Blair’s last stand on the moral high ground

by Chris Ames

The question of whether Tony Blair lied about the intelligence around Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction is one that usually generates more heat than light, with most people believing almost instinctively that he did lie and his defenders, like John Rentoul, taking a different kind of moral high ground and claiming a moral superiority over them.

Both Rentoul and Blair have set their bottom line at rebutting claims of deception, as illustrated by Blair’s interview with Newsnight’s Kirsty Wark, broadcast last night, the transcript of which Rentoul has helpfully posted online. The key section for me is this one:

Kirsty: The only way that you could invade Iraq was if you were absolutely certain, the only legal basis, was certain that he had WMDs – not an intention.
Blair: Yes. No. Exactly and that’s why I say to people, because you know, how many times have we been over this argument, if people want to see the intelligence we relied on the simplest thing, frankly, is that they read the joint intelligence committee reports that are now freely and publicly available.

Blair: “As I say if you are in any doubt, if your, your problem is a is a deceit problem look at the Joint Intelligence Committee reports.

It is, indeed, very easy to take up Blair’s challenge and check whether “the intelligence we relied on” said that it was “absolutely certain” that Iraq had WMD. Look up for example the JIC report that was given to Blair in September 2002, two weeks before he wrote in his notorious dossier that it was “established beyond doubt” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be launched within 45 minutes. It’s published in full as a pdf on the Iraq Inquiry website:

Intelligence remains limited… Most of this paper is paper is necessarily based on judgement and assessment.


MP asks for Iraq War debate

by Chris Ames

The Keighley News reports that:

Keighley’s MP [Kris Hopkins] has called for a full parliamentary debate on the circumstances leading up to the Iraq war that began nearly a decade ago.


Addressing leader of the house Andrew Lansley, Mr Hopkins asked: “Will you facilitate a debate on this important issue?”

Responding, Mr Lansley said he believed the anniversary was a time to commemorate and remember the loss of life.

He added that in the government’s view, the Chilcot Inquiry – set up in 2009 to examine the UK’s role in the Iraq war – would enable MPs to consider the lessons that needed to be learned.

Here is the Hansard transcript


How the Bush administration sold the war

by Chris Ames

Today on Comment is Free’s Iraq war: 10 years on strand there is an article co-authored by and entitled, How the Bush administration sold the war – and we bought it.

Joe Wilson is the former US diplomat who was asked by the CIA to investigate the claims that Iraq had sought Uranium from Niger and found nothing in them. When he went public with this, the Bush administration outed his wife Valerie Plame Wilson as a CIA official, allegedly as an act of revenge, or to discredit him.

Can the BBC shed any more light on Iraq?

by Chris Ames

The BBC’s two main current affairs programmes are both due to screen programmes marking the 10th anniversary of the invasion, starting with Newsnight on Tuesday night with “Iraq: 10 Years on”. It isn’t clear what new light the programme can throw on the issue. From the trailer it doesn’t look as if there will be much. The trailer I have seen features Tony Blair telling us that whether people agree with him or not about what he did, he wants us to understand what a complex decision it was.

Just as well he didn’t tell George Bush eight months before the invasion: “You know, George, whatever you decide to do, I’m with you.”

Meanwhile, the Independent reported last week that:

The BBC will revisit one of the greatest crises in its history when it broadcasts a controversial new Panorama investigation which promises to reveal fresh information about the intelligence deployed by the Blair Government to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Peter Taylor, the award-winning investigative reporter, is working on the investigation to mark the 10th anniversary of the Iraq conflict next month, The Independent has learnt.

Taylor, renowned for his sources within the security services, is expected to reveal new information about claims, which turned out to be false, that Saddam Hussein’s regime was actively pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The episode will look ahead to the publication of the Chilcot report into the conflict. It is due to air on BBC1 on 18 March, two days before the anniversary […]

That there is new information to be revealed at this point says a lot about the Iraq Inquiry.

Learning the lessons without Chilcot

By Chris Ames

It is, to say the least, unfortunate that the tenth anniversary of the invasion will come and go without a report from the Inquiry and of course reflections have already begun ten years on from the biggest of the anti-war marches. The Inquiry website currently features a list of excuses as to why the report remains some way off, including:

When he announced in the House of Commons the setting-up of the Inquiry, Gordon Brown said, “It’s scope is unprecedented.”

There is some explanation of what is actually happening, including a statement that proposing thousands of documents for “declassification” is already under way, even if that does not mean the government’s consideration of such proposals is actually proceeding.

In the meantime, former Liberal Democrat leader Menzies Campbell has written a piece in today’s Independent (on Sunday) asking “Have the lessons of Iraq really been learnt?” His summary of the effect of the war is:

We lost moral authority as a result of our engagement in Iraq and shed a great deal of blood. Coupled with our commitment to Afghanistan, where these costs have been even greater, the appetite of the British public for foreign engagements is dulled. In times of domestic austerity, it is tempting to look abroad for an assertion of our continued relevance. But Iraq changed the political imperative. No PM could now venture to go to war without the endorsement of a vote in the Commons, as British involvement in Libya showed. To obtain such support, the cause must be just, legal and winnable.


Ten years on – War, Lies and Video

by Andrew Mason

From Point du Jour International – coming shortly (currently in production, available at the end of February).

The trailer:

The promotional description:

On the occasion the 10th anniversary of the start of the War in Iraq.

Ten years after the start of a war that left between 100 000 and 250 000 dead and which destabilised the region for long years to come, the world is better-informed about the details of the formidable machinations of the American administration to politically, legally and morally legitimise a war that – without this window-dressing – increasingly appears to have been a war of aggression.

Ten years on – the reflection begins

by Andrew Mason

As we now approach the tenth anniversary of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq it appears that there is likely to be some significant re-examination of some of the supposedly “solid” evidence that became the major casus belli for this now recognisably illicit military intervention – namely that Iraq remained in possession of significant quantities of weapons of mass destruction and was still actively deceiving the authority of the United Nations.

Today is the exact anniversary of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s now largely-discredited speech given in a plenary session at the UN headquarters building in New York. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern – who personally and professionally knew Powell – has written about the question of Powell’s role in his deceptive presentation at Counterpunch:

They should be asked this under oath in a formal inquiry into the Iraq War, a process that the United States has not undertaken even though its ally, the United Kingdom, at least asked some official questions (though little more) into how the disaster unfolded. Presumably, if such an inquiry were ever held in the United States, the participants – the links in the chain – would simply point to the interlocking others on either side.

Noted blogger Jon Schwarz has today similarly written about Powell’s fabricated case for war at his own site, A Tiny Revolution:

Unfortunately, Congress never investigated Powell’s use of the intelligence he was given, so we don’t know many of the specifics. Even so, what got into the public record in other ways is extremely damning. So while the corporate media has never taken a close look at this record, we can go through Powell’s presentation line by line to demonstrate the chasm between what he knew, and what he told the world. As you’ll see, there’s quite a lot to say about it…