[The Time For Peace is Now!!! Enough. Let’s get this arrest party rollin’!!! Tony]
Stop the War has obtained the full transcript of the interview Tony Blair gave to the BBC, in which he confesses that even though he knew he was committing a war crime, he was still right to go to war in Iraq.
By Robin Beste
Stop the War Coalition
12 December 2009
Tony Blair was interviewed on the BBC by Fern Britton, but only extracts from the interview were broadcast, leaving out his frank admission that he knew from the start that the Iraq invasion was a war crime.
A transcript of the whole interview has been leaked to Stop the War, which we reprint here.
TONY BLAIR: I knew when I met privately with George Bush on his Texas ranch in April 2002 that attacking another country for the purposes of regime change is an illegal act of aggression under international law.
The Nuremberg Trials at the end of World War II, which tried Nazi war criminals, gave this definition: “To initiate a war of aggression…is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”
Regardless of international law, George told me the United States was going to invade Iraq, which had for years been a declared aim of the neocons now dominating his government, like Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz.
They wanted the Bush administration to demonstrate that overwhelming US military power could be used at will to topple any regime and subjugate any country or region. Iraq, with the second largest resources of oil in the world, was a prime target.
Whatever George said was always good enough for me. But I had a problem. How could I join with George in what was so clearly a violation of international law? I knew I would not get even my own cabinet to agree to a war for regime change. Nor would it be supported by MPs in parliament, and certainly not by the British public.
Even my old pal Lord Goldsmith, who I’d appointed Attorney General – the most senior law officer in the land – told me the war would be illegal and a breach of the United Nations Charter.
Regardless of these difficulties, I told George that Britain was on board and I would commit a very large deployment of British troops — 45,000 — so he could say the illegal invasion was being undertaken by the “international community”. My commitment turned out to be crucial for George because only four other countries agreed to help invade Iraq and they sent only a token number of soldiers — e.g. a pathetic 194 from Poland!
Even George accepted he needed some cover to carry out what were so obviously war crimes. Which is why he agreed with me that we should find a way to bounce the United Nations into passing a resolution authorising military action against Saddam Hussein, using the fantasy that he was a real and current threat to world peace.
Intimidation, threats and bribery
So while throughout 2002 we were moving men and equipment into the Middle East in preparation for an invasion which George told me would take place within a year, we applied massive pressure on the United Nations to back the invasion. We were confident that we could get a majority. Intimidation, threats and bribery were usually enough to get the smaller nations to take our side.
At the same time I set about misleading cabinet ministers, parliament and the British people by claiming that Saddam Hussein had to be toppled because he had weapons of mass destruction which he may use at any moment in a direct threat to Britain’s vital interests.
George was using the same arguments, so I assumed that one way or another after the war the United States would produce “evidence” that Iraq did indeed have them, whether or not we produced any proof before we invaded.
So it didn’t trouble me much when I began concocting complete nonsense about the existence of Saddam’s WMDs, not least in the “dodgy” dossier which I presented to parliament on 24 September 2002 and which was so obviously a trumped up justification for what under international law could not be justified.
I’d got away with so many lies and deceptions in the past that I was confident I could bluff my way through even this tall order.
What I didn’t expect was the scale of the opposition to the war among the British people. It wasn’t very pleasant seeing two million people on the streets on 15 February 2003 — the biggest political demonstration in British history, organised by the Stop the War Coalition.
I’d always assumed that the British people saw me as I had described myself to them — as “a pretty straight sort of a guy”. It was a shock when thousands walked through London carrying placards with my name misspelt as “Bliar”.
But I still expected to be able to flannel the majority of my cabinet without too much difficulty, especially if we were successful in bullying the United Nations into the second resolution authorising war.
But the UN proved a harder nut to crack than me and George had expected. Even Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN Security Assembly on 5 February 2003 of “proof” that Saddam had WMDs didn’t work.
Colin’s claims were preposterous, but we assumed that the UN would buckle when such an “authoritative” figure made the case.
It didn’t work. The Security Council wouldn’t support the resolution and on 24 February we withdrew it before it got formally thrown out.
This was a setback because Hans Blix and his UN weapons’ inspectors were not making it easy for us by insisting they they had found no WMD evidence in Iraq so far. On 7 March 2003 — just two weeks before the war was due to start — the UN inspectors asked the Security Council for a few months more time to investigate further.
That would have been disastrous for me and George. We had 300,000 troops lined up on the Iraq border ready to unleash what George told me would be called “shock and awe”.
I’d already told George that I was with him whatever the UN decided, but to parliament and the British people I still claimed — even after the second resolution had fallen — that we were somehow carrying out the UN’s wishes by invading Iraq.
There was still one major glitch to get past. On 7 March 2003, the same day Blix asked for more time for the weapons inspections, Lord Goldsmith warned me that British forces could face legal action if they participated in an invasion.
If this got out, my war plans might fall at the last hurdle. I had to get him to change his advice otherwise I might not even get the backing of my cabinet.
Pinned against a wall
To make matters even worse, Lord Boyce, then chief of the defence staff, said he needed “unequivocal” advice that the invasion was lawful. Goldsmith had to be made to alter his advice and say the invasion would be legal, otherwise I was in deep trouble. I got another old pal, Lord Falconer, to lean on Goldsmith, who he literally pinned against a wall. [More on that HERE. Tony]
It was touch and go but two days before the start of war Goldsmith made the changes I demanded.
Many senior law officials in Goldsmith’s office were unhappy about this. One of them, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned on the day I got the revised legal advice, as a protest against her boss Goldsmith colluding in what she said was an illegal war of aggression. Too late of course to have any effect on my plans and no one remembers her pointless sacrifice today.
The resignations from government by Robin Cook and Clare Short were also too late to get in my way. Cook made his resignation speech in parliament on 18 March 2003, during the MPs debate on my motion for war. He could have upset the cart completely, if he’d resigned two weeks earlier and led a campaign to get my war plans rejected by parliament.
But he didn’t, and the rest is history.
With almost all the cabinet lining up behind me, getting the votes of Labour MPs in parliament – who were the people who had the real power to scupper my plans — would be a doddle.
That didn’t stop me sending Cherie into parliament to talk individually to every female MP and make sure we could rely on their votes.
I knew that more than a few of the Labour MPs in their heart of hearts thought they should oppose a war for which my case was so threadbare. But telling them I would have to resign if I lost the vote had a somewhat salutory effect on the waverers, who realised that this could mean a general election at which they might lose their seat.
And a doddle it proved to be. 139 Labour MPs did vote against the war, which was one of the biggest revolts in parliamentary history, but with the backing of the Tories I still sailed in with a majority of 412 votes to 149.
No WMDs? So what?
It goes without saying that I was right to take the decision to go to war. It’s irrelevant that no WMDs were discovered after the war, despite me telling parliament there was “no doubt” they were in Iraq somewhere.
I was right whether or not waging war for regime change is one of the worst of all international war crimes.
I was right whether or not most people in Britain were against what they saw as an unjustified war.
I was right despite the price paid by the Iraqi people, with one million killed, five million refugees and the utter destruction of their country.
I was right despite the 179 British soldiers killed in Iraq, and the many hundreds more seriously wounded.
I was right despite the war costing the British public £8.4 billion for a war the majority never supported.
I was right even though the war made the Middle East — already the world’s most volatile region — even more unstable.
I was right even though the war made the world increasingly insecure, as Londoners learned so tragically in July 2005 when 52 of them lost their lives in terrorist bombings.
I was right, despite many MPs who voted for the war – including my then deputy prime minister John Prescott – now saying they would not have supported the war knowing what they do today. By which I suppose they mean the lies and deception I told — with the more than willing help of Jack Straw, Alistair Campbell, Geoff Hoon and others. This is a feeble excuse, given that the anti-war movement had exposed all of my lies before the war started — at least for those who wanted to know the truth.
It was my Christian faith that gave me the moral courage and guidance I needed to do what was right – as I know George’s Christianity did for him too. It was only after I left office and converted to Roman Catholicism that I could reveal how important my religion had been in helping me prevail in waging an illegal war against the wishes of most people in Britain.
Going to war with George hasn’t made me the most popular guy around. There are plenty of people still trying to get me indicted for war crimes. I do get a bit embarrassed when confronted by parents of British soldiers who were killed in Iraq, like Peter Brierley who refused to shake my hand because he said it had the blood of his son Shaun on it.
But that’s the price you pay for being right.
And it’s certainly done nothing to harm my employment prospects since I left office — a little earlier than I intended, due I must admit, to my support for Israel in its 2006 attack on Lebanon. This was an act of warmongering too far, even for my own party which had allowed me to get away with going to war more times than any prime minister in British history.
I’ve already earned in the past two years something like £15 million. I get around £100,000 for a 30 minute speech to the world’s prosperous and powerful, who love hearing why I am right and how my religion gives me the moral guidance to be right.
My Iraq connections have done no harm to my earning power either. I get £1 million a year for one day’s work a month from the bank JP Morgan, which has lots of lucrative investments in “reconstruction” projects – that is for rebuilding what me and George destroyed in the Iraq war.
I’m not too troubled by the appearance I’ll be making soon in front of the Iraq Inquiry because Gordon Brown – who may not be my best friend but who backed me 100 percent in my decision to take Britain to war — has handpicked a bunch of very compliant placeholders, who I know hold me in very high regard.
Sir John Chilcot and his committee are already showing that they have no intention of revealing the full extent of my duplicity in going to war, and there’s no chance that they will suggest in any way that I should be held accountable for what I did.
And of course that is only as it should be. Because I was right.
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