Sunday, 3 July 2016

Chilcot is Important, but We Don't Need an Inquiry to Know that Blair Lied on Iraq

Next week will see the publishing of the long awaited Chilcot Inquiry, into Tony Blair’s 2003 invasion of Iraq. The report will be revealing and may even result in Blair being prosecuted for War Crimes. However, we do not need a report to tell us what we already know. Blair lied to us about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction when he boldly claimed in 2002 that ‘We Know that Saddam Hussein has stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction’. This was despite intelligence chiefs saying weeks earlier that evidence for this was ‘sporadic and patchy’. Soon enough the Press began pushing the issue entirely out of proportion, linking Iraq with the 9/11 terrorist attacks, only a few years before. The idea of Islam became synonymous with the idea of a clash of civilisations. Millions gathered in one of the biggest protests ever seen, to voice their opposition to the war in Iraq.  This did not seem to matter to Blair however. Within a few words, he had been able to turn an issue surrounded by speculation and questions, into a full blown crisis, to which a war was the only feasible solution. It is now only days before an official inquiry will shed more light on this situation. The media have stayed relatively quiet on the situation up until this point. However, the tense political atmosphere is clear through the attempted coup against anti-war leader, Jeremy Corbyn, as leader of the Labour Party. Despite the uncertainty, there are some things we already know. An inquiry already conducted by Peter Osborne and the BBC, sets out the facts needed to asses next week, whether John Chillcot has produced a fair report. Drawing on this inquiry, I will present the arguments and evidence, proving that Blair lied to us on Iraq.

Blair Misled the Public on WMD’s

Despite the UN repeatedly asserting that governments must not simply Jump to the conclusion that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Blair constantly pushed ahead with his fantasy warmongering narrative, that inspectors had left tonnes of chemical weapons material ‘unaccounted for’ and that it was absurd to believe otherwise. Let’s look at this in light of the evidence.
Of course Blair, in his desire to invade Iraq, conveniently forgot to mention in his analysis of the situation, that his own intelligence advisers had said to him that even if Saddam did have weapons stockpiled, they would have degraded to an unusable standard. This was a view backed up by the International Institute for Strategic Studies, an organisation Blair’s government themselves described as ‘Independent and well researched’. Something else the Prime Minister refused to tell MP’s was that Saddams son in law Hussein Kamal, considered a valuable source of information about Iraq’s weapons programme, said to UN inspectors that, on his orders, all Iraq’s proscribed weapons had been destroyed. Crucially, the problem lied partly in Blair’s rhetoric. He repeatedly refused to draw the distinction between materials that were unaccounted for and materials that were known to exist.  This crucial evidence, which as it turned out meant that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, was completely ignored in the face of one of the most tragic invasions in recent history. This led, on the 18th of March 2003, to Members of Parliament blindly voting to go to war with Iraq.

A Plan for Regime Change

We must remember that regime change in Iraq had been the official US policy since October 1998, when Bill Clinton signed the Iraq Liberation Act into Law. It seems highly likely then, that the objective of collaborations between Bush and Blair was Regime change in Iraq, and that this was planned about a year before the actual invasion took place.
When Tony Blair was giving his evidence to the Chillcot Inquiry in January 2010, he was asked whether removing Saddams regime was a ‘valid objective’ for the government’s policy. His response, evasive as it may seem, was that the government’s policies were not about removing the Iraqi dictator and instead was about the ‘WMD issue’. This is contradicted however by extracts from Allister Campbell’s diaries, one of which states that ‘Tony Blair saw regime Change as the route to dealing with WMD’. In addition to this, the plan for Blair seemed to be to wrong-foot Saddam Hussein on security inspections, by which the Security Council would be authorised to carry out an inspection so contrary to Saddams interests that he would refuse to re – admit the inspectors. This appeared to be confirmed in October 2002, The US and UK produced a draft resolution, containing terms which the Saddam could not possibly accept. Meaning that, if Saddam refused to accept inspectors on the terms laid out by the US and UK, then both those countries would have been authorised to use military force against Iraq. The snag here is that disarmament of Iraq by peaceful means, as advocated by Blair in numerous speeches before the Iraq war, required UN inspectors on the ground in Iraq. Despite this, Blair hoped that Saddam would not allow inspectors into Iraq. These are clearly not the words, or indeed the actions, of someone who wanted a peaceful and diplomatic disarmament plan for Iraq.

French opposition

Luckily, with regard to the Plan mentioned above, the US/UK did not get their way. With France leading the way, many of the conditions that would guarantee Saddam refusing to let inspector in were removed. These included the suggestion that ground forces could be put in Iraq as part of the inspection process, and that the explicit authorisation of force could be used without a UN security mandate. The reason for this, was that while France was interested in making practical arrangement for disarming Iraq, the UK and US, were interested in deviously wrong-footing Saddam in order to legally use military force against Iraq. Thanks to France, a resolution eventually passed which was acceptable to Saddam, thwarting Blair’s plans. This was not the story told to the British Public however. The story told was that French authorities had undermined support for a resolution which could have disarmed Saddam. Evidence given to the chillcot inquiry by Stephen Wall in 2011, confirmed that Wall had witnessed Tony Blair giving Allister Campbell his orders to 'play the anti-French card with the press’. Regardless, UN inspectors operating under this resolution, worked in Iraq for 5 months until their work was brought to an end by US and UK military action, to enforce regime change in Iraq, without a legal mandate.

The War Made Britain More Vulnerable to Terrorist Attacks

Something constantly denied by Blair in the run up to the Iraq war was that a war would make the country less safe. This was in spite of warnings from Intelligence chiefs that invading Iraq would increase the threat of terrorism on UK soil. Indeed, In light of the rise of ISIS, Blair has only just been forced to admit that the war and the power vacuum removal of Saddam Hussein acted as a key recruitment opportunity for terrorist attacks. Yet still Blair refuses to apologise for the damage he has inflicted on the country.
Numerous sources such as Security and intelligence Coordinators and heads of M15 have given evidence to the Chilcot enquiry about the threat from terrorist attacks. They cite strong anti-west sentiment amongst some groups, and increasing numbers of people being radicalised. Usually it is unheard of for a group like M15 to ask for a doubling of their budget, however, on this occasion Downing Street agreed, fully aware of the increased terror threat. Considering this, it seems peculiar that Blair was excruciatingly clear about the threat posed by ‘weapons of mass destruction’ despite patchy evidence, but kept silent about the pre-war assessments stating that the terror threat to Britain would be heightened by military action. Had MP’s been aware of this, I reckon that it is less likely that they would of  been as enthusiastic about endorsing the war. If the fact that MP’s were not told about the consequences of what they were voting on sounds ridiculous, then what will really shock you is that Tony Blair did tell MPs, that the war would combat terrorism! Now that the damage has been done, terrorism is of course all our MP’s talk about. I wonder how many of them that served under tony Blair, look back on their vote with disdain and regret.    

Conclusion

On the basis of the evidence presented by numerous sources, there is little to no reason to doubt that Blair lied repeatedly about Iraq, in order to launch an illegal war in which hundreds of innocent people died. Even those defending the invasion on the basis that we need to stop terrorism, should be left shocked at the increased terror threat to Britain since 2003. Let’s see what Chilcot thinks.

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