Blair says Iraq WMD threat overstated, but invasion justified
Great Britain’s Iraq War Inquiry continued today with the much anticipated testimony of former Prime Minister Tony Blair. Blair took questions from a panel of investigators for hours, defending his decision to bring the UK into the Iraq war after 9/11.
“When I come to take this decision, the very first thing I do is ask the military. And their view in this instance was that they were up for doing it, and that they preferred to be right at the center of things. Now I’m not hiding behind them because that was my view too. I thought if it was right for us to be in it, we should be in it there along side our principal ally, the United States. I thought that in Afghanistan and I thought that in Iraq also.”
Audio from the BBC. But Blair did tell the panel that the actual threat of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction had not increased – but the perception of the threat by the US and the UK had.
Hundreds of protesters gathered outside the London Inquiry, many calling for Blair to be thrown in jail. One protester spoke to reporters outside the conference center.
“What we cannot and will not accept is that a PM of the 21st century will knowingly conspire to mislead and lie to Parliament. Furthermore, who will deploy British forces, totally ill-equipped, into the heat and battle of conflicts without legal, lawful authority.”
The Iraq Inquiry will publish the results of its work this summer.
That's from today's headlines on Free Speech Radio News. We're all noting the Inquiry in some form tonight and I know of only one other person who's going with a radio program so I looked for audio (knowing that our community is diverse and some need or prefer it).
That may be about all I accomplish! And, by the way, this is Wally filling in for Rebecca. I have no word yet on what she plans or is planned. She hopes to be back this weekend but will not know until tomorrow at noon England time.
Rebecca couldn't take part in the protests (because she was working, that's why she's in England) but her husband (Flyboy) joined Pru and James in Brighton protesting today and the photos will be in Polly's Brew this Sunday so look for that.
The three of them are writing an article to go with the photos.
They talked about it in the roundtable we did tonight for Polly's Brew. It has been a long, long day. I don't know how Rebecca blogs every night.
Me? I've got Cedric. We're bouncing ideas off each other and trying to be funny so we'll laugh. But facing the computer screen all by yourself?
Wow. That's got to be rough day after day.
There are times when Cedric and I just aren't pulling together. It's not working, it's not funny. So we'll make plans to call each other first thing in the morning and work on it then. So I have that out. I don't know if Rebecca has any out. I think all of her regular readers just expect her to be able to blog.
I have filled in before. For Kat. And that was me rotating with others so it was easier (and Mike and I wrote the posts together). But it's different when you know that by X, you have to a have a post.
I'm not really sure I have enough worth saying for three days a week. Forget five.
I'm tired so I will note that Rebecca may be back next week but if she's not I will again cover Heroes. (Two of her regular readers are e-mailing and they are convinced that I will love it on Monday. Maybe I will. If I do, I'll let you know on Tuesday -- I'll watch Monday's episode Tuesday morning on Hulu.)
And here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Friday, January 29, 2010. Chaos and violence continue, the US military announces another death, Tony Blair -- a liar -- offers testimony on Iraq, protesters turn out calling for Blair to be tried for War Crimes, a gaggle of idiots appear on The Diane Rehm Show, and more.
Today the US military announced: "A United States Division-South Soldier died Jan. 28 of noncombat related injuries. The name of the deceased is being withheld pending notification of next of kin and release by the Department of Defense. The names of service members are announced through the U.S. Department of Defense official website [. . .] The announcements are made on the Web site no earlier than 24 hours after notification of the service member's primary next of kin. The incident is under investigation." The announcement brings to 4375 the number of US service members killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war. ICCC hasd't updated to 4375 this morning and still haven't now (it is AP's count). While you ponder that, wonder why a site called "Iraq Coalition Casualty Count" has never once included the Iraq Inquiry (ongoing with public hearings since November) in their linked to headlines. Seems like if Iraq's your focus and you're providing links, you should be providing links to the BBC, the Guardian, the Times of London, etc. And now to the Inquiry.
Today the one-time prime minister who may have forever tained the Labour Party, the full-time War Criminal who should be behind bars, the forever poodle who spents years sniffing Bush's ass Tony Blair provided testimony to the Iraq Inquiry in London (here for transcript and video options). The various apologists for Blair are whining that the world is full of Blair Haters. First, the world was full of Nixon Haters. When you're a War Criminal, your reputation travels. But even more hilarious is when the idiots claim that Blair is unfairly being treated, unfairly being called a liar and more. Where there is stupidity, there is Alastair Campbell. The twit tweets on Twitter. He also blogs. And he wants the world to know they shouldn't call Tony Blair a "liar."
Tony Blair lies, that makes him a liar. We're not going to waste an entire snapshot fact checking that horrid liar. We'll note one example. Channel 4's Iraq Inquiry Blogger noted in live blogging the hearing: "Blair: Looks at infant mortality stats - down from 130 per year in 2001-2002 to 40 by 2010. You'll always find some unhappy Iraqis". Blair didn't cite sources. For the 40 he could be using anything from the CIA figures to UNICEF -- however both and other say 43.5, not 40. It's also true that neither organization has published 2010 figures -- how could they, Tony? UNICEF is dealing with 2007 figures, the CIA with 2008 -- and they are estimates in both cases and wilder estimates than normal due to the fact that you're using extrapolation from a sample (not uncommon) in a country where you're not honestly sure as how to representative the cluster sample is (and where you are limited in where you can take a random sample). In 2002, according to the CIA World Factbook, the infant mortality rate was 57.61.
Three days of around the clock coaching and the liar can't resist lying. He wants to create a higher infant mortality rate before the illegal war to 'prove' that he was right. He was wrong and he has the blood of millions on his hand. He's a liar, Alastair, because he lies and he lies so badly he's caught lying. He's a liar.
We'll come back to Blair, let's set the scene first. While Blair testified, people protested. A Morning Edition (NPR) report featured the chanting of the protesters. Featured? Past tense because what we heard on the air isn't what the audio provides. However the transcript of the piece is what aired (at least it currently is). Those who heard the segment this morning heard "Blair lied!" Philippe Naughton (Times of London) reports, "Several hundred demonstrators -- chanting 'Jail Tony' and 'Blair lied' -- gathered outside the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre, although the former prime minister managed to slip in via a cordoned-off back entrance two hours before he was due to appear." CNN notes the protests took place "in the shadow of Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament" and that Tony Blair had to arrive two hours early and use an alternative interest to arrive undected while 20-year-old Suad Mikar states, "I'm sure he can hear us. That's what matters, we don't need him to see us. He knows everyone's opinion about it." Sian Ruddick (Great Britain's Socialist Worker) reports, "The demonstration brought together school students, trade unionsits and activists in a show of anger against the war crimes Blair committed in Iraq. It began at 8am in central London. Protesters carried a coffin, symbolising the deaths of the over a million Iraqis in the war. Others wore Blair masks and covered their hands in fake blood. Police set up cordons to keep the demonstration away from the entrance of the Queen Elizabeth conference centre near the Houses of Parliament. This did not happen when any of the otehr witnesses came to give evidence."
Before we go further, I want to note some opening statements from John Chilcot today. He's the chair of the Inquiry and most reading the snapshots already know this but you'll see why we're going over it (again) before moving to the next section.
Chair John Chilcot: Today's hearing is, understandably, much anticipated, and in this circumstances, the Committee thinks it important to set out what this hearing will and will not cover. The UK's involvement in Iraq remains a divisive subject. It is one that provokes strong emotions, especially for those who have lost loved ones in Iraq, and some of them are here today. They and others are looking for answers as to why the UK committed to military action in Iraq and whether we did so on the best possible footing. Our questions aim to get to the heart of those issues. Now, the purpose of the Iraq Inquiry is to establish a reliable account of the UK's involvement in Iraq between 2001 and 2009 and to identify lessons for future governments facing similar circumstances. That is our remit. The Inquiry is not a trial. The Committee before you is independent and non-political. We come to our work with no preconceptions and we are committed to doing a thorough job based on the evidence. We aim to deliver our report around the end of this year. Now, this is the first time Mr Blair is appearing before us and we are currently holding our first round of public hearings. We shall be holding further hearings later in the year when we can return to subjects we wish to explore further. If necessary, we can speak to Mr Blair again. Today's session covers six years of events that were complex and controversial. It would be impossible to do them all justice in the time we have available today. The Committee has, therefore, made a decision to centre its questioning on a number of specific areas. If necessary, we shall come back to other issues at a later date. [. . .] I would like to begin the proceedings just by observing that the broad question by many people who have spoken and written to us so far is: why, really, did we invade Iraq, why Saddam, and why now in March 2003?
We should now all be on the same page regarding the Inquriy. And that makes us a million times more informed that the gaggle of idiots on today's second hour of The Diane Rehm Show on NPR today. The idiots: James Fallows (Atlantic Monthly), Tom Gjelten (NPR) and Susan Glasser (Foreign Policy). What do you do when you're asked about a subject you know nothing about? As anyone who's been to school knows, you bulls**t. "But what's the purpose of this Chilcot Inquiry about, Tom?" asks Diane. It's a basic question, one that should set up a lively segment. But that depends upon guests knowing their subjects.
Tom: Well . . . the-the-the-the British public is far more uh anti-war than-than the US public has been. And this has been something that has building -- been building for a long time in Great Britian and, you know, Tony Blair is-is really stained inthe-in the view of many -- much of the British population for having supported this war in a very -- at a very crucial time early on.
Tom has so much trouble speaking when he has no idea where he's headed. He's the student who didn't realize that he would be called upon. Completely unprepared and still playing with his early morning boner under the desk, he just wishes Diane would call on someone else and he stammers his way through until he thinks he has a concluding statement. What's the purpose, Diane asked him. Where in his reply (that's his entire reply) do you see an answer? You don't. She then asks Susan.
Susan: Well arguably this is also where foreign policy is at its most politicized even here in the US. I think if you look at the ongoing fights over national security -- look at --
No. Don't. Don't look at. How embarrassing. And I'm cutting her off before she embarrasses herself further.
The smartest thing anyone can ever say -- write this down, Suze -- is this phrase: "I don't know." Using that phrase when you don't know the answer will make you appear 10 times smarter than trying to bulls**t an 'answer' on a topic you know nothing about. Susan didn't know a damn thing and so decides, when asked about the Iraq Inquiry, to try to take it to another area. Hey, I did it all the time in Constitutional Law. If I was thrown a curve ball, I'd say, "Well it actually reminds me of another verdict . . ." And I'd b.s. my way through. But I was a college student. (And lucky.) Susan's supposed to be a journalist. If you're asked a question and you don't know the answer: Don't answer.
Wasn't that the whole point of the ridiculing of Sarah Palin for the Katie Couric interviews? Wasn't it that Sarah Palin gave responses that appeared to indicate she didn't know what she was talking about? Susan and Tom were brought on the show as 'informed' and 'experts.' They don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's embarrassing. They should be ashamed of themselves.
Next time, they should just say, "I am completely unprepared, I don't follow world events and I'm a stupid moron who can only give responses that I've been programmed to give." We're not forgetting James Fallows, don't worry. James kept saying In The Loop (a movie) and offered a Washington Post cartoon. He had nothing to share on the Inquiry because he didn't know a damn thing about an ongoing public inquiry into the Iraq War which began public hearings in November of last year. He's that out of touch, he's that stupid and he was brought on as an 'expert.'
James Fallows also insisted that Blair, unlike George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, has never waivered that the Iraq War was right. Excuse me? When the hell did Bully Boy Bush or Cheney waiver? They didn't. You don't know what you're talking about and you need to just apologize to all NPR listeners for that garbage. They'd expect it in a classroom but they're not supposed to have to listen to it on listener supported public radio.
"Let's move on," said Diane after only three minutes and normally I'd call her out on that; however, she rightly realized her guests didn't know a damn thing and had nothing to offer.
Now to Blair's testimony. He made like Lois running for mayor of Quahog on Seth MacFarlane Family Guy by invoking 9-11 repeatedly. How bad was it? Tony Blair's first sentence reference 9-11 twice ("up to September 11, after September 11"). From 1997 through 2001 (or, as he put it, "through 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000 and 2001") Saddam Hussein (former leader of Iraq) "wasn't the top priority for us" but "at the very first meeting" with Bush ("February 2001") he, Bush and Colin Powell chatted up the topic. That must have been a free wheeling topic because, later in the hearing, Blair would talk about his phone call or calls to Iran's president and his fears over Iran. So Iraq wasn't top priority but they what? Spun a globe and took turns dissing other countries?
Tony Blair's grand standing on 9-11, a terrorist attack on US soil, was offensive enough but let's make the point that if you're going to grand stand, know your damn facts. Do not, for instance, declare, "over 3,000 people had been killed on the streets of New York" when that is incorrect. The death toll is 2,973 (I'm not counting the hijackers -- apparently Tony grieves for the hijackers) and it was New York, it was the Pentagon (not in NYC) and it was the Shanksville field in Pennsylvania. You want to grandstand on 9-11, Tony? Try getting the facts right. What an idiot. Three days of round the clock coaching and this is what he's left with?
For those who might foolishly cut Tony slack, he kept repeating the false figure and the false locations: "The point about this act in New York was that, had they been able to kill even more people than those 3,000, they would have" -- it's offensive.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne raised the issue of Blair's interview last month with the BBC's Fern Britten where Blair stated that even if he had known there was no WMD, "I would still have thought it right to remove him [Hussein]." Blair tried to walk the remark back by begging off with "even with all my experience in dealing with interviews, it sill indicates that I have got something to learn about it." He then tried to lie that the interview was actually taped prior to the creation of the Inquiry. Lyne didn't let him get away with that so Blair insisted it was taped before the Inquiry started their November public hearings.
We'll note this exchange.
Committee Member Usha Prashar: Your Chief of Staff told us that at Crawford and subsequently you did not set any conditions for Britian's support for the US, but that your approach was to say, "We are with you in terms of what you are trying to do, but this is a sensible way to do it. We are offering you a partnership to try and get to a wide coalition." But other witnesses who were also involved in the decision-making process have told us that you set a number of clear conditions for our support. Which was it?
Tony Blair: It was the former. Look, this is an alliance that we have with the United States of America. It is not a contract. It is not, "We do this for you, you do this for us". It is an alliance and it is an alliance, I say to very openly, I believe in passionately.
Committee Member Lawrence Freedman pressed him on WMD and 45 minutes (Blair had told the British people that Iraq had WMD that could be used to attack the UK within 45 minutes). Blair did allow that he might have needed to correct that after one paper headlined it (Freedman pointed out it was three newspapers) but that he answer over "5,000 oral questions" from September 2002 and May 2003 and no one ever asked him about that (Freedman points out that Jack Straw did so publicly in February 2003). Blair insisted that the 'error' was taking on "greater signifcance" after the fact. Freedman replied, "I think it has taken on that significance possibly because it is taken as an indication of how evidence that may be pointed was given even more point in the way that the dossier was written." Freedman also asked Blair about his January 2003 meeting with Bush and whether it was an effort to persuade Bush "that now it was necessary to get a second resolution" from the United Nations. Blair responds that is correct and that a second UN resolution (1441 only authorized inspectors to go into Iraq) would "make life a lot easier politcaly in every respect." The obvious question there was: "Politically? What about legally since every bit of advice you were receiving at that point -- including from Peter Goldsmith -- told you that if there was no second resolution a war would be illegal?" That didn't get asked.
Blair then declares that the US government didn't feel a second resolution was necessary but Bush's "view was that it wasn't necessary but he was prepared to work for one." In January 2003? No. Blair's lying. The US administration's position was that 1441 gave them the legal right to start a war. That was their position while 1441 was being negotiated in the fall of 2002 and when it was passed November 8th. The legal rationale the Bush administration was a joke but to argue it, they could not have a second resolution. They knew they didn't have the votes on the Security Council (both from feedback and, as has been reported, from wiretaps) and going back for a second resolution and being shot down destroys their legal argument that 1441 allows them to declare war. Blair's lying.
A key exchange, and one that the Inquiry will most likely build on when writing their report, took place between Lyne and Blair. Before that, let's not Lyne's summary of events.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Firstly, there wasn't a legal basis, as Lord Goldsmith repeated to us the day before yesterday, for regime change as an objective in itself. Secondly, lawers in the US administration favoured what was called the revival argument and that meant that the authorisation for the use of force during the first Gulf War, embodied in Resolution 687, was capable of being revived as it had been revived in 1993 and in 1998. However, the UK's lawyers did not consider that this argument was applicable without a fresh determination by the Security Council, and they felt that, not only because of the passage of time since resolutions 678 and 687, but also because, in 1993 and 11998, the Security Council had formed the view that there had been a sufficiently serious violation of the ceasefire conditions and also because the force that had been used then had been limited to ensuring Iraqi compliance with the ceasefire conditions. Even in 1998, the revival argument had been controversial and not very widely supported. So the British argument was that you needed a fresh determination of the Security Council. [. . .] So the UK and the USA went to the United Nations and obtained Security Council Resolution 1441, passed unanimously. However, in the words of Lord Goldsmith, that resolution wasn't crystal clear, and I think you, yourself, this morning referred to the fact that there were arguments. It didn't resolve the argument, I think was the way you put it. The ambiguous wording of that resolution immediately gave rise to different positions by different Security Council members on whether or not it of itself had provided authorisation without a further determination by the Security Council for the use of force. So up until early February of 2003, the Attorney General, again, as Lord Goldsmith told us in his evidence, was telling you that he remained of the view that Resolution 1441 did not authorise the use of force without a further determination by the Security Council that it was his position that a Council discussion -- the word "discussion" was used in the resolution -- would not be sufficient and that a further decision by the Council was required. [Blair agrees with the summary.] On 7 March, Lord Goldsmith submitted his formal advice to you, a document which is now in the public domain. In that he continued to argue that: "The safest legal course", would be a further resolution. But in contrast to his previous position and for reasons which he explained to us in his evidence, he now argued that, "a reasonable case" could be made, "that Resolution 1441 is capable in principle of reviving the authorisation in 678 without a further resolution." But at the same time he coupled this with a warning that, "a reasonable case does not mean that if the matter ever came before a court, I would be confident that the court would agree with this view." So at that point, Lord Goldsmith had, to a degree, parted company with the legal advisers in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, who have also given evidence to us through Sir Michael Wood and Ms Elizabeth Wilmshurst. They were continuing to argue that the invasion could only be lawful if the Security Council determined that a further material breach had been committed by Iraq. I emphasize the word "further", of course, because 1441 established that Iraq was already in breach, but then the argument was about the so-called firebreak and whether you had to have a determination of a further material breach. Lord Goldsmith told us that, when it became clear that we were not likely to get a second resolution, a further resolution, he was asked to give what he described as a "yes or no decision", especially because clarity was required by the armed forces, CDS had put this to him, and by other public servants. He had received also an intervention from a senior Treasury lawyer. So having given you that advice on 7 March, by 13 March, he had crucially decided -- and this is from a minute recording, a discussion between himself and his senior adviser, David Brummell, who has also given evidence to us and which is also on the public record -- he had decided that: "On balance, the better view was that the conditions for the operation of the revival argument were met in this case; ie, that there was a lawful basis for the use of force without a further resolution going beyond Resolution 1441." Now, there is one further stage in the process and then I will get to the end. This view now taken by the Attorney General still required a determination that Iraq was "in further material breach of its obligations." The legal advisers in the FCO considered that only the UN Security Council could make that determination, but the Attorney took the view that individual member states could make this determination and he asked you to provide your assurance that you had so concluded; ie, you had concluded that Iraq was in further material breach, and on 15 March, which is, what, five days before the action began, you officially gave the unequivocal view that Iraq is in further material breach of its obligations. So it was on that basis that the Attorney was able to give the green light for military action to you, to the armed forces, to the Civil Service, to the Cabinet and to Parliament. But i tremained the case, as Sir Michael Wood made clear in his evidence, that while the Attorney General's constitutional authority was, of course accepted by the government's Civil Service advisers on international law, headed by Sir Michael Wood -- although Ms Wilmshurst herself decided to resign at this point from government service -- they accepted his authority but they did not endorse the position in law which he had taken, and it remains to this day Sir Michael's position -- he said this in his witness statement -- that: "The use of force against Iraq is March 2003 was contrary to international law."
Tony Blair agreed the above was a "fair" summary of events. In great detail and at lenght, Lyne will establish (with Blair agreeing) that the legal issues were set aside in Blair's Cabinet despite the fact that "until 12 February, you were not being told by the Attorney [General Goldsmith] or the Foreign Office legal advisers that you had the option of not getting a futher decision out of the Security Council."
The issue here is the second resolution and Blair's portrayal of he and his Cabinet wanting one (and they were advised it was necessary for it to be legal). So if he wanted one (this is me, not Lyne), (a) where was the work done on a second resolution and (b) shouldn't that have been the entire focus since the war would start shortly?
Now for the exchange. Lyne asked "wasn't Number 10 saying to the White House in January and February, even into March, that it was essential, from the British perspective, because of our reading of the law to have a second resolution?"
Tony Blair: It was politically, we were saying --
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Not merely preferable, but essential.
Tony Blair: No. Politically, we were saying it was going to be very hard for us. Indeed, it was going to be very hard for us.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Weren't we saying it was legally necessary for us, because that was his advice?
Tony Blair: What we said was, legally, it resolves that question obviously beyond any dispute. On the other hand, for the reasons that I have given, Peter [Goldsmith] in the end, decided that actually a case could be made out for doing this without another resolution, and as I say, did so, I think, for perfectly good reasons.
Committee Member Roderic Lyne: Well, it must have been of considerable relief to you, on 13 March, when he told you that he had come to the better view that the revival argument worked, because, at that point, he had given you, subject to you making the determination, the clear legal grounds that you needed.
In an earlier round of questioning, Lyne had observed, "You said a moment or two ago that you had agreed with President Bush, not only on the ends but also on the means, but the Americans actually had a different view of the means, in that they were already planning military action, and they had an explicit policy of seeking regime change. Did you, at Crafword, actually have a complete identity of view with President Bush on how to deal with Saddam?" What he appears to be building on -- and he's creating a case, if you're paying attention -- is that a lot of work was done planning for war. A lot of time spent with Bush. When did the UK ever say, "Without a second resolution, we can't go to war?" Never. (Blair confirmed that in response to lengthier versions of that question, as we've noted above.) Some members of the Cabinet and the public were under the belief that Blair wanted a second resolution. But there was no work done for one. So the point being, Blair was given legal advice repeatedly that, barring a second resolution, the Iraq War would be illegal and, month after month, he ignored that advice. There was no push on Blair's part for a second resolution, there was no (by his own admission) pre-condition of a second resolution before he pledged to support Bush in the war.
Blair made up his mind to go to war and did so before he's admitting and the proof is in the fact that he ignored legal advice. He blew it off. He had months (from November to March) to work on a second resolution. That wasn't a priority. He's detailed what he worked on and what he tasked. And there's nothing on those lists that have to do with second resolution. Blair wanted to go to war and pressured and pressured Goldsmith to finally sign off on it days before the Iraq War started. That's the reality coming out of the Inquiry.
Some of the families of the fallen were present for Blair's testimony -- either in the main room or in an adjoining room. The Cambridge News reports the late Sgt. Bob O'Connor's sister Sarach Chapman noted Tony's "smug appearance." AFP quotes the late Gunner Lee Thornton's mother, Karen Thornton, stating, "It's a whitewash. 9/11 has got nothing to do with us." Paul Lewis and Vikram Dodd (Guardian) report the family found Blair highly disrespectful and notes, "One, Theresea Evans, asked the former prime minister to look her in the eye say sorry for the loss of her son. Evans, from Llandudno, North Wales -- whose 24-year-old son, Llywelyn, died in a Chinook helicopter crash in 2003 -- said: 'I would simply like Tony Blair to look me in the eye and say he was sorry. Instead, he is in there smirking'." The late Gordon Gentle's mother Rose Gentle tells the Press Association, "He had a smirk on his face which has made the families very angry. He has convinced himself that he was right, but it has emerged today that half the Cabinet were not given all the papers. It makes me so angry. [. . .] I will never forgive him and I believe he should stand trial. I will be angry with him for the rest of my life."
In his testimony, Tony Blair kept insisting that "Iraqis" were grateful, happy and their lives improved and that "talk to Iraqis" and you would see this to be the case. But Tony Blair's the one who needs to talk to Iraqis. Real ones, not the exile class that helped sell the war. (The exiles were the ones Blair met with the night of the largest global protest against the Iraq one month before it started.) Bllair never listened to the real Iraqis before, he's not listening now. Sabah Jawad (Iraqi Democrats Against the Occupation) offered his thoughts to Great Britain's Socialist Worker:
'Tony Blair should be tried for his crimes against Iraq -- and the legacy the war has left there.
A million Iraqis have died, leaving millions orphaned and widowed. The war and occupation have made as many as four million people into refugees.
The whole infrastructure of Iraq has been devastated by the occupation. Our heritage has been looted and destroyed, the environment has been poisoned and vital water sources have been lost.
Iraq used to be the breadbasket of the region -- now once fertile lands are in danger of being transformed into a desert. Children are growing up suffering from disease and deformities.
Sectarianism has been elevated to all state institutions and the country is dangerously fragmented. Corruption is rife -- government officials have been caught taking bribes of millions of dollars from foreign companies.
Iraq's precious oil resources have been auctioned off to the highest bidder. Meanwhile the profits of private security companies have soared.
Ordinary Iraqis who have suffered the most from the illegal war and occupation are left to cope with living under the threat of violence.
Unemployment now stands at 50 percent in a country where infrastructure has been shattered.
Yet despite everything the Iraqi people will continue with their determined struggle to reject the occupation and build a democratic, free Iraq.'
Are you listening, Tony Blair? Oliver August (Times of London) reports on Iraqi reaction to Blair:
Sunni Muslims are mostly hostile as they fared well under Saddam Hussein, a Sunni himself. Abu Ahmed, a retired government employee, said: "This war has brought us nothing but death and destruction and those like Tony Blair who took the decision to invade Iraq must be tried for their crimes."
Many of the opinions voiced by Sunnis about Mr Blair are unprintable, often involving violence towards his family.
Some Shias, too, are hostile towards the former British Prime Minister, even though their sect now holds power in Iraq. Majid Abu Yasin, the owner of a plumping supplies store, said: "It's not that the war wasn't legal. It was. The outcome is the problem.
"Blair said he wanted to liberate Iraq, but now we have nothing but fear, not the freedom he talked about. People steal, kill, block the street or do whatever they want. That's not what we wanted."
Are you listening, Tony Blair? Today the Liberal Democrats released the following:
"If Gordon Brown has nothing to hide then he should have no qualms making it crystal clear to Sir Gus that the Iraq Inquiry must have what it needs," said the Liberal Democrat Shadow Foreign Secretary.
Commenting on the Iraq Inquiry, Edward Davey said:
Con Coughlin (Telegraph of London) offers that the Inquiry must have Tony Blair's letters to George W. Bush to determine when Blair became "committeed to regime change" via war. The Telegraph of London notes Tony Blair's insisting that he didn't deceive the nation but if he was never serious about a second resolution, then he did just that. As Andrew Gilligan (Telegraph of London) explains, "The central charge against Blair is simple: that the decision to go to war was the beginning, not the end, of the process; that an agreement was made early, and secretly, with President Bush, despite the lack of a legal basis, factual justification and military planning -- all three of which were later twisted to fit the decision already taken." And deception also would include what Philippe Naughton (Times of London) observes, "Tony Blair opened himself up to a charge of misleading Parliament today when he told the Iraq inquiry that by any objective analysis the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's chemical and biological weapons programme had not increased after 9/11." Of Blair's 9-11 claims, Gilligan points out:
First, of course, Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11 and no links with al-Qaeda; Mr Blair was forced into a series of hypotheticals -- if Saddam had passed WMDs to terrorists, and so on? As one of the Chilcot panel, Sir Roderic Lyne, reminded him: "But it's these ifs, isn't it?"
Second, more importantly, it directly contradicts Mr Blair's key claim to Parliament before the war, where he insisted that the Iraq threat – the actual threat, not just the perception -- was "growing."
Asked by Sir Roderic: "Was the intelligence telling you it was growing?" Mr Blair referred to a Joint Intelligence Committee assessment saying not that the threat was growing, but that it was "continuing." His second piece of evidence of a "growing" threat was the alleged mobile biological weapons labs. But as the JIC assessment (quoted in full in Annex B of the Butler Report) says, this programme had been there since 1995.
Afua Hirsch (Guardian) observes that common phrases from Committee Members to Blair today included "just to clarify what you said" and "just to keep focus at the moment." The Financial Times of London live blogged the hearing here. Andrew Sparrow live blogged today's hearing for the Guardian. Channel 4 News' Iraq Inquiry Blogger live blogged at Twitter. Chris Ames fact checked at Iraq Inquiry Digest and here. Reuters is offering "highlights" by Michael Holden, Keith Ware and Sonya Hepinstall. Helene Mullholland and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) offered a review of "the key points."
In Iraq today, Reuters reports 2 Iraqi soldiers were injured in a Mosul shooting and four were injured in a Baghdad roadside bombing.
Yesterday's snapshot covered the US Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing. Kat covered it at her site and Wally covered it last night filling in for Rebecca.
TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):
Haiti's catastrophic earthquake, in addition to leaving lives and
institutions in ruin, also exacerbated a much more common and lethal
emergency in Haiti: Dying during childbirth. Challenges in
transportation, education, and quality health care contribute to Haiti
having the highest maternal mortality rate in the Western Hemisphere, a
national crisis even before the earthquake struck.
While great strides are being made with global health issues like
HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality figures worldwide have seen virtually no
improvement in 20 years. Worldwide, over 500,000 women die each year
On Friday, January 29 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), a NOW team that
had been working in Haiti during the earthquake reports on this deadly
but correctable trend. They meet members of the Haitian Health
Foundation (HHF), which operates a network of health agents in more than
100 villages, engaging in pre-natal visits, education, and emergency
ambulance runs for pregnant women.
Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen are Peter Baker (New York Times), Dan Balz (Washington Post), Gloria Borger (CNN) and John Harris (Politico). Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Eleanor Holmes NOrton, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood to discuss the week's events on PBS' To The Contrary. Check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes offers:
The Quiet Professionals
60 Minutes, Sunday, Jan. 31, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.