Thanks to an old memo, the world now knows that Tony Blair was preparing to go to war in Iraq a year before the actual invasion and long before any dodgy dossiers were spawned by his Downing Street propagandists. The emergence of the 2002 document penned by the then US Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George W Bush is proof positive of Blair’s intentions and confirms the suspicions of many.
The memo also exposes further the web of lies and deceit that were woven by the British prime minister and members of his inner circle when he was in office. Alarmingly, though, the incendiary memo appears not to have been seen by Iraq inquiry chair Sir John Chilcot. If the Chilcot Inquiry team appears not to have known of its existence it begs us to ask a very simple question: how many other incriminating documents are being withheld or remain unseen?
Powell apparently informed the US president in March 2002 that “Blair will be with us” on Iraq. It was a full 12 months before “shock and awe” was unleashed on the Iraqi people. During the interim weeks and months Blair assured everyone in Britain that he was pursuing every possible diplomatic solution and kept demanding that all Saddam had to do was hand over the weapons of mass destruction that he didn’t actually have.
A spokesman for the Iraq inquiry has refused to say whether the memo’s existence was known but since Chilcot and his team have been given little access to US government files, it seems unlikely. Furthermore, the emergence of the memo could be used as an excuse to delay the publication of the six-year-old inquiry report even further.
In the meantime, the memo gives under-fire Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a chance to flex his muscles and move to suspend Blair from the party. While the Blairites sitting in the House of Commons would be appalled by the move, it would be welcomed by the rest of the party faithful, new members and, perhaps, even many non-Labour voters.
Corbyn said that he would apologise for the Iraq war if elected as leader; a move to strip Blair of party membership would show that he means business. Ironically, Tony Blair would not be the first to be expelled from Labour over Iraq, for he expelled George Galloway, the then MP for Glasgow Kelvin, in October 2003, allegedly for comments about the war.
Someone who is prepared to hammer yet another nail into Blair’s political coffin is Alex Salmond, Scotland’s former First Minister and now the Scottish National Party’s foreign affairs spokesman in Westminster. He says that the leaked memo shows clearly that the former prime minister backed military action a year before seeking a vote in the British parliament and long before the diplomatic efforts at the UN were exhausted.
“The memo contradicts claims from Blair that all that time he had been seeking diplomatic ways to avoid an invasion,” said Salmond. “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 former Middle East Peace Envoy is playing down the emergence of the memo from Powell to Bush. According to Blair’s spokesman, it is “consistent with what he was saying publicly at the time.”
Writing to Bush at the time, Colin Powell said: “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.”
That word “success” will disturb many living in the war-torn Middle East today, because it is accepted widely that the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq helped to destabilise the whole region. The consequences are still having an impact around the world as millions of refugees fleeing the Iraqi and other conflicts seek safety in the West. The estimate is that one million have been killed since 2003 in Iraq alone; the total continues to rise. Add to that the fact that Daesh/ISIS is believed by many to be a direct creation of the Bush-Blair war, and it is clear that the former British prime minister has some serious questions to answer. He has been exposed, but who is going to bring him down?
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.