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Tony Blair and Iraq

John Simkin

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At the moment the British government is blocking the publication of three books written by Sir Christopher Meyer (former British ambassador in Washington), Sir Jeremy Greenstock (former British ambassador to the UN) and Lance Price (former deputy director of communications for the Labour government). The problem concerns what they have written about Tony Blair and the Iraq War.

The picture they portray of Blair is not a pleasant one. Apparently, all his close advisors warned him against joining Bush in the invasion of Iraq. This included Alastair Campbell and Baroness Morgan. Only Jonathan Powell (Blair’s chief of staff) remained stubborn in the belief that the UK should follow Bush’s crazy policy. Meyer, Greenstock and Price all confirm that the decision to invade Iraq took place in Texas in April 2002. Meyer and Greenstock claimed that the war could be prevented if Blair was willing to stand up to Bush and Cheney (they did not believe they could persuade the US people to accept the war with the support of the UK). Blair refused to do this and he willingly followed Bush into this quagmire.

As Meyer, Greenstock and Price all worked for the government, it is likely their books will be blocked or censored. However, these people have been willing to talk to Anthony Seldon about these events. His book will be published. One of the most damaging aspects of these books is the description of Blair during the early stages of the war. Blair apparently loved the idea of playing war games with animated maps. Baroness Morgan is quoted as saying: “We wouldn’t let him. He really would have liked a sandpit with tanks.” It seems that Blair played too many computer games in his youth.

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  • 3 months later...

If I were Tony Blair I would report Sir Christopher Meyer to the Press Complaints Commission. Meyer's revelations in this week's Guardian must embrace invasion of privacy, breach of confidence and breaking a professional contract. He might even be vulnerable to a charge of profiting from the proceeds of a war crime. But Blair would be wasting his time. Meyer is not just the ex-ambassador to Washington. He is chairman of the Press Complaints Commission. The man has serious protection. Amazing country, Britain.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still find something queasy in public officials ratting on their bosses while the latter are still in office. How should a prime minister regard an official's advice when he knows that it may appear as a Guardian scoop if he fails to heed it? Mandarins are getting too big for their boots. They want it all: private-sector pay, gongs, bonuses, inflation-proof pensions at 60, Oxbridge headships and no-censorship clauses for their memoirs. Sooner or later someone will stop it.

Meanwhile, we can at least revel in the product. Meyer's Washington reminiscences are sensational. He portrays the prime minister as a star-struck wimp and his cabinet as "pygmies". I love John Prescott trying to inform senators with his views on "the Balklands" and "Kovosa". But of Meyer's central thesis I am sceptical, that Blair could have stopped the Iraq war or made it less of a fiasco if only he had spent his negotiating capital wisely. Instead Meyer has him dazzled, schmoozed and conned into deceiving parliament. When George Bush, clearly Meyer's hero, said that Blair had "cojones", what he meant was the opposite. The prime minister went along with each twist and turn in neocon policy. To America he was a celebrity, but to the White House he was a walkover.

Little of this comes as a surprise to scholars of advanced Blair studies. In the face of serious power, Blair collapses. He did so over fuel tax, civil-service pensions, rating revaluation and, this week, the police heavy mob. If he "hangs tough", as he does occasionally with the parliamentary Labour party, it is because some higher power has got the better of him.

Meyer's account of Blair's Washington antics is toe-curling. The prime minister's eyes are permanently out on stalks as he meets showbiz stars, is flown here and there by helicopter, and purrs round town in a Rolls-Royce. Even before 9/11 he had the demeanour of an eager presidential candidate, grinning, pumping flesh, making speeches of breathtaking platitude. Blair gulped down adulation and offered unconditional support in return: "However tough, we fight with [America], no grandstanding, no offering implausible and impractical advice from the touchline." British policy towards America was simply a blank cheque.

This explains why Blair was never going to be anywhere but at Bush's side as the war unfolded. Contrary to what he told parliament, "Blair had already taken the decision to support regime change" at the Crawford meeting with Bush in April 2002. But this does not prove Meyer's hypothesis that as a result Blair had the capacity to influence the course of events. Meyer admits that "by the first few months of 2002, it was clear that Bush was determined to implement the official American policy of regime change". All else was modality.

Blair did try to make his support conditional in two respects. He pleaded with Bush for help with parliament. He asked that military action against Saddam Hussein be taken only when the UN route was "exhausted", and that coincidental pressure be applied on Israel for a Middle East peace deal. Both conditions ran into the sand. Meyer appears to have believed that "Bush might blink" after the failure of the second UN resolution, and that what Britain decided to do "could be the decisive factor in the White House". Yet neither Cheney nor Rumsfeld cared a damn about British conditions, and they were who mattered. If Colin Powell could get nowhere against the White House, what hope had Blair? Rumsfeld even told him that if he disliked the war, he could leave his army in Kuwait. It was not needed.

The key to understanding the conquest of Iraq is that from conception to catastrophe it was not the work of "America" or "Washington", but of a small cabal who won the president's ear. A groaning shelf of reportage and memoir testifies to this, from Bob Woodward, Richard Clark, Paul O'Neill, John Dean, Joseph Wilson and others. Rumsfeld regarded his enemies, as Woodward records, as being not just Saddam, but Colin Powell, the state department, the chiefs of staff, even the US army. All opposed him.

The essence of this war was to be "lite" in every sense. It was Washington lite, invasion lite, occupation lite, diplomacy lite, legality lite, morality lite. Everything heavy was discarded as an impediment. The post-invasion "mistakes", now used apologetically by neocon columnists, were built into the operation. The dismantling of the Iraqi economy and state apparat was meant. Iraq was a crazy, anarchic, rightwing adventure, but it was of a piece.

The idea that Blair could somehow have nudged this war on to a wholly different course is a folly of diplomatic grandeur. As Vanity Fair wrote in its excellent Iraq investigative issue in April last year, Blair was helpless in the face of neocons. When he set conditions, they ridiculed them. Had Britain backed out after the failure of the second UN resolution, the White House would have lost no sleep. Blair could never have instituted the state department's sensible Plan for a Future Iraq, which Rumsfeld had already torn up (along with another from his own army). Blair could not even get Britons released from Guantánamo or stop the resumed bombardment of Sunni towns in November 2003, catastrophic to the coalition cause as it was bound to be.

Blair had no leverage on Iraq. What he did have was a choice. He could have done what Wilson did over Vietnam, and the Americans over Suez and the Falklands. He could have declared no dog in the fight. But from the moment Blair offered unconditional support to the White House in the spring of 2002, he was chained to every horror that Iraq was to bring in its train. I do not see him as a belligerent warmonger, bomb-happy and careless of human life or rights. He is, as Meyer portrays him, a simple man carrying on his back the burden of an awful mistake. He will carry it for ever.


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  • 10 months later...

The Americans can't quite believe it. Getting rid of Tony Blair? Are you Brits crazy? Like Thatcher before him, Blair finds that the acclaim abroad lingers even when there is derision at home. Maggie was a legend in the States when she was shoved aside by the Tories, and the same is true of Blair. When he does his farewell tour - part Sinatra, part royal goodbye - he'd be a fool not to make a stop in America. There the ovations are guaranteed.

And yet in the US, he might also reflect, is where his troubles began. This week marks the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks which radically altered the course of American foreign policy. Blair's great error, the one that historians will identify as the cause of his decline and eventual downfall, was to sign up for that new programme in full - even when it led to disaster.

September 11, 2001, was the turning point. It's easy to forget now that in the election campaign of 2000, Governor George W Bush promised a more "humble" international role for America. Not for him the Balkan entanglements and reckless folly of "nation-building" of the Clinton years. Bush's America would step back.

September 11 changed all that. The "realists" of the Bush administration, those cautious folk who believed in diplomacy and alliances, were banished in favour of the ideologues, those who sought to use US power to remake the world.

So was born the Bush doctrine. It declared that America wouldn't wait for anybody's permission slip to act: if it detected a threat it would strike first, alone and pre-emptively if necessary. And, believing that repressive Arab governments were to blame for driving their frustrated youth to extremism, it would use American might to spread democracy in the Middle East and beyond. That was the new doctrine: unilateralism, pre-emption and coercive democratisation. And what has been the fate of this new faith? Judged from any and every point of view, it has proved the most spectacular failure.

Take as one measure the three powers dumbly lumped together as the "axis of evil": Iran, Iraq and North Korea (dumb because two of them, Iran and Iraq, were enemies, not partners). Those three nations all pose a greater threat now than they did five years ago. Tehran is closer to a bomb, while Pyongyang has 400% more fissile material than it did, along with the long-range missiles to dispatch it. Iraq, meanwhile, is a nation in chaos, where scores of civilians are killed every day and where 2,600 US soldiers have lost their lives. It is the clearest case of a self-fulfilling prophecy outside Greek mythology. Bush took a country with next to no links to al-Qaida and made it a terrorist breeding ground. He took a country that posed no threat to the US and made it a graveyard for Americans.

What's more, it's the catastrophe in Iraq that has heightened the danger in Iran and North Korea. Both countries have been able to advance their nuclear plans because they know that the US Gulliver, tied down in Baghdad, is powerless to stop them. With 10 of the 12 divisions of the US army either in or on their way to Iraq, the great hyperpower is reduced to impotence anywhere else. In this way, Iraq proved entirely self-defeating - making the world more safe, not less, for rogue states and nuclear proliferators. It also served as a vivid advertisement for the protective power of nukes: after all, Saddam could be invaded because he didn't have any.

Iraq proved too to be a fatal distraction from the war that should have been declared on 9/11: the war against al-Qaida. There are former US special forces troops seething to this day that they had Osama bin Laden in their sights in Afghanistan - until they were pulled off and sent to Iraq. Strikingly, Bin Laden's name does not even appear in the new "national strategy for combating terrorism", which the administration published last week.

The White House praises itself that the US has not been hit in the past five years and that it has disrupted al-Qaida. But it also claims to have done much "to undercut the perceived legitimacy of terrorism", and that is wildly wide of the mark. The horrific truth is that the application of the Bush doctrine has helped vindicate Bin Laden and his ilk in the eyes of the Arab and Muslim world. Five years ago al-Qaida's claim that the West was engaged in a war against Islam ran into widespread scepticism. Yet Bush's words and deeds - from the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq to the abuses at Guantánamo Bay and Abu Ghraib via the talk of a "crusade" against evil and the wilful refusal to engage in the Israeli-Palestinian peace process - have done violent Islamism's recruitment work for it. We know that all too well in Britain, where the "martyr" tapes of the July 7 bombers left no doubt that it was images of Muslim deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine that had won them over. Actions designed to put out the fire of terrorism only served to inflame it.

As for the spread of democracy, that too has been a failure. Bush's chosen method has been force and intimidation, which only proved that when people are confronted with "democracy" imposed from the outside they don't embrace it, but are driven to nationalism instead. Elsewhere, the lazy equation of democracy with elections alone, rather than the long, painstaking work of institution building, left Bush vulnerable to the law of unintended consequences, lending radical groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah an electoral legitimacy they previously lacked.

Genuinely spreading democracy is a noble goal, but Bush could not face the logic of his own position. Not only would it have meant allowing people to vote for parties the US does not like, it would also have seen them rid themselves of regimes the US has long backed. Rhetorically Bush swore he was ready for that, but his continued support for the dictatorships in Pakistan and Egypt, and his closeness to the House of Saud, show it was just talk. Moreover, if the peoples of the Muslim and Arab world were really allowed their say, one of their prime demands would be an end to US and western meddling in their affairs. But that would be a democratisation too far for Washington.

After five long years, the American people are slowly beginning to see the reality of Bush's "war on terror". An AP poll last week found one-third of Americans believe it is a war the terrorists are winning. Where once 70% backed the Iraq adventure, now regular majorities tell pollsters it was a mistake. Democrats are billing November's midterm elections, campaigning for which began in earnest this week, as a referendum on all this - and they reckon they can win a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 12 years.

Accordingly, the Bushies are trying to soften their approach, resorting to diplomacy and alliances in dealing with Iran, for example. But that is chiefly because Iraq has deprived them of military options. "There's a change of course, but not a change of heart," one Senate Democrat told me.

Either way, it's too late for Tony Blair. He signed up for the Bush project, even though it was doomed. His aides speak of legacy, but this is his legacy - to have glued himself to a reckless venture that has wreaked havoc the world over. Destroying the Blair premiership is the very least of it.


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  • 2 weeks later...

On Sunday the New York Times leaked part of an intelligence report on the war on the Iraq War. The war has helped recruit "supporters for the global jihadist movement," according to the National Intelligence Estimate report. The report is a collection of the view of all 16 US intelligence agencies.

Other key points of the report include:

Militants, although a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic dispersion

If this trend continues, threats to US interests globally will become more diverse leading to increased attacks worldwide

Militants consider Europe an important venue for attacking Western interests.

When interviewed about this by John Snow on C4, Blair attacked the report's findings as "absurd". Of course he has to say this as the report clearly shows that the invasion of Iraq has made it much more difficult for the west to defeat terrorism.

Blair insisted that 9/11 took place before the invasion of Iraq. It is very important to Blair and Bush to make 9/11 the starting point. It ignores that there was no connection between 9/11 and Iraq. It also avoids the real starting point of the conflict, the illegal occupation of land by Israel in the Middle East.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Report on the BBC website:


High-level White House advisers are said to be ready to call for a major change in Washington's policy on Iraq.

Members of the panel, which is led by former US Secretary of State James Baker, told the LA Times the shift could include large troop withdrawals.

A senior US official reaffirmed Washington's support for Iraq's leaders but said they must increasingly assume responsibility for security.

The Iraq situation is a key issue in November's US mid-term elections.

"There's got to be another way," is how one member of the Iraq panel summed up their views on the situation in Iraq and the failure of current US policy, according to the LA Times.

Mr Baker's commission, which is due to report in the next few months, is set to recommend significant change, and will advise against "staying the course".

The bipartisan task force, which was asked by the US Congress to examine the effectiveness of American policy in Iraq, has reportedly been looking at two options, both of which would amount to a reversal of the Bush administration's stance.

One is the phased withdrawal of US troops, the other is to invite Syria and Iran to come into Iraq to help stop the fighting.

Mr Baker, who was secretary of state under President George Bush, the current president's father, has so far stressed that the panel has not come to a definitive conclusion.

But he has indicated the direction of the panel's thinking in recent television interviews.

"Our commission believes that there are alternatives between the stated alternatives, the ones that are out there in the political debate of 'stay the course' and 'cut and run,'" he told ABC News recently.

On Monday, President George W Bush called Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki to reaffirm his full support for the Iraqi government.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said Mr Bush had urged Mr Maliki to ignore rumours that Washington had set a deadline for the Iraqi government to control the activities of insurgents.

Deputy Treasury Secretary Robert Kimmitt has also stressed that the US government strongly supports Mr Maliki's strategy.

"Mr Maliki said first...there has to be improvement in the security situation, violence is absolutely unacceptable. Secondly, there has to be political reconciliation, and third there must be economic development... they're all inter-related," he told the BBC on Tuesday.

But he also said it was clear that the Iraqis must increasingly take control of security.

" I think... what my former boss, Jim Baker, said is that there needs to be over time steady assumption of increasingly responsibility by the Iraqis for their own future. I don't think anybody disagrees with that," Mr Kimmitt said.

As the key 7 November mid-term elections near, opinion polls have indicated growing public discontent with the Iraq war, a discontent that could have a significant impact on the election outcomes.

BBC News website world affairs correspondent Paul Reynolds says the panel's findings could be the peg on which a shift of approach is hung.

Since the March 2003 invasion, some 2,761 US military personnel have died in Iraq.

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Clare Dyer, legal editor

Wednesday October 18, 2006

The Guardian

One of Britain's most senior retired judges last night accused Tony Blair and his government of allowing themselves to become the "lapdog" of the Bush administration by abdicating Britain's foreign policy role to the US.

Lord Steyn, who retired last year as a law lord and now chairs the council of the law reform group Justice, also questioned whether the British government could have been unaware of the US authorities' practice of kidnapping suspects and sending them to other countries for possible torture.

"Sadly, one must conclude that our prime minister and the present cabinet have allowed our country to become the lapdog of the Bush administration. Iraq is a greater foreign policy disaster than Suez," he said. "Long after the prime minister has gone, our country will pay a terrible price for the abdication by a great sovereign nation of an independent role in foreign affairs."

Introducing the 2006 Justice lecture at the Law Society's hall in central London, Lord Steyn described as "a bit rich", the claim by the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, that Britain had cause to be proud of its record in international law since the terrorist attacks on the US on September 11 2001.

He said that claim had to be tested against the evidence. First, there was the "ongoing lawlessness" of Guantánamo Bay, which for Mr Blair was "simply an understandable anomaly". Then, the compelling evidence of extraordinary renditions - "kidnapping of suspects to send them via our airports to places where they could be tortured" - which had been illegal since Nuremberg, he said. "Are we to believe that our government was ignorant of these matters?"

There was President Bush's admission about "secret US prisons abroad where prisoners can be tortured", facts which amount to crimes under international law. Also the "outrageous crimes" committed against civilians by US forces at Abu Graib, Falluja, Haditha and other places in Iraq, "which recall scenes from Vietnam".

And fifthly, "very recently our government acted in concert with the US administration to delay a ceasefire in Lebanon, causing huge civilian casualties in Lebanon and Israel".

Lord Steyn reiterated his opinion that the coalition invasion of Iraq was illegal. He agreed with Lord Alexander of Weedon, a former Justice council chairman, that Lord Goldsmith had been "driven to scrape the bottom of the barrel" to come up with an opinion that the war was legal by citing earlier UN resolutions.

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  • 3 weeks later...

It has been admitted this week that the Iraq War has so far cost the UK £4 billion. Remember that next time when a member of the government tells us we need to close down a hospital or sack some health workers.

It was also announced this week that they are not getting enough people applying to join the military. The National Audit Office says the are 5,170 below strength and since 2001 have operated at or above predicted deployment levels. The strain of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan at the same time, is one reason for shortages, the report said.

The most amazing part of the report was the following: "two thirds of British teenagers are now considered too fat to join the Army, it found - with just 33% of 16-year-old boys meeting the Body Mass Index target of 28 - which has since been raised to 32."

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  • 4 weeks later...

'In the endgame," said one of the world's best-ever chess players, José Raúl Capablanca, "don't think in terms of moves but in terms of plans." The situation in Iraq is now unravelling into the bloodiest endgame imaginable. Both popular and official support for the war in those countries that ordered the invasion is already at a low and will only get lower. Whatever mandate the occupiers may have once had from their own electorates - in Britain it was none, in the US it was precarious - has now eroded. They can no longer conduct this war as they have been doing.

Simultaneously, the Iraqis are no longer able to live under occupation as they have been doing. According to a UN report released last week, 3,709 Iraqi civilians died in October - the highest number since the invasion began. And the cycle of religious and ethnic violence has escalated over the past week.

The living flee. Every day up to 2,000 Iraqis go to Syria and another 1,000 to Jordan, according to the UN's high commissioner for refugees. Since the bombing of Samarra's Shia shrine in February more than 1,000 Iraqis a day have been internally displaced, a recent report by the UN-affiliated International Organisation for Migration found last month.

Those in the west who fear that withdrawal will lead to civil war are too late - it is already here. Those who fear that pulling out will make matters worse have to ask themselves: how much worse can it get? Since yesterday American troops have been in Iraq longer than they were in the second world war. When the people you have "liberated" by force are no longer keen on the "freedom" you have in store for them, it is time to go.

Any individual moves announced from now on - summits, reports, benchmarks, speeches - will be ignored unless they help to provide the basis for the plan towards withdrawal. Occupation got us here; it cannot get us out. Neither Tony Blair nor George Bush is in control of events any longer. Both domestically and internationally, events are controlling them. So long as they remain in office they can determine the moves; but they have neither the power nor the credibility to shape what happens next.

So the crucial issue is no longer whether the troops leave in defeat and leave the country in disarray - they will - but the timing of their departure and the political rationale that underpins it.

For those who lied their way into this war are now trying to lie their way out of it. Franco-German diplomatic obstruction, Arab indifference, media bias, UN weakness, Syrian and Iranian meddling, women in niqabs and old men with placards - all have been or surely will be blamed for the coalition's defeat. As one American columnist pointed out last week, we wait for Bush and Blair to conduct an interview with Fox News entitled If We Did It, in which they spell out how they would have bungled this war if, indeed, they had done so.

So, just as Britain allegedly invaded for the good of the Iraqis, the timing of their departure will be conducted with them in mind. The fact that - according to the foreign secretary, Margaret Beckett - it will coincide with Blair leaving office in spring is entirely fortuitous.

More insidious is the manner in which the Democrats, who are about to take over the US Congress, have framed their arguments for withdrawal. Last Saturday the newly elected House majority leader, Steny Hoyer, suggested that the Americans would pull out because the Iraqis were too disorganised and self-obsessed. "In the days ahead, the Iraqis must make the tough decisions and accept responsibility for their future," he said. "And the Iraqis must know: our commitment, while great, is not unending."

It is absurd to suggest that the Iraqis - who have been invaded, whose country is currently occupied, who have had their police and army disbanded and their entire civil service fired - could possibly be in a position to take responsibility for their future and are simply not doing so.

For a start, it implies that the occupation is a potential solution when it is in fact the problem. This seems to be one of the few things on which Sunni and Shia leaders agree. "The roots of our problems lie in the mistakes the Americans committed right from the beginning of their occupation," Sheik Ali Merza, a Shia cleric in Najaf and a leader of the Islamic Dawa party, told the Los Angeles Times last week.

"Since the beginning, the US occupation drove Iraq from bad to worse," said Harith al-Dhari, the nation's most prominent Sunni cleric, after he fled to Egypt this month facing charges of supporting terrorism.

Also, it leaves intact the bogus premise that the invasion was an attempt at liberation that has failed because some squabbling ingrates, incapable of working in their own interests, could not grasp the basic tenets of western democracy. In short, it makes the victims responsible for the crime.

Withdrawal, when it happens, will be welcome. But its nature and the rationale given for it are not simply issues of political point-scoring. They will lay the groundwork for what comes next for two main reasons.

First, because, while withdrawal is a prerequisite for any lasting improvement in Iraq, it will not by itself solve the nation's considerable problems.

Iraq has suffered decades of colonial rule, 30 years of dictatorship and three years of military occupation. Most recently, it has been trashed by a foreign invader. The troops must go. But the west has to leave enough resources behind to pay for what it broke. For that to happen, the anti-war movement in the west must shift the focus of our arguments to the terms of withdrawal while explaining why this invasion failed and our responsibilities to the Iraqi people that arise as a result of that failure.

If we don't, we risk seeing Bono striding across airport tarmac 10 years hence with political leaders who demand good governance and democratic norms in the Gulf, as though Iraq got here by its own reckless psychosis. Eviscerated of history, context and responsibility, it will stand somewhere between basket case and charity case: like Africa, it will be misunderstood as a sign not of our culpability but of our superiority.

Second, because unless we understand what happened in Iraq we are doomed to continue repeating these mistakes elsewhere. Ten days ago, during a visit to Hanoi, Bush was asked whether Vietnam offered any lessons. He said: "We tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while ... We'll succeed unless we quit."

In other words, the problem with Vietnam was not that the US invaded a sovereign country, bombed it to shreds, committed innumerable atrocities, murdered more than 500,000 Vietnamese - more than half of whom were civilians - and lost about 58,000 American servicemen. The problem with Vietnam was that they lost. And the reason they lost was not because they could neither sustain domestic support nor muster sufficient local support for their invasion, nor that their military was ill equipped for guerrilla warfare. They lost because it takes a while to complete such a tricky job, and the American public got bored.

"You learn more from a game you lose than a game you win," argued the chess great Capablanca. True, but only if you heed the lessons and then act on them.


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  • 2 weeks later...
Anyone interested in political conspiracies should read Lobster. It is available online from:


The current edition includes a quote from a MI5 officer that the publisher removed from Anne Machon and David Shayler's book, Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers:

"Blair was recruited early on his career, around the time he stood in the Beaconsfield by-election in 1982. He was just the sort of agent MI5 wanted at the time, a man who appeared to be committed to the Labour Party but who in fact was - to use Thatcher's phrase - "one of us" ... MI5 terminated Blair in the the late 1980s when it was downgrading its study of subversion and Blair was rising to the higher ranks of the Labour Party."

This helps to explain why Blair was originally a member of CND. Under Thatcher, CND was seen as a subversive organization and as a result a large number of MI5 agents joined the CND to spy on them. It also helps to explain why Blair is so keen to sign a new contract for Trident before he leaves office.

I always wondered about Tony....do his religious beliefs come into all this...? So now maybe we start to see what the 'new' in New Labour was.

I don't think so. His role as a former MI5 agent explains his policies since he became prime minister. I suspect he has been blackmailed since 1997 about the fact that he was originally recruited by MI5 to spy on the party he now leads.

It has been well-documentated that during the 1980s, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Peter Mandleson and several other leaders of the New Labour Project took several free visits to the United States that were paid for by CIA fronted organizations.

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This article raises important issues about Blair's relationship with the intelligence services. It has received little publicity in the UK but hopefully the actual testimony will now be published in the world's media.


Whistleblower that ministers tried to muzzle

By Anne Penketh and Andy McSmith

Published: 15 December 2006

Carne Ross wrestled with his conscience for three more months after he secretly submitted evidence to the Butler committee into the use of pre-war intelligence on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Beset by long-standing private doubts about the Government's Iraq policy which he had implemented for four years in New York, he had previously drafted "about six" resignation letters in the past which he never sent.

But after emailing his testimony to the Butler committee from Kosovo where he was on secondment, Mr Ross realised that he had probably jeopardised his 15-year career. After agonising for another three months, he sent another email in September 2004, this time terminating his employment with the Foreign Office. He was 38.

Until then, he had been on the fast track to diplomatic glory, during a Foreign Office career which began in Bonn. In New York, where he worked from December 1997 to June 2002 as first secretary at the UK mission to the United Nations, he was responsible for Iraq policy.

It was a turbulent period, yet he still found time to take a playwriting course, which gave rise to his first play The Fox, performed in New York, in which a young peacekeeping officer is changed for ever after watching a massacre in a country bearing a striking resemblance to Bosnia.

After leaving the Foreign Office, Mr Ross established Independent Diplomat, which assists small, democratic countries with no experience in diplomacy to punch above their weight.

Mr Ross was back in the spotlight last month, following his revelation to the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee that he had testified to Butler, and that he was prepared to share the information. But he said: "I was advised by the lawyers of my union that I might be liable for prosecution under the Official Secrets Act if it was to become public."

Labour's Andrew Mackinley - a long-standing member of the awkward squad - did not agree. He insisted that if Mr Ross handed his own evidence over to a Commons committee, he would be protected from prosecution by parliamentary privilege.

But the committee chairman, Mike Gapes, a government loyalist, needed to think carefully before taking such a step. He tried to close the meeting with the matter undecided, but as it was breaking up, Mr Ross spoke again. "I have given it years of thought," he said. "This has been on my conscience for a very long time, and I was waiting for an opportunity under privilege to share my evidence to the Butler inquiry. I would be happy to share it with the committee."

The committee met again in closed session on 6 December. There are rumours that there was a fierce argument, but the outcome was a letter from the committee clerk to Mr Ross, asking for a copy of his evidence.

The next meeting, on Wednesday, was also held in secret, but again there were rumours of a ferocious argument. Whatever was said, the outcome was that in the morning, the evidence that had been kept secret for two-and-a-half years was available on the internet, at last.

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So what did Carne Ross tell the Butler Inquiry that he is being threatened with the Official Secrets Act if he told anybody else?

Here is an article that appeared in the New Zealand Herald today:


The British Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart by the publication of previously suppressed evidence that Prime Minister Tony Blair lied about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

An attack on Blair's justification by Carne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the United Nations, has been under wraps because he was threatened with being charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act.

Ross, 40, makes it clear Blair must have known Saddam Hussein possessed no WMDs. He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests".

He also reveals British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to chaos.

"I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed)."

He claims "inertia" in the Foreign Office and the "inattention of key ministers" combined to stop Britain carrying out any sustained attempt to address sanction-busting by Iraq, an approach which could have provided an alternative to war.

The Foreign Office had attempted to prevent the evidence being made public, but it has been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances it would not breach the Official Secrets Act.

Ross told the inquiry "there was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW [chemical warfare], BW [biological warfare] or nuclear material" held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion.

"There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US," he added.

Ross' evidence directly challenges assertions by Blair that the war was legally justified because Saddam possessed WMDs which could be "activated" within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British interests.

This is what Daily India had to say today:


London, Dec 15 (ANI): Former UK negotiator at the UN, Carne Ross, who helped negotiate several UN security resolutions on Iraq, has challenged the "legality" of the Iraq war, saying that before joining the US forces for waging the war, British Prime Minister Blair must have known that Saddam Hussein didn't possess any WMDs.

In the evidence delivered to the Lord Butler inquiry, which investigated intelligence blunders in the run-up to the conflict, Ross revealed that "Blair had lied" over Saddam Hussein's WMDs.

Ross' evidence directly challenged the assertions earlier made by Blair that the war was legally justified because Saddam possessed WMDs that could be "activated" within 45 minutes and posed a threat to British interests.

Ross, whose evidence had been kept under wraps for the reason that their publication they would breach the Official Secrets Act, revealed that UK officials had on several occasions warned their US counterparts that war on Iraq would lead to serious consequences.

In his deposition before the Butler inquiry, he reportedly said: "There was no intelligence evidence of significant holdings of CW (chemical warfare), BW (biological warfare) or nuclear material held by the Iraqi dictator before the invasion. There was, moreover, no intelligence or assessment during my time in the job that Iraq had any intention to launch an attack against its neighbours or the UK or the US."

Ross (40) was considered a "highly rated diplomat", but he resigned because of his misgivings about the legality of the war. He still fears the threat of action under the Official Secrets Act, reported The Independent.

He said that during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty's Government] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threat to the UK or its interests."

Ross revealed that it was a commonly held view among British officials dealing with Iraq that any threat by Saddam Hussein had been "effectively contained".

In the testimony revealed today, Ross also revealed that British officials warned US diplomats that bringing down the Iraqi dictator would lead to the chaos the world has since witnessed.

"I remember on several occasions the UK team stating this view in terms during our discussions with the US (who agreed). At the same time, we would frequently argue when the US raised the subject, that 'regime change' was inadvisable, primarily on the grounds that Iraq would collapse into chaos," the paper quoted him as saying.

According to it, the British Foreign Office had attempted to "prevent the evidence being made public", but it has now been published by the Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs after MPs sought assurances from the Foreign Office that it would not breach the Official Secrets Act. (ANI)

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Once a war goes badly wrong and its justifications are shown to be lies, to insist that a "democratic" Iraq is visible on the horizon and that "we must stay the course" becomes a total fantasy. What is to be done?

In the US a group of Foggy Bottom elders was wheeled in to prepare a report. This admitted what the whole world (Downing Street excepted) already knew: the occupation is a disaster and the situation gets more hellish every day. After US citizens voted accordingly in the mid-term elections, the White House sacrificed the Pentagon warlord, Donald Rumsfeld.

The warlord of Downing Street, however, is still at large, zombie-like in his denials that anything serious is wrong in Baghdad or Kabul. Everything, for him, can still be remedied by a dose of humanitarian medicine (a poison so powerful and audacious that no resistance is possible). His desperate attempts to play the statesman have made him a laughing stock in friendly Arab capitals and Baghdad's Green Zone. Iraq is the umbilical cord that ties him to his fate.

Meanwhile the old men in Washington recognise the scale of the disaster. Their descriptions are strong, their prescriptions weak and pathetic: "We agree with the goal of US policy in Iraq, as stated by the president: an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself." Elsewhere they recommend a deal with Tehran and Damascus to preserve post-withdrawal stability, implying that Baghdad can never be independent again. It was left to a military realist, Lieutenant-General William Odom, to demand a complete withdrawal in the next few months, a view backed by Iraqis (Shia and Sunni) in successive polls. The occupation, Kofi Annan informs us, has created a much worse situation than under Saddam.

How different it was in the heady days that followed the capture of Baghdad. Two lines of argument emerged in the victorious camp. The Pentagon wanted a quick deal with Saddam's generals to establish a new regime so that US and subsidiary troops could withdraw to bases in northern Iraq and Kuwait to police the outcome. The state department and its Downing Street auxiliary wanted the ruthless application of "hard power" and a long occupation to establish a new Iraq as a model of US "soft power" for the entire region.

This was never a serious option. It is the unconditional US support for Israel that precludes any possibility of soft power in Iraq or elsewhere. Using Fatah to promote civil conflict in Palestine is unlikely to improve matters. Even the most pro-US Arab regimes in the region - Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and the Gulf states, which do Washington's bidding - permit virulent denunciations of western policies in the media to keep their own citizens at bay.

None of the scenarios being canvassed in Washington, including by the Democrats, envisage a total US withdrawal. That is a defeat too unbearable to contemplate, but the war has already been lost, together with half a million Iraqi lives. Trying to delay the defeat (as in Vietnam) by sending in a "surge" of troops is unlikely to work.

The British parliament, even more supine than its US equivalent, voted against any official inquiry (not even a Hutton) on British involvement in the war, when they knew that a majority in the country was opposed to a continuation of this conflict. Blair's ideological zealotry has helped destroy Iraq, revive the Taliban in Afghanistan, increase the threat of terror in Britain and introduce repressive laws that were not enforced even in the second world war. His own wretched party and the opposition have acquiesced in these repellent measures. Time for a regime change at home.


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One is reminded of the Phil Ochs lyric, "although it isn't really war, we're sending fifty thousand more, to help save Vietnam from Vietnamese".

Indeed the news that Bush wishes to increase the number of troops in Iraq poses several questions. Where will these troops come from? Will they be existing reservists, conscripted teenagers, outside contractors or immigrants fighting for a greencard?

What will the reaction be in the CIA? Some elements of the CIA and large portions of career military men are unhappy with the fact that Bush plans to stay for the long haul.

Of course this was always to be the plan, but people envisaged it in considerably differing circumstances. The fact that Bush faces no more elections and is likely to be supported by a majority of Republicans and a sufficient minority of democrats in sending more troops means that he still has a free hand in Iraq. His intentions in hiring Gates are still not evident, given that it seemed likely that Gates would not support an increase in troop numbers.

Mr.Ali, I am currently reading your book 'Pirates of the Caribbean' and am thoroughly enjoying it, I look forward to reading 'Bush in Babylon', as it is in my College library.

John Geraghty

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