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.
Was the war legal?
The Report contains a glimmer of a future in which people will be able not only to investigate, but also to find justice and prevent future leaders to commit and repeat the same mistakes. The Report sets a precedent for similar investigations on the Iraq war to be carried out in other countries, in the United States and in Australia, as well as on other military operations in the future. It has also shown that in this case, the British public and the Australian public, despite the fact that information was withheld, were correct in believing that their countries should not have sheepishly followed the United States into Iraq, proving that people can help leaders stay on the honest side of history.
Strange as it may seem, four days before the publication of the Report, the London Daily Telegraph found itself authorised to inform that Prosecutors at the International Criminal Court in The Hague will proceed to examine it, but only for a limited purpose: “ … for evidence of abuse and torture by British soldiers but [the Prosecutors had] already ruled out putting Tony Blair on trial for war crimes …”. Whilst the Report was expected strongly to criticise Blair’s role in the illegal invasion, only “individual soldiers could be prosecuted for war crimes” – not Blair.
This was so, despite the fact that it was clear that Blair’s commitment to George W. Bush’s determination to invade Iraq was made personally, a year before the invasion, at a meeting at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, without the knowledge of U.K. Parliament. The I.C.C., it was known, was awaiting the formal introduction of a crime of aggression, which would bring illegal invasions into their legal remit – to which Bush, Blair and Howard’s actions would seemingly be relevant – but could obviously not apply retrospectively. One widely accepted principle of criminal law is the rule against retroactivity, which prohibits the imposition of ex post facto laws i.e. laws which would allow an individual to be punished for conduct which was not recognised as criminal at the time it was carried out.
Thus, currently, the decision by the United Kingdom or Australia – both of which have accepted the I.C.C. jurisdiction – to go to war in Iraq falls outside the Court’s jurisdiction.
Nevertheless, Blair may still be subject to other measures. He could be impeached “for misleading Parliament over the Iraq war”, and there was already a cross party group of Members of Parliament who were planning that.
The MPs were attempting to apply an ancient parliamentary power, unused since 1806, to bring Blair to trial in Parliament on the ground that Blair “breached his constitutional duties as Prime Minister.”
He could be charged with doing so while claiming that Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction could reach the U.K. “in 45 minutes.” That claim had been contradicted by Blair’s own intelligence (agencies) assessments. There was abroad a feeling that Blair should render account of his actions in what became a disastrous war. The Report would confirm that.
There is definitely a feeling that Blair must be properly held to account for his actions in the run up to what was a disastrous war. Not so much a war but the near annihilation of a sovereign nation without even the minimal wherewithal of self defence, many will reflect. If the impeachment attempt is approved by Parliament Blair could be put to trial. A simple majority of votes is required to convict, at which point a sentence can be passed, which could see Blair being sent to prison. (F. Arbuthnot, The International Criminal Court (ICC) will not prosecute Tony Blair, others are planning to, 03 July 2016).
Shortly after it was revealed that former Prime Minister Blair and then President George W. Bush had made a pact to attack Iraq and overthrow the country’s sovereign government a full year before the invasion took place – as Blair continued to mislead government and the U.K. people stating that diplomacy was being pursued and no decisions made – another revelation confirmed how Blair was being protected. His benefactor was Sir Jeremy John Heywood, KCB, CVO.
This mandarin-par-excellence was Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Blair from June 1999 to July 2003 – as well as the Downing Street Chief of Staff and the first and only Downing Street Permanent Secretary – and would thus have been party to every step of the scheming and untruths about the invasion and surely the plotting between Bush and Blair to attack, during their April 2002, three day meeting at the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas. After a small ‘professional accident’ he left the civil service for private business as managing director of the U.K. Investment Banking Division at Morgan Stanley where he became embroiled in the Southern Cross Healthcare scandal that almost saw 30,000 elderly people being made homeless. But, on the appointment of Gordon Brown as Prime Minister in 2007, Heywood returned to government as Head of Domestic Policy and Strategy at the Cabinet Office. He became the Cabinet Secretary on 1 January 2012 with Prime Minister David Cameron and currently with Prime Minister Theresa May, and has been Head of the Home Civil Service since September 2014. Sir Jeremy is indestructible.
In Australian terms no comparison would be possible. The nearest to that Polytetrafluoroethylene-like character would be Arthur Sinodinos, AO, a Liberal senator since 2011, who had been a senior public servant and investment banker before entering politics, had a little brush with the New South Wales Independent Commission Against Corruption, but re-entered Cabinet as its Secretary on 21 September 2015 when he was appointed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
Sir Jeremy Heywood has certainly earned the moniker of Sir Cover Up.
Sources close to the Iraq Inquiry claimed that it was held up for months while its chairman, Sir John, argued with Sir Jeremy about which documents could be put in the public domain.
In the end, Sir Jeremy prevailed, and insisted that 150 messages between Tony Blair and George Bush in the run-up to the 2003 war must be censored. Only the essence of the messages and selected quotes could be released. And Sir Jeremy would decide which.
Once Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said it was ‘wholly inappropriate’ that Sir Jeremy had been involved in decisions on the Iraq Inquiry, given his role as Mr. Blair’s Private Secretary at the time of the war. Now the Rt. Hon. David Davis, appointed as Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union on 13 July 2016, sits not very far from Sir Jeremy Heywood – in Cabinet.
As Principal Private Secretary to Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Sir Jeremy might have been party to the plans for and structure of the Chilcot Inquiry. Thus those involved in the invasion convened the Inquiry into the illegality.
Gordon Brown had been Blair’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, and in that capacity wrote the cheques for the years of illegal British bombings of Iraq and for the U.K.’s participation in ‘Operation Iraqi Liberation’ – mark the acronym ! He also wrote the cheques for Britain’s part in the disastrous invasion of Afghanistan.
According to figures provided by the Ministry of Defence the total cost of U.K. military operation in Iraq, between 2003 and 2009, was 8.4 billion pounds, equivalent to AU$14.4 billion. The Afghanistan adventure might have cost thus far five times as much – and counting.
The planned invasion of Iraq was not about nuclear weapons or democracy, as Bush claimed. Two powerful factions in Washington were beating the war drums: ardently pro-Israel neoconservatives who yearned to see an enemy of Israel destroyed, and a cabal of conservative oil men and imperialists around Vice President Dick Cheney who sought to put his hands on Iraq’s huge oil reserves at a time they believed oil was running out. They engineered the Iraq war, as blatant and illegal an aggression as Hitler’s invasion of Poland in 1939.
Prime Minister Blair tagged along with the war boosters in hopes that the U.K. could pick up the crumbs from the invasion and reassert its former economic and political power in the Arab world. Blair had long been a favourite of British neoconservatives. The silver-tongued Blair became point man for the war in preference to the tongue-twisted, stumbling George W. Bush. But the real warlord was Vice President Dick Cheney.
There was no “flawed intelligence” as Blair and later John Howard claimed. There were intelligence agencies bullied into reporting a fake narrative to suit their political masters. And there were also a lot of fake reports concocted by the United States and the United Kingdom allies in the Middle East – such as Israel and Kuwait.
After the even mild Report, the reputation of Blair – he who had been appointed ‘Middle East Peace Envoy’ – is in tatters. How such an intelligent, apparently worldly man could have allowed himself to be led around by the doltish, swaggering Bush is hard to understand. Europe’s leaders and Canada had refused to join the Anglo-American aggression. France, which warned Bush of the disaster he would inflict, was slandered and smeared by American neoliberals as ‘cheese-eating surrender monkeys.’
Tomorrow: Was the war legal? (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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