a high crime does not, and will not, melt away; the facts cannot be
changed. Tony Blair took Britain to war against Iraq illegally. He
mounted an unprovoked attack on a country that offered no threat, and
he helped cause the deaths of thousands of innocent people. The judges
at the Nuremberg Tribunal following world war two, who inspired much of
international law, called this "the gravest of all war crimes".
had not the shred of a mandate from the British people to do what he
did. On the contrary, on the eve of the attack, the majority of Britons
clearly demanded he stop. His response was contemptuous of such an epic
show of true democracy. He chose to listen only to the unelected leader
of a foreign power, and to his court and his obsession.
his courtiers in and out of the media telling him he was "courageous"
and even "moral" when he scored his "historic victory" over a
defenceless, stricken and traumatised nation, almost half of them
children, his propaganda managers staged a series of unctuous public
first stunt sought to elicit public sympathy with a story about him
telling his children that he had "almost lost his job". The second
stunt, which had the same objective, was a story about how his
privileged childhood had really been "difficult" and "painful". The
third and most outrageous stunt saw him in Basra, in southern Iraq last
week, lifting an Iraqi child in his arms, in a school that had been
renovated for his visit, in a city where education, like water and
other basic services, are still a shambles following the British
invasion and occupation.
I saw this image of Blair holding a child in Basra, I happened to be in
a hotel in Kabul in Afghanistan, the scene of an earlier "historic
victory" of Bush and Blair in another stricken land. I found myself
saying out loud the words, "ultimate obscenity". It was in Basra that I
filmed hundreds of children ill and dying because they had been denied
cancer treatment equipment and drugs under an embargo enforced with
enthusiasm by Tony Blair.
It was the one story Blair's court would almost never tell, because it was true and damning.
to July last year, $5.4 billion in vital and mostly humanitarian
supplies for the ordinary people of Iraq were being obstructed by the
United States, backed by Britain. Professor Karol Sikora, head of the
World Health Organisation's cancer treatment programme, who had been to
the same hospitals in Basra that I saw, told me: "The excuse that
certain drugs can be converted into weapons of mass destruction is
ludicrous. I saw wards where dying people were even denied
more than three years ago. Now come forward to a hot May day in 2003,
and here is Blair - shirt open, a man of the troops, if not of the
people - lifting a child into his arms, for the cameras, and just a few
miles from where I watched toddler after toddler suffer for want of
treatment that is standard in Britain and which was denied as part of a
medieval siege approved by Blair. Remember, the main reason that these
life-saving drugs and equipment were blocked, the reason Professor
Sikora and countless other experts ridiculed, was that essential drugs
and even children's vaccines could be converted to weapons of mass
Mass Destruction, or WMD, has become part of the jargon of our time.
When he finally goes, Blair ought have WMD chiselled on his political
headstone. He has now been caught; for it must be clear to the most
devoted courtier that he has lied about the primary reason he gave,
repeatedly, for attacking Iraq.
is a series of such lies; I have counted at least a dozen significant
ones. They range from Blair's "solid evidence" linking Iraq with
Al-Qaeda and September 11 (refuted by British intelligence) to claims
of Iraq's "growing" nuclear weapons programme (refuted by the
International Atomic Energy Agency when documents quoted by Blair were
found to be forgeries), to perhaps his most audacious tale - that
Iraq's weapons of mass destruction "could be activated within 45
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 home.
week, British intelligence sources exposed Blair's "45 minutes" claim
as the fiction of one defector with scant credibility. A United Nations
inspector has ridiculed Blair's latest claim that two canvas-covered
lorries represent "proof" of mobile chemical weapons. Incredible,
yesterday he promised "a new dossier".
is ironic that the unravelling of Blair has come from the source of
almost all his lies, the United States, where senior intelligence
officers are now publicly complaining about their "abuse as political
to the Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz
who, said one of them, fed "the most alarming tidbits to the president
... so instead of giving the president the most considered, carefully
examined information available, basically you give him the garbage. And
then in a few days when it's clear that maybe it wasn't right, well
then, you feed him some hot garbage."
Blair's tale about Saddam Hussein being ready to attack "in 45 minutes"
is part of the "hot garbage" is not surprising. What is surprising, or
unbelievable, is that Blair did not know it was "hot", just as he must
have known that Jack Straw and Colin Powell met in February to express
serious doubts about the whole issue of weapons of mass destruction.
was all a charade. Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, has
spoken this truth: the invasion of Iraq was planned long ago, he said,
and that the issue of weapons rested largely on "fabricated evidence".
Blair has made fools not so much of the British people, most of whom
were and are on to him, but of respectable journalists and broadcasters
who channelled and amplified his black propaganda as headlines and lead
items on BBC news bulletins. They cried wolf for him. They gave him
every benefit of the doubt, and so minimised his culpability and
allowed him to set much of the news agenda.
months, the charade of weapons of mass destruction overshadowed real
issues we had a right to know about and debate - that the United States
intended to take control of the Middle East by turning an entire
country, Iraq, into its oil-rich base. History is our evidence. Since
the 19th century, British governments have done the same, and the Blair
government is no different.
is different now is that the truth is winning through. This week,
publication of an extraordinary map left little doubt that the British
military had plastered much of Iraq with cluster bombs, many of which
almost certainly have failed to detonate on impact. They usually wait
for children to pick them up, then they explode, as in Kosovo and
cowardly weapons; but of course this was one of the most craven of all
wars, "fought" against a country with no navy, no air force and rag-tag
army. Last month, HMS Turbulent, a nuclear-power submarine, slipped
back to Plymouth, flying the Jolly Roger, the pirates' emblem. How
warship fired 30 American Tomahawk missiles at Iraq. Each missile cost
700,000 pounds, a total of 21 million pounds in taxpayers' money. That
alone would have provided the basic services that the British
government has yet to restore to Basra, as it is obliged to do under
did HMS Turbulent's 30 missiles hit? How many people did they kill and
maim? And why have we heard nothing about this? Perhaps the missiles
had sensory devices that could distinguish Bush's "evil-doers" and
Blair's "wicked men" from toddlers? What is certain is they were not
aimed at the Ministry of Oil.
cynical and shaming chapter in Britain's modern story was written in
our name, your name. Blair and his collaborators ought not to be
allowed to get away with it.
John Pilger's updated book, The New Rulers of the World, is published by Vreso.