By Daniel Margrain
A year ago the Chilcot report was finally released into the public domain. It is a salutary reminder to the world that the monumental war crime against the Iraqi people overseen by Blair and his New Labour government will never, and cannot ever, be forgotten. However, the report fell woefully short of offering any justice for the families of British soldiers who lost loved ones or for the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians who were killed.
There are three major issues that emerged from the report. Firstly, flawed intelligence assessments were made with certainty without any acknowledgement of the limitations of the said intelligence. Second, the UK undermined the authority of the UN Security Council, and third, Blair failed the Cabinet about Lord Goldsmith’s rather perilous journey after the latter said the war was legal having initially argued it was illegal having mulled over it for over a year.
The public can rightfully feel short-changed over a report whose remit was extremely limited and whose cost was stratospheric. Analysis of the accounts released by the inquiry revealed two years ago this month that Sir John Chilcot, committee members and advisers shared more than £1.5 million in fees since the inquiry began in 2009. By 2015, a massive £10 million had been spent . In that year alone, £119,000 had been shared between the four committee members and its two advisers – Sir General Roger Wheeler and Dame Rosalind Higgins.
For many observers and commentators, it didn’t need a seven year long inquiry, 2.6 million words and at least £10 million to be told that the invasion of Iraq amounted to what the Nuremberg Tribunal defined as the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Under the UN Charter, two conditions must be met before a war can legally be waged. The parties to a dispute must first “seek a solution by negotiation” (Article 33). They can take up arms without an explicit mandate from the UN Security Council only “if an armed attack occurs against [them]” (Article 51).
Neither of these conditions applied to the US and UK. Both governments rejected Iraq’s attempts to negotiate. At one point, the US State Department even announced that it would “go into thwart mode” to prevent the Iraqis from resuming talks on weapons inspection.
Iraq had launched no armed attack against either nation. In March 2002, the Cabinet Office explained that a legal justification for invasion would be needed: “Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”
In July 2002, Lord Goldsmith, the attorney-general, told the Prime Minister that there were only “three possible legal bases” for launching a war: “self-defence, humanitarian intervention, or UNSC [Security Council] authorisation. The first and second could not be the base in this case”, he said.
Bush and Blair later failed to obtain Security Council authorisation. A series of leaked documents shows that the Bush and Blair governments knew they did not possess legal justification. Chilcot repeated the lie outlined in the Butler Inquiry that the intelligence was not knowingly fixed.
Downing Street memo
The contents of the Downing Street memo is the smoking gun that puts the above lie to rest. The memo, which outlines a record of a meeting in July 2002, reveals that Sir Richard Dearlove, director of the UK’s foreign intelligence service MI6, told Blair that in Washington:
“Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”
The memo confirms that Blair knew the decision to attack Iraq preceded the justification, which was being retrofitted to an act of aggression. In other words, the memo confirmed the decision to attack had already been made and that the stated legal justification didn’t apply.
The legal status of Bush’s decision had already been explained to Blair. As another leaked memo shows, the UK foreign secretary, Jack Straw, had reminded him of the conditions required to launch a legal war:
“i) There must be an armed attack upon a State or such an attack must be imminent;
ii) The use of force must be necessary and other means to reverse/avert the attack must be unavailable;
iii) The acts in self-defence must be proportionate and strictly confined to the object of stopping the attack.”
Straw explained that the development or possession of weapons of mass destruction “does not in itself amount to an armed attack. What would be needed would be clear evidence of an imminent attack.”
A third memo, from the Cabinet Office, explained that:
“there is no greater threat now than in recent years that Saddam will use WMD … A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers’ advice, none currently exists.”
UN Security Council Resolution 1441
Apologists for Blair often claim that war could be justified through UN resolution 1441. But 1441 did not authorise the use of force since:
“there is no ‘automaticity’ in this resolution. If there is a further Iraqi breach of its disarmament obligations, the matter will return to the Council for discussion as required in paragraph 12.”
In January 2003, the attorney-general reminded Blair that “resolution 1441 does not authorise the use of military force without a further determination by the security council” Such a determination was never forthcoming. UN Secretary General Kofi Annan reaffirmed that the Iraq War was illegal having breached the United Nations Charter.
Significantly, the world’s foremost experts in the field of international law concur that “…the overwhelming jurisprudential consensus is that the Anglo-American invasion, conquest, and occupation of Iraq constitute three phases of one illegal war of aggression.”
As well as their being no legal justification for war, it’s also worth pointing out that the invasion was undertaken in the knowledge that it would cause terrorism – a point amplified by Craig Murray:
“The intelligence advice in advance of the invasion he received was unequivocal that it would increase the threat to the UK, and it directly caused the attacks of 7/7.”
Nevertheless, this determination was followed by a benevolent course of action. Chilcot made clear, the process for coming to the conclusion that Saddam had in his possession WMD as the basis for Blair’s decision to go to war, was one in which his Cabinet was not consulted.
Chilcot fudged legal question
In the run up to the report being published, Chilcot said, “the circumstances in which a legal basis for action was decided were not satisfactory.” In other words, the establishment, which Chilcot and his team represent, hid behind processes as opposed to stating loudly and clearly that the British government at that point was hell-bent on going to war with Iraq irrespective of what the evidence said about WMD or anything else.
Ultimately, the question of legality was fudged by Chilcot. It’s to his eternal shame, that he didn’t explicitly say the war was illegal. Consequently, in his post-Chilcot speech, Blair was still able to dishonestly depict the invasion as an effort to prevent a 9/11 on British soil. He was able to announce this in the knowledge that those complicit in 9-11 were the Saudi elite who, in part, have contributed to his riches.
Blair’s contrived quivering voice, long pauses between sentences and attempts at conjuring-up fake tears that inferred a new meaning to the Stanislavsky method, gave the impression he is a man who is self-aware of his accusers’ ability to be able to look deep inside his soul.
Despite the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi’s and the destruction of their country out of which arose al-Qaeda and ISIS, a deluded Blair to this day remains unrepentant. He has convinced himself that he is innocent of all serious charges made against him. This is despite Chilcot’s assertion that he was not “straight with the nation.”
Commenting on the Iraq issue one year after the release of his report, Chilcot returned to obfuscation mode that typified his initial statements. For example, he was reported to have said the evidence Blair gave the inquiry was “emotionally truthful” but then claimed the warmonger “relied on beliefs rather than facts.” Chilcot subsequently appeared to contradict himself by stating he believed Blair had “not departed from the truth”.
Putting these shenanigans to one side, those who have been directly affected by Blair’s illegal decision to go to war will not rest until justice is done. But what grounds, if any, has Chilcot laid for Blair’s possible impeachment?
Alex Salmond is one prominent public figure who believes that under plans drawn up by MPs’, Blair could be impeached and put on trial in parliament. A source close to the families who died told the Daily Telegraph the report provided legal grounds for a lawsuit against the warmonger.
Salmond’s announcement appears to be supported by the High Court who, in the wake of Chilcot, upheld an appeal decision at the behest of Michael Mansfield QC to consider bringing a private prosecution against Blair, Straw and Goldsmith for initiating crimes against humanity predicated on unlawful war.
After a half-day hearing, two judges reserved their judgment and said they would give their decision on whether to grant permission at a later date. The Attorney General intervened in the case and his legal team urged the judges to block the legal challenge on the grounds that it was “hopeless” and unarguable because the crime of aggression is not recognised in English law.
Another possibility is a prosecution in one of the states (there are at least 25) which have incorporated the crime of aggression into their own laws. Perhaps Blair’s lawyers are now working through the list and cancelling a few speaking engagements.
No lessons learned
Whatever the eventual outcome, it’s clear, despite claims to the contrary, no lessons from the guardians of power in the media have been learned in the year since Chilcot published his report. This can be seen, for example, in their reluctance to allow the expression of dissenting voices that extend beyond the restrictive parameters of debate they help create.
In fact, given that renowned investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has been totally shunned by the mainstream following his questioning of the official narrative in relation to an alleged chemical attack by Syria’s president Assad in Idlib on April 4, 2017, it could be argued the situation for millions of people has worsened.
In relation to Iraq, instead of Chilcot inducing any self-refection, humility or remorse on the part of those who promoted the invasion, the media have instead closed ranks. In highlighting the inherent media bias, Craig Murray astutely remarked:
“The broadcast media seem to think the Chilcot report is an occasion to give unlimited airtime to Blair and Alastair Campbell. Scores of supporters and instigators of the war have been interviewed. By contrast, almost no airtime has been given to those who campaigned against the war.”
One of the neglected is Lindsey German. The STWC UK convener pointed to the lack of balance on the BBCs ‘Today’ programme:
“It’s quite astonishing that the comments made by an authoritative figure such as General Wesley Clark who tells how the destabilization of the Middle East was planned as far back as 1991, has not been examined and debated in the mainstream media”, she said.
Perhaps just as pertinently, the media have virtually ignored the claim made by Scott Ritter who ran intelligence operations for the United Nations from 1991 to 1998 as a United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq, that by the time bombing began, Iraq had been “fundamentally disarmed”.
For the most part, the guardians of power continue to fall into line by acting as establishment echo-chambers rather than challenging the premises upon which various stated government positions and claims are made. In this regard, Chilcot has changed nothing.
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From a mainstream UK newspaper headline;
Tony Blair: ‘If your heart is with Corbyn, get a transplant’
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