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Magda Hassan
06-21-2009, 12:44 PM
A confidential record of a meeting between President Bush and Tony Blair (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/tonyblair) before the invasion of Iraq (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/iraq), outlining their intention to go to war without a second United Nations resolution, will be an explosive issue for the official inquiry into the UK's role in toppling Saddam Hussein (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/saddam-hussein).
The memo, written on 31 January 2003, almost two months before the invasion and seen by the Observer, confirms that as the two men became increasingly aware UN inspectors would fail to find weapons of mass destruction (WMD) they had to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second resolution legitimising military action.
Bush told Blair the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U2 reconnaissance aircraft painted in UN colours over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes this would put the Iraqi leader in breach of UN resolutions.
The president expressed hopes that an Iraqi defector would be "brought out" to give a public presentation on Saddam's WMD or that someone might assassinate the Iraqi leader. However, Bush confirmed even without a second resolution, the US was prepared for military action. The memo said Blair told Bush he was "solidly with the president".
The five-page document, written by Blair's foreign policy (http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/foreignpolicy) adviser, Sir David Manning, and copied to Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the UK ambassador to the UN, Jonathan Powell, Blair's chief of staff, the chief of the defence staff, Admiral Lord Boyce, and the UK's ambassador to Washington, Sir Christopher Meyer, outlines how Bush told Blair he had decided on a start date for the war.
Paraphrasing Bush's comments at the meeting, Manning, noted: "The start date for the military campaign was now pencilled in for 10 March. This was when the bombing would begin."
Last night an expert on international law who is familar with the memo's contents said it provided vital evidence into the two men's frames of mind as they considered the invasion and its aftermath and must be presented to the Chilcott inquiry established by Gordon Brown to examine the causes, conduct and consequences of the Iraq war.
Philippe Sands, QC, a professor of law at University College London who is expected to give evidence to the inquiry, said confidential material such as the memo was of national importance, making it vital that the inquiry is not held in private, as Brown originally envisioned.
In today's Observer, Sands writes: "Documents like this raise issues of national embarrassment, not national security. The restoration of public confidence requires this new inquiry to be transparent. Contentious matters should not be kept out of the public domain, even in the run-up to an election."
The memo notes there had been a shift in the two men's thinking on Iraq by late January 2003 and that preparing for war was now their priority. "Our diplomatic strategy had to be arranged around the military planning," Manning writes. This was despite the fact Blair that had yet to receive advice on the legality of the war from the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, which did not arrive until 7 March 2003 - 13 days before the bombing campaign started.
In his article today, Sands says the memo raises questions about the selection of the chair of the inquiry. Sir John Chilcott sat on the 2004 Butler inquiry, which examined the reliability of intelligence in the run-up to the Iraq war, and would have been privy to the document's contents - and the doubts about WMD running to the highest levels of the US and UK governments.
Many senior legal experts have expressed dismay that Chilcott has been selected to chair the inquiry as he is considered to be close to the security services after his time spent as a civil servant in Northern Ireland.
Brown had believed that allowing the Chilcott inquiry to hold private hearings would allow witnesses to be candid. But after bereaved families and antiwar campaigners expressed outrage, the prime minister wrote to Chilcott to say that if the panel can show witnesses and national security issues will not be compromised by public hearings, he will change his stance.
Lord Guthrie, a former chief of the defence staff under Blair, described the memo as "quite shocking". He said that it underscored why the Chilcott inquiry must be seen to be a robust investigation: "It's important that the inquiry is not a whitewash as these inquiries often are."
This year, the Dutch government launched its own inquiry into its support for the war. Significantly, the inquiry will see all the intelligence shared with the Dutch intelligence services by MI5 and MI6. The inquiry intends to publish its report in November - suggesting that confidential information about the role played by the UK and the US could become public before Chilcott's inquiry reports next year.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/21/iraq-inquiry-tony-blair-bush

Jan Klimkowski
06-21-2009, 03:56 PM
Tony Blair famously opined, during the Formula One/tobacco advertising scandal:


"I think most people who have dealt with me think I am a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am," he said.

"I am sorry about this issue. I should have realised it was going to blow up into this type of importance, but I have honestly done what I thought was best for the country ... I would never, ever, do something wrong or improper or change a policy because someone supported or donated money to the party. I didn't in this case."

Of course, this "pretty straight sort of guy", who believes in preemptive war/intervention (aka invading foreign countries whenever he deems it necessary) does not believe in being held publicly accountable for his actions.

Particularly when they cause death and destruction.


Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private• Former PM feared facing 'show trial'
• Leak reveals plan to provoke invasion

Toby Helm and Gaby Hinsliff The Observer, Sunday 21 June 2009 Article history

Tony Blair announces on 20 March 2003 that British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea in the war against Iraq.

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, the Observer can reveal.

The revelation that the former prime minister - who led Britain to war in March 2003 - had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders and former civil servants, who were appalled by Brown's decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors.

Blair, who resisted pressure for a full public inquiry while he was prime minister, appears to have taken a deliberate decision not to express his view in person to Brown because he feared it might leak out.

Instead, messages on the issue were relayed through others to Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, who conveyed them to the prime minister in the days leading up to the announcement of the inquiry last week.

A Downing Street spokesman last night said: "We have always been clear that we consulted a number of people before announcing the commencement of the inquiry, including former government figures. We are not going to get into the nature of those discussions."

Blair is believed to have been alarmed by the prospect of giving evidence in public and under oath about the use of intelligence and about his numerous private discussions with US President George Bush over plans for war. A spokesman for the former Labour leader would only say last night: "This was a decision for the current prime minister, not for Tony Blair."

The Observer reveals today that six weeks before the war, at a meeting in Washington, the two leaders were forced to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second UN resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair that the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, painted in UN colours, over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes, he would put Iraq in breach of UN resolutions and legitimise military action.

Last night, Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, whose party opposed the war from the outset, said: "If this is true about Blair demanding secrecy, it is outrageous that an inquiry into the biggest foreign policy disaster since Suez is being muzzled to suit the individual needs of the man who took us to war."

Brown provoked uproar in the Commons on Monday when he announced the inquiry's scope, membership and remit. Following protests from military leaders and mandarins, including former cabinet secretary Lord Butler, he announced a partial retreat on Thursday, asking the inquiry chairman, Sir John Chilcot, to consider opening a few sessions to the public.

But the move did not ease pressure for a total climbdown. Last night, Brown appeared cornered as MPs of all parties prepared for a Commons debate on Wednesday in which they look certain to back calls for the inquiry to hold sessions in public "whenever possible".

A Tory motion likely to win wide cross-party backing also calls for the committee to include military experts. The Lib Dems are demanding that it also include constitutional and legal experts to assess the legality of the invasion.

In a sign that the government is preparing to retreat, Chilcot is to meet both Clegg and the Conservative leader, David Cameron, on Tuesday, before the debate. MPs believe that he may then announce a bigger public element to the inquiry in order to avoid the humiliation for Brown of defeat in the Commons.

Chilcot will come under pressure from both leaders to open up the inquiry. Clegg wants a guarantee that witnesses such as Blair will give evidence under oath, while Cameron will ask if the committee can issue an interim report early next year, ahead of a likely spring election.

The Tories say that if Brown does not order a U-turn, an incoming Conservative government will "reserve the right" to widen the scope of the inquiry and increase its powers where necessary after an election.

Sir Christopher Meyer, who was the British ambassador in Washington in the run-up to the war and is likely to be called to give evidence to the inquiry, yesterday backed calls to make it public. "It should be open," he said. "I think it should also have powers of subpoena and people should give evidence on oath. I would be perfectly comfortable with that."

He said the case for openness was increased because there had been "a ton of stuff" published in the US, both via official inquiries and in memoirs written by key players, making public what had previously been confidential. "I would be perfectly happy for the whole embassy archive in Washington [to be disclosed]," he added. "I haven't got a problem with that being made available. Things were very sensitive then, but this is 2009."

On his blog, Alastair Campbell, Blair's former spin doctor, says that "on balance" he believes Brown was right to order the inquiry to be held in private. "I can see the arguments for both sides - openness and transparency favours a public inquiry, but it may well be that the inquiry will do a better job freed from the frenzy of 24-hour media."

In a letter to the Observer, a group of current and former Labour MPs, headed by Alan Simpson, the chairman of Labour Against the War, demands a complete rethink. "Neither the public nor parliament will understand how the prime minister's 'new era of openness' can begin with an Iraq inquiry held behind closed doors," says the letter.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2009/jun/20/iraq-war-inquiry-brown-blair

David Guyatt
06-22-2009, 09:14 AM
Every government enquiry I have ever known about has been fixed in order to determine a suitable outcome.

But.

Can anyone explain what earthly good a private enquiry will do in light of these (and numerous other) revelations when, clearly, the public already know what really happened?

Yours dimly,