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Tony Blair's obfuscation
on Iraq war



Jonathan Power
TFF Associate since 1991

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February 3, 2010

Britain's official public enquiry into why the UK joined the U.S. in going to war against Saddam Hussein's Iraq grinds on with the interrogation last week of the former prime minister, Tony Blair. But whether it grinds small enough is the question. Last week, sporting his usual sharp advocate's brain and bottomless charm, he seemed to walk out of the hearing's doors with his head held high. He conceded very little to his critics.

Yes, he did more or less admit that he'd given the then U.S. president, George Bush, a blank check to invade Iraq, long before the U.S. set about trying to convince the world with "irrefutable evidence" that Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction (including a nuclear weapon). But all British prime ministers as long as one can remember have done such. Total support of America in matters of national security is considered to be a fundamental and immoveable pillar of British foreign policy.

Yes, Blair did shift his ground in saying, contrary to a previous TV interview, that he would not have thought it right to remove Saddam Hussein even had he known there were no weapons of mass destruction inside Iraq.

However, he did reiterate what he has said many times - that 9/11's terrorist attack on New York "changed dramatically" the U.S. and UK view of Saddam Hussein. But now as then there was no attempt to argue, much less offer any proof, that there was a link between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. It was simply stated. The lie was simply left to hang in the air. Blair's argument about 9/11 is totally specious.

The big question remains so far unanswered, although one hopes that with the enquiry's future interviewing of senior diplomats and law officers, a number of whom have already publically refuted the need for the war, clarification will be forthcoming. Did Blair lie over the reason for going to war with Iraq - the supposed stockpile of weapons of mass destruction that Iraq possessed?

It depends how you define lie. If you define lie as saying this cat is black when in fact it's white, he didn't on the big issues. But what he did do was to give the impression the cat was assuredly white when in fact it was a sort of grayish black. His intelligence services did seem to have some of the goods on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, even though later, weeks before the U.S. and the U.S. went to war, Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons' inspector, concluded that Western intelligence services were probably wrong.

In one memorable statement Blix said that just because a man hangs out on his gate a sign that says, "Beware of the dog", doesn't mean he has a dog.

But as previous independent reports made by a distinguished judge and former high civil servant have made clear the caveats were left out in Blair's public announcements and the presentation was polished to the point of serious distortion. We in the public didn't have the pre-polished version, but Blair did and he must have known in his mind, if not his heart, he was taking a gamble with the evidence. That he wasn't prepared to persuade George Bush to wait a few more weeks until the evidence that Hans Blix was in the midst of collecting on the ground inside Iraq was available was totally irresponsible.

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Sanctions had Saddam boxed in. He was able to harm no one outside his country. The earlier UN policing, following the 1991 war had led to ridding Iraq of all the potential weapons of mass destruction. The war itself had effectively wiped out his air force and navy and broken the back of his army.

Yet on this the word "lie" cannot quite be used, although the opposition conservatives earlier termed it so. But in a related matter it can. It concerns the controversy over the naming of the Ministry of Defense's weapons' expert, David Kelly, who shortly after he was ousted in the press as the source of reports claiming the government's public dossier on Iraq's weapons had been "sexed up", committed suicide.

Although an inquiry exonerated Blair of any blame for precipitating the suicide, a BBC interview caught Blair out lying in a way we could all understand. He told the interviewer, "I don't believe we had any option, however, but to disclose his name [to the press]."

Until that interview Blair had always maintained that it was "completely untrue" that the government had done this. Such is the man. And such was his unnecessary, immoral and illegal war. To demand that he be tried for crimes against humanity is assuredly right.


Copyright © 2010 Jonathan Power


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Jonathan Power 2007 Book
Conundrums of Humanity
The Quest for Global Justice

“Conundrums of Humanity” poses eleven questions for our future progress, ranging from “Can we diminish War?” to “How far and fast can we push forward the frontiers of Human Rights?” to “Will China dominate the century?”
The answers to these questions, the author believes, growing out of his long experience as a foreign correspondent and columnist for the International Herald Tribune, are largely positive ones, despite the hurdles yet to be overcome. Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, London, 2007.

William Pfaff, September 17, 2007
Jonathan Power's book "Conundrums" - A Review
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Follow this link to read about - and order - Jonathan Power's book written for the 40th Anniversary of Amnesty International



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