On the eve of former senior civil servant Secretary Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry into Britain’s role in the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, documents are surfacing which reveal New Labour’s astounding duplicity.
Secret government reports have been leaked which show unequivocally that former PM Tony Blair was fully aware of plans for an invasion and regime change a year before the events. So too, of course, must Gordon Brown have been.
The papers disclose that throughout 2002 Blair and a small number of officials were actually planning for military action even whilst the prime minister was claiming that the objective was “disarmament, not regime change” as late as November 2002.
On 16 July 2002, when Donald Anderson, the chair of the Commons foreign affairs committee asked: “Are we then preparing for possible military action in Iraq.” Blair replied: “No, there are no decisions which have been taken about military action.”
But as the Daily Telegraph reports: “Britain had, in fact, been preparing for possible military action for five months”. According to the leaked documents: “From March 2002, or May at the latest, there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation.”
By June 2002, a special Iraq planning conference for Britain and Australia was being held and in August, US Central Command (Centcom) commander General Tommy Franks discussed bringing together a “massive contingent of British troops as a northern invasion force through Turkey”, writes Andrew Gilligan.
It was Gilligan who filed the May 2003 BBC Radio 4 Today programme report that government claims of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could be unleashed in 45 minutes were “sexed up” and “dubious” based on inside information from Dr David Kelly. The scandal that erupted led to Kelly’s suicide and a government clampdown on the BBC.
Undoubtedly the latest leaks are connected with the deep-seated hostility within the military establishment to the way New Labour conducted the war in Iraq as well as the on-going debacle in Afghanistan. They reveal huge tensions over lack of planning and strategy as well as poor equipment.
Not only was the planning bungled, but logistics and supplies were mismanaged on a laughable scale. Ludicrously, a container-full of skis ended up in the desert. Troops were sent to war in civilian airlines and had weapons confiscated by airport security.
Despite Blair’s close relationship with the Bush White House, the leaked documents also reveal that British commanders were treated with contempt by their American opposite numbers. British chief of staff in Iraq, Colonel J K Tanner describes his US military counterparts as “a group of Martians” who could not be communicated with!
The leaks up the ante before the inquiry opens tomorrow. Unlike previous investigations, it will be held in public, contrary to the wishes of both Blair and Brown. It will be worth following the inquiry closely. Oliver Miles, former British ambassador to Libya is asking a question on behalf of many others: “Was the invasion legal and is Blair a war criminal?” But Chilcot’s inquiry has already ruled out any investigation of this issue, declaring that “the inquiry is not a court of law and nobody is on trial”.
We don’t need an inquiry to answer the question, however. Not just Blair but all those in the New Labour cabinet who endorsed the secret plans for war and voted for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq, which devastated that country, stand indicted. Putting together a court to try them will have to wait until we have established a real democracy in Britain in place of the sham political system that is shot through with lies and deceit.
A World to Win secretary