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“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Tony Blair's Big Lie of Omission
The early media coverage of Blair's book, A Journey: My Political Life, has zeroed in on his complex and dramatic relationship with Gordon Brown, his onetime political soulmate. (Blair writes about him as one would an ex-lover.) Yet Blair devotes a serious chunk to defending his decision to partner up with Bush for the Iraq war. "I can't regret the decision to go to war," he writes. "…I can say that never did I guess the nightmare that unfolded." He adds, "I have often reflected as to whether I was wrong. I ask you to reflect as to whether I may have been right."
During that conversation, Blair told Bush that he needed a second UN resolution that explicitly authorized military action against Iraq, having promised his Labour Party that he would seek one. Blair explained that the resolution—or, at least, an attempt to obtain the resolution—was necessary political cover for him and, according to a memo written by a Blair aide documenting the meeting, "international cover, especially with the Arabs." Bush agreed to try to twist arms at the UN, but he informed Blair that he had already selected a tentative start date for the war: March 10. (Ultimately, there would be no such UN resolution.)
But more than politics was discussed. According to the memo, Bush and Blair each said they doubted any weapons of mass destruction would soon be discovered by the UN inspectors then searching for such arms in Iraq. With no WMDs, it could be harder to win support for the war. But Bush had an idea—or two.
The memo notes that Bush raised the notion of provoking a confrontation with Saddam Hussein. "The US was thinking," the memo said, "of flying US reconnaissance aircraft with fighter cover over Iraq, painted UN colours. If Saddam fired on them, he would be in breach" of UN resolutions. A retaliatory attack would then be fully justified; the war could begin. Bush also discussed producing some "defector who could give a public presentation about Saddam's WMD." At this meeting, the two men also agreed that it was unlikely that "internecine warfare" would break out between "different religious and ethnic groups" after an invasion of Iraq.
This memo was a startling revelation. Here was the US president hinting at mounting a giant con game to start a war: creating a phony incident to grease the path to an invasion. The memo—portions of which were published  in the New York Times and in Philippe Sands' Lawless World —does not record Blair objecting to this potential subterfuge. (I have read the entire memo.)
Blair could provide a tremendous service to historians (and the citizens of England and the United States) by offering an accurate, eyewitness account of what transpired in the Oval Office that day. What did Blair think of a US president hinting at such trickery to kick-start a war? Did he take Bush's notion seriously? Did Bush propose any other unconventional ideas? Yet by engaging in Soviet-style revisionism—don't recognize an inconvenient historical event—Blair doesn't have to answer these questions. Nor does he have to defend his apparent silence in response to Bush's suggestion that they cheat their way to an invasion. Nor does Blair have to reconcile his description of Bush—a man of integrity—with the documented record (created by Blair's own aide). By ignoring this conversation, Blair demonstrates that this book—despite his passionate claims—is not a good-faith and candid accounting of all the trials and tribulations he underwent as the United States and England headed to war.
At one point in Blair's memoir, he refers to Bush as a "man at peace with himself." That's not how Blair comes across in his book. Perhaps that's because he realizes he is not being completely honest.
MI5 HEAD TOLD BLAIR IRAQ NO THREAT
ERIC MARGOLIS, JOURNALIST: Good to be here.
JAY: Eric, tell us more about the testimony that took place during the inquiry.
MARGOLIS: The testimony is shocking and explosive, but nobody in the States wants to be shocked or hear explosions. The head of MI5, who knows more than anybody else—except for MI6, foreign intelligence—what was going on, has dismissed all of the claims made by the Bush administration and by British Prime Minister Blair, all the claims to justify invading Iraq. They were lies—that's what she really said. And amazingly, the American media has paid very little attention to her astounding testimony. Other witnesses at the Chilcot investigation that's reviewing the reasons for Britain going into the war against Iraq have also painted a very negative picture of the government, of its decisions. And what we see is a fabric of illegality, of violation of international law, and just downright lying our way into the war.
JAY: This has been at the very core of the Republican defense of the Iraq War, but not only the Republican; there were a lot of Democrats that voted in various ways to support the war. And the mantra of all of them has been, well, we weren't the only ones that were fooled; all the other intelligence agencies thought the same thing we did. So her testimony should just be—as you say, exploded the whole mythology of the Americans for why they're there. Yet even the Democrats don't seem to be running with this, which should be a way to bury their opposition.
MARGOLIS: Well, so many of these Democrats voted for the war based on lies and patriotic jingoism, so they want to forget about it. But, you know, this claim by Republicans, "Well, all the other intelligence agencies said that Saddam is a threat," is also another lie, because what the US intelligence does, it has routine intelligence-sharing procedures with other Western—all NATO intelligence agencies. And these fake stories about Iraq's deadly weapons were planted in the US intelligence system, probably through some Middle Eastern sources who wanted to see the war happening. The Americans then transferred this false information over to allied intelligence agencies. And then the president and his people had the chutzpah to say, well, look, they all believed it too. Well, what they were believing were phony American stories that had been passed to them. This was in no way evidence.
JAY: So in your rounds in Washington this week, is there any talk about the things that have come out of this British inquiry? Or are they just being ignored?
MARGOLIS: None. None. The only thing people want to talk about is Afghanistan. "Oh, that's yesterday's war. We'll forget about it." But it's shocking. And, you know, there is a case to be made for charges being brought against the politicians who led us into a war for reasons that can be not much better than called aggression. It's shocking.
JAY: Well, you'd think if Obama wanted to change the dynamic of American politics, I mean, he should have—I mean, in my own opinion, and I think a lot of people, he should have done this a long time ago. But with this now testimony of MI5, he's got more than the smoking gun. But you're saying not a word of it.
MARGOLIS: He's got a smoking machine gun. I think that Obama should use it to go after the Republicans, to discredit them. And particularly, the hardcore Republican war party that's beating the war drums for war against Iran, just in the exact same way that war was drummed up against Iraq and to expand the Afghan war, is the perfect weapon for Obama. But Obama won't use it, and he's shying away. And I know midterm elections are coming up. But Obama just is either too gentle, or else he is too much under the influence of the military-industrial-financial complex here in Washington.
JAY: Thanks for joining us, Eric.
MARGOLIS: My pleasure.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.