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Another British Whitewash of 2003 Illegal Invasion
by K. Gajendra Singh Bookmark and Share
 

The British are past master in holding enquires to whitewash their quasi-legal or illegal activities and crimes. So the outcome of the public Iraq enquiry by Sir John Chilcot and his colleagues in regard to the decision to invade Iraq and the role of then prime minister Tony Blair was broadcast live by BBC and others. But the outcome would be another whitewash. (India, a poor copy of Westminster parliamentary democracy model is somewhat different. It takes years for enquiries to be completed, some times not made public and then generally no action taken.)

Wrote George Monbiot in ‘The Guardian’ of 26 January ; “ The only question that counts is the one that the Chilicot inquiry won't address: was the war with Iraq illegal? If the answer is yes, everything changes. The war is no longer a political matter, but a criminal one, and those who commissioned it should be committed for trial for what the Nuremberg tribunal called "the supreme international crime": the crime of aggression.

“But there's a problem with official inquiries in the United Kingdom: the government appoints their members and sets their terms of reference. It's the equivalent of a criminal suspect being allowed to choose what the charges should be, who should judge his case and who should sit on the jury. As a senior Judge told the Guardian in November; "Looking into the legality of the war is the last thing the government wants. And actually, it's the last thing the opposition wants either because they voted for the war. There simply is not the political pressure to explore the question of legality – they have not asked because they don't want the answer."

The 2003 invasion, codenamed in colonial narrative ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’ and brutal occupation has caused extra deaths of over a million Iraqis, created a million widows, 5 million orphans and 4 million refugees and destroyed Iraq and its unity. On April 30, 2009 after six years, Britain formally handed over control of the Iraqi port city of Basra to US Army command. Since 2003, 179 British soldiers were killed in Iraq, in addition to many thousands of Basra Iraqis. It cost the UK around 7 billion pounds (US$10.4 billion). The British Tommies were not behind the GIs in committing human rights violations and heinous atrocities on hapless Iraqis.

During a day long questioning, Tony Blair, a somewhat shriveled figure, without his 2002 /03 swagger in the company of US president George Bush, whose poodle he was nicknamed even by the British media, continued to juggle with words and stonewalling, not that penetrating questions were asked.

Blair insisted that the Iraq war made the world a safer place and he had "no regrets" about removing (President) Saddam Hussein. He claimed that Saddam was a "monster and I believe he threatened not just the region but the world." The Iraqis were now better off and their conditions were now better than before, he added.

Americans do not beat about the bush. US Vice President Dick Cheney was honest and told the Crown Prince Hassan of Jordan before the invasion; because it (the invasion) was doable. With the ‘Mission Accomplished’ according to Bush, US deputy defense secretary Paul Wolfowitz bragged in Singapore that the invasion, pronounced illegal by UNSG Kofi Anan, was in fact for Iraq’s oil resources. This was reiterated last year by Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the US Fed Reserve.

Blair also denied that he manipulated intelligence to justify the invasion or made a "secret" deal at Bush’s ranch in April 2002 to invade Iraq, a year before the invasion. He defiantly reiterated that he would take the same decisions again if required. Blair, argued that if Saddam was still in power the UK and its allies would have "lost our nerve" to act. He added that then "today we would have a situation where Iraq was competing with Iran" both in terms of nuclear capability and "in respect of support of terrorist groups".

Blair also underlined that the British and American attitude towards the threat posed by Saddam Hussein "changed dramatically" after 11 September 2001, saying: "I never regarded 11 September as an attack on America, I regarded it as an attack on us."

When questioned whether the military action would be legal or not, Blair said that Bush (the decider) decided that the UN Security Council's support "wasn't necessary".  He said it was "correct" to say that he shared that (Bush) view, although it would have been "preferable politically".  He however claimed that he would not have backed the invasion if Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had said it "could not be justified legally".

Asked why Lord Goldsmith, after first advising that it would be illegal, in line with all government lawyers at the time, reversed his view a week before the invasion began, Blair replied the attorney general "had to come to a conclusion". Blair stated that he held no discussions with Lord Goldsmith in that week.

On the controversial claim in a September 2002 dossier that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction (WMD) at 45 minutes notice he said it "assumed a vastly greater significance" afterwards than it did at the time. He did admit that it "would have been better if (newspaper) headlines about the '45-minute claim' had been corrected" in light of the later significance. He did agree "things obviously look quite different" now given the failure to discover any WMDs after the invasion.

Up to the end Blair maintained he was "desperately" trying to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis but France and Russia "changed their position" and were not going to allow a second UN resolution. Twice in Moscow at media conferences Blair was told by Russian president Putin and his foreign minister that his dossiers were not trustworthy. Nelson Mandela had called Tony USA’s foreign minister.

While Blair told the inquiry that the military action would be lawful was "always a very, very difficult, balanced judgment" but the panel had heard that he told Lord Boyce, then chief of the defence staff, that it was his "unequivocal" view that an invasion would be lawful.

Blair asked Goldsmith to pass on the advice after Boyce demanded a definite yes about the legality since the military chief was concerned about Goldsmith's view that there was only "a reasonable case" in favor of an invasion. The military leadership was worried about war criminal trials if the invasion was illegal.

It is amazing the spins, half-truths and lies Blair gets away with. While claiming that the life in Iraq had improved he said that the infant mortality rate was now lower than before the invasion. The truth is that the US/UK implemented murderous sanctions against Iraq led to lack of even medicines leading to up to deaths of half a million children. Prof Hans-Christof von Sponeck, assistant secretary general for human resource management and head of UN humanitarian programme in Iraq Dennis J. Halliday had resigned in protest and in sheer disgust.

Wrote Michael Billington in the Guardian of 29 January ,”It was a clever, lawyerly, almost Ciceronian performance in which Blair trotted out all the usual arguments and gave a display of his question-dodging skill. But it would have been much more revealing to see Blair quizzed by the parents, many of them present at the inquiry, of the British soldiers killed in Iraq. Then perhaps he wouldn't have got away quite so easily, as he did here, with murder.”

Family members of service personnel killed in Iraq sitting behind him in the public gallery reacted with dismay to some of his answers. Less than an hour after it started, one father stood up and walked out muttering: “This is a waste of time, I can’t take this anymore.”

“He never gave a straight answer and could not be swayed by the inquiry panel,” said another. “We waited until the very end for an apology from Mr Blair but we didn’t get one. “He spent all the time justifying himself rather than explaining why he went to war. When asked at the end if there was anything he wanted to add, he said no. “I was so upset, I hope the sound of my tears will ring in his ears,” said another one.

In spite of six hours of questioning on 29 January, dissatisfied, the Chilcot inquiry is likely to summon Blair for further evidence in public and private. It could not take place before the general election but not now. The inquiry is concerned about the legality of the invasion, since Blair's evidence seemingly contradicted that given by Lord Goldsmith, about the number of discussions the pair had about issues of law during 7 - 17 March 2003, three days before the attack on Iraq.

Outside the ‘Lancaster House’ where the enquiry is being held, a core of around 200 protesters spent the day shouting anti-Blair slogans, carrying a cardboard coffin bearing a cartoon mask of Mr Blair’s head, with the words “The Blood Price” on one side. They marched around the conference centre, calling for the former prime minister to face war crime charges at The Hague.

US Dominance and Control of UK !

Commented Max Hastings in FT of 31 January “The most important contribution of the Chilcot proceedings thus far is to emphasize how far British governance has become presidential rather than parliamentary. A host of witnesses – diplomats, civil servants, generals and ministers –exposed their reservations about, even passionate objections to, the 2003 Iraq invasion. Britain went ahead anyway because one man, Mr Blair, was committed. Nobody was strong or brave enough to stop him. If all those who assert their opposition had declared it publicly at the time, or merely resigned in silence, Mr Blair could probably not have secured a parliamentary majority for war. But, with the exception of one middle-ranking Foreign Office lawyer and two leftwing ministers, the skeptics and dissenters voiced private misgivings then acquiesced.”

Hastings then recalls how in late 2002 one of the UK’s most prominent strategists expressed intense unhappiness about the Iraq commitment, but concluded with a sigh: “But if the Americans are determined to do this, we shall have to go with them.” Britain’s military linkage with the US was so fundamental that UK must fight willy-nilly, a conviction, etched in the mindset of officials, diplomats and commanders since 1945. Thus every British defense review and government strategy paper assumes we cannot take unilateral military action without US backing. It also highlights the inadequacy of European security policies, the refusal of EU partners to address defense in a credible fashion, reinforces such sentiment. If we are not with the Americans and they are not with us, goes the argument, we shall end up adrift in strategic limbo.

This leads to embarrassments, frustrations and humiliations making Britain vulnerable. A British diplomat in Basra remarked wryly back in 2004: “The French are deeply uncomfortable about their breach with Washington over Iraq. But they prefer their level of discomfort to ours.”

Hastings continues that in Afghanistan, “ the absence of a credible political strategy to match Mr Obama’s troop surge provokes acute concern in London. But ministers know they are at Washington’s mercy about this. The only certainty in British minds is that British troops cannot quit Afghanistan before the Americans are ready to do so, without risking a perceived disastrous breach.”

HHowever upset the British public opinion be about both Iraqi history and current events in Afghanistan, “unity persists between the two major political parties about the priority of the US relationship over all other considerations. The British often languish in their Washingtonian captivity. But they prefer it to the uncertainties of a lonely freedom in a dangerous world.”

A Litany of British Whitewashes

Another British whitewash was Lord Hutton’s findings in 2004 about the death allegedly by suicide of British weapons expert and United Nations weapons inspector Dr Kelly, who had expressed doubts about the US/UK claims on WMD s and tipped of the BBC. He ruled that the BBC report's claims were "unfounded" because the 45 minute claim was based on a report which the Secret Intelligence Service "regarded as reliable".

Lord Hutton has secretly barred the release of all medical records, including the results of the post mortem, and unpublished evidence for 70 years, leading to accusations of Hutton concealing vital information. His 2004 report, commissioned by Blair, concluded that Dr Kelly killed himself by cutting his wrist with a blunt gardening knife. The body of former Dr Kelly was found in July 2003 in woods close to his Oxfordshire home, shortly after he was exposed as the source of a BBC news report questioning the Government’s claims that Saddam Hussein had an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, which could be deployed within 45 minutes.

Former British civil servant Lord Butler’s inquiry into intelligence about Iraq's weapons capability concluded that the 45-minute claim had come "third-hand", through an established source and a second link in the reporting chain from the original Iraqi military source. Butler concluded the limitations of the intelligence were not "made sufficiently clear", that important caveats had been removed and that the 45 minutes claim was "unsubstantiated" and should not have been included without clarification. He recommended no punitive action.

MMark Sedwill served as a UN weapons inspector in Iraq in the 1990s around the time that Dr. David Kelly was also the US Weapons inspector has been appointed NATO's senior civilian representative in Afghanistan.

British Men of Straw Played Ducks and Drakes with International Law

It had come out in the inquiry that the British foreign minister Jack Straw's chief legal adviser at the time, Sir Michael Wood (2001-06), told the former that it would "amount to the crime of aggression". But Straw told him he was being "dogmatic" and that "international law was pretty vague.

Sir Michael said he believed the invasion did not have a legal basis since the UN Security Council neither met to agree that Iraq was in "material breach" of existing disarmament resolutions nor explicitly approved the use of force. He said ;

"I considered that the use of force against Iraq in March 2003 was contrary to international law."

Newly declassified letters published by the inquiry show Sir Michael raised his concerns directly with the foreign secretary. On 24 January 2003, Sir Michael wrote to Straw telling him the "UK cannot lawfully use force in Iraq in ensuring compliance" on the basis of existing UN resolutions, including resolution 1441 which gave Saddam a "final opportunity" to comply in November 2002.

"To use force without Security Council authority would amount to the crime of aggression," he wrote.

Sir Michael told the inquiry: "Obviously there are some areas of international law that can be quite uncertain. This, however, turned exclusively on the interpretation of a specific text and it is one on which I think that international law was pretty clear."

He told the inquiry his advice had never been rejected by a minister before or since.

IIn his reply to the inquiry, Straw said he "noted" Sir Michael's advice but did "not accept it", adding - "I am as committed as anyone to international law and its obligations but it is an uncertain field. In this case, the issue is an arguable one, capable of honestly and reasonably held differences of view."

Straw said he hoped to secure a further UN resolution "for political reasons" but there was a "strong case" that existing resolutions and subsequent Iraqi non-compliance "provide a sufficient basis in international law to justify military action".

Straw told Sir Michael that he had "often been advised things were unlawful and gone ahead anyway and won in the courts" when he was home secretary.

The inquiry also heard about serious concerns on how the decision was reached among the Foreign Office's senior legal advisers. Elizabeth Wilmshurst, who resigned in protest days before the invasion of Iraq, described the process as "lamentable" and lacking in transparency. She said it was "extraordinary" that Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had only been asked for his opinion about the war just days before British troops went into action.

Attorney's Advice

While giving advice Sir Michael said he had always made it clear that it was ultimately up to Lord Goldsmith to advise ministers on whether war was lawful.

Just before the conflict began, Lord Goldsmith said in a statement that authority to use force came from the combined effect of existing UN resolutions dating back to the ceasefire after the Gulf War.

Yet 10 days earlier he had told the prime minister "the safest legal course" would be the adoption of a new UN resolution.

Sir Michael observed that there was a reluctance among ministers to seek legal advice early on as the Iraq crisis escalated and that Lord Goldsmith's ultimate conclusion "came in very late in the day as I see it".

"It was unfortunate, advice was not given at an earlier stage."

Conclusion

The author spent hours surfing on his laptop for true news from blogs while apart from BBC and CNN, Euro-News, French, Romanian and even Turkish channels remained on from middle of 2002 for over five years. BBC and CNN had to be changed after they started repeating spins, half truths and blatant lies. BBC, which gave in its over all coverage a mere 2% time to opposition’s anti-war voices, was the worst of the leading broadcasters, including US networks, according to Media Tenor; a Bonn-based non-partisan media research organization. ABC of USA with 7% was the second-worst case of denying access to anti-war voices.

In a 4 July, 2003 comment in “the Guardian” titled “Biased Broadcasting Corporation”, Justin Lewis, Professor of Journalism at Cardiff University confirmed the above result while refuting the anecdotal view that BBC was anti-war in its coverage. “Just the opposite was the truth”. A careful analysis by the university of all the main evening news bulletins during the war, concluded that of the four main UK broadcasters - the BBC, ITN, Channel 4 and Sky, BBC’s coverage was the worst in granting anti-war viewpoint. The BBC had "displayed the most pro-war agenda of any [British] broadcaster.

I remain amazed at the lies pandered by Anglo-American leadership and their corporate media, in USA, five conglomerates control 90% of media. Admirers of Winston Churchill, Bush behaved like a Cowboy and Blair like a 19th century British colonist with gunboats blazing.

Wanted: Tony Blair for War Crimes.
Arrest him and Claim your Reward

In his article under the above caption Georhe Monbiot wrote in the Guardian of 25 January, 2010 “Chilcot and the courts won't do it, so it is up to us to show that we won't let an illegal act of mass murder go unpunished - “So today I am launching a website – www.arrestblair.org – whose purpose is to raise money as a reward for people attempting a peaceful citizen's arrest of the former prime minister. I have put up the first £100, and I encourage you to match it. Anyone meeting the rules I've laid down will be entitled to one quarter of the total pot: the bounties will remain available until Blair faces a court of law. The higher the reward, the greater the number of people who are likely to try.”

K Gajendra Singh, Indian ambassador (retired), served as ambassador to Turkey and Azerbaijan from August 1992 to April 1996. Prior to that, he served terms as ambassador to Jordan, Romania and Senegal. He is currently chairman of the Foundation for Indo-Turkic Studies.
Copy right with the author E-mail kgsingh@yahoo.com

1-Feb-2010
More by :  K. Gajendra Singh
 
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