British Iraq war inquiry, still no publication

Tony Blair and dead British soldiers in Iraq, cartoon

By Paddy McGuffin and Luke James in Britain:

Chilcot Inquiry – Eight More Months

Friday 30th October 2015

BEREAVED families of soldiers killed fighting in Iraq were told yesterday they will have to wait at least another eight months to hear the official verdict on Britain’s role.

Six years after launching his inquiry into the Iraq war, Sir John Chilcot announced he will belatedly publish the final report by next summer.

The 2 million-word document, which has cost £10m to date, will be finished by April and published by “June or July,” he said.

The latest delay was the final insult for many relatives of the 179 military personnel who lost their lives thousands of miles away from home.

Rose Gentle of Military Families Against The War, whose son Gordon was killed in a bomb attack in Basra in 2004, branded the news “another let-down.”

“It’s another few months to wait and suffer again,” she said.

And Reg Keys, whose son Tom was killed in 2003, expressed fears that the final report would be a whitewash.

“All we will get now from the report is a watered-down version of some of the criticisms that Sir John put to these civil servants and senior politicians,” he warned.

Sir John said the latest delay was caused by a need for “national security checks” to ensure human rights obligations and security “will not inadvertently be breached by publication of the inquiry’s report as a whole.”

He also said it will “take some weeks to prepare the report for printing” because of its “considerable size.”

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, a vociferous opponent of the 2003 invasion, said the wait was “getting beyond ridiculous.”

“We need to know what happened. We need to know why it happened. We need to know who made the decisions. And we never need to make these kind of catastrophic mistakes again,” he said.

Mr Corbyn added that he hoped the inquiry was “not still negotiating with Tony Blair” over the report’s contents.

Mr Blair issued a statement insisting that any suggestion he had delayed the report through the Maxwellisation process was “categorically incorrect.”

But Stop the War coalition spokesman Chris Nineham warned the process, along with the report’s vetting by the security services, could leave the report a “long-delayed whitewash.”

He told the Star it was “extraordinary” that Chilcot should have taken so long to try to establish facts that most people already believed had been settled.

“The key issue is that of deliberate fabrication,” he said. “Recently leaked documents show that Tony Blair lied to Parliament and the people to take them into an illegal war of regime change.”

The inquiry, ordered by former Labour PM Gordon Brown, has been beset with delays since its launch on June 15 2009.

They included the Maxwellisation process where those criticised in the report, including former Labour PM Tony Blair, were given advance warning so as to prepare their defence.

Tony Blair dressed as French King Louis XIV in Iraq, cartoon

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

An insult to Iraqi victims

Friday 30th October 2015

TONY BLAIR denies responsibility for constant delays in completing the Chilcot inquiry, but he has always had a problem with putting his hand up.

Whether it is Blair personally, his lawyers or accomplices who have elected to spin out proceedings by raising one pretext or another, the inquiry, which has already lasted six years and will take another, is a prime example of the political and legal Establishment pulling together to frustrate public sentiment.

Blair took Britain into the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003, honouring his pledge to George W Bush the previous year.

It beggars belief that the people of this country, and especially the families of the service personnel who died at his behest, should still be waiting over 12 years later for our rulers to cough up some elements of the truth concerning the real reasons for this conflict.

Bush made no secret of his determination to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the once extremely close US and British ally who had become an irritant to Washington.

As a lawyer, Blair understood that stating this openly would be problematic under international law, so his case for war accused Baghdad of possessing weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in breach of UN security council motions.

Both Bush and Blair stressed that the Iraqi dictator had used poison gas against his own citizens in the Kurdish region in 1988, but neither mentioned that this had happened against a background of Saddam’s unprovoked war of aggression against Iran, which Washington and London actively supported.

Indeed the US government went so far as to blame the gas attacks on Tehran.

There was no call for action to be taken against Iraq for the atrocities visited on defenceless Kurdish civilians.

Saddam was certainly a murderous bastard, but he was our murderous bastard. That was the US line until he miscalculated, invading the corrupt emirate of Kuwait in the belief that the administration of George Bush Snr had signalled tolerance of his expansionism.

The Iraqi people paid a heavy price for his adventurism, suffering a vicious 12-year UN sanctions regime that more than doubled the child mortality rate.

This video from the USA is called [then United States Secretary of State] Madeleine Albright Says Deaths Of 500,000 Iraqi Children Is Worth It.

Hundreds of thousands perished, leading one US politician to speak of “infanticide masquerading as policy.”

The United Nations sent teams of weapons inspectors into Iraq charged with detecting and destroying chemical and biological weapons and their means of delivery.

This programme was carried out successfully by 1995, as Iraqi defector Hussein Kamel, Saddam’s son-in-law, reported in 2002, but his testimony was misrepresented by Blair who needed Parliament to believe — or affect to believe — his lies that Iraq was armed to the teeth with WMD.

The Bush-Blair axis forced the evacuation of new teams of UN weapons inspectors in early 2003 by rigid adherence to the March invasion date decided the previous year.

Criminal conspiracy to prevent a peaceful resolution of the WMD “crisis” and to launch a war that would claim the lives of up to a million Iraqis and prepare the ground for the growth of the Islamic State (Isis) death cult should not be the subject of interminable polite legal diplomacy conducted by Chilcot.

The Morning Star has always insisted that the correct forum for Blair and his closest associates to answer for their deeds is the International Criminal Court.

Punting the enormity of the Iraq invasion into a genteel “lesson-learning” exercise, as Gordon Brown did, was a betrayal of the war criminals’ victims — the people of Iraq and the service personnel directed to invade and die there.

Whatever soggy long-winded compromise eventually emerges from Chilcot, Blair and company cannot escape the guilty verdict of history.

Tony Blair’s pseudo-apology for the Iraq war

Tony Blair and the Iraq war, cartoon by Steve Bell

By Robert Fisk in daily The Independent in Britain today:

Tony Blair didn’t see the people, he saw the policies – which is why he chose war

There’s no doubt that the dark shadow of the Chilcot report has brought forward his midget apology

Tony Blair’s at it again. He apologises – but not for the war, only for the “intelligence”. There are “elements of truth” – whatever that means – in the view that his and George W Bush’s 2003 Iraqi adventure might have caused the rise of Isis. There are some, I suppose, who might also say that this wretched man started a regional war that has totally obscured the tragedy of the Palestinians, who continue to endure the longest military occupation in modern history – one that Blair did nothing to end after he was sent outrageously as a “peace” envoy to Jerusalem. Perhaps he would agree that there are “elements of truth” in this suggestion, but I doubt it.

I have been infuriated by Blair’s failure to own up to the catastrophe. No doubt the dark shadow of the Chilcot report brought his midget apology, although Chilcot may well hide the truth and thus cast only sunlight on the man. What I found so appalling in his CNN interview, however, was the assumption that the Middle East is a place of inherent instability.

I am minded of this because of an article by the Palestinian Rami Khouri in which he comments on an article by Henry Kissinger. Khouri remarks that Kissinger’s view of the Middle East “seems to have no place for – or is simply blind to – the nearly half a million [sic; billion] men and women, mostly Muslims, who live [there] and shape its societies and states … These people all seek the same thing that Kissinger presumably seeks for Americans: a stable, decent society where citizens can live in peace.”

Khouri acknowledges the “non-state actors and ethno-sectarian nationalisms” that have emerged. I would have said this in blunter language, but he rightly spots the US tendency to see the Middle East in terms of religious or ethnic groups (Shia, Sunnis, Maronites) waging existential wars “in an urban wasteland defined by armed gangs”.

I rather think that’s how Blair sees the Middle East. He sees territory, but he doesn’t see people. The mere fact that he could drag out the rotting corpse of Saddam Hussein shows what the problem is. Yes, Saddam did use gas “against his own people”. But when he was doing that, George Bush Snr was giving him military assistance in his war against Iran. And when we staged our 2003 adventure, most of those who were subsequently killed were not Saddamites or anti-Saddamites but “tens of thousands” (as CNN coyly states) of innocent civilians. By defining these people as Sunnis and Shia or Maronites, we demean them, forcing them into a box with labels – and very often into wooden boxes, too.

It does no good to ignore, as Khouri says, how American and other foreign powers’ policies contributed to the problems that shattered the superficial calm which, barring Arab-Israeli wars, defined the region for years after the Second World War. But we do not see the people, we see policies – which is why Blair chose war. That’s what wars were to Kissinger. That’s why he made peace between Iran and Iraq all those years ago, and sacrificed the Kurds.

That’s what the Americans did when they bombed Iraq again and again between 1991 and 2003, long after we had freed Kuwait from Saddam’s clutches. And that’s what we did when we invaded Iraq in 2003. And still it goes on. Did Isis start in Iraq or Syria?

I suspect that what we fail to do is take responsibility for our actions. We don’t plan, because we have no long-term plans. Churchill started planning the British occupation of a conquered Germany in 1941, even before the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union. But when the first US tanks crossed the Tigris river in 2003, neither Blair nor Bush had thought ahead. They were too busy with intelligence reports with “elements of truth” in them.

German brands TV confession ‘damage limitation’ in wake of Powell memo leak. TONY BLAIR’S weasel words justifying the invasion of Iraq were dismissed yesterday as more of his infamous spin as he dramatically admitted some responsibility for the rise of Islamic State (Isis): here.

Tony Blair’s apologies over Iraq War are ‘spin operation’ ahead of Chilcot Inquiry report, says Nicola Sturgeon. The First Minister says the delay to Sir John Chilcot’s review being released is a ‘scandal’: here.

Tony Blair, George w Bush, and their destroyed Iraq, cartoon

Tony Blair uses CNN interview to cover for his lies on Iraq: here.

FELICITY ARBUTHNOT charts how Blair conspired with the US to invade Iraq while feeding the British public a very different story: here.

By Patrick Cockburn in British daily The Independent, 25 October 2015:

Tony Blair apologises for Iraq War: The former PM’s mind has been paralysed by what happened in 2003

Blair has an arrogant inability to admit he was mistaken

What is striking about Tony Blair’s latest comments about his role in the Iraq War is how little he had learnt about the country in the 12 years since the invasion. …

He conflates two events that should be looked at separately. He says that he does not apologise for removing Saddam Hussein: one could argue that most Iraqis wanted this to bring an end to Saddam’s disastrous rule at that time. But the US and Britain then went on to occupy Iraq and it was the war against the occupation, waged separately by Sunni and Shia, that destroyed the country and enabled al-Qaeda to gain its first foothold there.

It is difficult to understand Mr Blair’s position, because here is an intelligent man whose mind seems to have been paralysed by his experiences in 2003. His comments on Iraq and other events in the Middle East since that date are consistently ill-informed and partisan.

This is in sharp contrast to his understanding of the problems of Northern Ireland about which he writes knowledgeably and lucidly in his autobiography. It is as if Iraq turned his political strengths to weaknesses: his self-confidence turned into rigidity and an arrogant inability to admit he was mistaken and to avoid such mistakes in future.

It was evident from the first days of the invasion that President Bush and Mr Blair might get away with the invasion, but if they tried to stay in the country they would be in trouble. The reason they did so had nothing to do with the greater good of the Iraqi people, but because they did not want Iran, the greatest Shia power, to benefit from the fall of Saddam Hussein. But this was always going to happen because any election in Iraq would bring to power the Shia who made up 60 per cent of the population.

Iraqis say that sanctions destroyed Iraqi society and the invasion destroyed the Iraqi state. There have been claims since that if there had been a post-invasion plan in Iraq then all would have been well, but this is patronising nonsense. The only Iraqis who welcomed the occupation were the Kurds, who were not occupied. Moreover, all the states neighbouring Iraq, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Turkey, did not want the occupation to succeed. Any insurgency inside Iraq was always going to receive arms and money from outside.

The state in Iraq that the US and Britain claimed to be rebuilding was delegitimised from the beginning in the eyes of Iraqis because it was so openly a foreign creation. The same was true in Afghanistan where the great strength of the Taliban was the contempt and hatred felt by so many Afghans for the government in Kabul. British forces were sent to Helmand in 2006 with same lack of understanding of the dangers, just as they had been sent to Basra in 2003, and with the same disastrous results. Actions that were supposed to show the US how effective Britain was as an ally achieved exactly the opposite result. …

It is not just that he made mistakes then, but he went on making them. In his evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry some five years ago, he was lauding the successes of the Iraqi government of the day, though everybody in Iraq knew it was dysfunctional, kleptocratic and sectarian.

Tony Blair’s acceptance that Iraq war facilitated rise of Isis is a first step to acknowledging the conflict was a disaster: here.

‘Tony Blair is a war criminal, more evidence’

This video from Britain says about itself:

Send him to the Hague! Tony Benn on Blair‘s ‘war crimes’ (FULL INTERVIEW)

20 December 2013

Former Labour cabinet minister and Stop the War Coalition President Tony Benn talks to the host of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi, about the alleged war crimes of Tony Blair. He shares stories of intelligence goings on during his time as an MP, featured in his memoirs, including a threat to assassinate him if he ever became Prime Minister. They also discuss voter apathy and how austerity could lead to fascism on the streets of Britain.

By Luke James in Britain:

Memo ‘exposes more Blair lies

Monday 19th October 2015

A LEAKED memo that revealed Tony Blair’s determination to drag Britain into the Iraq war is further evidence the former PM should be tried for war crimes, campaigners said yesterday.

The previously secret document exposed that Mr Blair was privately planning for war a year before the invasion while telling voters that he was seeking a diplomatic solution.

The memo was penned by then secretary of state Colin Powell for former president George Bush on March 28 2002 — a week before Mr Blair met Mr Bush in Texas.

It reveals that he had already given assurances that Britain would join action — months before the “dodgy dossier” about Iraq’s non-existent chemical weapons.

Mr Powell wrote: “Blair knows he may have to pay a political price for supporting us on Iraq and wants to minimise it.

“Nonetheless he will stick with us on the big issues.”

A spokesman for Mr Blair claimed the memo’s content was consistent with what he had said publicly before.

But Stop the War Coalition convener Lindsay German told the Star: “I think it’s another reason why he should be sent to the Hague as a war criminal.

“I think it’s absolutely disgraceful. He did this without recourse to the British Parliament or his own party.”

The Mail on Sunday called for the Chilcot inquiry to be reopened in light of the revelations.

Ms German said though that the inquiry, launched in 2009, had already “spent years not producing a report.”

She said: “The real thing is that he should be referred to the court in the Hague and let’s see what the evidence is against him.

“I think any honest assessment will show that there’s a lot of evidence for him to be tried as a war criminal.”

Colin Powell’s Iraq war document shows Tony Blair lied

This video about Britain says about itself:

18 November 2013

Are the US and UK blocking publication of the Iraq Inquiry report because it includes documents that prove the secret conspiracy between George Bush and Tony Blair to wage an illegal war? Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War Coalition, says there’s something very suspicious going on.

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Tony Blair made deal with George Bush over military action in Iraq a year before the war, leaked emails suggest

‘On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary’

Samuel Osborne

Tony Blair said he would support the US if military action was needed in Iraq, the then-US Secretary of State claimed in a memo written a year before the war began.

The dossier, written on 28 March 2002 by former US Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W Bush, 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.”

The document was obtained by The Mail on Sunday as part of a batch of emails on the private server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, which US courts forced her to reveal. It was written a week before Mr Blair‘s meeting with Mr Bush at his Crawford ranch in Texas. …

Mr Blair, who served as prime minister between 1997 and 2007, has repeatedly denied rushing to war in Iraq.

During his appearance before the Chilcot inquiry in January 2010, he denied he had struck a secret deal with Mr Bush at Crawford to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Mr Blair said the two men had agreed on the need to confront the Iraqi dictator, but insisted they did not get into “specifics”.

“The position was not a covert position, it was an open position,” he said.

“This isn’t about a lie or a conspiracy or a deceit or a deception. It’s a decision.

“What I was saying… was ‘We are going to be with you in confronting and dealing with this threat’.”

There is no doubt about it: Tony Blair was on the warpath from early 2002. Colin Powell’s memo confirms what is broadly known, but will add to pressure on Chilcot inquiry to clear up controversy over PM in run-up to invasion of Iraq: here.

Iraq war: Chilcot under pressure to report after leaked Blair-Bush Iraq memo. Note from US secretary of state Colin Powell to president appears to challenge Blair’s assertion that he was not proposing military action in early 2002: here.

Finnish neo-fascist violence against Iraq war refugees

This video says about itself:

Finland: Refugee bus attacked while entering Lahti reception centre

25 September 2015

Up to 40 Finnish nationalists threw stones and other missiles at a bus carrying refugees outside a reception centre in the town of Lahti, Friday. The demonstrators – one reportedly dressed up as a Ku Klux Klan member –hurled stones and let off fireworks toward the bus, which was carrying up to 40 asylum seekers, including at least several young children.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

Nationalist Finnish protesters throw stones at bus carrying refugees

Government criticises group of between 30-40 demonstrators, including one in KKK costume, who targeted bus carrying asylum seekers from Iraq

Friday 25 September 2015 11.40 BST

Finland’s government has condemned hardline nationalists who threw stones and launched fireworks at a bus of asylum seekers arriving at a reception centre in the southern town of Lahti.

Between 30 and 40 demonstrators – one wearing a Ku Klux Klan-style white robe – waved the Finnish flag and shouted abuse at the bus.

Some demonstrators hurled stones and let off fireworks at the vehicle carrying 40 asylum seekers, including several young children, Finnish television YLE said.

A petrol bomb was thrown at another reception centre in Kouvola, also in southern Finland, police said. No one was thought to be hurt in the incidents.

“The Finnish government strongly condemns last night’s racist protests against asylum seekers who had entered the country,” the government said in a statement. “Violence or the threat of violence is always to be condemned.“

The prime minister, Juha Sipila, this month offered to take in refugees at his home, a move that attracted international attention but also criticism in Finland. …

So far this year more than 13,000 asylum seekers, most of them from Iraq, have come to Finland, compared to just 3,600 in the whole of last year. In recent days, about 500 refugees per day have crossed the Finnish land border in Tornio, near the Arctic Circle, after a long journey through Sweden.

A man dressed as a member of the US-based white supremacist group, the Ku Klux Klan, waves a Finnish flag (Twitter/@syndicalisms)

Anger after Iraqi refugees arriving in Finland pelted with fireworks, stones. A counter-demonstration is planned to welcome refugees to the small town of Lahti, as police consider bringing further charges: here.

No to refugees, yes to refugee-causing wars, British government says

This video says about itself:

Iraqi refugees mark six years of war in poverty – 21 March 2009

Six years on from the Iraq war millions of its citizens are marking the anniversary as refugees in another country.

There are around 700 thousand Iraqi refugees in Jordan. Most are poor and destitute as they do not have the right to work. Even if the security situation is improving in Iraq they can not afford to go home.

Al Jazeera’s Nisreen El Shamayleh reports on what life is like for some of them.

By Luke James in Britain:

David Cameron: only military can solve humanitarian crisis

Thursday 10th September 2015

DAVID CAMERON claimed yesterday that Britain must use “hard military force” to solve the escalating humanitarian crisis in the Middle East.

The Tory Prime Minister’s chest-beating suggests that a second vote seeking Parliament’s permission to bomb Syria is imminent — he lost the first in 2013.

His comments at Prime Minister’s questions (PMQs) come just two days after he revealed that he had authorised a drone strike in Syria that killed two British jihadists.

Plaid Cymru MP Jonathan Edwards warned: “This reckless rhetoric should sound alarm bells for all those committed to ending, not intensifying, this brutal conflict.”

In her final PMQs as acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman used all six of her questions to ask about the government’s meagre response to the refugee crisis.

Mr Cameron said: “We can do all we can as a moral, humanitarian nation by taking people and spending money on aid and helping in refugee camps.”

But he added: “Assad has to go, Isil (an acronym for Islamic State) has to go.

“And some of that will require not just spending money, not just aid, not just diplomacy, but it will on occasion require hard military force.”

However, opposition parties united later to table a motion demanding that the government do more to “provide sanctuary to our fellow human beings.”

It called on the Prime Minister to increase the number of refugees Britain will take from 20,000, including refugees already in Europe.

“Considering that the refugee crisis we are witnessing is a direct result of military action in the Middle East by Western governments, further action will only heighten human misery in the region,” Mr Edwards added.

During PMQs, Green MP Caroline Lucas raised the role of British arms sales in creating instability in the region.

Speaking as the world’s biggest annual arms fair began in London, Ms Lucas asked: “Is it not time for the government to recognise the link between arms sales and the terrible tragedy that we see unfolding around us?”