On May 30, the Financial Times of London called for the publication in the Chilcot Inquiry (into Britain's decision to wage war against Iraq in 2003) of the full text of exchanges between Tony Blair and George W. Bush.  --  It has been reported both that Tony Blair made a deal with the David Cameron to suppress these documents or, what is more likely, that the United States is responsible; the Financial Times called on Blair to authorize their publication.  --  Sir John Chilcot originally said he expected to conclude his inquiry in 2011, but the latest word, the London Guardian reported on Jun. 26, is that it "is unlikely to be published until next year," i.e. in 2015.[2]  --  The inquiry has so far cost Britain $15.4 million....




** Tony Blair should release all his letters to George W. Bush **

Financial Times (London)
May 30, 2014


Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war remains the country’s most contentious foreign policy decision since the Suez Crisis of 1956. More than a decade has passed since the troops went into battle but the conflict retains its power to divide opinion and stir passions like no other.

Continuing public anger about Tony Blair’s backing for the U.S.-led operation prompted the last Labor government to establish a public inquiry under former civil servant Sir John Chilcot to produce an unvarnished account of the circumstances that took Britain to war.  By presenting the facts, warts and all, this was supposed to lay the matter to rest.

Five years on, and three years after the last witness testified, Sir John has yet to publish his conclusions.  After extensive inquiries and interviews costing £10m, the sticking point has been whether the inquiry can publish a series of letters between Mr. Blair and the U.S. president, George W. Bush, in the run-up to the conflict.

The British public is looking to the inquiry for many answers.  For instance, what lessons can be drawn from the way decisions were taken before and after the invasion?  Why was the post-Saddam occupation such a fiasco?  But the critical point has always been the light Sir John would shed on whether Mr. Blair took a decision in principle to go to war at an early stage of diplomacy, handing an effective blank check to Mr. Bush.  When the prime minister subsequently built the case for conflict, was his thumb already firmly on the scales?

This week Sir John announced that a compromise had been reached in the stand-off.  Certain “gists and quotes” from the documents will now be included in the final report.  However, the full text of the letters will not be published.

In normal circumstances this would not be contentious. . . .

But the Iraq war stands alone as a matter of public debate.  The decision to go to war was a profound mistake.  Made on the basis of highly dubious criteria, and hugely wasteful of blood and treasure, its malign consequences will overshadow British foreign policy making for years to come.

As a result, the public deserves to have the most unsparing light possible thrown on the circumstances that led to the launch of the invasion in March 2003.

. . .

. . . More than a decade after Tony Blair took Britain to war, the public remains highly suspicious of his motivations for doing so.  It cannot now be presented with piecemeal evidence supported only by “gists” and fragmentary quotes.

Sir John and the present government are clearly fettered by constitutional convention in releasing the sensitive documents.  However, a public declaration by Mr. Blair that he would be prepared to see the letters released would overcome most of the obstacles.  In his own interests, and to clear the air once and for all, he should lose no time in giving it.



U.K. news

Iraq war inquiry


By Richard Norton-Taylor

** Due to have been published three years ago, the Chilcot report now threatens to haunt U.K. politics ahead of the 2015 election **

June 26, 2014


The Chilcot inquiry, which is expected to contain damning criticism of the way Tony Blair and his close advisers led Britain into war against Iraq, is unlikely to be published until next year, the Guardian has learned.

A further delay in the report on the 2003 invasion, due to have been published three years ago, could mean the issue will continue to haunt British politics in the runup to next year's general election.

That is likely to be even more the case if there is no end in sight to the present crisis in Iraq which threatens to perpetuate deep divisions and violence in the oil-rich country.

Whitehall sources suggest the latest delay in the long-awaited report is the result of continuing disputes over criticisms the Chilcot panel plan to make of Blair and other ministers and advisers involved in the decision to invade Iraq.

Chilcot announced last month that after years of heated disputes with successive cabinet secretaries, and discussions with Washington, he had agreed to a settlement whereby summaries, and "the gist," of more than a hundred records of conversations between Blair and George Bush in the run-up to the invasion, and of records of 200 cabinet discussions, would be published, but not the documents themselves.

Chilcot has described the content of the documents as "vital to the public understanding of the inquiry's conclusions."

In a letter to Sir Jeremy Heywood, the cabinet secretary, last month, Chilcot said "detailed consideration" of the information he has requested had begun, adding "it is not yet clear how long that will take."

In a reference to the procedure taken from the inquiry into Robert Maxwell's business dealings, whereby those the inquiry intends to criticize will be shown drafts of the relevant passages, Chilcot told Heywood that "once agreement has been reached, the next phase of the Maxwellization process can begin."

Philippe Sands Q.C., professor of law at University College London, said:  "How painfully ironic that Britain used force in 2003 when it was manifestly illegal, but will likely and rightly not do so now in response to a request from the government of Iraq, when it would rather more arguably be lawful."

Sands, a close follower of Chilcot and earlier inquiries into the invasion of Iraq, added:  "The situation in Iraq today is terrible and tragic, but it's a futile exercise to speculate as to the exact connection with decisions taken in 2003 . . . It would be more sensible to reflect on what might be learnt from the mistakes of the past."

He continued:  "Who exactly is responsible for the delay [in the Chilcot report] is unclear, but it is hard to avoid the suspicion that political considerations might have come into play."

Sands described the delay as "rather disgraceful," and said publication of the report should now be delayed until after the election, to avoid it being used as a political tool.

David Cameron said last month he wanted the report by the end of the year.  The Scottish National party has said it should be published before September's referendum on Scottish independence.

The Chilcot inquiry was set up in 2009 and has cost over £9m so far.