In England, the Iraq Inquiry continues. The Guardian's podcast this week features Anne Perkins and Polly Toynbee discussing the inquiry. Testimony today comes from Christopher Meyer and the topic is Transatlantic Relationship while tomorrow Jeremy Greenstock is scheduled to offer testimony on the Developments in the United Nations. Chris Ames (Guardian) observes of Meyer's testimony today:
At the Iraq inquiry this morning, Sir Christopher Meyer has let so many cats out of the bag that it is hard to keep up with them all. He has confirmed that by the time Tony Blair met George Bush at Crawford, Texas in April 2002, Blair had already agreed to regime change. Meyer and others had told the US administration about this change of heart in March 2002. The "UN route" was a way to justify the war but the inspectors were never given the chance to do their job.
Or did we know all that already? Ever since the war, there has been a massive gulf between what various leaked documents have shown and the official version. Previous inquiries have failed to close that gap. Now Meyer, who was the UK ambassador to Washington at the time, has done exactly that.
The government's version of events was always that it was taking action to deal with the threat of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Leaked documents, most notably the Downing Street documents, show that the policy was to go along with the US desire for regime change and use weapons of mass destruction as a pretext. This version of events was confirmed by what Meyer said this morning. I don't think it could be more explosive.
The inquiry committee gradually brought Meyer to early 2002, when it became apparent that the hawks in the Bush administration who wanted regime change had won the argument in the aftermath of September 11. He said that the UK had been against regime change, mainly on legal grounds. But by the time Tony Blair visited George Bush at Crawford, he was supporting the policy, but had to be discreet about it.
Meyer's testimony reveals that the visit Ames noted above found Bush and Blair speaking privately with no staff around and repeats Bush declaring that world leaders were "like creatures from outer space" excepting only Tony Blair (somewhere, John Howard sobs into his dirty pillow). James Meikle and Andrew Sparrow (Guardian) also emphasize the April 2002 ranch meet-up:
Asked about Tony Blair's meeting with Bush at Crawford, Texas, in April 2002, where, some observers believe, the decision to go to war was made, Meyer said: "To this day I'm not entirely clear what degree of convergence was signed in blood at the Texas range."
But a speech by Blair the following day was, he believed, the first time the prime minister had publicly said "regime change". "What he was trying to do was to draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq, which led – I think not inadvertently but deliberately – to a conflation of the threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein.
Nico Hines (Times of London) adds:
He said that after the September 11 attacks, the atmosphere changed in Washington. Condoleezza Rice, President Bush’s national security adviser at the time, was the first person he heard mention Iraq on September 11. He said that “by the following weekend that turned into a major debate at Camp David” – it developed into a bit of a “ding-dong”.
Over the next two months, Sir Christopher said the Bush Administration had decided on a new course over Iraq. “What was inevitable, [after 9/11] I think, was that the Americans were going to bust a gut on the mandate of regime change.”
He said that up until that moment there was a lack of real impetus over Iraq, which he said was more of “a grumbling appendix”.
"When I heard that speech, I thought that this represents a tightening of the UK/US alliance and a degree of convergence on the danger Saddam Hussein presented."
In the US, Bush used many lies to push for war on Iraq and the most infamous one might be that 'Saddam Hussein attempted to aquire yellow cake uranium from Africa'. In England, Blair was fond of the fanciful boast that Iraq had the capability to attack England with WMD within 45 minutes. David Brown and Francis Elliott (Times of London) emphasize this important aspect of yesterday's testimony, "Intelligence that Saddam Hussein did not have access to weapons of mass destruction was received by the Government ten days before Tony Blair ordered the invasion of Iraq, the inquiry into the war was told yesterday."
For Great Britain's Socialist Worker, Sian Ruddick reports on the first day of the hearing (Tuesday) in "New revelations as Iraq war inquiry opens:"
The official inquiry into the 2003 Iraq war began its public hearings on Tuesday of this week amid a storm over leaked documents that show the backroom deals George Bush and Tony Blair made in the run-up to the slaughter.
Many hoped that the inquiry would condemn Blair’s actions and declare the war illegal.
But its chairman, Sir John Chilcot, said the conclusions of the inquiry would be “definitive in one sense, yes, but not definitive in the sense of a court verdict of legal or illegal.
“It is much closer to high policy decisions: was this a wise decision, was it well-taken, was it founded on good advice and good information and analysis?”
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper published leaked documents this week that show that Blair tried to hide his true intentions over Iraq by informing only “very small numbers” of officials.
He tried to claim the goal was “disarmament, not regime change”.
But the documents reveal that “from March 2002 or May at the latest there was a significant possibility of a large-scale British operation”.
This limited inquiry will not stop future wars from happening or call leaders to account.
The inquiry must look at the deals made with the US in the months before the war.
It must expose the fabricated “intelligence”, including the 45-minute threat.
Only by declaring Tony Blair guilty of war crimes will it help to bring justice for those millions of Iraqis who have paid with their lives for a bloody, pointless war.
The following should be read alongside this article: » Did British soldiers kill Iraqi civilians?
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Violence continues today in Iraq. AFP reports that a Mosul "church and a convent were struck by bombings" -- the Church of St. Ephrem and St. Theresa Convent of Dominican Nuns -- and quotes Father Yousif Thomas Mirkis stating, "These attacks are aimed at forcing Christians to leave the contry." In addition, Laith Hammoudi (McClatchy Newspapers) notes a Baghdad car bombing which claimed 1 life and left ten people injured, a Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left one other person injured, a second Baghdad sticky bombing which injured one person, a third Baghdad sticky bombing which claimed 1 life and left three other people wounded and 2 Babil market bombings which claimed 2 lives and left twenty-eight people injured.
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