The Iraq inquiry headed by Sir John Chilcot has already lasted six years and cost £10million. A source close to the inquiry told us all this June it is ‘unlikely to be published for another year at least’. It’s gone on so long that most people have just forgotten it exists. But, like Gordon Brown, who, in an astonishing piece of British-style institutional nepotism appointed the members of the committee, it occasionally hoves back into view reminding us that somewhere in the shadows they lie undisturbed by troublesome notions of transparency, accountability or law.
One such moments has just snapped us out of this cynicism-induced lethargy with an astonishing leak from Colin Powell that appears to prove Tony Blair backed military action a year before seeking a vote in parliament.
The document shows a disjuncture between Blair’s public position in early 2002 that he was doing everything he could to avoid military action and the opinion of the White House that the PM would “follow our lead”. These two realities are irreconcilable. The Powell memo says: “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary. He is convinced on two points; the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.” Both turned out to be myths, the former perpetuated by the Blair regime’s own propaganda unit. From the memo Blair emerges as a sort of Global Spin-Doctor for the Bush regime. The memo from Powell (March 2002) tells Bush that Blair would “present to you the strategic, tactical and public affairs lines that he believes will strengthen global support for our common cause”. That’s some special relationship.
The reality is Tony Blair supported the war 12 months before it began and he’s been lying about it ever since.
Speaking as SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman, Alex Salmond commented: “The memo contradicts claims from Mr Blair that all that time he had been seeking diplomatic ways to avoid an invasion. It also adds weight to the evidence given by Sir Christopher Meyer, the former UK ambassador to the United States – to the Chilcot inquiry – that the military timetable and preparation for invasion took precedence over any diplomacy and specifically over the timetable for the weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix.”
The memo contradicts claims from Mr Blair that all that time he had been seeking diplomatic ways to avoid an invasion. It also adds weight to the evidence given by Sir Christopher Meyer, the former UK ambassador to the United States – to the Chilcot inquiry – that the military timetable and preparation for invasion took precedence over any diplomacy and specifically over the timetable for the weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix
It’s important not to succumb to the weary cynicism of a hundred British establishment inquiries characterised by vast cost and the inevitable subsequent white-wash distortion and cover-up. As the truth emerges despite the efforts of failed former regimes to suppress it, it’s important to maintain the pressure for transparency and accountability. The Iraq disaster has affected foreign policy ever since and destabilised the entire Middle East bringing increased threats and violence to us all. It’s not a disaster that can be swept away just with time or ongoing spin. Just as Wikileaks and others have exposed the reality of Cheney’s involvement in torture – we need to expect full disclosure and not give-in to a world where our leaders act above the law in our name.
That’s not the hand of history on your shoulder Tony, it’s the Old Bill.