Pilger: Blair Ought To Have WMD Chiseled On His Political Headstone
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Blair Ought To Have WMD Chiseled On His Political 0aHeadstone
By John Pilger
Tuesday 03 June 2003
But pressure's on for answers Blair ought to have WMD chiselled on his 0apolitical headstone. It's clear to the most devoted courtier that he lied about 0athe reason he gave for attacking Iraq
From OONAGH BLACKMAN, Deputy Political Editor, in Evian
RATTLED Tony Blair said yesterday he stood "absolutely 100 per 0acent" behind evidence in a Government dossier on Iraq's weapons programme.
Sweat beading his face, Mr Blair vehemently denied that 0aintelligence was doctored to beef up the argument for war on Saddam Hussein.
He hit back as the row over the failure to find any Iraqi weapons 0aof mass destruction reached a new peak. But it was not enough to stave off 0arising Labour fears that the public was duped into war.
Backbencher Malcolm Savidge said the allegation was potentially "more serious than Watergate".
Former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook called for an independent 0ainquiry, saying: "The Government has got it wrong." Former Defence Minister 0aPeter Kilfoyle predicted "somebody will fall on their sword".
To add to Mr Blair's woes, it was revealed that furious US 0aSecretary of State Colin Powell branded some CIA intelligence on Iraqi WMD as "bulls**t".
Meanwhile US senators announced they will investigate claims that 0athe Bush administration exaggerated the threat of WMD to justify toppling the 0aIraqi regime.
Before the war, No 10 produced a dossier claiming that Iraq could 0adeploy WMD in 45 minutes. Ministers admit the claim was based on information 0afrom a single source.
Yesterday, Mr Blair insisted that all the evidence was cleared by 0athe Joint Intelligence Committee.
Speaking in Evian, where he is attending the G8 summit, he said: "I stand absolutely 100 per cent behind the evidence we presented.
"The idea that we doctored intelligence reports to invent some 0anotion about a 45-minute capability of delivering weapons of mass destruction is 0atotally false."
Drinking glass after glass of Evian water in the 100F 0atemperature, Mr Blair then rubbished former International Development Secretary 0aClare Short in a savage attack.
Ms Short, who quit the Cabinet last month, claimed Mr Blair and 0aPresident Bush decided at a secret September meeting on a date to invade Iraq 0awhatever the outcome at the UN Security Council.
In a calculated move to destroy her credibility, Mr Blair said: "The idea, as apparently Clare Short is saying, that I made some secret 0aagreement with George Bush that we would invade Iraq in any event, at a 0aparticular time, is completely untrue. Charges should have evidence and there is 0anone." Rejecting demands for an inquiry, Mr Blair added in a clear dig at Mr 0aCook's claim that the Government messed up: "I think it is important that if 0apeople have evidence, they produce it.
"It is wrong for people to make allegations on the basis of 0aso-called anonymous sources when the facts are precisely what we have 0astated."
The PM again appealed for patience and said Britain and the US 0awill publish the results of interviews with Iraqi scientists to convince the 0apublic the Government has not lied. More than 50 Labour MPs have signed a 0aCommons motion calling for full publication of Government evidence on Iraqi 0aweapons.
MP Mr Savidge said yesterday: "The Prime Minister has got to 0aunderstand the level of concern.
"I can't conceive of a more serious accusation than that 0aParliament and the people could have been misled into being brought into a war 0aon false pretences. That to me is more serious than Watergate."
Mr Cook said: "We need the Government to admit the threat of 0aSaddam was over-exaggerated. The Government has got it wrong. It should try and 0adeny it or cover up."
The ex-minster, who quit as Commons leader in protest at the war, 0asaid the absence of WMD undermined the legal case for military action.
He told Channel 4: "We were told the whole purpose of this war 0awas disarmament. That looks rather difficult to sustain when we haven't yet 0afound a single WMD."
Mr Kilfoyle said last night he believed someone would be forced 0ato resign over the controversy.
He declared: "I think somebody will fall on their sword. I don't 0athink it will be the Prime Minister, but somebody will carry the can."
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw joined the damaging tit-for-tat by 0ainsisting the evidence of Iraqi WMD was "overwhelming". He failed to provide 0afresh evidence.
Secretary of State Mr Powell last night defended intelligence he 0agave the UN to justify war on Iraq.
He said in Rome: "There were WMD in Iraq. There was no doubt in 0amy mind as I went throught the intelligence that the evidence Iraq had continued 0ato develop these programmes was overwhelming."
But earlier it emerged Mr Powell was deeply suspicious of CIA 0ainformation on Iraqi weapons.
After reportedly branding some of the intelligence "bulls**t" he 0aformed his own team to check the facts, US News and World Report said.
He then argued with the CIA before outlining America's case 0aagainst Saddam at the UN on February 5.
Mr Powell also allegedly binned several pages of what the White 0aHouse wanted him to say, announcing: "I'm not reading this."
Two Senate committees are due to hold a joint public inquiry into 0ahow intelligence on Baghdad's alleged banned arms programme was gathered, 0aassessed and presented.
Republican Senator John Warner said: "People are challenging the 0acredibility of the use of this intelligence - particularly by the president, the 0aSecretaries of State and Defence, the CIA director and others."
The CIA has already started an internal probe following claims 0athat the administration overstated the risk posed by Saddam's chemical and 0abiological weapons programme.
The man heading the new US-led administration in Iraq predicted 0ayesterday WMD would be discovered.
Speaking in Baghdad, Paul Bremer said: "I think we'll find 0asomething at some point. It's hard to believe Saddam would have put his people 0athrough so much misery and given up millions of dollars if he didn't have 0asomething to hide."
Labour MP Ann Clwyd survived an ambush in northern Iraq yesterday 0awhen bandits fired shots at her eight-vehicle convoy.
The 10-strong gang were driven off by a US escort aided by local 0aPeshmerga tribesmen. Ms Clwyd, Mr Blair's special representative on human rights 0ain Iraq, said: "Shots were fired. But I'm not hurt."
Thousands of Iraqi soldiers sacked by the US-led administration 0ayesterday vowed a wave of suicide attacks unless they were paid wages and 0acompensation. More than 3,000 protested in Baghdad.
SUCH a high crime does not, and will not, melt away; the facts 0acannot be changed. Tony Blair took Britain to war against Iraq illegally. He 0amounted an unprovoked attack on a country that offered us no threat, and he 0ashared responsibility for the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The judges 0aat the Nuremberg Tribunal following world war two, who inspired much of 0amodern-day international law, called this aggression "the gravest of all war 0acrimes".
With his media courtiers telling him he was "courageous" and even "moral" for having, with the Americans, crushed a defenceless and traumatised 0anation, almost half of them children, Blair's managers have since staged a 0aseries of unctuous stunts.
The first stunt sought to elicit public sympathy with interviews 0ain the garden at Downing Street in which he related how he had to suffer the 0apain of telling his children that, "I almost lost my job". The second stunt was 0aa tale about how his privileged childhood had really been "difficult" and hinted 0aat lifelong scars. The third and most outrageous stunt saw him last week in 0aBasra, in southern Iraq, lifting an Iraqi child in his arms, in a school that 0ahad been renovated for his visit, in a city where education, like water and 0aother basic services, are still a shambles following the British invasion and 0aoccupation.
When I saw this image of Blair holding a child in Basra, I 0ahappened to be in a hotel foyer in Kabul in Afghanistan, the scene of an earlier "historic victory" over another stricken land. I found myself saying out loud 0athe words, "ultimate obscenity". It was in Basra three years ago that I filmed 0ahundreds of children ill and dying because they had been denied cancer treatment 0aequipment and drugs under an embargo enforced with enthusiasm by Tony Blair. It 0awas the one story Blair's court would never tell, because it put him, and his 0apredecessors into the annals of perpetrartors of true crimes against 0ahumanity.
Up to July last year, $5.4billion in vital and mostly 0ahumanitarian supplies for the ordinary people of Iraq were obstructed by the 0aUnited States, backed by Britain. All of it had been approved by the United 0aNations and paid for by Iraq. This epic scandal, verified with UN documents, was 0ararely reported. Professor Karol Sikora, head of the World Health Organisation's 0acancer treatment programme, who had been to the same hospitals in Basra that I 0asaw, told me: "The excuse that certain drugs can be converted into weapons of 0amass destruction is ludicrous. I saw wards where dying people were even denied 0apain-killers."
Now come forward to a hot May day in 2003, and here is Blair in 0aBasra - shirt open, a man of the troops, if not of the people - lifting a child 0ainto his arms, for the cameras, and just a few miles from where I watched 0atoddler after toddler suffer for want of treatment that is standard in Britain 0aand which was denied in the medieval siege approved and extended by Blair. 0aRemember, the main reason that these life-saving drugs and equipment were 0ablocked, which Professor Sikora and countless other experts ridiculed, was that 0aessential drugs and even children's vaccines could be converted to weapons of 0amass destruction.
WEAPONS of Mass Destruction, or WMD, has become part of the 0ajargon of our time. When he leaves or is pushed from Downing Street, Blair ought 0ahave WMD chiselled on his political headstone. Now he has been caught; for it 0amust be clear to the most devoted courtier that he has lied about the primary 0areason he gave, repeatedly, for attacking Iraq.
There is a series of such lies; they range from Blair's "solid 0aevidence" linking Iraq with Al-Qaida and September 11 (refuted by British 0aintelligence) to claims of Iraq's "growing" nuclear weapons programme (refuted 0aby the International Atomic Energy Agency when documents quoted by Blair were 0afound to be forgeries), to perhaps his most audacious tale - that Iraq's weapons 0aof mass destruction "could be activated within 45 minutes".
It is now Day 83 in the post-war magical mystery hunt for Iraq's "secret" arsenal. One group of experts, sent by George Bush, have already gone 0ahome; and this week, British intelligence sources exposed Blair's "45 minutes" 0aclaim as the fiction of one defector with scant credibility. A United Nations 0ainspector has ridiculed Blair's latest claim that two canvas-covered lorries 0arepresent "proof" of mobile chemical weapons.
It is ironic that the unravelling of Blair's position has come 0afrom the source of almost all his fables, the United States, where senior 0aintelligence officers are now publicly complaining about being compelled to give 0athe president lies. "Basically," said one of them, "you give him the garbage. 0aAnd then in a few days when it's clear that maybe it wasn't right, well then, 0ayou feed him some hot garbage." Blair's tale about Saddam Hussein being ready to 0aattack "in 45 minutes" was part of the "hot garbage".
It was all a charade. As Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons 0ainspector, has now said, the invasion of Iraq was clearly planned long ago, and 0athe issue of weapons of mass destruction rested largely on "fabricated 0aevidence".
BLAIR has made fools not so much of the British people, most of 0awhom were, and are, on to him, but of those Members of Parliament who remained 0asilent, those journalists and broadcasters who channelled and amplified his 0anonsense as headlines and principal items on BBC news bulletins. They cried wolf 0afor him. They gave him every benefit of the doubt, and so minimised his 0aculpability and, above all, allowed him to set much of the news agenda.
For months, this charade overshadowed the real issue: that the 0aUnited States intended to take control of the Middle East by turning an entire 0acountry, Iraq, into its oil-rich base. "Liberation" had nothing to do with it. 0aThis week, publication of a remarkable official map left little doubt that the 0aBritish military had bombed urban areas with cluster bombs, many of which almost 0acertainly will have failed to detonate on impact. They usually wait for children 0ato pick them up, then they explode.
This was symptomatic of a cowardly war, "fought" against a 0acountry with no navy, no air force and with a demoralised army. Last month, HMS 0aTurbulent, a nuclear-powered submarine, slipped back to Plymouth, flying the 0aJolly Roger, the pirates' emblem. How appropriate.
This British warship fired 30 American Tomahawk missiles at Iraq. 0aEach missile cost 700,000, a total of 21million in taxpayers money. That alone 0awould have provided the basic services that the British have yet to restore to 0aBasra.
WHAT did HMS Turbulent's 30 missiles hit? How many people did 0athey kill and maim? And why have we heard nothing about this? Perhaps the 0amissiles had sensory devices that could distinguish Bush's "evil-doers" and 0aBlair's "wicked men" from toddlers? The response came in the terrorist attacks 0ain Saudia Arabia and Morocco: almost certainly a direct consequence of American 0aand British violence in Iraq.
This cynical and shaming episode in Britain's modern story was 0aenacted in your name. Should Blair and his collaborators be allowed to get away 0awith it?
John Pilger's updated book, The New Rulers of the World, is 0apublished by Verso.
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