The Chilcot Report – Millions of words without meaning – Philppe Sands catalogues the report’s criticisms of Blair and points to its failings:
“Yet the inquiry has chosen to hold back on what caused the multitude of errors: was it negligence, or recklessness, or something else? In so doing it has created a space for Blair and the others who stood with him to protest that they acted in good faith, without deceit or lies. To get a sense of how this space was created requires a very thorough reading of the report. But two techniques can be identified immediately.
First, the inquiry has engaged in salami-slicing, assessing cause and motive in individual moments without stepping back and examining the whole. The whole makes clear that the decision to remove Saddam Hussein and wage war in Iraq was taken early, and that intelligence and law were then fixed to facilitate the desired outcome.
On legal matters, Blair manipulated the process, forcing the attorney general to give legal advice at the last possible moment, with troops already massed and a coalition ready to roll. He would have known that Goldsmith was less likely at that stage to have said that war would be illegal. […] Second, on the basis of material I have seen but isn’t in the public domain, I believe the inquiry may have been excessively generous in its characterisation of evidence.” Philppe Sands
No Prosecution of Blair over Iraq
A prosecution of Tony Blair for a ‘crime of aggression’ over the military invasion of Iraq in March 2003 has never been on the cards. A report is still awaited from the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court on whether preliminary examination of new evidence (e.g. with the Chilcot Report) may result in Blair’s prosecution for complicity in crimes over the conduct of the war and occupation. The domestic common law crime of ‘misconduct in public office’ offers scope for prosecution.
For this to proceed, an indictment must be prepared by the Crown Prosecution Service. A police investigation is first necessary to produce a file or charge sheet with evidence from which an indictment can be made.
What might a charge sheet for this offence look like for Tony Blair. Areas of the decision process which initiated the military invasion for potential examples of ‘breaches of duty’, resulting in serious betrayal of public trust, from which the offence of misconduct may be applied.
Kofi Annan – Un Secretary General The Iraq War was illegal
All of this confirms the conclusion of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who resolutely stated about the US invasion of Iraq in 2004:
“I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view and from the charter point of view it was illegal.”
Downing Street Memos Revealed
Pressure is being applied by MP’s insisting that the Chilcot report be published in full before the end of February. It might be further delaying tactics will be put in place with the purpose of burying the report until after the GE in May. In terms of actions taken or not by a number of persons of note there is a definitive record available for study from which it is possible to apportion events and authority. Ignore the hype, check the facts. Go to: http://www.downingstreetmemo.com/memos.html
Top Bush Era CIA Official – Iraq War Was Based On Lies:
Twelve years after George W Bush initiated the illegal invasion of Iraq, ostensibly under the premise of pre-emptive self-defence, a stark majority — as many as 75% in 2014 — feel the so-called war was a mistake.
As evidence rapidly accumulates that Bush’s yearning to launch an aggressive attack was likelier due to a personal grudge than anything else, that number will surely swell. Indeed the former president’s intelligence briefer lent yet more plausibility to that theory in an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball, making an admission that the Bush White House misrepresented intelligence reports to the public on key issues.
Michael Morell’s stint with the CIA included deputy and acting director. During the time preceding the US invasion of Iraq, he helped prepare daily intelligence briefings for Bush. One of those briefings, from October 2002, is an infamous example in intelligence history as how not to compile a report.
The National Intelligence Estimate, titled “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction”, (https://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB129/nie.pdf ) was the ostensibly flawed intelligence cited continuously by Bush supporters as justification to pursue a war of aggression against Iraq. However, this claim is dubious at best, and serves more as a smokescreen to lend credence to a president who was otherwise hell-bent on revenge against Saddam Hussein, as evidenced in his statement a month before the report, “After all, this is the guy who tried to kill my dad.”
In the Hardball interview, host Chris Matthews asked Morell about Cheney’s notorious statement in 2003:
“We know he [Saddam Hussein] has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”
Bush and Cheney Misled the American Public
The question most deserving an answer, and increasingly posed by the populace at large: If George W Bush, Dick Cheney, and others in the administration, deliberately misled the public on false pretences, directly contradicted intelligence information through misrepresentation, and ultimately initiated a wholly illegal invasion of Iraq that led to the deaths of well over 1 million civilian, non-combatants. WHY have they not been charged with war crimes?
Morrel (reporting direct to President Bush confirmed:
“What they were saying about the link between Iraq and Al Qaeda publicly was not what the intelligence community” had found. “I think they were trying to make a stronger case for the war.” Which the administration had to do, considering no such case existed.
As a matter of fact, Cheney’s statement directly conflicts with what the NIE actually stated, which is that the intelligence community only found a “[lack of] persuasive evidence that Baghdad has launched a coherent effort to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program.” Which is in line with the International Atomic Energy Agency report that came to the same conclusion: “[W]e have to date found no evidence that Iraq has revived its nuclear weapons program.”
REVEALED: The very cosy friendship between Iraq inquiry chief and Tony Blair – who knighted him after private meeting in London club
Sir John Chilcot met Tony Blair in 1997 when he was leader of Opposition
Blair and Chilcot had a clandestine encounter five months before Blair became prime minister
They worked closely together on the Northern Ireland peace process
Chilcot was then knighted by a grateful Blair into the Order of the Bath
When Blair first appeared before the Iraq inquiry five years ago, the chairman Sir John Chilcot treated him with almost painful deference.
This Report Provides Damming Evidence of a Westminster Fix (Carefully Constructed and Purposely Subjected to Extensive Delays)
Chilcot, a crumpled figure whose opening remarks lasted seven minutes, never laid a glove on Blair, even though the former prime minister gave evidence for more than six hours.
What few people know is that the bumbling Chilcot, a retired career civil servant, could, in fact, have greeted Blair as an old friend. The first time they met in 1997 — when Blair was still leader of the Opposition — was in a far more sedate environment. They dined together in the venerable Travellers Club in Pall Mall, where Chilcot is a member. The meeting was so discreet it would have remained a secret but for a single sentence in a 2008 book by Blair’s former Chief of Staff, Jonathan Powell, called Great Hatred, Little Room, Making Peace In Northern Ireland.
At the time of the meeting, John Chilcot was the most senior civil servant at the Northern Ireland Office. He had agreed to the clandestine encounter with Blair almost five months before the Labour leader became prime minister.
Civil servants often meet Opposition politicians for briefings in the run-up to elections, but they are usually held in Whitehall departments, where minutes are taken. Yet Chilcot had agreed to meet Blair in the club, which was founded in 1819 for ‘gentlemen who travelled abroad’, thereby ensuring it was not made public.
After Blair became prime minister, he worked closely with Chilcot on the Northern Ireland peace process, until the mandarin took early retirement at the end of 1997. Chilcot was then knighted by a grateful Blair into the Order of the Bath, the fourth most senior order of British chivalry.
But even after he retired from the Civil Service, Chilcot never really left the corridors of power — he has now worked in Whitehall for 50 years — taking on a series of roles on any number of public committees, often at the behest of the Blair administration.
When Lord Butler was asked to set up an inquiry in 2004 into the role of the intelligence services in the Iraq war, Blair chose the members of the inquiry’s five-strong committee. Surprise, surprise, Chilcot was one of the first people asked to serve on it by the Labour prime minister.
When it reported, the Butler inquiry was widely derided. Though it provided devastating evidence that Downing Street, with the collusion of intelligence chiefs, ‘sexed up’ the threat to the British people from Saddam Hussein before going to war, it concluded that no one should be held responsible. In short, it let Blair off the hook.
In 2009, when Gordon Brown appointed Chilcot to lead his own wide-ranging inquiry into the war, military leaders as well as senior lawyers and politicians were furious that it was to be held behind closed doors.
Major General Julian Thompson, who was highly decorated for his command of the Royal Marines in the Falklands, warned: ‘A report from a secret inquiry will look like a whitewash.’ The Tories forced — and lost — a Commons vote on who should make up the inquiry team, complaining they were ageing patsies who were not up to the job. Political pressure did, however, mean the inquiry was not held in secret.
There was genuine scepticism that Chilcot, a former civil servant who had spent his entire working life immersed in the machinery of government, had the temperament to ask the forensic questions necessary to unravel an Establishment cover-up over the war.
Philippe Sands, QC, who works at Matrix Chambers, the human rights firm set up by Cherie Blair, was one of the first to call into question the choice of Chilcot. Now professor of international law at University College, London, Mr Sands said: ‘It is not immediately apparent that he will have the backbone to take on former government ministers. ‘What was it about his role in the Butler inquiry that caused the prime minister to conclude he was suitable? Some who have worked closely with him, including on the Butler inquiry, fear he is not the right person. ‘Someone who has seen him first-hand described his approach as one of “obvious deference to governmental authority”.
This is a view I have heard repeated several times. More troubling is evidence I have seen for myself.’ Sands was not impressed by Chilcot’s questioning at the Butler inquiry of Lord Goldsmith, who was Attorney General at the time of the Iraq war and who, under pressure, had changed his original judgement that the war was illegal. He said: ‘Sir John’s spoon-fed questions give every impression of being designed to elicit a response from the Attorney General that would demonstrate the reasonableness of his actions and those of the government.’
When it came to Chilcot’s own inquiry, held in a small cramped room in a grey conference centre in Westminster, there have been similar shortcomings — quite apart from the disgracefully protracted nature of the proceedings. According to former senior BBC journalist Rod Liddle, when former Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer was before the panel he became utterly bored with ‘charming, learned and polite knighted people asking the gentlest of questions’.
Then there was the moment in 2011 — two years after the inquiry had begun — when John Chilcot turned up in the audience at the premiere of a play about the build-up to the Iraq war. It was written by Sarah Helm, whose partner is Jonathan Powell, the most important official in the Downing Street ‘kitchen Cabinet’ during the war.
In one scene, the actor playing Blair had a conversation with Sir Richard Dearlove, the then head of MI6, about intelligence issues relating to the war. Despite having interrogated Blair and Dearlove, Chilcot had never unearthed the existence of this particular conversation.
After seeing the play, he demanded more files from Whitehall, which confirmed it really had taken place. In truth, the play seems to have shed more light on the reasons Britain went to war than Chilcot’s blustering. He is, it is fair to say, a rather dry old stick.
Born in 1939, he was privately educated at £31,000-a-year Brighton College and then Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he studied English and modern and medieval languages. An avid reader, he claims to love learning new words and once said he would take The Oxford English Dictionary in 12 volumes as his reading matter to a desert island.
He married his wife Rosemary, an artist, in 1964. They have no children. The couple used to live in a £1.3 million farm in Haslemere, Surrey, but now divide their time between a £500,000 property in Somerset and a two-bedroom flat in Westminster bought without a mortgage in 2012 as the Chilcot inquiry was beginning to drag on.
After spells in a variety of posts in the Home Office and the Cabinet Office, he ended up at the Northern Ireland Office at the start of the peace process. Even though Tory Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Brooke had opened a confidential dialogue with the IRA and Sinn Fein, Chilcot, a key figure in the talks, authorised a statement describing allegations in the media of negotiations with the IRA as a ‘fantasy’.
When a Sunday newspaper produced detailed evidence that the talks were at an advanced stage, he telephoned the editor to try to persuade him to put a ‘gloss’ on the news. Once asked what was his proudest achievement, Chilcot said: ‘Northern Ireland. Helping the transition from war to peace.’
After he left Belfast, Chilcot moved seamlessly into a series of government-appointed posts, chairing inquiries into the voting system and royal security, as well as into an IRA raid. Last week, it was reported he has been known to spend only seven or eight hours a week in his Westminster office on the Iraq inquiry. If true, it’s little wonder.
A fully paid-up member of the Establishment, he also finds time to chair the Advisory Committee of the Centre for Contemporary British History, he is a member of the Institute of Historical Research Advisory Council and is President of the Police Foundation, an independent think-tank. He’s chairman of the Building and Civil Engineering Group and a member of the National Archives Council. One Tory MP said: ‘He is serving on endless well-meaning committees and public bodies. So when does he have the time to do the Iraq work?’
With the costs of the inquiry soaring to £10 million plus, and Chilcot and his three fellow panel members earning a reputed £1.5 million from it, this lifelong mandarin has acquired a new nickname among civil servants. The codename for the initial British and American bombing raids on Iraq back in 2003 was ‘Shock And Awe’; they have dubbed Chilcot ‘block and bore’.
To be fair, Sir Christopher Meyer says Sir John Chilcot is a victim of the limited power of the inquiry’s terms of reference. ‘When Downing Street set up the inquiry into phone-hacking at newspapers it was a judicial inquiry led by a judge, Lord Justice Leveson,’ he said. ‘The Leveson inquiry had powers to compel witnesses to appear and to answer all questions put to them. Chilcot does not have that power. A judge should be running this inquiry, not a retired civil servant.’
Few of Chilcot’s former colleagues in Whitehall expect him to rock the boat when the report eventually comes out. ‘He is a safe pair of hands who is close to some of the key players in the inquiry. It’s why he got the job,’ says another diplomat. ‘He’s also 76 — not exactly a spring chicken — and is clearly slowing down.’
Chilcot, a private figure who eschews publicity, gave a rare interview in 2011 to The Old Brightonians, the magazine of his former school. Asked the most challenging parts of the job, he replied: ‘Keeping steady judgement when sailing through troubled waters.’ He was also pressed on what was the best advice he had ever been given. He replied: ‘Try your best at things you’re not good at.’ Hardly reassuring words for the families still waiting to hear why their loved ones died in the catastrophe that was the Iraq war. Read more: