Sunday, November 1, 2015

My Log 489 Nov 1 2015: A journalist does in three weeks what Sir John Chilcot has taken six years not to do --- apportions responsibility for the Iraq war

BlairIraqWarDemo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: At the UN, Colin Powell holds a model...
At the UN, Colin Powell holds a model vial of anthrax, while arguing that Iraq is likely to possess WMDs. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: President George W. Bush applauds for...
English: President George W. Bush applauds former Prime Minister Tony Blair after presenting him in 2009, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom during ceremonies in the East Room of the White House. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Hans Blix (pictured above) spoke of his relati...
Hans Blix (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
A remarkable piece of journalism has just been achieved by a BBC reporter Peter Oborne, who, wondering why Sir John Chilcot has taken six years to prepare his still-unreleased report on the circumstances in which Britain entered the Iraq war, began to think that he could himself produce the report within three weeks from already-published sources. And he has now done so.
Oborne’s audio report sets out to ask the major questions confronting Chilcot, such as did British Prime Minister Tony Blair lie to Parliament about the mythical Weapons of Mass Destruction which he gave as the reason for the war; was the war legal; did the war in effect increase rather than decease the threat of terrorism around the world; did Blair know that the United States was entering the war to effect regime change in Iraq; and had Blair colluded with Bush in advance  --- almost a year in advance --- to create and execute the war?
On all of these questions except the last one, for which Oborne says there is no hard and fast, unquestionable evidence, Oborne’s report answers an unequivocal yes. Of course, these are not Oborne’s own conclusions but those of the highly placed officials who were involved in all the machinations leading to the war.
These include --- and we hear their own voices on Oborne’s report ---  Dr Hans Blix, Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC), 2000 – 2003; Sir Christopher Meyer, British Ambassador to the United States, 1997 – 2003; Sir Stephen Wall,  European Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair and head of the Cabinet Office's European Secretariat, 2000 – 2004; Carne Ross,  First Secretary, United Kingdom Mission to New York, 1998 – 2002; and Lady Eliza Manningham-Buller, former director-general of MI5, the British Secret Service, who had already been reported to have told the Chilcot Inquiry, when asked to what extent the Iraq conflict exacerbated the threat from international terrorism, had replied tersely: "Substantially."
Oborne calls into evidence, for example, the 17 lawyers in the Foreign Office, to answer his question as to whether the war was legal --- as United States and British leaders have always claimed. In fact, war is legal in only two circumstances, first, if it is threat to the country, and second, if it has been approved by the United Nations Security Council. Neither of these conditions applied to the war against Iraq,  which did not prevent the British and US leaders from claiming that the UN approval given in 1990 to the first Iraq war following the invasion of Kuwait by Saddam Hussein, could be extended all these years later, to cover an additional invasion of Iraq, a conclusion that the lawyers in question evidently considered ludicrous.
Of course it was obvious at the time that the Swedish factotum who was in charge of the inspection of Iraq in search of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Dr. Hans Blix, was not satisfied that sufficient weight was given to the reports of his inspectors --- who carried out 700 inspections in 500 different sites --- to the effect that they had not been able to find such weapons, evidence which was blatantly ignored and lied about by the governments concerned.
The diplomats involved state frankly their view that certain factors --- a speech by Jacques Chirac was one of them --- were misrepresented in the run-up to the war --- although one of these diplomats rather charmingly says, when asked if Blair had lied on a particular issue, “I am a diplomat and do not use that kind of language,  but it was a misrepresentation, yes.”
As to the advanced conspiracy between Blair and Bush to bring on the war, Oborne has to conclude such theories were all based on a meeting in Crawford, Texas, Bush’s ranch, in April 2002 at which only Blair and Bush were present. The only evidence Oborne can produce is that the next day Blair made a speech in which he began for the first time to refer to regime change as an objective. Not enough hard evidence, Oborne concludes, to make a decision one way or the other.
But did he take into account the recent release of e-mails received by Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, which included one from her predecessor Colin Powell to George Bush about this April 2002 meeting, which establish beyond doubt that the war was discussed at this meeting almost a year before the war was launched? Powell tells Bush that Iraq will be among the subjects Blair will want to discuss with him on his visit, and he adds:
“Blair continues to stand by you and the U.S. as we move forward on the war on terrorism and on Iraq,” writes Powell to Bush.  “He will present to you the strategic, tactical and public affairs lines that he believes will strengthen global support for our common cause.”
A second memo drafted by the U.S. embassy in London, suggests how vigorously Blair was propagating the war:
“PM Tony Blair has made publicly clear his commitment to a more proactive Iraq policy. Reflecting the polled sentiments of voters, however, a sizable number of his Labour Party MP’s remains at present opposed to military action against Iraq. A majority indicate they would change their minds if they had proof of Iraqi involvement in September 11 or another terrorist atrocity. Some would favour shifting from a policy of  containment of Iraq if they had recent (and publicly usable) proof that Iraq has WMD/missiles or that Iraq’s WMD status has changed for the worse.”

Someday someone will probably do a study of how threats of terrorism have been ratcheted up every time any politician in power wants to push through some anti-terrorist, or anti-civil liberties measure. Certainly after this Crawford summit, a huge campaign was launched complete with threats of terrorist action while British government officials continued to accuse Iraq of having weapons of mass destruction that the UN inspectors had already failed to find.
It is to be hoped this BBC report will jog along the publication at long last of the Chilcot inquiry, so that the crimes of the leaders can be placed squarely at their door.

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