The British government is withholding key documents which could shed light on allegations of UK’s involvement in the torture of detainees in Guantanamo prison, according to a new report.
A number of files have been recently found which reveal confidential exchanges between top former US and UK authorities on the torture and rendition of detainees.
Based on a lawsuit by a British parliamentary group, the US administration is obliged to make public documents which relate to Britain’s involvement.
Former Guantanamo detainees have previously said British officials have either been present at, or submitted questions for, “extreme” interrogation by US officials, according to the Independent.
The documents indicate that former UK prime minister Tony Blair and former US president George W. Bush had been in consultation about the treatment of detainees at the US-run prison in Cuba.
Now, the US State Department is said to have reported that all related documents have been withheld from public disclosure.
At least 12 documents, found in the US State Department’s search, relate to interventions by British politicians and officials over the treatment of detainees and torture techniques.
The State Department has reported, “After reviewing the documents, the UK Government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office requested that all 12 documents be withheld in full from public disclosure.”
Guantanamo was established by former president Bush in 2002 as a prison for alleged foreign terrorism suspects following the September 11, 2001, attacks in the US.
As many as 775 suspects are said to have been brought to the facility ever since its establishment.
US President Barack Obama had promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison in his 2008 election campaign, citing its damage to America’s reputation abroad. However, he has so far failed to deliver on that pledge due to stiff opposition from Congress.
A US Senate report in December 2014 revealed that the CIA used a wide array of torture as part of its interrogation methods against Guantanamo prisoners.
Senior officials in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were excluded from talks in the run-up to Britain’s 2003 invasion of Iraq by former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, an explosive new biography claims.
‘Broken Vows’ was authored by investigative journalist Tom Bower, and is due to be published later this month. Drawing from interviews with key sources, it paints a damning portrait of Blair’s conduct in and out of office.
In its pages, Bower alleges that the MoD was omitted from key discussions on Iraq despite the fact it is responsible for sending British troops on foreign missions.
Bower says that Sir Kevin Tebbit, the top civil servant in the MoD at the time of the invasion, phoned Blair’s foreign affairs adviser Sir David Manning to enquire why the MoD was being excluded from the conversation.
“How can you plan a war without the head of the Ministry of Defence?” Tebbit is quoted as asking Manning.
Manning reportedly replied: “We can’t have you because we would then have to include the permanent secretaries of the Foreign Office and DFID [the Department for International Development] and we don’t want Michael Jay [then permanent secretary at the Foreign Office] and Clare Short [the development secretary] involved.”
Bower said Blair rejected MoD advice about the movement of manpower and the supply of equipment prior to and after the invasion. He said that Blair did not want Tebbit’s advice because he would inevitably have challenged the former PM.
Bowers went on to suggest that Britain’s Iraq policies were wrought from the heart of Number 10 and Blair preferred to speak to Britain’s then-Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon about the war.
Although Hoon was included in the discussions, Bowers notes his involvement was also limited.
“Unlike education or the NHS, Blair cared little about defense and, as Hoon discovered, never discussed detail,” Bowers wrote.
“Blair’s detachment meant he resisted providing the services with sufficient money to fulfill their task, thus scuttling the military’s inviolability.”
‘Broken Vows’ explores Blair’s decade in power, his resignation from the prestigious role of Middle East peace envoy and the commercial empire he constructed advising tyrants and tycoons in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere.
In scrupulous detail, Bowers uncovers how Blair “blurred” the lines between his commercial interests and charity work, was branded pro-Israel while occupying the role of Middle East peace envoy, and benefitted from classified intelligence data while hunting for lucrative business deals with far-flung regimes.
Bowers also notes that Blair accepted money from questionable sources. A firm called PetroSaudi reportedly paid the former PM £41,000 (US$58,000) per month and a 2 percent commission on each contract he brokered with wealthy Chinese officials. However, the lucrative arrangement came to a close after Blair was accused of bribing Malaysian officials.
The former Labour PM also brokered a £20 million contract to conduct a review of the Kuwaiti economy, according to the book. Remarkably, Kuwait’s government was so irked by Blair’s findings it buried the review.
I think most people who have dealt with me think I am a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am.
— Tony Blair, October 21, 2011, BBC1
Given the ongoing revelations on the extent of Tony Blair’s duplicitous collusion in the illegal bombing and invasion of Iraq, it seems – to muddle metaphors – the “bunker busters” and Cruise missiles are finally coming home to roost.
In what has been dubbed “an apology” Blair even took to CNN in an interview with his pal Fareed Zakaria to – sort of – explain himself. It was no “apology”, but a weasel-worded damage limitation exercise as more and more revelations with respect to disregard for law – and to hell with public opinion – surface. The fault was that “… the intelligence we received was wrong”, there were “mistakes in planning” and a failure to understand “what would happen once you removed the regime”, said Mr. Tony. Statements entirely untrue. It is also now known he plotted with George W Bush in April 2002, a year before the onslaught, to invade, come what may.
He also found it “hard to apologise for removing Saddam.” Sorry, Mr. Blair, the all was lawless, illegitimate and criminal – and Saddam Hussein was not “removed”. He was lynched, his sons and fifteen year old grandson extra-judicially slaughtered in a hail of US bullets – the all in a country whose “sovereignty and territorial integrity” was guaranteed by the UN.
Whatever opinions of the former Iraqi government, the crimes committed by the US-UK war of aggression and its aftermath, make the worst excesses of which Saddam Hussein’s Administration were accused pale by comparison.
Blair brushed off the mention of a war crimes trial and made it clear that he would trash Syria as Iraq, had he the chance. To this barrister (attorney) by training, legality is clearly inconsequential.
Now no less than the UK’s former Director of Public Prosecutions (2003-2008) Sir Ken Macdonald has weighed in against Blair. That he held the post for five years during the Blair regime (Blair resigned in 2007) makes his onslaught interesting. Ironically Macdonald has his legal practice at London’s Matrix Chambers, which he founded with Blair’s barrister wife Cherie, who also continues to practice from Matrix Chambers.
In a scathing attack, Sir Ken states:
The degree of deceit involved in our decision to go to war on Iraq becomes steadily clearer. This was a foreign policy disgrace of epic proportions …
Referring to the CNN interview he witheringly dismissed Blair’s performance saying:
… playing footsie on Sunday morning television does nothing to repair the damage.
It is now very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Tony Blair engaged in an alarming subterfuge with his partner, George Bush, and went on to mislead and cajole the British people into a deadly war they had made perfectly clear they didn’t want, and on a basis that it’s increasingly hard to believe even he found truly credible.
Macdonald cuttingly cited Blair’s: “sycophancy towards power” being unable to resist the “glamour” he attracted in Washington.
In this sense he was weak and, as we can see, he remains so.
Since those sorry days we have frequently heard him repeating the self-regarding mantra that ‘hand on heart, I only did what I thought was right’. But this is a narcissist’s defence, and self-belief is no answer to misjudgment: it is certainly no answer to death.
No wonder Sir Ken had headed the country’s legal prosecuting service.
Macdonald’s broadside coincides with further “bombshell revelation” in the Mail on Sunday revealing that “on the eve of war” Blair’s Downing Street “descended into panic” on being told by the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith that “the conflict could be challenged under international law.”
There was “pandemonium”, Blair was “horrified” and the limited number of Ministers and officials who had a copy of the written opinion “were told ‘burn it, destroy it’” alleges the Mail.
The “burning” hysteria centered on Lord Goldmith’s thirteen page legal opinion of March 7, 2003 – just twenty days before the attack on Iraq. The “pandemonium” related to the fact that at this late juncture with “… the date the war was supposed to start already in the diary”, Goldsmith was still “saying it could be challenged under international law.”
It is not known who gave the “burn”, “destroy” order, but the Mail quotes their information as coming from a former senior figure in Blair’s government. They then “got to work on” Lord Goldsmith. Ten days later His Lordship produced an advice stating the war was legal. It started three days later, leading eminent international law Professor Philippe Sands to comment memorably: “We went to war on a sheet of A4.”
A spokesman for Tony Blair called the claims or orders to destroy “nonsense” adding that it would be “… quite absurd to think that anyone could destroy such a document.” With what is now known re the lies, dodging and diving related to all to do with Iraq under Blair, the realist would surely respond: “Oh, no, it wouldn’t!”
The US, of course, stole and destroyed or redacted most of the around 12,000 pages of Iraq’s accounting for their near non-existent weapons, delivered to the UN on December 7, 2002 and Blair seemingly faithfully obeyed his Master’s voice or actions.
In context of the lies and subterfuge of enormity being told both sides of the Atlantic at the time, it is worth remembering George W. Bush, that same December, on the eve of a NATO summit, addressing students and comparing the challenge of the Iraqi President to the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1938, which led to World War II.
We face … perils we’ve never seen before. They’re just as dangerous as those perils that your fathers and mothers and grandfathers and grandmothers faced.
On November 1st this year, in an interview on BBC1, Blair was asked: “If you had known then that there were no WMDs, would you still have gone on?” He replied: “I would still have thought it right to remove (Saddam Hussein.”)
Adding: “I mean obviously you would have had to use and deploy different arguments about the nature of the threat.”
Thus he would, seemingly, have concocted a different set of lies to justify the assassination of a sovereign head of State.
Perhaps he had forgotten the last line of Attorney General Goldsmith’s legal advice of February 12, 2003 “… regime change cannot be the objective of military action.”
So is Charles Anthony Lynton Blair, QC. finally headed for handcuffs and a trial at The Hague? Ian Williams, Senior Analyst with Foreign Policy in Focus, New York, has a view. He believes:
… it’s increasingly serious enough to be worrying to him. And I think Tony Blair is rapidly joining Henry Kissinger and Chilean Dictator [Pinochet] and other people around the world.
Now, he’s got to consult international lawyers as well as travel agents, before he travels anywhere, because there’s said, (may be) prima facie case for his prosecution either in British courts or foreign courts under universal jurisdiction or with the International Criminal Court, because there is clear evidence now that he is somebody who waged an illegal war of aggression, violating United Nations’ Charter and was responsible for all of those deaths.
Justice, inadequate as it might be given the enormity of the crime, may be finally edging closer for the people of Iraq as international jurisprudence slowly encroaches on Tony Blair.
Felicity Arbuthnot is the author, with Nikki van der Gaag, of Baghdad in the Great City series for World Almanac books.
Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has denied ordering the burning of documents drafted by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith which argued the Iraq war would be illegal weeks before the invasion began in 2003.
In a statement responding to allegations made on Sunday, Blair’s office said: “This is nonsense as far as Tony Blair knows.
“No one ever said that in his presence and in any event it would be quite absurd to think that anyone could destroy any such document.”
“Mr Blair and Lord Goldsmith dealt with all the circumstances surrounding the advice at the (Iraq) inquiry at length and with all the documents. The fact is the advice given was that the action was legal and it was given for perfectly good reasons,” the statement added.
The Mail on Sunday newspaper had reported that on the eve of the war Downing Street was gripped with panic as Britain’s top lawyer declared any such move illegal in a 13 page document.
An anonymous insider told the Mail that ministers and aides in possession of a copy of the document were told to “burn it. Destroy it.”
Ten days after the events are alleged to have taken place, Goldsmith u-turned on his original advice and declared the invasion legal.
Defence secretary Geoff Hoon is said to have been one of the ministers who refused to obey the burning command – a move which allegedly saw Blair trying to kick him out of cabinet.
“Geoff received the ‘burn it’ order second-hand,” the Mail’s source claimed. “He did not regard it as an instruction to be followed.”
“Downing Street was very keen at the time that the document should not have wide circulation, but Geoff would argue that the remark should not be interpreted as a sign that they were determined to get the Attorney General to rewrite the advice.”
A senior figure who served at No. 10 at the time told the Mail : “There was pandemonium. The date when war was expected to start was already in the diary, and here was Goldsmith saying it could be challenged under international law.
“They said ‘burn it, destroy it’ and got to work on the AG [Attorney General].”
It is widely thought that Blair’s inner circle applied serious pressure on Goldsmith at the time to ensure that he advised in favor of invading Iraq.
“Peter [Goldsmith] did say in that original advice that as long as certain conditions were satisfied then war was legal, but it did not give an absolutely clear view which could be used by the military,” the source said.
“The later summary was much clearer,” the unnamed individual added.
Usually when politicians apologize it’s because they have been caught doing something wrong, or they are about to be caught. Such was likely the case with former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who recently offered an “apology” for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Blair faces the release of a potentially damning report on his government’s conduct in the run-up to the 2003 US/UK invasion of Iraq.
Similarly, a batch of emails released from the private server of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton show Blair pledging support for US military action against Iraq a full year before the decision to attack had supposedly been made. While Prime Minister Blair was assuring his constituents that he was dedicated to diplomacy in the Iraq crisis, he was communicating through back channels that he was ready for war whenever Bush decided on it.
A careful observer of public opinion, Blair took the surprising step of “apologizing” for the Iraq war during an interview on CNN last month.
However, there are two other characteristics of politicians’ apologies: they rarely take personal blame for a misdeed and rarely do they atone for those misdeeds.
Thus Tony Blair did not apologize for his role in pushing the disastrous Iraq war. He did not apologize for having, as former head UN Iraq inspector Hans Blix claimed, “misrepresented intelligence on weapons of mass destruction to gain approval for the Iraq War.”
No, Tony Blair “apologized” for “the fact that the intelligence we received was wrong,” on Iraq. He apologized for “mistakes in planning” for post-Saddam Iraq. He boldly refused to apologize for removing Saddam from power.
In other words, he apologized that the intelligence manipulated by his cronies to look like Saddam had weapons of mass destruction and posed a threat to the UK turned out to not be the case. For Blair, it was someone else’s fault.
But if we are waiting for any kind of apology from George W. Bush for Iraq we shouldn’t hold our breath. Likewise if we are looking for any kind of apology from President Obama for a similarly disastrous war on false pretext against Libya we shouldn’t bother waiting.
If they ever did apologize, we can be sure that like Blair they would never really confess to their own manipulations nor would they seek to atone for the destruction their manipulations caused.
In fact, far from apologizing for leading the United States into the Libya war based on a false pretext, President Obama is taking US ground troops into Syria on a false pretext. Let’s not forget, this US military action was sold as a limited operation to save a small religious minority stranded on a hilltop in northern Iraq. After one year and thousands of bombing runs against Iraq and Syria, Obama announced last week he is sending US ground troops into Syria after promising no fewer than seven times that he would not do so.
Here’s an idea: instead of apologies and non-apologies from politicians, how about an actual debate on the policies that led to such disasters? Why not discuss why the US keeps being drawn into wars on false pretexts? But that is a discussion we will not have, because both parties are in favor of these wars. They are ready to spend us into Third World status to continue their empire. When we get there, we will never hear their apologies.
Sir John Chilcot has told Prime Minister David Cameron that the long-delayed, highly controversial report into the legality of the Iraq War will certainly be published in June or July 2016.
In an official letter to Cameron, Chilcot said the text of the report would be completed by April 18, 2016, at which point “national security” checking of the content will commence.
Chilcot said that given the sheer size of the document, which he says will run to more than 2 million words, the intervening time will be required check the text before printing and publication.
In his correspondence, Chilcot tells Cameron that the process of ‘national security’ is distinct from the process of declassification.
It concerns the preparation of material to avoid endangering Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – in effect, the right to life – and to ensure the nation’s security as a whole is not breached by anything made public.
Blair’s office released a statement claiming the former-Prime Minister had always been keen to see the report published as soon it “properly” could be.
The statement claimed that delays over the report had not been due to the nature of past correspondences between himself and former-President Bush or because he had contested findings.
“It is our understanding that other witnesses also received information very late in the process, so any suggestion that witnesses have been the cause of the delay is categorically incorrect and this has again been stated clearly and publicly by Sir John,” the statement reads.
In mid-October it was revealed that, contrary to his claims at the time, former-Prime Minister Tony Blair had committed the UK to joining the US invasion of Iraq a year before it began.
The memo was obtained by the Daily Mail as part of the batch of emails from the private server of former US State Secretary Hillary Clinton, which US courts have forced her to disclose.
Among the leaked papers is one written in March 2002 by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell to then-President George W. Bush, in which he said: “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary … He is convinced on two points: the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.”
At the time Blair was quoted by the British media as saying: “This is a matter for considering all the options.”
“We’re not proposing military action at this point in time.”
Following the release of the memo, Blair appeared to apologize for some parts of his involvement in the Iraq War and concede that the 2003 invasion and occupation led to the rise of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL).
Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in Iraq in 2003, dismissed former Blair’s apology aired on CNN as an attempt to shift the blame and spin the long-overdue Chilcot Inquiry report into the war.
He told the Telegraph he felt Blair’s apparent apology was a political move, and not a heartfelt one.
“I feel that he’s obviously pre-empting the Iraq inquiry’s findings. It’s finger-pointing. He’s blaming intelligence chiefs for giving him the wrong intelligence. He’s not [apologizing] for toppling Saddam.”
“What about [apologizing] for the unnecessary loss of life? The reason we went to war was weapons of mass destruction, not to topple Saddam,” Keys added.
“I feel revulsion. This man [Blair] certainly got it wrong.”
Despite widespread opposition to the Iraq War, Blair is not without his defenders.
Michael Gapes MP, one of most hard-core Blair loyalists in the Labour Party, questioned whether the report should be published at all, tweeting “the hysterical Blair haters have decided already” and that “most journalists and commentators have made up their minds already so won’t bother to read it in any case.”
Many around the world believe that Tony Blair did not only support the Bush administration’s war in Iraq, but did so in contravention of international law. New damning evidence in this regard suggests the net is finally closing in on him.
The unearthing of two classified US government memos, published in the UK tabloid, the Mail on Sunday, leaves no doubt that the former British prime minister committed Britain to following the US into Iraq a full year before the bombs started dropping on Baghdad in March 2003.
The first of the memos concerned was sent to US president George W Bush by his secretary of state, Colin Powell, in early April of 2002. In it Powell writes: “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary. He is convinced on two points: the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.”
At the same time, as the former British PM was alleged to have committed UK forces to war alongside the US, Blair was assuring the British public that he and the American president were seeking a diplomatic solution to the question of Iraq and Saddam’s role in the region.
Powell also discusses trade issues in the first memo, specifically the controversial decision by the Bush administration to impose a tariff on EU steel imports in March 2002: “We do not expect Blair to dwell on the steel decision, although it was a bitter blow for him, as he indicated in his recent letter to you. It is clear that Britain will not fight our fight within the EU on this.”
This is a shocking revelation, exposing the extent to which Blair was willing to suborn UK’s trade and economic interests, along with the untold number of British jobs dependent on them, to his priority of currying favor with Washington.
Moving on to the second classified memo, prepared by the US Embassy in London for Colin Powell, we are given an insight into the determination of Blair and his allies to overcome political obstacles and opposition within his own parliamentary Labour Party over Britain’s potential participation in a US military coalition vis-à-vis Iraq.
Most shocking here is the suggestion that the US Embassy had confidential sources among Labour MPs, providing it with inside information, with their names in the document redacted to conceal their identities.
The memos have come to light in the wake of the scandal surrounding the location of classified emails on the private server of Hillary Clinton from her own time as secretary of state in the Obama administration. Currently campaigning for the Democratic Party nomination for next year’s presidential elections, Clinton was recently forced by a federal judge to release the emails, which number around 30,000.
It is thought she may have requested the memos to and from her Republican predecessor, Colin Powell, in order to review the procedures that were followed by the US State Department prior to the start of the US-UK invasion in March 2003.
Whatever her motivation for possessing them, their revelations place further pressure on Sir John Chilcot and his inquiry into Iraq, set up in 2009 and which has yet to publish its findings six years after the last witness was questioned in 2010. When Blair appeared in front of the inquiry he denied the allegation that he committed Britain to military action in Iraq along with the United States, during the aforementioned Crawford, Texas summit with George W Bush.
Growing public and political disquiet over the inordinate delay in publishing the findings of the inquiry has been focused on the possibility that it is being held up by Blair, unhappy with the criticisms that have been made of his conduct and actions in the run-up to the war in Chilcot’s report, which Blair along with the other witnesses who have come in for criticism have seen in advance in order to allow them to respond.
No matter, the publication of these classified US memos merely add to the growing clamor for the former British prime minister and key personnel within his government and inner circle to be investigated for war crimes and face trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
The fact that Blair has gone on to amass a fortune since leaving office in 2007 – through his role as adviser to various governments around the world, some with egregious human rights records; his role as a consultant to an international bank, a Saudi oil company, and as a speaker at various corporate and international business gatherings – many find especially repugnant.
What these memos prove is that Tony Blair was blinded by the power of Washington, desperate to bask in its favors and prestige, determined in the process to become a political player on the international stage. Instead he has become a laughing stock, particularly in the UK, where public revulsion of him is widely felt, indeed it is now a toss-up between him and Margaret Thatcher over which is the most loathed British prime minister in the country’s recent history.
What should never be lost when discussing Blair and his role when it comes to Iraq are the catastrophic consequences suffered by the Iraqi people. Hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children were killed as a direct result of the war in 2003, with many more maimed, millions displaced, and an entire nation traumatized beyond measure.
In 2015, rather than the flowering democracy promised by Blair, Bush, and their apologists, Iraq is a country mired in chaos, rife with sectarian violence, social dislocation, with Third World level poverty the norm for a people who at one time could boast of First World level education, healthcare, and infrastructure.
Tony Blair’s role in destroying Iraq will follow him to his grave. However, if there is any justice in the world, it should also follow him into the dock at the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
John Wight has written for newspapers and websites across the world, including the Independent, Morning Star, Huffington Post, Counterpunch, London Progressive Journal, and Foreign Policy Journal. He is also a regular commentator on RT and BBC Radio. He wrote a memoir of the five years he spent in Hollywood, where he worked in the movie industry prior to becoming a full time and activist and organizer with the US antiwar movement post-9/11. The book is titled Dreams That Die and is published by Zero Books. John is currently working on a book exploring the role of the West in the Arab Spring. You can follow him on Twitter @JohnWight1
A damning White House memo has revealed details of the so-called “deal in blood” forged by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W. Bush over the Iraq war.
The document, titled “Secret… Memorandum for the President”, was sent by then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell to President Bush on March 28, 2002, a week before Bush’s summit with Blair at his Crawford ranch in Texas, Britain’s Daily Mail reported on Sunday.
The sensational memo revealed that 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 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.”
Another sensational memo revealed how Bush used “spies” in the British Labour Party to help him to influence public opinion in the United Kingdom in favor of the Iraq war.
Both documents were obtained and published by The Mail on Sunday. They are part of a number of classified emails stored on the private server of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton which courts have forced her to reveal.
Blair has always denied the claim that he and Bush signed a deal “in blood” at Crawford 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.
Powell told Bush: “He will present to you the strategic, tactical and public affairs lines that he believes will strengthen global support for our common cause.”
The top US diplomatic official added that the UK premier has the presentational skills to “make a credible public case on current Iraqi threats to international peace.”
Powell wrote that Blair will “stick with us on the big issues” but he needs to show the British public that “Britain and America are truly equity partners in the special relationship.”
In March 2003, the US and Britain invaded Iraq in blatant violation of international law and under the pretext of finding WMDs. But no such weapons were ever discovered in Iraq.
More than one million Iraqis were killed as the result of the US-led invasion and subsequent occupation of the country, according to the California-based investigative organization Project Censored.
The US war in Iraq cost American taxpayers $1.7 trillion with an additional $490 billion in benefits owed to war veterans, expenses that could grow to more than $6 trillion over the next four decades counting interest, according to a study called Costs of War Project by the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University.
When British Prime Minister David Cameron lambasted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn for having a “terrorist-sympathising, Britain-hating ideology” the rightwing British media went into raptures over the bashing.
But amid the boorish braying, the question is: what about Cameron’s own extremist-supporting politics? And not just Cameron, but the whole British establishment.Cameron made his cheap shot at Corbyn while addressing his Conservative Party annual conference last week. With the fulsome help of British media, Corbyn’s views on the death of Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, as well as on foreign policy issues, including Russia, Palestine, Hezbollah and Irish republicanism, have been wildly distorted. But the crude demonisation of Corbyn as national traitor is an easy job when you have a phalanx of willing media hatchet-wielders on your side.
How richly ironic it is then that a week after Cameron’s mud-slinging at Corbyn, news emerges of a British man who is facing a death sentence in Saudi Arabia.
Karl Andree, a 74-year-old British expatriate living in the oil-rich kingdom for the past 25 years is to receive 350 lashes under the archaic Saudi justice system. The man was caught last year reportedly in possession of homemade wine — in a country where alcohol is officially forbidden.
His family in Britain are making desperate appeals to British premier David Cameron to intervene in the case to save the pensioner’s life.
Suffering from cancer and asthma, the family of Karl Andree fear that he will die from the flogging, especially after having spent a year already in a Saudi jail. A son of the man told British media this week that Cameron’s government had done little to seek clemency from the Saudi rulers. Simon Andree “accused the Foreign Office of allowing business interests to get in the way of helping to free his father.”
Cameron may be obliged to finally intervene, such is the furore. But the mere fact that London has to be pushed into doing something to save the man’s life shows just how deeply entwined the British establishment is with the House of Saud.
The case is just one of many instances where the British government has steadfastly given the Saudi rulers political cover for their extremist practices. With an estimated 30,000 political prisoners languishing in Saudi jails and over 100 people executed by public beheadings every year, the kingdom has been described as one of the most despotic regimes on Earth. Some observers have noted that the House of Saud beheads as many people as the notorious terror group, Islamic State, which shares the same Wahhabi ideology as the Saudi rulers. Indeed probably bankrolled by the Saudi monarchs, as are other extremist jihadi groups, including Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra.
Yet while Cameron and his government make high-profile calls for sanctions against Russia over alleged violations in Ukraine, London keeps silent when it comes to international appeals for human rights in Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this year it emerged from leaked cables that Cameron’s government was involved in “back-room deals” with the Saudis for the kingdom to be appointed to a chair on the United Nations Human Rights Council. This is while international campaigners have recently appealed in two particularly disturbing cases, one involving a Saudi blogger sentenced to receive a 1,000 lashes and the other of a pro-democracy activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who is due to be beheaded and crucified. Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn has personally entreated Cameron to intervene — but so far, Downing Street has declined to mediate.
Cameron has gone on the defensive about British-Saudi relations, telling media that Britain has a “special relationship” with the kingdom, and insisting that it must maintain “close ties”.
The British leader never fails to pontificate to international audiences about how Britain is “supporting democracy and human rights” around the world.
Cameron’s double-think fails, spectacularly, to acknowledge that his government and Downing Street predecessors have “close ties” with the Saudi regime, where elections are banned, women are prohibited from driving cars, and freedom of speech is exercised under the pain of death.
Even as Saudi Arabia carries out more than six months of slaughter in Yemen, the British government maintains a stony silence. Evidence of war crimes involving Saudi bombing of civilians in Yemen has not registered a pause by Britain in supplying the Saudis with Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets equipped with 500-pound Pave IV missiles.Thousands of women and children have been massacred in the onslaught, while Britain reportedly finds new reserves for ordnance to sustain the Saudi bombardment, along with deadly supplies from Washington of course.
In 1985, former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher — a political heroine of Cameron — lent her personal intervention in signing the al Yamamah arms deal between Saudi Arabia and Britain.
That ongoing deal — worth an estimated £80 billion ($120 billion) — is the biggest weapons contract ever signed by Britain. A reputed 50,000 jobs depend on its fulfilment, mainly by Britain’s top weapons manufacturer, British Aerospace Engineering (BAE).
The contract is mired in corruption. Investigations have shown that some $1 billion in bribes were funnelled to key members of the House of Saud by BAE, including the former spy chief Bandar bin Sultan. In 2010, a US court found BAE guilty of corruption, for which the firm had to pay $400 million in fines.But Britain’s own legal probe into corruption over the Al Yamamah arms deal was dramatically blocked in 2006 by then Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair, as with Cameron recently, simply invoked “national security interests” to close the prosecution. Once again, the supposed “special relationship” between Britain and Saudi Arabia trumped any concerns about criminality or the despotic nature of the House of Saud.
One factor in why Blair gave cover to Britain’s Saudi clients was the threat from the House of Saud that it would pull the plug on the whole Al Yamamah contract, and instead direct its business to France. The French-made Rafale fighter jets were dangled as an alternative to the British-made Typhoon.
Resonating with that, this week a French delegation led by Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was in Saudi Arabia where it signed $11 billion in contracts for various industrial and military products.
This is the same French government that cancelled the $1.3 billion Mistral helicopter ship contract with Russia over alleged — yet unproven — violations by Moscow in Ukraine.
As with the British, the French government’s high-minded claims of democracy, rule of law and human rights are nothing but cynical public relations when it comes to the altar of financial profits, no matter how “extremist” the customers are.
So, let’s re-run that clip again of David Cameron denouncing others for “extremist-sympathising ideology”. Whatever Jeremy Corbyn’s alleged views are, they are nothing, absolutely nothing, when compared with the extremist-supporting practices of David Cameron and a host of British governments in their courting of Saudi oil money.
Bereaved UK families who lost sons and daughters in the illegal invasion of Iraq have now threatened legal action against Sir John Chilcot who headed the near two year long, £10m Iraq Inquiry (30th July 2009 – 2nd February 2011) if a date for release of Inquiry findings is not announced publicly within two weeks. Further, suspicions over the reason for the approaching five years near silence from Sir John are raised by a detailed investigation by journalist Andrew Pierce.
Writing in the Daily Mail he highlights the seemingly close relationship between Sir John Chilcot and Tony Blair.
Pierce refers to Blair’s first appearance before the Inquiry five years ago when “the Chairman, Sir John Chilcot treated him with almost painful deference.” What few realized was that Sir John, a former career civil servant, “could, in fact, have greeted Blair as an old friend.”
They first met in 1997 when Blair was still Leader of the Opposition, at the discreet Travellers Club in Central London, founded in 1819 as: “A meeting place for gentlemen who had travelled abroad, their visitors and (for) diplomats posted in London.” It continues to host: “distinguished members of the Diplomatic Service, the Home Civil Service …”
The meeting took place just months before Blair became Prime Minister. “John Chilcot, at the time, was the most senior civil servant at the Northern Ireland Office … Civil servants often meet Opposition politicians for briefings (prior to) elections but they are usually held in Whitehall Departments where (official) minutes are taken.” A meeting at the ultra discreet Club ensured “it was not made public.”
On becoming Prime Minister (May 2nd,1997) Tony Blair “worked closely with Chilcot on the Northern Ireland peace process.”
On Chilcot’s retirement he was “knighted by a grateful Blair … into the fourth most senior order of British chivalry.”
However, points out Andrew Pierce, Sir John never really left Whitehall, undertaking numbers of roles on public committees “often at the behest of the Blair administration.”
Moreover, in 2004 Lord Butler was charged with convening an Inquiry “into the role of the (UK) intelligence services in the Iraq war. Blair chose the Members of the Inquiry’s five strong Committee.”
Foxes guarding hen houses cannot fail to come to mind. “Surprise, surprise, Chilcot was one of the first asked to serve on it …”
Unexpectedly, however, the Butler Review as it was named: “Provided devastating evidence that (Blair’s) Downing Street, with collusion of intelligence chiefs ‘sexed up’ the threat” from Saddam Hussein”, yet “concluded that no one should be held responsible.”
“In short, it let Blair off the hook.”
When Blair’s successor as Prime Minister, Gordon Brown – former Chancellor of the Exchequer who wrote the £mega million cheques for the illegal invasion, thus also part of the crime of enormity – established the Chilcot Inquiry in 2009, it was originally to be held “behind closed doors.” Uproar from opposition MPs, from senior military figures and the public forced it into the open.
However, Philippe Sands, QC., Professor of International Law at University College, London and barrister with Matrix Chambers, a legal firm established, ironically, by Tony Blair’s barrister wife Cherie, quickly questioned the suitability of Sir John to lead the new Inquiry.
Sands questioned what it was in his “role in the Butler Inquiry that caused the Prime Minister to conclude he was suitable?” He cited a first hand observer who had described Chilcot’s “obvious deference to governmental authority, a view he had heard repeated several times. More troubling is evidence I have seen for myself.”
He was also dismissive of Sir John’s questioning of Law Lord, Lord Goldsmith, the former Attorney General, who had ruled that the Iraq invasion would be illegal – only to change his mind when Blair wrote on the top left hand side of the page: “I really do not understand this.”
Professor Sands – author of Lawless World in which he accuses former President George W. Bush and Tony Blair of conspiring to Invade Iraq in violation of international law – also cited “Sir John’s spoon-fed questions” to the former Attorney General “designed to elicit a response” demonstrating “the reasonableness of his actions and those of the government.”
In context, in Lawless World Sands cites a five page long “extremely sensitive” memo relating to a meeting between George W. Bush and Tony Blair at the White House on January 31st, 2003. The memo was written by David Manning, Blair’s Chief Foreign Policy Advisor at the time, who was also present.
Content included Bush mooting the idea of painting a U-2 spy-plane in UN colours and flying it low over Iraq in the hope of Iraq reacting by shooting it down, providing a pretext for the US and UK to attack and invade.
It also confirms Bush and Blair agreeing to invade regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were found by the UN weapons inspectors. This contradicts Blair’s statement to Parliament after his return that Iraq would be given a final chance to disarm.
Giving a further lie to Blair’s Parliamentary assurances, Bush is paraphrased as saying:
The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10th March. This was when the bombing would begin.
In an opinion which should surely be George W. Bush’s epitaph he told Blair he “thought it unlikely there would be internecine warfare between different religious and ethnic groups” after the invasion.
In spite of the erased and ruined lives in millions, the ruins of Iraq, of much of Baghdad “the Paris of the 9th century”, of many of historical gems that have survived assaults over millennia but not Bush and Blair, it seems likely Chilcot’s Inquiry, if it eventually appears, will prove another dead end.
As Sir Christopher Meyer, former UK Ambassador to Washington pointed out:
When Downing Street set up the Inquiry into ‘phone hacking (by) newspapers, it was a Judicial Inquiry, led by a Judge (with) powers to compel witnesses to answer all questions put to them. Chilcot does not have that power. A Judge should be running this Inquiry, not a retired civil servant.
Prime Minister David Cameron has paid lip service to exasperation, but as commented on before in these columns, regards Blair as a “mentor” and in opposition aspired to be “heir to Blair.” He has also refused Sir John correspondence between Bush and Blair (held in government archives) which Sir John has been reported as regarding as essential to his findings. Current speculations are, unless the families of the bereaved win out, is that the world will see nothing until late 2016.
Another reason for the inordinate delay is the decision of the Inquiry to write to every witness criticized in order to allow them to respond. How very cosy. Imagine that in a Court of Law!
However, if any of the above has you wondering, there is far worse to come.
According to a recent report although “as many as one hundred and fifty (government) Ministers, civil servants and senior military figures have been sent details of criticism, including draft pages of the Report”, due to the structure of the Inquiry, “Ministers and officials accused of wrongdoing in (the) Chilcot Inquiry will never be named.”
One former Labour Minister is now said to be going through hundreds of pages of the report ‘with a fine toothcomb’. The ex-Minister has also been offered free legal advice from the Government.
A £ ten million stitch-up?
Reg Keys, speaking for one of the bereaved UK families threatening action against Sir John Chilcot’s team, who ran against Tony Blair in his Durham constituency of Sedgefield as an Independent Parliamentary candidate in 2005, and whose son, Lance Corporal Tom Keys was killed in Iraq in 2003, has had enough. Tony Blair “should be dragged in shackles to a War Crimes Court” he says.
In a memorable speech on the 2005 election night, Blair and his wife standing with frozen faces, as Keys vowed: “I’ll hold Blair to account.” Unlike Blair, Reg Keys speaks the truth.
Tony Blair should stand trial for war crimes if the Chilcot Inquiry rules the former prime minister broke international law by invading Iraq in 2003, Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The surprise frontrunner in the contest said he was convinced the war was “illegal.”
Speaking on BBC Newsnight, the MP for Islington North said Blair should stand trial “if he has committed a war crime, yes. Everybody who has committed a war crime should be.”
He added the former Labour prime minister, who orchestrated the invasion with then-US President George W. Bush, should “confess” to any plans he made with the former president. The publication of the Chilcot inquiry would force Blair’s hand, he said.
Corbyn, who staunchly opposed the invasion and is a leading member of the Stop the War coalition said, “It was an illegal war. I am confident about that. Indeed Kofi Annan [UN secretary general at the time of the war] confirmed it was an illegal war and therefore [Tony 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.
“The Chilcot report is going to come out sometime,” he said.
“I hope it comes out soon. I think there are some decisions Tony Blair has got to confess or tell us what actually happened. What happened in Crawford, Texas, in 2002 in his private meetings with George [W.] Bush.”
“Why has the Chilcot report still not come out? Because apparently there is still debate about the release of information on one side or the other of the Atlantic. At that point Tony Blair and the others that have made the decisions are then going to have to deal with the consequences of it,” he added.
Corbyn further asserted his opposition to British airstrikes against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants in Syria and Iraq.
“I would want to isolate ISIS. I don’t think going on a bombing campaign in Syria is going to bring about their defeat. I think it would make them stronger. I am not a supporter of military intervention. I am a supporter of isolating ISIS and bringing about a coalition of the region against them.”
His comments come as Prime Minister David Cameron calls on Sir John Chilcot to name the date his report will be published. The inquiry began in 2009 and concluded its evidence gathering phase in 2011. Its long delay has led to fears of an establishment whitewash.
Cameron is expected to tell the chairman he wants to see “a timetable” of publication, and that he is keen to see the results as soon as possible.
“I cannot make it go faster because it’s a public inquiry and it’s independent, but I do want a timetable and I think we deserve one pretty soon,” Cameron will tell Chilcot.
Emails of former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton published by the State Department expose that the Qatari Royal family made efforts to befriend the American politician through former British PM Tony Blair’s spouse, Cherie Blair.
Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser al-Missned, a wife of the former emir of Qatar and mother of the ruling emir, Sheikh Tamin bin Hamad Al-Thani, established contact with Clinton via Cherie Blair.
The Blair and Clinton families have been political and personal friends since the 1990s.
“Sheika Moser (Sheikha Mozah) has approached me privately saying they are keen to get their relationship with the USA onto a more positive footing and she was hoping for a ‘women to women’ one to one private meeting with you,” Cherie Blair wrote to Clinton in May 2009. “I am sure the conversation would not be confined to these issues but would be about the U.S./Qatar relationship generally,” Blair wrote, mentioning joint philanthropic interests among issues Clinton and Mozah could talk about.
Blair did her best to persuade Hillary Clinton to get acquainted with “someone who has real influence in Qatar,” the newly-released documents show.
“I could make time to meet in DC during the weeks of June 8th and 15th. Would that work?” Clinton gave in on May 26, promising to rearrange her schedule to “fit her time.”
Yet Sheikha Mozah was unable to meet with Clinton on suggested dates in June 2009 “due to prior commitments” and proposed to meet “immediately after Ramadan/Eid week of September 27, 2009.”
Altogether, on Tuesday the State Department released over 1,900 of Clinton’s emails (3,000 pages). Within this bulk of information, there are 19 emails that have to do with Clinton/ Mozah getting acquainted with each other.
The royal Al-Thanis family of Qatar is known for its fabulous wealth gathered on the back of the petroleum and liquefied natural gas trade. Over the last decades, Qatar rulers spent billions on increasing its influence in Western capitals. The Al-Thanis invested particularly heavily in London, the Guardian claims.
The scale of the Qatar royal family’s investment in the British capital remains largely unknown. Al-Thanis own Harrods, the Olympic village and Shard completely, along with certain property in Hyde Park. A quarter of Sainsbury’s, large share of Barclays and 8 percent of the London Stock Exchange all belong to them, as well as the US embassy building in Grosvenor Square.
Earlier this year it emerged that the Clinton Foundation allegedly received multiple foreign donations during Hillary Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state.
A newly-released book accused the Clinton Foundation, run by presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, her husband Bill Clinton, and their daughter Chelsea, of accepting quid pro quo donations from foreign sources while Hillary was secretary of state.
It was revealed that governments that had received frequent criticism from the State Department for repressive policies – countries like Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar – had donated to the Clinton Foundation and gained State Department clearance to buy caches of American-made weapons.
In late May, the FIFA corruption scandal also cast its shadow over the Clintons, as it emerged that the Clinton Foundation received at least $50,000 and as much as $100,000 from the football governing body.
“I don’t think there’s anything sinister in trying to get wealthy people in countries that are seriously involved in development to spend their money wisely in a way that helps poor people and lifts them up,” Hillary Clinton told NBC News in May.
The Guardian reports that the Blair family has done some favors for Qatar’s rulers, too.
Although Tony Blair stepped down from his post as PM in 2007, his influence remains in place. In 2012 he brokered a $50-billion commodities deal between Glencore and Xstrata, which brought him $1 million.
Later the same year the former Labor leader assisted the Qataris in getting a share in a £1-billion-valued group owning such prestigious hotel as Berkeley, Claridge’s and Connaught, the Guardian claims.
In this regard, the Faith Foundation mirrors the Clinton Foundation, set up by the former US President Bill Clinton after leaving his post in 2001.
From 2009 up to 2013, the year the Ukrainian crisis erupted, the Clinton Foundation received at least $8.6 million from the Victor Pinchuk Foundation, which is headquartered in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, a new report claims.
The Clinton Foundation’s donor list includes some 200,000 names, among them foreign financial institutions and Wall Street-based financial organizations, international energy conglomerates and governments, the government of Qatar included, which allegedly has given between $1 million and $5 million in donations to the Clintons.