By Felicity Arbuthnot in Britain:
Adding insult to many millions of injuries
Thursday 9th June 2016
A COUPLE of years ago, now-US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters: “You don’t just invade another country on phoney pretexts in order to assert your interests,” calling it “19th-century behaviour in the 21st century.”
If “a week is a long time in politics,” under Prime Minister David Cameron, forced into myriad U-turns, then a day is an age.
Last week, it was announced that a free summary of Sir John Chilcot’s long-waited Iraq inquiry report would be published on July 6 and given free to the families of the Iraq invasion’s 179 British victims.
The summary costs £30, a hard copy of the full 2.6 million-word report a staggering £767. The families would have to pay for the latter themselves.
The inquiry has cost £10 million and Chilcot’s £790 a day has also come courtesy of the taxpayer.
It’s taken a long time to get this far, with the inquiry’s hearings held way back between November 2009 and February 2010. The most recent substantial delay was the “Maxwellisation” where those criticised in the report got a chance to respond.
It is a mind-bending concession to alleged war criminals.
While the summary given free to the families will be “substantial,” only every word, line, chapter and verse of the report will do.
Also, the summary would only go to immediate families, not relatives.
The report will be online but for those wishing to study in depth hard copies are vital.
The bereaved families responded with fury, demanding that Tony Blair pay for their copies. Blair’s wealth is estimated at about £100m so £137,293, for 179 copies of the report to those who have given their children for his assertions about Saddam’s nonexistent WMD, 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 19-year-old son Gordon was killed in Basra, said charging families for the report was “disgusting.”
“Why should we have to pay — have we not paid enough times with the lives of our sons?”
Roger Bacon, whose son Matthew was killed in 2005 said: “We have already paid with our children’s lives.”
By the end of the day on June 3, after the furore from MPs of all parties, the families and the public No 10 pulled a U-turn and said families would not have to pay for copies.
Better shamefully late, than never.
Yet in all this, no official has mentioned those disabled, limbless or chronically ill as a result of the invasion. They and their families are forgotten, not even getting the summary. Reported casualties are 5,970, but the total figures have not been released by the MoD.
Casualty Monitor describes the MoD as “reticent” to provide figures for Iraq and Afghanistan and notes “serious problems with the accuracy and incompleteness” of the MoD’s information.
In a further venture into fantasyland, the probably two million Iraqi families bereaved between the embargo, invasion and occupation surely deserve a copy — courtesy of Mr “I know I’m right” Blair.
The United Nations reports that at least 741 Iraqis, including more than 400 civilians, were killed and 1,374 wounded in April this year alone, due to the ongoing violence — a monthly nightmare which in pre-invasion Iraq was unthinkable.
However, back to the Iraq inquiry’s report, as an astute 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.”
With thanks to Lesley Docksey for an inspired angle for Tony Blair’s “apology.”