Socialist Worker

Chilcot report destroys Blair's case for war

Issue No. 2511

Protesters on 15 February 2003

Protesters on 15 February 2003 (Pic: Ray Smith)


Trade unionists were always a key part of the anti-war movement against Blairs wars - they were out in force on the huge march in Manchester in 2006 outside the Labour Party conference telling Blair Time To Go

Trade unionists were always a key part of the movement against Blair's wars - they were out in force on the huge march in Manchester in 2006 outside the Labour Party conference telling him "Time To Go" (Pic: Ray Smith)


6.54pm: Conclusion: another blow against our rulers

The Chilcot report into the Iraq war has directly contradicted the version of events that most of Britain’s political leaders have tried to hold on to for 13 years. It should never again be possible to cling to the case put forward by Tony Blair and his acolytes.

Blair’s wrote to US president George Bush eight months before the Iraq invasion to offer his unqualified backing for war, well before UN weapons inspectors had completed their work, saying: “I will be with you, whatever.”

Blair’s nauseating insistence that he was well-meaning and acting honestly was attacked today by Reg Keys, whose son Tom died in Iraq.

He said Blair was a “consummate actor” and had been found guilty by Chilcot.

Chilcot’s report is far from a total reckoning. It stops well short of calling for Blair, then foreign secretary Jack Straw and Bush to face the consequences of their murderous behaviour.

It does not say directly that Blair lied—although he did.

But it shows clearly that Blair rushed to a disastrous, and possibly illegal, war.

Coming after the Leave vote, the serial resignations of political leaders and the turmoil in the government, this is another blow against our rulers.

It is time to step up the fight on every front—against imperialist war, racism and austerity.

5.29pm: Corbyn apologises that Labour launched war

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised that the Labour Party launched the Iraq war.

Corbyn, who campaigned and voted against the war, has just held a press conference where relatives of Iraqis killed during the war, and relatives of British military personnel killed in the war, were present.

He praised those who protested against the war and in particular those who marched against it on 15 February 2003.

He then said, “I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003.

“That apology is owed first of all to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the country is still living with the devastating consequences of the war and the forces it unleashed.

“They have paid the greatest price for the most serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years.

“The apology is also owed to the families of those soldiers who died in Iraq or who have returned home injured or incapacitated.

“Finally, it is an apology to the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret ‘I will be with you, whatever’ understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed.”

He said the “dodgy dossier” of lies that had been used as supposed justification for the war was “only the most notorious of the deceptions”.

Sami Ramadani, an Iraqi exile, said, "It was a brilliant contribution by Jeremy. He apologised on behalf of the Labour Party, though he himself has nothing to apologise for. I'm glad he mentioned the action of Iraqi people against Saddam.

"Jeremy himself joined our protests against the regime outside the Iraqi embassy in the 1980s. This was a very moving moment. I was very emotional when he talked about the catastrophic impact the war had on Iraq."

Judith Orr, a Stop the War Coalition officer and SWP member, said, "It was very powerful to sit alongside bereaved relatives, both Iraqi and British, and hear the Labour leader apologise for the Iraq war. The millions who marched and protested are vindicated by Chilcot today. But now we need to see Tony Blair behind bars."

Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German said, "I'm very pleased with the apology. Obviously as Stop the War we will be pursuing what will happen with Blair.

"Will he be driven from public life? Will he be prosecuted? There is a big political crisis at the moment. This is an opportunity to open the question of building a much more democratic form of politics."


5pm: Will Tony Blair face prosecution for his crimes? 

A number of figures have called for Tony Blair to face prosecution for the war, including protesters, military families and senior politicians from several parties.

Protesters held a banner outside Blair’s house this morning saying “Blair must face war crimes trial”.

Labour’s shadow leader of the House of Commons Paul Flynn said today that there should be “serious consideration” of prosecutions.

Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Alex Salmond and Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams have both called for “political or legal consequences”. Green MEP Molly Scott Cato said, “I would like to hear his apology to the nation from the dock.”

Military families this morning said they “reserve the right” to launch prosecutions after going through the report at length (see below, 12.40).

And Socialist Worker’s front page calls for Blair to be jailed—a demand that has been on countless placards throughout years of anti-war protests.

So, could this happen?

Jurisdiction

The International Crown Court (ICC) in The Hague, the Netherlands, has jurisdiction for war crimes prosecutions under international law.

Invasions of sovereign states without backing from the United Nations (UN) violate international law.

This crime of “aggression” is very limited. It excludes any wars the imperialists on the UN security council agree on, and actions carried out by regimes and their allies against their own people.

Chilcot doesn’t express an opinion on whether it applies to the Iraq War.

But aggression doesn’t yet come under the ICC’s jurisdiction, and if that changes it won’t apply retrospectively. So ICC prosecutors make clear they won’t be coming for Blair—though the report could see soldiers prosecuted for other war crimes in Iraq.

Former SAS chief General Michael Rose says bereaved families could prosecute Blair for malfeasance in office. This could come through proving that Blair lied or exceeded his authority.

Salmond calls for parliament to impeach Blair—a procedure last used against Tory politician Lord Melville for misappropriating public funds in 1806.

Unlikely

All it would take is a motion and a vote in parliament. It would bar Blair from public office and in theory could even see him jailed, though this is unlikely.

As former SNP deputy leader Jim Sillars pointed out, parliament could pass an Iraq War Crimes Act allowing Blair to be prosecuted.

If Westminster refuses “given the number of ‘guilty by association MPs”, the Scottish parliament in Holyrood could instead pass such an act into Scots law.

Many establishment figures—even among those who opposed the war—have ridiculed the case for prosecuting Blair.

The fact that the odds are so stacked against getting a man with such blood on his hands behind bars is an indictment of the bourgeois legal system. But such a miscarriage of justice can’t be tolerated.

Just as Hillsborough campaigners have fought for 27 years to hold to account those responsible for the 1989 disaster, the reckoning for the Iraq war must continue.

Chilcot must not be the end of the fight to bring Blair to justice.


3.51pm: War criminal Tony Blair refuses to apologise for waging war on Iraq

Tony Blair gushed this afternoon over the “the hardest, most momentous, most agonising decision I took in ten years as British prime minister”. He went on to justify it at length.

Blair claimed to “express more sorrow, regret and apology than you may ever know or can believe” for “mistakes” and “failures”.

He said he went to war with “the heaviest of hearts”. He claimed to “feel deeply and sincerely—in a way that no words can properly convey – the grief and suffering of those who lost ones they loved in Iraq”.

But he insisted that “what I cannot do and will not do is say we took the wrong decision”.

Blair argued that the world should be “thankful” that regime change took place and made the world “a better place”.

With characteristic arrogance he challenged people to “put yourselves into my shoes as prime minister” trying to respond to the threat of terrorism.

He denied that the war had made that threat worse. He played down the development of Isis in Iraq, saying that before the conflict in Syria the Iraqi regime had been “relatively stable”.

He praised the first part of the war as a “brilliant military success” and said MPs’ vote not to bomb Syria in 2013 was a “fundamental mistake”.

Blair is hated for what he did to Iraq. He seemed to recognise this, lashing out at history’s “addiction to think the worst of everyone”.

But his claim that the Chilcot report “makes clear there were no lies and parliament and cabinet were not misled” is a massive leap.

While not questioning Blair’s “belief” that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, the report is highly critical of how evidence was presented.

Responding to questions Blair implored, “Please stop saying I was lying.” But he was.


3.17pm: Trade unions respond to Chilcot

Trade unions have condemned the Iraq war after the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry today.

The anti-war movement in Britain involved trade unionists in workplaces, and on the streets. Many trade unions were consistently opposed to the invasion and trade union leaders were outspoken about their opposition.

Len McCluskey of the Unite union released a statement about the inquiry. “Chilcot confirms what millions of us knew in 2003 – the case for war had not been made,” he said.

“It was an unnecessary conflict, launched on the basis of flawed intelligence, secret diplomacy and with no sound legal basis.”

“It has cost hundreds of thousands of lives and made both the Middle East and the wider world less secure,” said McCluskey. “It is long past time that those responsible were held to account.”

Unison union general secretary Dave Prentis and president Eric Roberts also condemned the invasion.

“After seven long years, the Chilcot inquiry into the invasion of Iraq has published its report. Unison opposed the invasion,” they said, “believing that it was based on the false premise of Iraq holding weapons of mass destruction.”

The Unison statement goes on to slam the invasion as the cause of “years of instability, civil war and terrorism which continue today, 13 years later. More people died in the years after than during the invasion itself.

“Unison expects that those who took the decision to invade, while failing to adequately plan for the future, should be held accountable for their actions.

“The families of British soldiers and the tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians deserve nothing less than justice.”


2.18pm: Blair attacked anti-war movement

Blair thought the millions who marched against the war were “fatuous”.

The anti-war movement gets a brief mention in the Chilcot report.

It states, “On 15 February, as part of a weekend of worldwide protests against military action in Iraq, a march organised by the Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and the Muslim Association of Britain took place in London. The police described it as the UK’s biggest ever demonstration, estimating that at least 750,000 people took part. The organisers put the figure closer to two million. There were also anti-war gatherings in Glasgow and Belfast.”

But the Chilcot report also reveals Blairs’s contempt for the anti-war movement.

In a secret memo dated 26 March, 2003, sent to US president George Bush, Blair wrote, “They get wholly warped views of the so-called right in American politics, played back through their media; until we end up with fatuous irony of millions of liberal-minded people taking to the streets effectively to defend the most illiberal regime on earth.”

In fact very few of the protesters would ever have defended Saddam Hussein’s regime. But they could see, correctly, that the death and destruction caused by Bush and Blair’s invasion would be catastrophic.


1.50pm: When did Blair agree to regime change in Iraq?

The Chilcot report does not accept that Tony Blair had decided to join the US in invading Iraq as early as the start of 2002. But this appears to be contradicted by some of the evidence in the report.

The report says that at the end of 2001, “based on consistent legal advice, the UK could not share the US objective of regime change”  in Iraq.

Yet the summary itself describes how following a discussion in December 2001 Blair sent a paper to US president George Bush that “suggested a strategy for regime change in Iraq”.

And on 19 December 2001 the then head of MI6 Richard Dearlove passed three papers on Iraq to Blair’s policy adviser David Manning.

One of the papers begins, “At our meeting on 30 November, we discussed how we could combine an objective of regime change in Baghdad with the need to protect important regional interest which would be at grave risk, if a bombing campaign against Iraq were launched in the short term.”

It goes on to describe how “the removal of Saddam remains a prize because it could give new security to oil supplies”.

Full story here


1.20pm: Corbyn says the governing class were wrong, protesters were right

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has responded to the Chilcot report in parliament by saying that it had shown anti-war protesters were right.

Corbyn said that the governing class got it “horrifically wrong”, but that many people “got it right”.

He said that on 15 February 2003 there was “the biggest ever demonstration in British history against the impending war”.

He added that “It wasn’t that those of us who opposed the war underestimated the brutality or the crimes of the Saddam Hussein dictatorship. Indeed many of us campaigned against the regime during its most bloody period, when the British government and the US were actually supporting that regime.

“But we could see it posed no military threat and WMD evidence was flimsy and confected.

“If only this house had been able to listen to the wisdom of many of our own people the course of events might have been different.”

As he spoke, the party’s deputy leader Tom Watson looked on impassively. Watson voted for the war.

While Corbyn spoke, Ian Austin MP heckled him. Austin voted against holding an inquiry into the war three times.

Who should now lead Labour? Jeremy Corbyn, who opposed the war, or Watson or Angela Eagle who supported it?

Protesting this morning outside the Chilcot inquiry

Protesting this morning outside the Chilcot inquiry (Pic: Guy Smallman)


13.10: Which current MPs voted for the Iraq war?

Some 414 MPs voted for the war in Iraq on 18 March 2003 including most of the Labour and Tory benches. Despite three general elections and several deaths and resignations, 139 of them are still serving in parliament—66 Labour and 69 Tory.

These include 58 members of the Labour cabinet and 62 of the Tory front bench that backed the war. Many of them now serve as ministers in David Cameron’s government or lead the attack against Jeremy Corbyn in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

They must be held to account. Click here for the full list.


12.40: Relatives of soldiers killed in Iraq war say they might take legal action

Relatives of soldiers killed in the war said the Chilcot report vindicated their campaigning—and that they could take the warmongers to court.

Rose Gentle whose son Gordon was killed said at a press conference today, “Everything we’ve said from the start has come out today. They thought we’d give up.”

Sarah O’Connor whose brother Bob was killed said, “Governments have got to realise that the people who walk past those houses of power have got voices.”

They slammed Tony Blair. Sarah called him “the world’s worst terrorist”.

Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun was killed, said Blair’s statement that he still believes “it was better to remove Saddam” proves the war was illegal and about regime change.

“Out of his own mouth he condemns himself,” Peter said.

Blair said he would take responsibility for “mistakes”. But Reg Keys, whose son was killed in Iraq, said Blair’s case for war had been a deliberate “lie”.

He said, “I don’t think Mr Blair believed what he was saying. I think he was deliberately misleading.” He added, “He knew that he was manufacturing and massaging the intelligence reports.”

Sarah asked, “If he’s so sure of his decision why doesn’t he come here and look me in the eye?” Rose added, “We asked him to come and he walked away.”

If he had come she would have asked, “Why did you kill my son?” because “I hold him responsible”.

Referring to this week’s bombings in Baghdad, Reg said, “When I look at Iraq on my TV screen today I can only conclude that my son died in vain.”

The families, unlike the people criticised in the report, were not allowed to see it in advance.

As Roger Bacon whose son Matthew was killed, put it, “We have had 180—a minute for each death” to respond.

But after taking the “days if not weeks” needed to digest the report they “reserve the right” to take Blair or others to court.


12.20: Responses to Chilcot condemn Blair

In response to the issue of the Chilcot report, the Stop the War Coalition says, “The Chilcot report is a damning indictment of Tony Blair and those around him in taking us to war in Iraq.

“It is clear that he used lies and deception to get his way, that the war was unnecessary and illegal and that everything was done to ensure it went ahead.

“The victims are the Iraqis, those soldiers who died and were injured, but also the whole political system.

“The anti-war movement and the millions who marched were vindicated by this report and we now demand justice.”

Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War Coalition, said, 'We welcome the fact that this report is so damning but for us this is not the end but the beginning. There must be legal sanctions against Tony Blair and he should no longer be considered fit for any office”.

Green Party MP Caroline Lucas spoke outside the QEII centre as the Chilcot report was published. She said, “Tony Blair lied by setting standards for weapons inspectors he knew they wouldn't be able to meet.

“We are right to say Blair should be held to account. Everything I've seen in the report shows this war was illegal.

“It's shocking the cavalier way Blair treated people's lives.The cabinet was sidelined. Tony Blair took these decisions with a tiny group of people."

Protester Alex Megone told Socialist Worker, “The war has been a disaster. It’s responsible for Isis. People in Iraq can’t live normal lives because of the war.”

Murad Qureshi added, “We need justice for the victims. The intervention was begun and soldiers sent on false pretences.

“Last week's bombing in Baghdad is a sad indictment of the invasion and a reminder of its legacy. Jihadists did not exist before the invasion – but it gave them a physical base in Iraq.

“No Iraqi is grateful for the intervention. They are scathing about it."

PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka said, “We took absolutely no pleasure in being proved right about Iraq a decade ago and we take no pleasure in it now, but those responsible for what was a horrendous crime must be held to account.

“We were lied to, not only about weapons of mass destruction. We were also promised a swift resolution and a commitment to building a safe, secure nation, but instead we’ve seen a country ravaged by years of civil war, sectarian violence and terrorism.”

Kate Hudson, CND general secretary, said, “The report shows that Tony Blair had no respect for cabinet procedure, no respect for Parliament, and no respect for international law.

“A country was destroyed, millions of innocent Iraqis were killed, British soldiers were killed, and terrorism has spread across the Middle East. Chilcot reveals the evidence that must now be used to bring Tony Blair to justice. This is our demand.


12 noon: Chilcot destroys Blair's case

Socialist Worker says the Chilcot report has directly contradicted the version of events leading up to the Iraq war given by former prime minister Tony Blair.

It is far from a total reckoning. It stops far short of calling for Blair, then foreign secretary Jack Straw and US president George Bush to face the consequences of their murderous behaviour.

But it shows clearly that Blair rushed to a disastrous, and possibly illegal, war.

The report has vindicated key elements of the case put forward by anti-war campaigners before the war, during the war and after the war. Chilcot said that military action in Iraq was not necessary in March 2003.

Introducing his report this morning, Wednesday, Sir John Chilcot said military action “was not a last resort” and had been launched "before peaceful options for disarmament were exhausted".

He also said judgements about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction “were presented with a certainty that was not justified” and post-war planning was “wholly inadequate”.

The “dodgy dossier” which was used to justify the war, and inflated and fictional claims about Iraq’s arsenal of weapons, were not true.

Chilcot said, “It is now clear that policy on Iraq was made on the basis of flawed intelligence and assessments. They were not challenged, and they should have been.”

But facts were never crucial. Chilcot found that Blair wrote to Bush on 28 July 2002—eight months before the invasion—and said he would be with him “whatever”.

The inquiry has not expressed a view on whether the invasion was legal, because that issue “could only be resolved by a properly constituted and internationally recognised court”.

But the panel concluded that “the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory”.

Chilcot said the consequences of the invasion were underestimated “despite explicit warnings”. He said, “Mr Blair told the Inquiry that the difficulties encountered in Iraq after the invasion could not have been known in advance. We do not agree that hindsight is required.”

Chilcot concluded that “the UK military role in Iraq ended a very long way from success”. The report said, “UK forces withdrew from Iraq in 2009 in circumstances which did not meet objectives defined in 2003”.

These verdicts—and the full report will uncover others—must mean that Blair faces justice, although there is not yet a process to achieve this.

The war led to around a million Iraqi deaths, displaced millions more and tore apart the country clearing the way for the rise of Isis. Nearly 180 British soldiers lost their lives because of Blair’s decisions.

The planning and implementation of the war was a gross and disgusting crime.

Those who campaigned against the war were right. Blair and New Labour led Britain into a war based on lies for oil and US power.

 

 

11am: 'Bush and Blair should face a court'

Around 200 anti-war protesters gathered outside the QEII centre in Westminster as the Chilcot report into the Iraq war is due to be announced.

Stop the War and Palestine Solidarity Campaign activist Abe Hayeem told Socialist Worker, “We’ve voicing the opposition to the whitewash of the Chilcot inquiry. Ambiguous evidence puts the blame on failures of intelligence.

“But the invasion was a deliberate attempt to topple Saddam Hussain. The chief of the navy was told to station warships in the Gulf a year before the invasion. The head of the navy was not asked to give evidence.”

Abe said warmongers Tony Blair and George W Bush should “face justice in a criminal court”. “There’s no law to prosecute the leaders of countries that prosecute laws of aggression,” he said. “But there’s still enough evidence under the Geneva Conventions that make the war illegal.”

Terina

Terina: 'I hope that Tony Blair is held accountable for the lies he told and the deaths he caused' (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Anti-war activist Terina agreed. “I hope that Tony Blair is held accountable for the lies he told and the deaths he caused,” she told Socialist Worker.

Lindsey German is convenor of the Stop the War Coalition. “People have hopes that Blair will be held to account,” she told Socialist Worker.

"The Chilcot inquiry has no legal mechanism to hold him to account so people will be disappointed.

There will be criticism that mistakes were made. But the first mistake was going to war in the first place.”

Lindsey pointed out that the anti-war movement had been proved right about the reasons for the war and the impact it would have.

“Millions of people saw the world for what it was,” she said. “All our predictions were carried out.

“The neoconservatives who pushed for war are still in positions of power. There is no accountability for the people who carried out this war and provided the justification for it.

“Since then, they've taken us into interventions in Libya and Syria. If anything comes out of this, the most important thing is to stop future military interventions."


 

10.35am: Former soldier says 'Iraq wasn't the end of it, it was the start'

Former SAS soldier Ben Griffin quit the army in disgust at the illegal operations of occupation forces in Iraq. He spoke to Socialist Worker today, Wednesday, at the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London, as protesters gathered to await the Chilcot report.

Ben Griffin addresses a Military Families Against The War event in 2006

Ben Griffin addresses a Military Families Against The War event in 2006 (Pic: Guy Smallman)


He said Chilcot is “the establishment giving their version of the Iraq War”. We have no confidence that it is going to be a full, frank or honest version of events,” he added.

Ben said, “Our government and armed forces unleashed a war of aggression on the people of Iraq. It was part of a joint enterprise that carried out an occupation that defied the Geneva Convention. There’s no doubt about those facts.

Ben Griffin today

Ben Griffin today (Pic: Socialist Worker)


“That invasion and occupation caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and sectarian violence has gone through the roof. The people at the top should face criminal investigations for what happened.”

Ben said that former Labour prime minister Tony Blair knew what the consequences would be before the war began. “He was briefed that terrorism would increase – and it has,” he said.

“We’ve had the 7/7 bombings here. But that pales into insignificance compared to the terrorism in the Middle East.”

Ben warned that those responsible would try to downplay the devastation their war unleashed.

“They’re going to try and paint this as a one-off,” he said.

“But look at what they’ve done since 2003. Reinvaded Afghanistan and caused death and devastation. Attacked Libya causing death and devastation, leading to a state of chaos.

“Bombed Syria and Iraq again, and backed Saudi Arabia’s attack on Yemen, leading to tens of thousands of people being killed and injured.

“Iraq wasn’t the end of it, in effect it was the start.

We need to win people to the idea that war is not the solution to problems the world faces. It doesn’t solve anything – it makes things a whole lot worse.”


9.30am: Reports throughout the day

The Chilcot inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war delivers its report today, Wednesday. Anti-war protesters are already gathering outside the Queen Elizabeth Centre in central London.

The war led to a million Iraqi deaths and laid the ground for the emergence of Isis and the violence that continues to wrack the region.

It was based on the lie that then dictator Saddam Hussein, a former ally of the West, was hiding weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

The inquiry has considered the process that led to the war—how and when key decisions were made and how intelligence was handled. It was launched in 2009, held hearings until 2011 and has since been compiling its report.

Former prime minister Tony Blair is under particular scrutiny, though the inquiry’s terms of reference exclude indicting him for war crimes.

Millions marched against the war in 2003, and their warnings have been proved right. Many now fear a whitewash. But Blair and other senior New Labour figures such as Jack Straw must be made to take responsibility for the destruction they caused.

Socialist Worker will have coverage through the day of the inquiry’s findings, the protests and the reactions.

Some 200 people joined the protest today

Some 200 people joined the protest today (Pic: Socialist Worker)



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