The Chilcot report on the Iraq War has finally been published and all eyes are on Tony Blair.
It’s taken seven years and 2.6 million words to confirm what anti-war voices were saying from September 2001 — do not invade Iraq on a flimsy pretext, because the results will be dire for the Iraqis and for the world.
One Saddam was removed and a thousand put in his place. So says Kadhim Sharif Hassan Al-Jabbouri, one of the men who toppled Saddam’s statue in Baghdad. 179 British soldiers and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed because of the invasion. A nation destroyed, dragged into the middle-ages by ego and hubris.
Chilcot says the inquiry does not accept Blair’s claim that it was impossible to predict the post-invasion problems. Those problems, he says, were indeed anticipated.
“Mr Blair had been warned, however, that military action would increase the threat from Al Qaeda to the UK and to UK interests. He had also been warned that an invasion might lead to Iraq’s weapons and capabilities being transferred into the hands of terrorists,” Chilcot said in this morning’s opening statement.
Even as he lied to Parliament, Blair was having this phone conversation with Bush, as overheard by Jonathan Powell’s wife, Sarah Helm. What’s shocking but strangely unsurprising is how susceptible to flattery Blair is. With added cajones …
“But you know, Tony, the American people will never forget what you are doing. And people say to me, you know, is Prime Minister Blair really with you all the way? Do you have faith in him? And I say yes, because I recognise leadership when I see it. And true courage. He won’t let us down.”
So far, no reference to JP Morgan, the bank that won the key role in post-invasion Iraq extracting national wealth, and which pays Tony Blair £2-3 million a year.
Channel 4 News, the best news programme in the UK, quotes Tony Blair as telling Bush ‘We will be with you whatever’ eight months before Parliament approved the invasion. It was a fait accompli. No amount of evidence was ever going to sway Blair from his shining path.
Channel 4 News presenter Jon Snow was scathing in an interview with Newstalk yesterday, placing responsibility for the awful bombings in Baghdad squarely at the feet of Tony Blair. “All Tony Blair’s work,” said Snow, a rare purveyor of the truth in the media. He also nails Foreign Secretary at the time, Jack Straw, for the attempts made to ‘”fix and massage the law” allowing the UK to undertake the war – a conflict that former United Nations General Secretary Kofi Annan had declared illegal.’
Buzzfeed says Tony Blair Severely Criticised As Chilcot Delivers Damning Official Verdict On The Iraq War:
Military action at that time was not a last resort” and intelligence assessments of WMD threat were “not justified”, said Sir John Chilcot as he delivered the excoriating findings of his seven-year inquiry into the Iraq war. Tony Blair took the UK to war in Iraq before all peaceful options had been exhausted, having relied on “flawed” and unjustified assessments of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction, and with almost no plan for how to run the country after the old regime was removed from power.
Middle East Eye picks up on Chilcot’s conclusion that:
Blair decided to back the US-invasion of Iraq before the “peaceful options for disarmament had been exhausted” and that military action was not being used as a last resort. The war did not need to be fought, the report said. …
The decision to commit British troops to war was made by Blair alone and without a formal Cabinet decision.
Blair’s own foreign policy advisers told him to tone down his support for regime change in private letters to Bush.
Britain went to war while weapons inspectors were making progress in Iraq in a move that undermined the authority of the UN and international law.
The precise basis on which Blair advised his cabinet the war was legal is “not clear” and the legal circumstances were “far from satisfactory”.
Blair had been explicitly warned that the invasion of the Iraq would increase the threat from al-Qaeda in the UK and in Iraq.
He was also warned of the risks of internal strife in Iraq and the role Iran and al-Qaeda would likely play in destabilising the country.
However, the report stopped short of labelling the war illegal or calling for the former prime minister to put put on trial for war crimes, in a move that will dismay the families of soldiers killed in Iraq and could prompt accusations of a “whitewash”.
‘The report should lay to rest allegations of bad faith, lies or deceit. Whether people agree or disagree with my decision to take military action against Saddam Hussein; I took it in good faith and in what I believed to be the best interests of the country.’
PM agrees with @angusrobertson 630 – most powerful paragraphs of Chilcot report- ‘no assessment, agreement, plan’ pic.twitter.com/Z7YFxRqRzB
— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) July 6, 2016
Saddam was terrible … but “We bring the terror”. Frances Underwood, House of Cards.
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For Iraq War history buffs
Although trying to shift the blame onto the system rather than Blair, the Chilcot report ultimately vindicates the anti-war movement that has kept the issue alive and focused.
The first anti-war meeting was held at Friends House in the Marylebone Road on Friday 21st September 2001 and had George Monbiot, Bruce Kent, Liz Davies, Tariq Ali, Jeremy Corbyn MP whose consistent opposition to the invasion of Iraq never wavered from that day to this, and someone from CND on the platform.
On 18th September 2001, I press-released Mike Marqusee’s statement for the Socialist Alliance (SA), whose branches we notified and asked to attend all anti-war meetings and protests; to all the news desk editors, agencies and my press list. Everyone was horrified by the possibility of war and the movement started to catch fire.
This press release followed that first anti-war meeting on the 21st September 2001:
Anti-war meeting packs out as peace movement builds
More than 2000 people packed the Friends’ Meeting House for central London’s first major anti-war meeting on Friday night.
Attendance was much higher than expected. A spill-over meeting was organised in an adjacent hall and another in the street outside the meeting house. Hundreds of people remained in the street to hear the speeches.
Speakers – including Bruce Kent, George Monbiot, Liz Davies, Jeremy Corbyn MP, Tariq Ali, Helen John and John Rees – decried both the horror of the attacks on the USA and the horror of the attacks now being prepared by the USA and its allies against people in south west Asia.
“Millions of people in this country are deeply disturbed at the enitrely counter-productive and potentially deeply destructive war of vengeance that George Bush anhd Tony Blair plan to unleash on the world,” said Mike Marqusee, Socialist Alliance Executuve member. “At the meeting on Friday night it was clear that there is a huge reserve of determination to stop this unfolding calamity. We are now getting organised, and we will be on the streets if missiles are launched at any civilian population anywhere.”
Liz Davies’ speech at the meeting is enclosed. Liz is a former member of the Labour party NEC and was speaking at the meeting on behalf of the Socialist Alliance.
On Sunday 23rd September, I sent out another:
Sun, 23 Sep 2001 16:47:26 +0100
It is clear that the US and its allies are on the brink of launching an attack on Afghanistan. On Friday, with 5 days notice, 2,000 people attended an anti-war rally in Central London. Around 5,000 people also attended a CND vigil outside Downing Street on Saturday. There is a clear anti-war mood amongst a significant minority of people.
At the CND vigil it was proposed, by Jeremy Corbyn MP amongst others, that on the day the US launches any attack an anti-war demonstration take place in Trafalgar Square at 7 p.m. This is in line with a decision taken by the S.A executive last week.
All London S.A.s should be prepared to rally their members for the demo. Alliances outside of London should ensure that their local anti-war committee hold similar demos in every town and city centre. We must ensure the biggest possible S.A. presence on all anti-war activity.
We needed all hands on deck. I issued statements and notifications for another SWP-led organisation, Media Workers Against The War (MWAW). There was a MWAW meeting on Monday 24th September at ULU. The preliminary list included John Pilger, Paul Foot, Phil Turner, Mike Marqusee and Charles Shaar Murray.
Monday 23 September, 2001
Media Workers Against the War — founding meeting and statement
At a packed meeting in central London this evening, more than 70 workers in the media adopted the following statement on the current global situation and their responsibilities in it:
“We are workers in the media opposed to the current war drive and the plans for a US-led military assault on Afghanistan and possibly other countries.
“We are utterly opposed to all acts of terror against civilian populations, whether committed by governments or groups of individuals.
“We believe that in the current crisis it is more important than ever to protect and promote pluralism in debate, the free flow of information, and the public scrutiny of official pronouncements.
“We therefore resolve to join together as Media Workers Against the War in order to:
“1. Participate in the broad movement now rapidly emerging against the war
2. Collate and disseminate facts and arguments petinent to the war, not only from Britain but from around the world
3. Promote anti-war viewpoints through the media and expose and resist attempts at censorship and disinformation
4. Oppose media coverage that in any way licenses or gives succour to racism or attacks on asylum seekers.”
At the meeting, plans were made to set up a Media Workers Against the War website, publish a bulletin, make and distribute anti-war videos, and organise workplace meetings at major media outlets. We will also be holding a major public rally in central London in the coming weeks.
Media Workers Against the War will seek support from media trade union branches and individuals working in the media. Workers at the BBC, ITN and various national newspapers attended.
Initial supporters include: John Pilger, Paul Foot, Hilary Wainwright, Henderson Mullin, Tim Gopsill, Miles Barter, Jack Tan, Rob Steen, Mike Marqusee, Charles Shaar Murray, Anna Chen, Palash Dave, Jonathan Neale, Tariq Ali, Phil Turner, Alan Gibson, Zoe Hardy, Carolyne Culver, Mike Holderness.
Here’s the first ever press release for the STWC since the Kosovo conflict in the 1990s:
Wed Sep 26 18:07:21 2001
Subject: Stop the War Coalition launched
Stop the War Coalition launched. National campaign formed to stop Bush and Blair’s war
Over 400 people crowded into Friends House in central London on Tuesday evening to launch the Stop the War Coalition. The meeting was a working follow-on from the hugely succcesful rally against war held at Friends House on Friday night, attended by more than 2,000 people.
The Stop the War Coalition aims to bring together all those diverse groups and individuals who are united around a single central aim: to campaign to stop the US and UK governments launching revenge attacks on Afghanistan, Iraq or other countries which will lead to yet more innocent people dying.
The Coalition has already begun co-ordinating anti-war meetings, protests and demonstrations across the country. And it will be giving vigorous support to a national demonstration in London on October 13th, called by CND originally to protest against Bush’s new Star Wars project, but which will now be prioritise oppostion to the current war drive.
“What is beneath contempt‚” said Tariq Ali at the meeting, “is that a Labour Prime Minister is going so far down this road behind the US. We have an American government determined on revenge and a bloodbath. And it wants to settle lots of accounts. Yet it was the US, backed by its allies Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, that armed the Taliban and Osama Bin Laden worked for the CIA. We have to remove the causes which encourage these desperate people to do these acts.”
The Coalition has already received sponsorship from, amongst others, George Galloway MP; Jeremy Corbyn MP; Liz Davies, former member of the Labour Party National Executive Committee; George Monbiot, author of Captive State; and journalists Tariq Ali and Paul Foot.
The meeting elected an interim Steering Committee which includes Jeremy Corbyn and Tariq Ali as well as Mike Marqusee, author of Redemption Song, Suresh Grover of the National Civil Rights Movement, Lindsey German, editor of Socialist Review, Hilary Wainwright, editor of Red Pepper and Helen Salmon from the national executive of the National Union of Students.
The Stop the War Coalition intends to establish an office, email and website and to organise immediate protests across the country as soon as the US and Britain start their military attacks.
For all press enquiries, phone Lindsey German on: 07xxx or 020 8xxx
We were absolutely correct to challenge the madness to come. We should now fight for full accountability, truth and justice for the dead, for the ruined, for our bleeding world.
The Chilcot Report opening statement Wednesday 6th July 2016.
Anna Chen was the initiating national press officer for the Stop The War Coalition from September 2001 and worked on the press to the February 2003 London march.
Anna’s food blog here: