Learn lessons and hold Blair to account

Caroline Lucas MP

After 7 years and £10m spent, the findings of the Chilcot needed to lead to serious action, but none has been forthcoming.

The Chilcot report confirmed Tony Blair lied to the public, Parliament and his own Cabinet in order to drag us into the Iraq war. Privately, he said he would support George Bush ‘whatever’ eight months before the war – everyone else was told war could be avoided. Thousands of lives were lost because he put that promise before all the evidence in front of him.

Yet – despite the damning evidence against him contained in the Inquiry’s report – no action has been taken against the Former Prime Minister.

Tony Blair also went on to repeat a deliberate misrepresentation of the French position, both at Prime Minister’s questions on 12 March and in his key parliamentary statement on 18 March—he even included it in the war motion before the House.

In short, the French position was for more time for the weapons inspectors, but with war as an explicit possibility.

The former Prime Minister kept taking out of context phrases from an interview by President Chirac given on 10 March, saying that they showed that France would veto a resolution in any circumstances. That was clearly not true, and Chilcot shows that. The French kept correcting Blair, but Blair instructed Jack Straw, in Chilcot’s words, to “concede nothing”. Clearly that was because he needed to continue the misrepresentation of France to provide cover for his failure to get UN support for the war.

The Chilcot report shows how the French position had deliberately mischaracterized. According to Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair was clear on 15 March that the French position was flexible: he wrote that Blair “was ‘clear now what the French would try – yes to the tests, even to the possibility of military action, but they would push for a later date’” (quoted in The Chilcot Report, volume 3, p.505).

Blair however deliberately sought to undermine negotiations, by instructing the Foreign Secretary to be inflexible. He knew that it was inaccurate to say that France was rejecting the British-proposed ‘six tests’, and that there were no ‘final efforts to secure agreement’ on 17 March, because a final decision had already been taken by that point. On this key aspect of the debate of 18 March, which resulted in a vote to support military action, Mr Blair was directly and unambiguously misleading the House of Commons.

Chilcot also confirmed that Tony Blair had indeed decided to back the Iraq war far earlier than he has previously admitted. His claim that it was a war solely to eradicate WMDs was always deeply questionable and is now officially in tatters. Tony Blair knew he would never have garnered enough support for regime change – so he lied to Parliament and the Public to invade Iraq.

The consequences of the Iraq war are horrific, run deep, and are difficult to even begin to quantify. We know that many thousands of civilians are dead and hundreds of British troops were killed and injured. And today, civil wars are raging across the Middle East.

We need to learn lessons from the Iraq disaster. That’s why I’m working with MPs from across the political divide in calling on the on the Public Administration Select Committee of the House to further examine the lack of any process of accountability following the damning evidence presented by the Chilcot report. We were taken to war in a duplicitous way, and our political system must match that knowledge with a process that holds those responsible to account.


26 comments to this article

  1. Peter Beswick

    on November 28, 2016 at 9:29 pm -

    “We need to learn lessons from the Iraq disaster. That’s why I’m working with MPs from across the political divide in calling on the on the Public Administration Select Committee of the House to further examine the lack of any process of accountability following the damning evidence presented by the Chilcot report. We were taken to war in a duplicitous way, and our political system must match that knowledge with a process that holds those responsible to account.”

    Yes you do, and until you do we have what we have.

    A thoroughly corrupt Parliament

    Well done for sticking your neck out though. Only 649 to go.

  2. Peter Beswick

    on November 29, 2016 at 11:23 am -

    And this is another example of why Parliament is not fit to investigate the matter and why it is down to finding a route to the Courts to obtain Justice.

    Parliamentarians caused the problem in the first place and when they realised what a disaster it was turning out to be, they did nothing. And kept doing nothing.

    And when eventually the call for an inquiry was listened to they rigged it. And then turned up to the inquiry and lied. And have kept doing so.

    They get elected because they are the least worst choice or the electors don’t turn up because there is no one standing that will look out for the best interest and wishes of the constituency.

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/28/labour-mps-to-vote-against-investigating-tony-blair-over-iraq-war

  3. Peter Beswick

    on November 29, 2016 at 11:53 am -

    It strikes me that politicians and civil servants don’t see lying by omission as a lie.

    MP’s at time of the vote were not told the full picture, as it was known then.

    Cabinet Ministers had key information withheld.

    Critical information was withheld from the Chilcot report.

    Chilcot absolved Blair by saying he did not deliberately lie. Apparently this is distinct in Westminster circles from deliberately not telling the truth.

  4. Peter Beswick

    on November 29, 2016 at 12:53 pm -

    Blairs 1997 Ministerial Code

    http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20130128101412/http:/www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/media/cabinetoffice/propriety_and_ethics/assets/ministerial_code_1997.pdf

    I.5 c
    it is of paramount importance that Ministers give accurate and truthful information to Parliament, correcting any inadvertent error at the earliest opportunity. Ministers who knowingly mislead Parliament will be expected to offer their resignaion to the Prime Minister;

    Does anyone know if / when / where the official record was corrected particularly to false claims made by Blair in his Sept 24 2002 (45 minutes) and March 18 2003 speeches to Parliament?

  5. Peter Beswick

    on November 29, 2016 at 12:56 pm -

    http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/written_answers/2003/sep/15/ministerial-code-of-conduct

    Ministerial Code of Conduct
    HC Deb 15 September 2003 vol 410 c521W

    Norman Baker

    To ask the Prime Minister what procedure is in place to handle complaints about the failure of a Prime Minister to adhere to the Ministerial Code of Conduct. [129258]

    The Prime Minister

    It is for individual Ministers—including the Prime Minister—to account to Parliament for their actions and decisions.

  6. Peter Beswick

    on November 29, 2016 at 5:50 pm -

    Interesting in the sense that the Whip system determines the outcome before anyone opens their mouth.

  7. BobM

    on November 29, 2016 at 8:56 pm -

    BTW

    What is the source of the [rather fine] Caroline Lucas statement that precedes/prompts this discussion?

  8. Lee

    on November 30, 2016 at 2:36 am -

    Dear God, is there any way that You would be willing to consider striking out of existence the words “lessons learned” ? You know, in Your wisdom that this is not the name of the game. “Lessons learned” is a pretense, probably equally by both sides of the battle, and I am sure I am not the only person who is being driven to distraction by the disingenuous repetition of this inept and inappropriate phrase. This situation has nothing whatsoever to do with “lessons learned”. Please ……

  9. Peter Beswick

    on November 30, 2016 at 10:51 am -

    ““Lessons learned” is a pretense, probably equally by both sides of the battle”

    Depends on your view.

    Chilcot was never about government(s) learning lessons from Iraq. The idea that Chilcot had to teach these lessons to government after the public had worked them out for ourselves is daft.

    It wasn’t just daft that Cameron, uneducated by Chilcot, ordered British Forces into action in Libya and Syria that was wicked. Does anyone think that those conflicts could have been avoided (by Britain) if Chilcot had been less tardy and informed Cameron of the errors of his ways.

    On my side of the battle very useful lessons have been learned by the public, I was in the company of a minority holding the firm view that politicians and civil servants had degenerated into a rabble of self serving, hypocritical lying, scumbags.

    Iraq, Libya, Syria and Chilcot have now taught that lesson to many millions of more people, not just in this country but around the world.

    We are all now better informed about what we are voting for at the next election and what we are likely to get if we don’t vote. That was a lesson worth learning but not at the expense of hundreds of thousands of deaths, mutilations, mental illness, parents having their children incinerated in front of them, children from loving homes now orphans, a Middle East being torn apart by a perpetual war and Europe crumbling from those shock waves.

    The price of the lessons have been astronomically barbaric but sadly far too few Politicians or Civil Servants have learnt those lessons.

    Those are the lessons that Chilcot taught albeit inadvertently , British Party Politics have failed not just Britain but the world. The Ministerial & Civil Service Codes now count as much as the law in our Parliament, diddly squat!

  10. Peter Beswick

    on November 30, 2016 at 11:11 am -

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/30/labour-split-expected-motion-tony-blair-role-iraq-war

    As has been pointed out here often;

    Blair did not act alone but he did lead the enterprise

    Blair misled Parliament, the official record has never been corrected.

    Checks and Balances that were in place to protect Parliament from such mendacity were ignored

    Parliament has had 13 years to put its houses in order, they continue to resist.

    There are now 2 distinct issues that need righting

    1) Blair and the main influencers need to be dealt with by the courts

    2) Parliament is no longer fit for purpose

  11. Lee

    on November 30, 2016 at 4:07 pm -

    I agree, Peter, that our perceptions about the almost infinite grubbiness of politicians, the civil service and the media have been honed. But its rather strange to call those “lessons learned”. The phrase is a hypocritical form of piety in its Chilcotian sense, where the learning was to be done by government, parliament and the civil service.

    It is particularly offensive because it proposes the rather odd notion that these people are receptive to lessons. If you want to use the phrase at all, then the main lesson learned from Chilcot is that the institutions responsible for permitting Blair’s war crimes, are not in the business of learning lessons. But maybe, if there is a photo-op, they may just pretend, and you, in turn, need to be fooled.

  12. Lee

    on November 30, 2016 at 4:14 pm -

    Or perhaps there is lesson learning going on in terms of “how not to be caught”, “how to tell better lies”, and “how to choose the right moment to stab your colleague in the back” (something on which Gove set a record for missing the mark by a few astronomical light years)

  13. Chris Lamb

    on November 30, 2016 at 7:56 pm -

    Following the defeat of the SNP motion to hold a further parliamentary enquiry into making Blair accountable for deliberately misleading Parliament over the 2003 Iraq invasion;-

    https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/nov/30/labour-mps-accuse-snp-of-opportunism-over-tony-blair-motion

    there is now only one Parliamentary exercise left concerning the Chilcot Inquiry and Report. This is a report to be delivered by the HoC Public Administration Committee making recommendations from the ‘lessons’ contained in Chilcot’s Report.

    The defeat of the SNP motion was utterly predictable. Tarnished by their support of, and votes for, the invasion, the two major Westminster parties have no appetite for raking over the issue of accountability again, having considered it disposed of by CHilcot’s Report. The new face of Labour under Corbyn made no difference. Corbyn’s leadership made today’s vote a one line whip so MPs needn’t attend to vote. Corbyn didn’t have the stomach to attend. McDonnell was also conspicuous by his invisibility in the debate.

    Clearly, the nasty mess around Blair has to be buried to allow these parties to engage successfully again in Westminster power politics, to seek their prey among voters. That is all that matters after all, isn’t it.

    We- the Digest- have been going for seven years now. As a purely voluntary effort, that is a formidable feat in itself. We have been at the centre of national debate, offering both an alternative source of serious analysis and set of views to Chilcot. We have also reached outwards by achieving significant disclosures of official information (which have, for example, advanced academic research into the ‘dodgy’ WMD dossier; inspired and informed Parliamentary Questions on the appointment of the Iraq Secretary, Margaret Aldred, and influenced Parliamentary Motions and Debates, such as today’s on the issue of whether making those responsible accountable had been ‘designed out’ of the Chilcot Inquiry).

    I wonder, for the time that the Digest has left, whether a more constructive path might be to celebrate and leave a record of what the Digest, as an exercise in online and popular democracy, has achieved for posterity. It would be a shame if our efforts became invisible when the Digest draws to a close.

    In complete honesty, I don’t know that further attempts at achieving a satisfactory outcome from the Chilcot Report will not be the equivalent of chasing a willow the wisp.

    My thoughts are that drawing down now; inviting a retrospective assessment of what we have achieved over these seven years and looking to leave a record (which would be an alternative to the Chilcot Report), before the Digest comes to an end would be the best strategy to pursue.

    What do other contributors- and Chris as the editor- think?

    Perhaps an academic article or book?

  14. BobM

    on November 30, 2016 at 8:15 pm -

    My problem, Chris, is that there were 439 votes against the motion.
    This means, I think, that a large number of Labour members turned up and voted against the motion. [Is this right?]

    I would like to know:
    -who they were
    –why, exactly, they voted the motion down.

    Their gravestones will reflect their decision;
    “I exonerated Bliar Blair”

    Let’s have the list, Conservatives and all.

  15. BobM

    on November 30, 2016 at 8:22 pm -

    Apologies, Chris;

    I am not asking you to list these people.

    I am working on it!

  16. Peter Beswick

    on November 30, 2016 at 8:46 pm -

    Con noes 271

    Lab noes 158

    Ergo Con MP’s don’t want Cameron to got to jail either

  17. BobM

    on November 30, 2016 at 9:17 pm -

    Many thanks, Peter.

    I would like to ask all the members to explain their vote.

    Is there a short-cut way to do this?

  18. Peter Beswick

    on November 30, 2016 at 9:33 pm -

    No

  19. Peter Beswick

    on November 30, 2016 at 9:35 pm -

    And if you were given an answer, would you believe it?

  20. John Bone

    on December 1, 2016 at 7:05 pm -

    “I would like to ask all the members to explain their vote. Is there a short-cut way to do this?”

    Buy 439 envelopes and 439 stamps. Print out a letter 439 times, write name of an MP at start of each letter and sign each one. Put each letter in an envelope and post.

    Later …… try to make sense of the replies.

    “Ergo – Con MP’s don’t want Cameron to got to jail either”

    There is something in that. I see that the Government is still claiming that the “intervention” in Libya saved lives (which is only true if you ignore the fact that it created a failed state and that the lack of a functioning state kills people).

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/nov/25/british-government-intervention-libya-saved-lives

    There is a bipartisan consensus in starting overseas conflicts and claiming that the consequences are somebody else’s fault.

  21. John Bone

    on December 1, 2016 at 7:25 pm -

    “What do other contributors – and Chris as the editor- think?”

    After the HoC Public Administration Committee makes recommendations from the ‘lessons’ contained in Chilcot’s Report, a natural break will have been arrived at. It will be time for an assessment of what has been learnt from Chilcot and what has been learnt from the process of watching Chilcot.

  22. Lee

    on December 2, 2016 at 12:32 am -

    “Clearly, the nasty mess around Blair has to be buried to allow these parties to engage successfully again in Westminster power politics, to seek their prey among voters. That is all that matters after all, isn’t it.”

    A perfect summation by Chris. We know Blair lied. The facts tell us that. Parliament knows too. But they stand with Blair. That is all that has to be said. The rot is complete.

    I agree with Chris that we are reaching the end of productive debate. We have learned that self-enriching imperialism, using all the lies and deceits in the book, is the trajectory of the British establishment. The very notion of “lessons learned” in that climate is absurd. How Chilcot feels about this outcome we probably wont know. He was a loyal servant, and paved the way for this parliamentary vote. Now that we have seen the aftermath played out, is the phrase “white-wash” so inappropriate ?

    Battles arent won on the basis of truth, morality, and principles. Battles are won because of power. If there is a god, which I sincerely doubt, he has no concern about the naked use of power to win immoral and execrable causes.

    Some will want to be part of the majority, and will finesse their views about Blair. They have the majority of the Labour Party as wonderful role models.

    I recognise the defeat, and will not be destroyed by it, because I have never believed the world is guided in any way by moral principles. Greed reigns supreme and will ultimately prevail, as well as destroying the species. The parliamentary vote was a perfect snapshot of what that is all about.

    Anyone still think there are “lessons to be learned” ??? I do believe it is all over. But I will stay here as long as the digest continues to operate.