guns and deliveries of 30,000-pound bunker busters:
If everything had been done differently, there might have been some small shot at avoiding disaster. But only a small shot.
Incredibly, according to Professor Joffe: “The people who were put in charge in Iraq had very little knowledge or experience of the Middle East.”
Professor Clarke commented that Blair’s attempt to justify the invasion was mistaken: “We knew there was no nuclear stuff in Iraq.” Moreover, he believed: ‘Blair did not actually decide to go to war on the basis of intelligence, but made it look as if he had with his two “dodgy” dossiers. “He presented the case to the public as if they had incontrovertible evidence that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. That was rubbish. They were ridiculous documents, both those documents.” ‘ (Emphasis added.)
Late last year, Blair made what was described as a “qualified apology” for “mistakes” made in Iraq – among them: “our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime”. In the light of the above, blatantly untrue.
Blair’s dodging and weaving over the years since 2003 – in spite of his millions, numerous properties, jet (seemingly leased) and a yacht, accrued from advising some of the world’s most despotic leaders – seems to have worn him down a bit, though.
In an extraordinary television outburst attacking Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who said of Blair on BBC’s Newsnight last August: “If he has committed a war crime, yes (he should stand trial.) Everybody who has committed a war crime should.” Blair responded: “I’m accused of being a war criminal for removing Saddam Hussein … and yet Jeremy is seen as a progressive icon as we stand by and watch the people of Syria barrel-bombed, beaten and starved into submission and do nothing.”
No mention of the US’ illegal “coalition”, including the UK, which has made 4,024 strikes to 1st June this year, according to the US Department of Defence. Strikes remarkably inept at affecting the countless foreign terrorist groups, but which have caused devastation to the Syrian people whose plight was caused by US plotting.
46,615 bombs and missiles have been dropped Syria and Iraq in the seeming non-fight against ISIS and other criminal groups. (airwars.org)
Apart from his ongoing economy with the truth, Tony Blair also seems to be well past his sell by date. In Northern Ireland, probably the only place on earth which has a tenuous reason to give him some credit for the “peace process”, where he went to speak on the referendum at Ulster University, he was less than welcome.
Derry anti-war campaigner Frankie McMenamin said the former Labour leader was “not welcome” in Derry, telling the Derry Journal:
I was involved in protests about the Iraqi War which Tony Blair was responsible for, Tony Blair is hated throughout the world and he has blood on his hands over Iraq.
I will be voting for the U.K. to remain on June 23rd but I think someone like Mr. Blair (urging the stay in vote) will put a lot of other people off.
Tony Blair is not welcome in our city and the people who organized this visit obviously knew this.
The meeting had not been publicly advertised and the address was to a specially selected audience. The co-speaker was Blair’s former Chancellor, Gordon Brown, near equally unpopular, who wrote the cheques for years of UK bombings before the invasion and then for the invasion’s destruction. Had the meeting been publicly advertised, assured Mr McMenamin, protesters would have been out in force.
On 17th June, Blair was a signatory to an open letter, signed by two former deputy Prime Ministers and a number of MPs and public figures urging voters to stay in the European Union. It included the words:
… public life, whether in politics or elsewhere, should be about something else – something better.
It should be driven by a desire to bring people together when it would be easier to tear them apart. A wish to build bridges rather than erect walls”, to promote that which is “peaceful, tolerant, compassionate”.
As he added his signature, did he reflect on Iraq’s destroyed bridges – literally and metaphorically, on a nation of walls erected by US and UK troops over one of the most open landscapes anywhere to be found and on the accompanying destruction of peace, tolerance and compassion at the hands of US and UK policies aided by his ignorant determination and “ridiculous documents.”
Philippe Sands QC, Professor of international law and Director of the Centre on International Courts and Tribunals at University College London, has said he believes, unequivocally, that the 2003 invasion was illegal under international law.
In the UK, beyond those associated with the government’s effort, I cannot think of a single international lawyer who thinks the war was lawful. Not a single name comes to mind. That’s got to be telling.
It can only be hoped the Chilcot Inquiry’s findings deliver Charles Anthony Lynton Blair and his cohorts a sharp, chilly return to reality for their part in a tragedy which will be his and George W. Bush’s place of infamy in history.
As this is finished, against the odds, the referendum is announced lost, the UK is out of the EU, the financial markets and the pound have plummeted and Prime Minister Cameron has announced his resignation. It will probably never be known to what – if any – extent Blair’s reviled presence changed “stay” voters to “leave.”
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)
It’s really 19th century behavior in the 21st century. You don’t just invade another country on phony pretexts in order to assert your interests.
— John Kerry, Meet the Press, March 2nd, 2014
If “a week is a long time in politics”, a quote attributed to British Prime Minister Harold Wilson (1964-1970 and 1974-1976), under David Cameron’s tenure – a man who has been kicked into myriad U-turns over feckless, reckless decisions – a day is an age.
On June 3rd it was announced that a summary of the long awaited Iraq Inquiry (November 24th, 2009 to February 2nd, 2011) chaired by Sir John Chilcot is to be finally released on July 6th and to be given free to the families of the Iraq invasion’s 179 British victims. The summary costs £30, the hard copy of the full 2.6 million word Report a staggering £767. The families would have to foot the bill for the latter themselves.
The Inquiry has cost the British taxpayers £10 million, with Sir John Chilcot during his various and complex work since, garnering £790 a day, also courtesy of the taxpayer.
As the Independent points out (June 3rd, 2016):
The process of drawing up the final Report has been beset by years of delays. The most recent substantial delay came during the so-called ‘Maxwellisation’ process where people criticised in the report are given an opportunity to respond.
A mind bending concession to alleged war criminals.
Whilst: ‘A spokesperson for the Inquiry said the free summary given to the families of the war’s British victims would be “substantial” ‘ (Independent, June 3rd) to those whose sons and daughters lives were sacrificed for a swathe of mistruths, mega-incompetence and alleged illegalities, only every word, line, chapter and verse of the Report will do.
Also, the summary would only go to immediate families, not relatives.
Yes, the Report will be on line, but for those wishing to study in depth, hard copies are vital. And what would it cost even in ink cartridges and paper to download twelve volumes?
The bereaved families responded with fury, demanding that Tony Blair pay for their copies. For a man who has made up to to an estimated £100 million, the gesture of a mere £137,293 – the cost of 179 copies – to those who have given their children for his assertions of Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction which could strike the West in forty five minutes etc., would be a minimal price to pay. It would be small change in Blair-land.
Perhaps he could sign each one, with a dedication. It would surely read something like:
Within these volumes you will find all my justifications for involving our great country in the invasion of Iraq. I took the view, which I still passionately believe, as I said at the time on national television ‘it was the right thing to do’, morally and legally. In making you this gift of the Report I would like to say that I am truly sorry for your loss.
Our great country is indebted through the sacrifice of your child who, by obeying orders and upholding my deeply held conviction that the Middle East would be a better place, which, of course, is the case. I also take the view that there was no need for any Inquiry or shameful pointing of fingers at myself or my government, intelligence agencies or military.
As my friend Madeleine Albright expressed so eloquently some years ago, there are times when the lives of the children of others are ‘a hard choice … but the price is worth it.’ As I said on television just prior to the invasion ‘I know I’m right.’ I still do. May my words be of some comfort to you in your grief.
However, back to reality. Rose Gentle, whose nineteen year old son Gordon was killed in Basra, said of the denial of the full Report:
It’s disgusting … Why should we have to pay – have we not paid enough times with the lives of our sons? The families should get a free copy of this, we have paid the cost with their deaths … (The Guardian, June 2016)
Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon was killed in 2005, said: “ … we have already paid with our children’s lives.”
Emily Thornberry, the Shadow Defence Secretary, stated that it was “grotesque and offensive” that families should be asked to pay to read the findings. Indeed.
In respect of those who died in Iraq, they have suffered first the terrible loss of their loved ones, then the lengthy delay for an Inquiry to be launched, then the even lengthier delay for that report to be published. Do not now add insult to these already grievous injuries by making them pay to read that Report.
Liberal Democrat Leader, Tim Farron, wrote to the MoD demanding they give free copies to bereaved families on request:
It is unbelievable that after all these years of waiting, of stalling and uncertainty, we now find out that the families will have to pay for a copy of the Report … Families who have waited years, mother and fathers who have fought to have this Report see the light of day, should not have to pay for this … The government now needs to provide some form of closure to the victims of this illegal war. (Emphasis added.)
By the end of the day on June 3rd, after the furore from cross party MPs, the families and the public, No 10 Downing Street put out a statement saying that there was: “ … no question of families of service personnel who died in Iraq having to pay for copies of the Chilcot Report”.
Better shamefully late, than never.
Yet in all this, no government, Ministry of Defence (MoD) or relevant official has mentioned the disabled, limbless, chronically ill, resultant from the invasion. They and their families are forgotten, invisible, not to even get the summary free. Reported casualties are 5,970, but the total figures have not been released by the MoD.
There are those who came back from this disaster built on a lie with no arms and no legs, brain damaged, others generally incapacitated by mega, but lesser limb loss and trauma.
“During the conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been reticent in publishing details of British casualties …” states Casualty Monitor, adding: “… there are still serious problems with the accuracy and incompleteness of the information they release.”
In other words the MoD, to use Sir Robert Armstrong’s memorable quote to an Australian Court in 1986, is “economical with the truth.”
Moreover, numbers of Field Hospital admissions and the very seriously injured requiring Aero-medical evacuations were simply not available from the MoD during 2003, 2004 and 2005. See last chart here.
In a further venture into fantasy land, the probably two million Iraqi families bereaved between the embargo and the invasion surely deserve a copy – courtesy of Mr “I know I’m right” Blair.
Meanwhile in Iraq, Bush and Blair’s body count continues thirteen years and five weeks after “Mission accomplished”, declared on USS Abraham Lincoln, May 1st, 2003, by George W. Bush. According to the United Nations at least 741 Iraqis, including more than 400 civilians, were killed and 1,374 wounded in April of this year alone, due to the ongoing violence – a monthly nightmare which in pre-invasion Iraq was unthinkable.
However, back to the Iraq Report. As an astute Facebook friend commented:
To those looking forward to reading the Chilcot report, the one paid for by your taxes, I hope you have saved your pennies up. Classic British Government. You might have paid for it once but you have to pay for it a few more times before you can actually have it.
Another commented: “Only Tony Blair will be able to afford it.”
Further input redundant.
• With thanks to writer Lesley Docksey for inspired angle for Tony Blair’s “apology.”
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair can never be forgiven for taking the UK into the Iraq war, a majority of Brits said in an opinion poll.
Pollster YouGov carried out the survey ahead of the publication of the long-delayed Chilcot Inquiry report, which examines the legality of Britain’s 2003 Iraq invasion.
It found only eight percent believe Blair did nothing wrong, while 53 percent said they could never forgive him.
Some 15 percent of respondents said it was time to forgive Blair for his misjudgment.
Perhaps the most damning finding was that just 25 percent of Labour Party supporters are in favor of forgiving their former leader.
Blair was once a hero of the party, having entered Downing Street in a landslide election in 1997 and winning three consecutive general elections.
However, today he is remembered most for his decision to join the United States in invading Iraq in 2003.
A YouGov survey last year found just 26 percent of Brits believe it was right to take military action against Iraq in 2003.
The former Labour PM recently admitted he “profoundly” underestimated the complexity of Middle Eastern politics and the consequences that would ensue after the Iraq invasion.
This admission comes before the publication of the Chilcot report, which is said to be “absolutely brutal” in its verdict on the failings of the occupation.
Blair is already well aware of the criticisms in the report because of Britain’s Maxwellisation process, by which the subjects of an inquiry are allowed to respond to allegations before its conclusions are published.
Nevertheless, this hasn’t stopped the former PM from intervening in Britain’s current defense policy. Earlier this week, Blair said Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) will not be defeated unless ground forces fight a “proper” war against them.
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series
In spite of all the scepticism regarding the long delayed UK Iraq Inquiry into the illegal invasion of Iraq, with predictions (including by myself) that it would be a “whitewash” of the enormity of the lies which led to the near destruction of Iraq, to the presence of ISIS and to probably over a million deaths, The Sunday Times (May 22nd, 2016) is predicting an “absolutely brutal” verdict on those involved. The paper claims that former Prime Minister Tony Blair, his then Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Sir Richard Dearlove, former Head of British Secret Intelligence (MI6) are among those who face “serious damage to their reputations.”
Not before time, many will surely be thinking.
The Inquiry, which sat from November 24th, 2009 until February 2nd, 2011, is finally to be published on July 6th, approaching five and a half years since its conclusion. Speculation is that publication of the findings are being further delayed until after the June 23rd British referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. Tony Blair is campaigning on his pal Prime Minister David Cameron’s “remain in” ticket. Confirmation of his murderous misleadings before the referendum would further discredit all he had to say and seriously damage, if not detonate, the “in” campaign.
Anyone reading The Sunday Times piece might well take the view that with or without the published Report, Blair speaking on either side would be tantamount to inviting total destruction of the cause. For instance: ‘A senior source who has discussed the Report with two of its authors has revealed that Blair “won’t be let off the hook” over claims that he offered British military support to … George W Bush a year before the 2003 invasion.’
Jack Straw as Blair’s Foreign Secretary at the time, and senior Generals, are also said to be subject of “some of the harshest criticism” for the UK’s “disastrous stewardship” of the southern port city of Basra and much of the south, post-invasion. “The Report will say that we really did make a mess of the aftermath.”
Those sent in by Blair’s Foreign Office under Straw were “inexperienced”, did not “quite know what they were doing” and: “All the things the British had been saying about how much better we were at dealing with post-conflict resolution than the American came very badly unstuck.” In fact, misjudgement was such that they “had to be rescued by the Americans.”
The Report, according to a knowledgeable former Minister, will be “Absolutely brutal for Straw … it will damage the reputation … of Richard Dearlove and Tony Blair” amongst others.
General Mike Jackson, former head of the army, named ”Darth Vader” by his men, who vowed to leave Iraq better than he found it, and General Sir Nicholas Houghton, Chief of the Defence Staff and senior officer in Iraq, 2005-2006, are also believed to be in the firing line, with Houghton said to have consulted his lawyers. Houghton’s objections to criticisms of his roles are alleged to have contributed to delays in the Inquiry’s publication.
Houghton became Chief of Joint Operations in 2006. In 2008 “ … the Iraqi military requested US rather than British assistance to retake Iraq’s second city of Basra from the militia, three months after UK forces had withdrawn from the city.” On September 3rd, 2007 the 550 British forces, hunkered down in one of Saddam Hussein’s former palaces, had fled the city to the relative safety of Basra airport some miles away.
In recent years, Sir Nicholas has been an enthusiastic cheerleader for the UK bombing Syria.
The Sunday Times also cites the Report’s criticism of the “gloss” with which Blair’s officials adorned “intelligence” regarding Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction and (Blair’s) claim that they could be unleashed “in forty five minutes.” Sir Richard Dearlove and others senior in MI6 “will be criticized for failing to prevent” such fairy stories.
The newspaper’s source also said there will be questions raised: “about the (US-UK) ‘special relationship’ (since) diplomats in Washington, including the then Ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer, were ‘not plugged in’ and were ‘bounced along behind the Americans…”
At home, the “Cabinet did not have ‘the full picture’ of what was going on before the invasion (due to) Blair’s informal ‘sofa style’ of government.”
Further, incredibly: “officials were not present to take notes when Blair’s inner circle were making key decision”, leading to predicted criticism of former Cabinet Secretary Lord Turnbull and senior Civil Servants.
Former International Development Secretary, Clare Short, has “told friends she will be attacked.” Ms Short, of course, stated that she had stayed on in her job as she wanted her Department to be involved in rebuilding Iraq after the invasion. No thought of resigning earlier, rather than at the last minute in protest at the whole shameful Blair-Bush intended “supreme international crime”, that of a war of aggression.
The Chairman of the Inquiry, Sir John Chilcot, is said to be personally exercised by the ‘failures of “proper constitutional government.” Indeed.
Whilst Blair and Straw declined to comment to The Sunday Times, “Allies of Blair say it is significant that he has not apologized for lying to the public, because they believe Chilcot will not find that he did.”
Given the mountains of evidence and hard facts already in the public domain, they must surely be the only people on the planet to hold such a view.
As for Chilcot, we await the July 6th with the palest glimmer of hope that at last some justice might be seen to be done and that Blair and all responsible for the ongoing Hiroshima level tragedy that is the whole of battered, bereaved, bleeding, irradiated Iraq might find that there is finally at least the beginning of the basis for legal redress.
As this is finished, it transpires Tony Blair has been speaking today at an event in central London organized by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics. “He made it clear he would be unapologetic for his role in taking Britain to war in 2003”, reports the BBC. As General Kimmitt stated, of the dead for whom Blair bears such integral responsibility: “They are only Iraqis.”
Charles Anthony Lynton Blair is beyond all shame. However, no matter how widely the guilt is spread, he was Captain of the No 10 Downing Street ship, author of key lies integral to the gargantuan crime and tragedy and thus should shoulder commensurate blame.
Felicity Arbuthnot is a journalist with special knowledge of Iraq. Author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books, she has also been Senior Researcher for two Award winning documentaries on Iraq, John Pilger’s Paying the Price: Killing the Children of Iraq and Denis Halliday Returns for RTE (Ireland.)
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lies about weapons of mass destruction and his secret war pact with former US President George W Bush will be exposed by the Chilcot Inquiry, Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.
Sir John Chilcot is due to finally release his long-delayed report on the legality of the 2003 Iraq invasion on July 6, seven years after the inquiry was commissioned.
Corbyn made the remarks on Tuesday in a speech at the London School of Economics to honour the late Ralph Miliband, a Marxist scholar and father of Corbyn’s predecessor, Ed Miliband.
While Corbyn supported some of the domestic achievements of Blair’s “New Labour,” he argued it had stuck too closely to its neoliberal, Thatcherite ideological roots.
Addressing Blair’s Iraq legacy, Corbyn warned: “The Chilcot report will come out in a few weeks’ time and tell us what we need to know, what I think we already know: There were no weapons of mass destruction, there was no ability to attack within 45 minutes and a deal had been done with Bush in advance.”
Corbyn took a leading role in opposing the 2003 invasion both inside and outside parliament.
Asked if Blair should be tried for war crimes, Corbyn said: “If he’s committed a war crime, yes. Everyone who’s committed a war crime should be.
“I think it was an illegal war, I’m confident about that, indeed [former UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan confirmed it was an illegal war, and therefore [Blair] has to explain to that.”
“Is he going to be tried for it, I don’t know. Could he be tried for it? Possibly,” Corbyn added.
Some MPs are trying to revive a campaign to have Blair prosecuted for his part in the war, either at an international tribunal or by a special parliamentary impeachment process.
Although rare, parliament can impeach a current or former official. It would involve a member of the Commons presenting evidence in the manner of a parliamentary motion, and if carried, it would then move to the House of Lords. If it was also passed by the Lords, the impeachment process would resemble a conventional trial.
The last time parliament attempted to impeach anyone, however, was in 1806, according to the BBC.
Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Alex Salmond said Monday that, rather than parliamentary impeachment, he favored Blair being brought before the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
However, the ICC has said it is not yet able to exercise jurisdiction over international “crimes of aggression” – the offense often connected with Blair’s role in Iraq.
The ICC will rule on whether to extend its powers to try suspects of aggression on January 1, 2017.
US presidential candidate Donald Trump says British leaders should put the needs of their own country before that of the United States, and should not act as Washington’s poodles.
In an interview broadcast on Tuesday, Trump censured former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for his collusion with former US President George W. Bush over the 2003 Iraq invasion.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee said Blair did a “terrible job” by invading Iraq, adding that he should have stood up to Bush. He also warned the Chilcot inquiry will be a “disaster” for the Labour Party’s prime minister.
The Chilcot inquiry was launched in 2009 by then Prime Minister Gordon Brown into the Iraq invasion by the United States and the UK and its aftermath that saw British forces remained in the Arab country for six years. The 2.6 million-word report will finally be published on July 6.
“I don’t see it as war crimes,” Trump said. “I just think he goes down as somebody who did a terrible job. Bush got us into it, that’s a terrible, terrible thing that happened.”
The billionaire businessman said he would respect a UK prime minister who ignored America’s wishes and paid attention to the interests of the British people. “It should be for the people, it shouldn’t be a word about the relationship.”
“I’m surprised somebody would see the Bush relationship as being that important,” he said.
“Tony Blair made a mistake. You can’t just go in haphazardly. You folks got involved in that mess just as we did and now look at it,” Trump added.
According to a White House memo, titled “Secret… Memorandum for the President”, Blair had agreed to support the war a year before the invasion even started, while publicly the British prime minister was working to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis.
The document, which was sent by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Bush on March 28, 2002, also disclosed that Blair agreed to act as a spin doctor for Bush and convince a skeptical public that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein had Weapons of Mass Destruction, which actually did not exist.
In response, Bush would flatter Blair and give the impression that London was not Washington’s poodle but an equal partner in the “special relationship.”
Powell told Bush that Blair “will be with us” on the Iraq war, and assured the president that “the UK will follow our lead in the Middle East.”
Blair has always denied the claim that he and Bush signed a deal “in blood” at Crawford, Texas, to launch a war against Iraq that began on March 20, 2003, that has killed hundreds of thousands of people.
The Powell memo, however, showed how Blair and Bush secretly prepared the Iraq war plot behind closed doors at Crawford.