Blair promised to back US on Iraq in 2002

2011-01-21 15:30

London - Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair promised he would back the United States in taking action against Saddam Hussein almost a year before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, he told an inquiry on Friday.

While Blair stopped short of saying he had promised US President George W Bush unconditional military support in early 2002 as critics claim, he said he had always agreed that Saddam had to be dealt with.

"I accept entirely I was going to be with America in handling this," he told the London inquiry into Britain's role in the Iraq War, describing conversations between himself and Bush in summer 2002.

"What I was saying to President Bush was very clear and simple, you can count on us, we are going to be with you in tackling this. But there are difficulties."

The timing of the decision for military action is an important issue for opponents of the war, who accuse Blair and Bush of being set on invasion regardless of its legality or whether it had backing from the United Nations.

Blair, who sent 45 000 British troops as part of the US-led invasion in March 2003, was making his second appearance at the British inquiry after being recalled to clarify evidence he gave at a hearing in January last year.

UN backing

He repeated his message from his first appearance that the September 11 2001 attacks had changed the calculus of risk, meaning they had to deal with Saddam as he posed a threat to the world and was refusing to comply with the United Nations.

Facing a far more forensic probe of decisions he had taken, Blair said regime change in Iraq was on the cards immediately after the September 11 attacks unless Saddam changed tack.

"If it became the only way to deal with this issue then we were going to be up for it," he said, adding he had persuaded Bush to seek UN backing.

A statement he gave to the inquiry also revealed he had ignored advice from the government's top lawyer, given in January 2003 warning an invasion of Iraq would be illegal without a specific UN resolution.

Attorney General Peter Goldsmith only changed his mind shortly before the invasion, and Blair said he viewed the earlier advice as "provisional" and believed it would change when Goldsmith became aware of the UN negotiations.

The decision to go to war was one of the most controversial episodes of Blair's 10-year premiership which ended in 2007, leading to massive protests and accusations he had deliberately misled the public over the reasons for the invasion.

Not designed to assign guilt

Alistair Campbell, Blair's former communications chief and one of his closest advisers until he resigned in late 2003, said people still felt raw about the war.

"Some people who actually really liked Tony Blair when he became prime minister ... they will never forgive him for Iraq," he told Sky News.

The inquiry, which began in November 2009 and is headed by former civil servant John Chilcot, was set up by Blair's successor Gordon Brown to learn lessons from the conflict and is not designed to assign guilt or blame to any individual.

Hostility over Iraq continues to dog Blair, 57, now an envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers - the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations.

About 50 anti-war protesters demonstrated outside the inquiry's venue near parliament in central London, chanting "Blair lies, thousands die".

"He was a liar. What I'm hoping for today is some repentance," said Roy Vickery, 63, a retired botanist.

  • Pat - 2011-01-21 16:25

    QUESTION TIME IN BRITAIN The BBC Question Time programme answered some of the hard questions facing Britain, first on the agenda was the resignation of shadow chancellor Alan Johnson from the Labour frontbench team citing personal reasons, Scotland Yard is investigating claims a police officer assigned to protect Alan Johnson when he was Home Secretary had an affair with his wife. The Question Time panel speculated that the resignation may also have something to do with the fact, that the former postman was unsuitable for the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer. It’s well known that Alan Johnson only got the job because of his friendship with Red Ed Miliband, back in the days when they were both communist trade union agitators. His resignation follows several recent gaffes by Alan Johnson, when discussing tax and economic matters, including appearing in an interview where he did not know the rate of National Insurance paid by employers. The experienced Ed Balls will obviously make a better shadow chancellor, not that it matters much anyway, because under Red Ed the Labour Party will be in opposition for the next twenty years. Of greater interest on BBC Question Time, was the discussion on the legality of the Iraq War, where judging from the clapping of the crowd the war was considered perfectly legal. Frothing at the mouth and spitting fanatically, George Galloway called for Tony Blair to be tried for war crimes, because George Galloway was a personal friend and great admirer of the late mass murderer Sadaam Hussein. Smoothly and with vastly superior logic Alistair Campbell cut spitting George to pieces, pointing out that the former Attorney General Lord Goldsmith had ruled that the war was legal, and if anyone should know the Attorney General should. A furious George Galloway countered that Lord Goldsmith had advised Tony Blair, that an invasion of Iraq without another UN Resolution may be illegal, but Alistair Campbell pitilessly destroyed furious George. By pointing out that Lord Goldsmith has already acknowledged, he did once think that a second resolution might be needed, but had ultimately concluded that military action was authorised by existing UN agreements dating back to 1991. Prime Minister Tony Blair therefore decided, that the close friendship between George Galloway and Sadaam Hussein was not sufficient reason to call off a war, and to this day spitting George hates Tony’s guts. A furious George Galloway immediately hit back in the Question Time discussion, by claiming that Lord Goldsmith had been pressured into changing his mind, but Alistair Campbell smoothly explained this away. Lord Goldsmith’s short fingernails were caused by nail biting, this was a result of nerves and had nothing to do with Tony Blair extracting the Lord’s fingernails, whereupon Bagdad George insisted on naked pictures of Lord Goldsmith to check for electric shock or truncheon marks. On and on went frothy mouthed Bagdad George, supremely indifferent to the fact that he was rubbishing the integrity of Lord Goldsmith, but what really settled it was a young guy in the audience who asked simply. “Can it really be illegal to overthrow a murderous dictator,” the crowd rose to its feet in rapturous applause, while Georgy Boy wept disconsolately and pulled his straggly beard out in tufts.. Because that young man had told the plain truth, much is being made of the speculation that 100,000 civilians died in the Iraq War, but it is a fact that the Sadaam Hussein kill tally approached two million. Between 150,000 and 340,000 Iraqi and between 450,000 and 730,000 Iranian combatants were killed during the Iran-Iraq War. An estimated 1,000 Kuwaiti nationals were killed following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, there are no conclusive figures for the number of Iraqis killed during the Gulf War, with estimates claiming as many as 200,000. Over 100,000 Kurds were killed or "disappeared". There are no reliable figures for the number of Iraqi dissidents and Shia Muslims killed during Saddam's reign, though estimates put the figure between 60,000 and 150,000. (Mass graves discovered following the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 suggest that the total combined figure for Kurds, Shias and dissidents killed could be as high as 300,000). It is also estimated that approximately 500,000 Iraqi children dead because of international trade sanctions introduced following the Gulf War. So most reasonable people would agree, that although the cost is high it’s necessary to get rid of dangerous dictators, Tony Blair put it in a nutshell when he said. "We need to give a message to Iran that is very clear - that they cannot have nuclear weapons capability, and we will stop them," Mr Blair told the BBC his view of foreign policy had changed as a result of the 9/11 attacks: "After 11 September, rightly or wrongly, I felt the calculus of risk had changed. There is the most enormous threat from the combination of this radical extreme movement and the fact that, if they could, they would use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. You can't take a risk with that happening. Are you listening Robert Mugabe? - 2011-01-21 16:45

      It was an illegal massacre :(

      clkusel - 2011-01-21 17:11

      Pat! I commend you on your well-written article. Blair had the moral courage and the intelligence to stand by his convictions, even though that made him very unpopular by people in his own party, and the personal cost to his political career was extremely high. As much as the liberal press want to paint him as Bush's lapdog, Blair was and is his own man. He can hold his head high; he did the right thing. We no longer have a megalomaniac, murderous madman ruling Iraq.

      Pat - 2011-01-21 18:25

      Shaun is perfectly correct that the atrocities of Sadaam Hussein were “illegal massacres”, while Clkusel points out that Blair had the “moral courage” to stop the megalomaniac, it’s a pity there isn’t an African with enough moral courage to stop Robert Mugabe.

      Pat - 2011-01-21 20:06

      Douglas is correct that so far as Tony Blair is concerned it all comes down to Lord Goldsmith's ruling, which stated that military action was authorised by existing UN resolutions dating back to 1991, therefore Tony Blair believed he was acting under a UN mandate. Although Blair has said he would have been prepared to act unilaterally, because he could not allow vetoes from other nations to dictate British policy, when it comes to war nations tend to make up their own minds. Then naturally comes the post mortem, some people said there would be a war and some people disagreed, now the ones who were wrong are naturally embittered and wish to put Tony Blair in jail. It’s exactly the same thing with Jacob Zuma, those who got it wrong are still trying to convince everybody he’s a criminal, just read the comments on this site if you don’t believe me. Some people never give up but they don’t really matter, because Jacob Zuma is president and Iraq is a democracy, the whiners can bitch until they’re blue in the face but they can’t change those facts.

      cammaratagerardo - 2011-01-21 20:07

      Mugabe is a hero from the freedom struggle, and helped drive imperialists like Pat back to where they came from. I cannot believe anyone would be stupid enough to turn the Bush/Blair disaster into something to justify any action against Mr Mugabe.

      Dale - 2011-01-21 20:48

      George Galloway was a personal friend and great admirer of Saddam? Are you sure?I thought that the recorded time he spent with Saddam was less than Donald Rumsfeld spent with the lunatic.Perhaps I'll see if I can send this statement to Galloway, and see if he'll respond. Saddam could not have murdered as many people as the terrible conflict precipitated by Bush and Blair has.Not to mention the Iraqi diaspora. Whilst it cannot be illial to overthrow a murderous dictator, surely it is as bad is giving the same thug unquallified support, as did Bush the elder and John Major,and (I'm sure, your own fantasy) Thatcher. Where were you then, Pat? The Iran-Iraq war, Pat? The same war instigated by your heroes to punish Iran for deposing the Shah.That war, Pat? The one funded by the West? How about the Lancet Journal's calculation of war dead, Pat? +-650,000.One of only two PEER REVIEWED estimates, Pat I see that you have skirted the issue of the food for oil program, Pat!The one where an estimated 1 million children died, Pat.A program designed to keep Saddam in power to prevent the place falling apart in anarchy.The same reason Bush the elder refused to depose Saddam when he had teh chance. Missed that peice of history, did you Pat? You also seemed to have developed amnesia regarding the illegal use of DU in the just war that could just be responsible for the massive increase in cancer. It also seemed to slip your mind that one of Al-Quaeda's greatest enemy was Saddam.

      Pat - 2011-01-21 21:34

      By all means send my comments to George Galloway, did you watch the BBC Question Time I referred to, where Alistair Campbell quoted the words of praise that Galloway had for Saddam Hussein. You are correct that other Western politicians also consorted with Saddam Hussein, I did not conveniently forget them, I did not see that they were part of the discussion. My point was simply that Saddam Hussein was a murderous thug who had killed 2 million people, that Tony Blair was correct in deciding to remove him, and the decision of the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith convinced Tony Blair that his actions were legal. I also believe that Iraq is better off today than it was under Saddam, that the Middle East is a safer place, and that if he doesn’t piss off it may be an idea to pull a similar stunt on Mugabe.

      satanslord - 2011-11-25 10:49

      @Pat,the Useless Nations did not find any WMD,but strangely the US Forces found them after invading the country,makes you wonder Pat.

  • Douglas - 2011-01-21 18:31

    So it all comes down to Lord Goldsmith's ruling, then? Let's look at some facts: The war was based on flawed, even hyped, intelligence, and was never endorsed by the UN. Iraq has the 2nd largest oil reserves in the world! A number of instrumental figures in the Bush Administration had previously belonged to the Project for the New American Century, eg Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz (architect of the Iraq war), and even UN ambassador John Bolton. Under Clinton’s rule they openly called for the invasion of Iraq, unilaterally if needed. In 1998, they reiterated that Saddam Hussein should be overthrown. Of some interest was the rationale offered for such action. Was it to make the world a safer place? To depose an evil tyrant, or bring stability to the Middle East? Alas, no. With almost refreshing candour, they stated: "We should establish and maintain a strong U.S. military presence in the region, and be prepared to use that force TO PROTECT OUR VITAL INTERESTS IN THE GULF-and, IF NECESSARY, to help remove Saddam from power." They qualify this in a separate document, Rebuilding America’s Defenses: "While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, THE NEED FOR A SUBSTANTIAL AMERICAN FORCE PRESENCE IN THE GULF TRANSCENDS THE ISSUE OF THE REGIME OF SADDAM HUSSEIN." Interesting, isn’t it, how the rationale shifted from Saddam’s ‘proven’ links to Al Qaeda, then WMD’s, then the liberation of Iraq. And Blair sided with these lunatics from the word go.

      clkusel - 2011-01-21 23:06

      One thing you need to understand about the American Constitution, and the office of the President, is that said President swears (and I paraphrase) to do everything in his/her power to defend the homeland and protect it's people from all enemies, foreign and domestic. Iraq was perceived to pose a threat to the United States (and it's allies), and to stability in the Middle East region. I'm not saying oil had nothing to do with it, but Americans tend to take seriously when someone poses a viable threat to their national security. They learnt, to their cost, that to ignore such threats, has grave consequences to their nation. Twice. Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, as well as 9/11 have both left indelible scars upon the nation's national psyche. The intelligence about WMD was flawed, but if Saddam had acted differently, namely not behaving like he DID have WMD, he might have lived a whole lot longer than he did. He flouted UN resolution after resolution. He shot at coalition planes hundreds of times. He ignored ultimatum after ultimatum. A day before the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom, he had the tongue of a dissident cut out, leaving the man to bleed to death. He oversaw the murder of over 2 000 000 people. The cost to his people was high to see Iraq liberated, but it was a lot lower than what had already been paid in human lives. You want that guy back? You think he shouldn't have been held to account? I think you ought to have your head read.

      Pat - 2011-01-22 02:23

      The way Clkusel tells it is exactly the way I remember it, it’s true that the intelligence about WMD was flawed but not quite as flawed as the press made out, if you consider the article below. The danger with the press misinterpretation is, it may cause us to ignore the danger signals from Iran, I agree totally with Tony Blair on this one. TONY BLAIR The West has got to get out of what I think is this wretched policy, or posture, of apology for believing that we are causing what the Iranians are doing, or what these extremists are doing. The fact is we are not, they are doing it because they disagree fundamentally with our way of life and they will carry on doing it unless they are met with the requisite determination and, if necessary, force. WMD We have not found massive stockpiles of WMD but enough has been found to be a concern. To say that "none" has been found is blatantly false: * On June 23, 2004, U.S. forces seized 1.77 metric tons of enriched uranium at a nuclear facility in Iraq. This is the type of fuel that can be used to make nuclear weapons. It was also reported by the BBC (a frequent critic of the war) that the U.S. Department of Energy removed over a thousand "powdered" radioactive sources. These could be used to make a very effective dirty bomb. * Polish troops in Iraq, upon receiving intelligence that insurgents in their sector were buying WMD, bought 17 chemical weapon warheads for $5,000 each from Iraqis to keep them from the insurgents. Tests confirmed that these warheads contained cyclosarin which is five to 10 times more effective (read deadly) than the sarin used on the Tokyo subway attack. Also, all munitions containing cyclosarin were reported destroyed by U.N. enforcers between 1991 and 1998. Apparently not. * On Aug. 8, 2005, U.S. soldiers raided a warehouse in Mosul, Iraq, and found 1,500 gallons of chemical agents. * On May 17, 2004, a U.S. convoy was attacked by a roadside bomb that was found to be an improvised device made from an artillery shell containing the nerve agent sarin. * A similar device was found the same month that contained the blister agent mustard. I could go on but all of this and the UNSCOM (U.N. inspectors of the '90s) reports that could not account for some 6,500 chemical munitions and tons of biological growth media and anthrax cultures as well as evidence that Iraq was making fresh chemical munitions as late as 1998 leaves me flabbergasted at the continued myth that Iraq "had no weapons of mass destruction." I guess the question we should ask ourselves is how much WMD is enough? Does the cost of finding them outweigh the benefits? How much of a particular agent constitutes a WMD? A cup of VX? A gallon of sarin? How about 1,500 gallons of mustard gas? I can tell you this, if a police officer stumbled across a cup of VX in a car in downtown London for example, that alone, most probably, would elicit a response the likes of which that city has never seen. Why? A single cup of the nerve agent VX contains about 25,000 lethal doses of that agent. Granted that is if it is used in its entirety and in perfect conditions, but hopefully you get the picture. Hopefully you get two things out of my post: 1. Iraq had WMD. 2. In the wrong hands, they can pose a very significant and deadly threat in even small amounts

  • cammaratagerardo - 2011-01-21 19:49

    Hang Bush and Blair!

      Pat - 2011-01-22 16:55

      On January 21st there were a number of News 24 articles on Tony Blair and the Iraq War, the article headed “Blair Criticised” attracted a fair amount of comment, which ignored the Iraq War and concentrated on the question of asylum seekers. This is standard practice on News 24, because the teeming majority of commentators are Trolls, they are not interested in contributing to a debate but in attracting attention with controversial statements. Cammaratagerardo is an example of this, he calls for the trial and execution of Bush and Blair, yet he describes Robert Mugabe as a “hero of the freedom struggle.” This is to attract other Trolls to the discussion, like he succeeded in doing under the article titled “Blair Defends,” where other little fish swallowed the bait offered by Cammaratagerardo. What followed was a deluge of short comments, calling for the trial and execution of Bush and Blair, the Trolls did not consider it necessary to detail reasons they merely stated their demands. There are of course Trolls everywhere on the Internet, but the difference in South Africa is the great number of them, on nearly every News 24 article the serious comment disintegrates into mudslinging started by the Trolls. So my advice to you is to ignore all the comments on News 24, except for those posted by Pat Stevens, who is the greatest Troll who ever lived.

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