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Iraq War: major new questions for Tony Blair

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Iraq War: major new questions for Tony Blair

Post  Panda on Sun 10 Mar - 7:59

Iraq War: major new questions for Tony Blair

Ten years after the invasion of Iraq, Tony Blair and his government have
come under withering attack from a senior former diplomat and British military
chiefs for their handling of the war that defined his decade in power.

Members of the Irish Guard 7th
Armour Brigade search an Iraqi man in Basra in 2003 Photo: GETTY

By Philip Sherwell, US

10:00PM GMT 09 Mar 2013

Mr Blair is accused of being “evangelical” in his approach to the world and
hence to toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime, of making mistakes which led to
British forces being ill-prepared for the invasion and caught out by the violent
aftermath, and of being so determined to support President George W Bush that he
imposed no preconditions for Britain going to war alongside the United States.

Meanwhile, senior Bush White House staff confirmed for the first time to The
Sunday Telegraph that they had viewed it as a certainty that Mr Blair would back
any US-led invasion, long before he publicly committed Britain to taking part.

They say he made clear his unwavering support for US policy nearly a year
before the invasion, after a visit to the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Senior Bush White House staff say Tony Blair made
clear his unwavering support for US policy after a visit to Bush’s ranch in
Crawford, Texas

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This appears to contradict Downing Street’s assertion at the time that
Britain would intervene militarily against the Iraqi dictator only if all other
avenues, including weapons inspections and United Nations sanctions, had been

The revelations come in a series of exclusive interviews and articles for The
Sunday Telegraph ahead of the 10th anniversary of the “shock and awe” bombing
campaign that began on March 20, and the land invasion involving 45,000 British
troops that followed a few hours later.

Sir Christopher Meyer, Britain’s ambassador to Washington during the run-up
to the war, writes in this newspaper today that Mr Blair’s mistakes on Iraq
flowed from a “black and white” world view that was “more evangelical than the
American Christian Right”.

He says that Mr Blair’s “unquestioning support” for the president “eliminated
what should have been salutary British influence over American decision-making”
after the prime minister became “an honorary member of this inner group” of
neo-conservatives and military hawks who were setting the agenda in the United

He notes that a “failure to plan meticulously” for the aftermath of Saddam’s
overthrow “led to almost a decade of violent chaos and the ultimate humiliation
of British forces”.

Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the head of the Armed Forces at the time, describes how
the government’s “political nervousness” delayed military preparations for the

Mr Blair’s government “wanted to avoid giving the impression that war with
Iraq was inevitable”, he writes inside this newspaper; as a result, the formal
decision was taken “somewhat late in the day, which inevitably foreshortened the
Armed Forces’ preparation time”.

Another senior officer, Maj Gen Graham Binns, who commanded a front line
brigade in Iraq, discloses that financial restraints left British forces
undertrained and lacking key equipment. In addition, the British were
“inadequately prepared, mentally and physically, for post-conflict
stabilisation”, he writes.

Stephen Hadley, Mr Bush’s deputy national security adviser, said that at a
private meeting between the prime minister and the US president almost a year
before the invasion was launched, “Mr Blair said that if it came to it, then at
the end of the day, he would be with us if we had to move militarily against
Saddam Hussein”.

He said that during the meeting at Crawford in April 2002, the position spelt
out by Mr Blair was, “I am with you to see this through to the end.”

Andrew Card, the president’s chief of staff, said: “I don’t recall that any
conditions were discussed. What was clear was that we shared values and stood

Mark Etherington, a Foreign Office official put in charge of an entire Iraqi
province six months after the invasion, said there were inadequate troops to
keep it secure because the Iraqi army and police “had ceased to exist as
coherent groupings”. He says the British effort was “fatally lacking binding
strategy under unified leadership”.

The revelations follow years of debate and recrimination over the decision to
commit Britain to joining in the invasion, including its legality, and over the
failure to locate any of the weapons of mass destruction whose supposed
existence was the main official justification for going to war.

Mr Blair has been accused by critics of being a “war criminal” for his role
in the conflict which ultimately cost the lives of 179 British soldiers and an
estimated 100,000 civilians, and admitted last month that he had “long since
given up trying to persuade people it was the right decision”.

Last week, David Miliband, the former foreign secretary, said the election of
George W Bush as US president was “the worst thing that ever happened to Tony
Blair” because of the direction in which he led the world.

The decision to go to war in March 2003, after United Nations weapons
inspectors left Iraq and without the fresh UN resolution that Britain and the US
had been seeking, divided opinion in Britain and led to resignations from the
government. In the end the Conservatives backed the decision, but the Liberal
Democrats opposed it.

A lengthy inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot into the circumstances, ordered in
June 2009, heard evidence from hundreds of witnesses and examined thousands of
documents — including confidential correspondence between Mr Blair and Mr Bush —
but is still several months from producing its report and conclusions.

The statement by former White House officials that Mr Blair laid down no
conditions for British support for the US-led operation comes despite Downing
Street assertions to the contrary.

Mr Blair has said that he pushed for the United States to put more weight
behind efforts to reach a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, and
that he encouraged the US to attempt what became known as “the UN route”.

But it was widely believed that soon after the 9/11 attacks on the United
States by al-Qaeda, the “neo-conservatives” within the Bush administration, led
by Dick Cheney, the vice-president, decided that the Iraqi regime posed a
similar threat and must be dealt with militarily.

Sir Christopher lays out a series of missteps by British and US leaders but
writes: “The biggest mistake of all was to conflate Osama bin Laden and Saddam
Hussein, as if they were cut from the same violent cloth.”

Despite delivering crucial diplomatic support for Washington as other
European states wavered, Mr Blair’s concerns about domestic politics meant that
military preparations for the invasion were hampered, even though British Armed
Forces chiefs had long considered the war inevitable.

Gen Binns, who commanded the 7th Armoured Brigade in the invasion, describes
political and financial constraints on preparations for war. “Our higher level
training, due to take place in Poland, was curtailed for financial reasons,” he
writes. “I took my officers away for some conceptual training around a model but
this limited activity was no replica for realistic training.”

As the force began to assemble in northern Kuwait, he recalls, they
discovered that the wrong kind of clothing had been sent from Britain.

He says: “We were grateful for several boxes of chefs’ whites and ceremonial
dress, but would have preferred more body armour and desert camouflage uniform.

“The Marine Corps was very generous with its supplies – not always

Gen James Conway, the US Marine commander in charge of a force of 90,000, of
whom 25,000 were British, recalled asking General Robin Brims, the commander of
the 1st UK Armoured Division, what his capabilities were.

“He said: ‘I have great tanks, but I don’t have the logistics for them to go
very far’, so everything pointed to them taking and holding Basra.”

Military chiefs on both sides of the Atlantic excoriated the decision by Paul
Bremer, the US occupation chief, to disband the Iraqi army and sack all
officials who belonged to Saddam’s party shortly after the victory.

Soon afterwards the insurgency began, leading to years of bloodshed and the
loss of more lives than during the invasion.

Gen Jackson writes of the “inexplicable decisions to disband the Iraqi
security forces and to sack Ba’ath party members, however junior”. Gen Conway
said: “I’ve been disappointed by the results in Iraq. I think we had a great
opportunity for a much better end-state.

“One of the first things the CPA did was to disband the Iraqi army. We ended
up fighting those same men in Anbar province for four years.”

He also expressed shock that no weapons of mass destruction were ever
discovered, since that was “in large measure” why they were in Iraq. “We checked
every bunker between the Kuwaiti border and Baghdad and there were just none to
be found.”

Ari Fleischer, the official White House spokesman at the time, said the US
was equally let down. “I don’t believe that George Bush would have gone to war
if we concluded that Saddam Hussein did not have WMD.”

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Re: Iraq War: major new questions for Tony Blair

Post  Panda on Sun 10 Mar - 8:19

Tony Blair was twice supposed to face Parliament about lying to Members.....that never happened.!!
"A lengthy inquiry led by Sir John Chilcot into the circumstances, ordered in
June 2009, heard evidence from hundreds of witnesses and examined thousands of
documents — including confidential correspondence between Mr Blair and Mr Bush —
but is still several months from producing its report and conclusions"

FOUR YEARS TO CONDUCT AN ENQUIRY AND STILL NOT FINISHED???? no wonder Britain is in the state it's in.

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