The Iraq Inquiry Report (2009-2016) documents how Tony Blair committed Great Britain to war early in 2002, lying to the United Nations, to Parliament, and to the British people, in order to follow George Bush, who had planned an aggression on Iraq well before September 2001.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard conspired with both reckless adventurers, purported ‘to advise’ both buccaneers, sent troops to Iraq before the war started, then lied to Parliament and to the Australian people. He continues to do so.
Should he and his cabal be charged with war crimes? This, and more, is investigated by Dr George Venturini in this outstanding series.
Deception on a grand scale (continued)
The British Prime Minister did not waste any time sorting out what would happen next. The Report of the Inquiry records that the very next day after the summit between Blair and Bush at the President ranch in Crawford, Texas, that is on 8 April 2002, U.K. Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon, called in Chief of Defence Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce (now Lord Boyce) and the Permanent Undersecretary at the Ministry of Defence Sir Kevin Tebbit to discuss “military options” in Iraq. (Report, SECTION 3.3, DEVELOPMENT OF UK STRATEGY AND OPTIONS, APRIL TO JULY 2002, Development of UK policy, April to June 2002, p.3. (See also Section 6.1) Mr. Hoon commissioned work on military options as a “precaution against the possibility that military action might have to be taken at some point in the future”. Minute Watkins to PSO/CDS and PS/PUS, 8 April 2002, ‘Iraq’.)
A little over a week later, Air Marshal Brian Burridge, Deputy Commander of R.A.F. Strike Command, was dispatched to the U.S. to act as liaison with General Tommy Franks, commander of the U.S. Central Command, who was to lead the invasion force. Air Marshal Burridge, now Sir Brian, told the Chilcot Inquiry that he had a meeting with Gen. Franks shortly after arriving at Central Command’s headquarters in Tampa, Florida, discussing the no-fly zones over Iraq “at some length.”
Nine days later, on 26 April, Gen. Franks flew to London with Air Marshal Burridge for discussions with the U.K. defence chiefs. The Report records that they talked about the patrols of the no-fly zones but the details of the discussions were “circulated on very limited distribution.” (Minute SECCOS to PS/SofS [MOD] and others, 30 April 2002, ‘Record of CINCCENTCOM meeting with COS – 26 April 2002’. The Report, SECTION 6.1, DEVELOPMENT OF THE MILITARY OPTIONS FOR AN INVASION OF IRAQ, para. 213, pp.207-208).
From this point, it seems, the narrative becomes more bureaucratically detailed but less revealing. Indeed, it seemed unconcerned about finding out the truth, if one considers the following passage from SECTION 6.1:
“214. The minute of the discussion records that the Chiefs of Staff were told that the US was thinking deeply about Iraq and possible contingencies; but was not currently planning a military operation to overthrow the Iraqi regime. There were a significant number of questions about the use of force including timing and the need for proof of WMD and a legal underpinning.
- Recent difficulties with the No-Fly Zones were also discussed.
Mr Jim Drummond, Assistant Head of OD Sec (Foreign Policy), who attended the Chiefs of Staff meeting, advised Sir David Manning that: “… the mood [in the US government] was ‘when not if’, but the list of unintended consequences was long and policy makers were still grappling with them … Activity in Washington mirrored that in London. Small groups of senior staff thinking through strategy options.”109 Minute Drummond to Manning, 26 April 2002, ‘Meeting with General Franks’.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Brian Burridge told the Inquiry that Gen Franks had visited London in “mid-May”; and that he had said something about Iraq along the lines of “it is not if but when, and that was really the first time I had heard him say anything with that degree of certainty”. (Footnote 110. Public hearing, 8 December 2009, page 6)
From the records of the 26 April Chiefs of Staff meeting, the Inquiry concludes ACM Burridge was recalling that discussion. There is no evidence that Gen Franks was in London in mid-May.”
Nor does the summary of key findings help much. Here it is with reference to SECTION 6.1:
- “The size and composition of a UK military contribution to the US-led invasion of Iraq was largely discretionary. The US wanted some UK capabilities (including Special Forces) to use UK bases, and the involvement of the UK military to avoid the perception of unilateral US military action. The primary impetus to maximise the size of the UK contribution and the recommendations on its composition came from the Armed Forces, with the agreement of Mr Hoon.
- From late February 2002, the UK judged that Saddam Hussein’s regime could only be removed by a US-led invasion.
- In April 2002, the MOD advised that, if the US mounted a major military operation, the UK should contribute a division comprising three brigades. That was perceived to be commensurate with the UK’s capabilities and the demands of the campaign. Anything smaller risked being compared adversely to the UK’s contribution to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
- The MOD saw a significant military contribution as a means of influencing US decisions.
- Mr Blair and Mr Hoon wanted to keep open the option of contributing significant forces for ground operations as long as possible, but between May and mid-October consistently pushed back against US assumptions that the UK would provide a division.
- Air and maritime forces were offered to the US for planning purposes in September.
- The MOD advised in October that the UK was at risk of being excluded from US plans unless it offered ground forces, “Package 3”, on the same basis as air and maritime forces. That could also significantly reduce the UK’s vulnerability to US requests to provide a substantial and costly contribution to post-conflict operations.
- From August until December 2002, other commitments meant that UK planning for Package 3 was based on providing a divisional headquarters and an armoured brigade for operations in northern Iraq. That was seen as the maximum practicable contribution the UK could generate within the predicted timescales for US action.
- The deployment was dependent on Turkey’s agreement to the transit of UK forces.
- Mr Blair agreed to offer Package 3 on 31 October 2002.
- That decision and its potential consequences were not formally considered by a Cabinet Committee or reported to Cabinet.
- In December 2002, the deployment of 3 Commando Brigade was identified as a way for the UK to make a valuable contribution in the initial stages of a land campaign if transit through Turkey was refused. The operational risks were not explicitly addressed.
- Following a visit to Turkey on 7 to 8 January 2003, Mr Hoon concluded that there would be no agreement to the deployment of UK ground forces through Turkey.
- By that time, in any case, the US had asked the UK to deploy for operations in southern Iraq.”
On 2 May 2002 a top meeting was held at 10 Downing Street. Mr. Blair was in the chair and Defence Minister Hoon, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Admiral Boyce were in attendance. But there seems to be no record of the discussion in SECTION 3.3, which deals with DEVELOPMENT OF UK STRATEGY AND OPTIONS, APRIL TO JULY 2002.
The key findings are even limited to few points:
- “By July 2002, the UK Government had concluded that President Bush was impatient to move on Iraq and that the US might take military action in circumstances that would be difficult for the UK.
- Mr Blair’s Note to President Bush of 28 July sought to persuade President Bush to use the UN to build a coalition for action by seeking a partnership with the US and setting out a framework for action.
- Mr Blair told President Bush that the UN was the simplest way to encapsulate a “casus belli” in some defining way, with an ultimatum to Iraq once military forces started to build up in October. That might be backed by a UN resolution.
- Mr Blair’s Note, which had not been discussed or agreed with his colleagues, set the UK on a path leading to diplomatic activity in the UN and the possibility of participation in military action in a way that would make it very difficult for the UK subsequently to withdraw its support for the US.”
On 20 May 2002 The (London) Telegraph reported that American airplanes had been striking positions in southern Iraq after U.S. and U.K. aircraft had been targeted by Iraqi air defences during a patrol of the no-fly zone.
The U.S. Central Command, which is headquartered in Tampa, Florida, said that the warplanes “used precision-guided weapons to strike an aircraft direction-finding site.”
The Command said that Iraqi air defences had targeted coalition aircraft two hours earlier for the second time in 12 days.
They coalition aircraft were patrolling a no-fly zone which was imposed over southern Iraq in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War.
Iraq has been actively challenging US-British enforcement of the no-fly zones in the north as well as the south since December 1998.
The previous strike in southern Iraq had taken place on 15 April. (US warplanes strike Iraq, The Telegraph, 20 May 2002).
On 5 June 2002 U.S. Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, flew to London for talks with Mr. Hoon, following which British officials announced changes to the rules of engagement in the no-fly zones making it easier for allied aircraft to attack Iraqi military positions.
There is an official report of that meeting in a news article by the U.S. Department of Defense.
“Speaking in Brussels, Mr. Hoon told American reporters that Iraqi forces had resumed stepped-up attacks on U.S. and British fliers enforcing the northern and southern no-fly zones. in that country, the British defense minister told American reporters today.
Mr. Hoon was accompanying Mr. Rumsfeld from London for meetings here with other NATO defence ministers.
The Minister of Defence spoke to reporters declaring that:
“Immediately after Sept. 11, there was a fall-off of incidences over the no-fly zone. We judged that the regime in Iraq seemed to have gotten the message that military action would follow if they were not very, very careful.” adding “In more recent times, there has been an increase in the number of attacks on aircraft.”
He said it was important for the international community to “set out very clearly to the Iraqi regime the importance of accepting U.N. Security Council resolutions regarding weapons inspectors.”
According to the article, “After the 1990-1991 Gulf War, the Security Council ordered Iraq to allow international inspectors to verify the country was no longer producing weapons of mass destruction. Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein balked in October 1997 and dismantled the program through most of 1998 by expelling U.N. inspectors and ending cooperation.
There have been no inspections in the four years since. U.N. and Iraqi officials have been negotiating a restored inspection regime since March 2002.”
Rumsfeld had said earlier at a London press conference with Hoon that Iraq was surely still developing such weapons and was posing a threat to its neighbours.
“We know that the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq has had a sizable appetite for weapons of mass destruction. We know the borders into that country are quite porous.” Rumsfeld said, noting that both illicit materials and legal materials with both military and civilian uses flow into Iraq regularly.
“There is not a doubt in the world that Iraq’s programs mature by a month with every month that passes.” he said. “That is not a happy prospect for that region.” Rumsfeld said. “This is an individual who has used chemical weapons on his own people, so there’s not any great debate about what he and his regime are willing to do with weapons of mass destruction.”
Rumsfeld and Hoon agreed that the best way to ensure Iraq was no threat to the rest of the world was for Saddam Hussein not to be its president.
“Certainly we both believe that Iraq will be a much better place, not only for the region, but for its own people if Saddam Hussein was no longer in power in Iraq.” Hoon had said in London. (U.S. Department of Defense, DoD News, ‘British MOD: Attacks on U.S. British fliers in Iraq increasing’, Brussels, 5 June 2002).
Tomorrow: Deception on a grand scale (continued)
Dr. Venturino Giorgio Venturini – ‘George’ devoted some sixty years to study, practice, teach, write and administer law at different places in four continents. In 1975, invited by Attorney-General Lionel Keith Murphy, Q.C., he left a law chair in Chicago to join the Trade Practices Commission in Canberra – to serve the Whitlam Government. In time he witnessed the administration of a law of prohibition as a law of abuse, and documented it in Malpractice, antitrust as an Australian poshlost (Sydney 1980).
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