People who believe Tony Blair should be imprisoned over the Iraq war have their hearts in the right place, says Boris Johnson

Robin Beste

London Mayor Boris Johnson joins the long queue of politicians who say they were duped by Tony Blair in 2003 into supporting the war on Iraq.

In truth, Johnson was not duped. He knew, as did the majority of the British public who opposed the war in the largest demonstrations ever seen in this country, that Tony Blair was spinning a pack of lies, not least in his claim that Saddam Hussein could launch weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in 45 minutes.

Johnson now says: “The more I listened to the debate back in 2003 I started to think it probably was a load of nonsense.”

But Johnson, like the 244 Labour MPs who lined up with the Tories to give Blair the vote he needed to get his war agreed by parliament, also knew that Blair’s dossiers to justify the war – in particular the notorious ‘dodgy dossier’ plagiarised by Alistair Campbell from a ten-year-old PhD thesis he found on the internet — were concoctions of deception and blatant lying.

Johnson and those politicians also knew the war was illegal without the backing of the United Nations. And they knew the judgement of the 1945 Nuremberg trial that prosecuted Germany’s Nazi leaders at the end of the second world war: “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.”

So why did Johnson and all the politicians who ignored the views of the vast majority of their constituents, vote for a war they knew to be based on lies and illegal? Johnson now says:

“I just could not believe it as things unfolded in the way that they did. I feel guilty because I voted for the wretched thing … I would like to understand more deeply on what basis a prime minister who, at that time, commanded so much trust was able to persuade parliament and the country and me to go for war in Iraq with absolutely catastrophic consequences.”

Johnson is of course wrong: the country did not trust the prime minister and was not persuaded to go to war. And however ‘guilty’ Johnson now feels about the ‘catastrophic consequences’, it’s not much help to around one million Iraqis who died as a result of the Blair-Bush war and occupation.

Quite bluntly, Johnson was only duped by himself into thinking that Blair would get away with his lying and deception, that Saddam Hussein would be quickly toppled by “shock and awe” devastation and mass slaughter, and that the Iraqi people would welcome the US-UK invaders with flowers. Anyone who knew that Blair was using ‘nonsense’ to justify war in 2003, as Johnson says he did, was simply playing fast and loose with the lives of the Iraqi people.

Eleven years later, the repercussions of the war are still being felt. Iraq is ruled by the US-supported despot al-Maliki, whose brutal and corrupt regime displays many of the features of the Saddam Hussein era. Violent deaths have escalated to hundreds every month, with over 1000 killed in April 2014 alone, 880 of them civilians. Al Qaeda, which had no presence in Iraq before 2003, now controls large areas of the country.

So, what should happen to someone like Blair, responsible for such monumental war crimes? Johnson says opponents of Tony Blair who believe he should be imprisoned over the Iraq war have their hearts in the right place, but says the ‘eel-like’ Tony Blair will escape being held to account:

“It would be hard to mount criminal charges. You would have to show some sort of malfeasance in public office, which would be very difficult to prove. There will undoubtedly be people who continue to try to bring Tony Blair to justice in one way or another. I think it unlikely they will succeed … In the case of Tony Blair it will be quite difficult to secure a conviction. He is a very eel-like customer. It would be very unlikely you would get him.”

Johnson says the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war should be published without delay on the grounds that it is more than 10 years since the “whole disaster” began. “Somebody like me, who basically had good faith about what the British government was telling us, thought there must be a plan to deal with the aftermath in Iraq.”

In this he echoes prime minister David Cameron, who said recently that he believes there is no excuse for any further delay in publishing Chilcot.

But whatever the judgement of the Chilcot committee — which will find it hard not to condemn Tony Blair to some extent — the idea that it will produce a judgement that could put Blair in the dock is fanciful.

Which is why there is a bounty on Tony Blair’s head for anyone who attempts a citizen’s arrest. There is little doubt that Blair’s war crimes will dog him till the end of his life. And maybe one day the persistence will pay off, and in some country Blair will be arraigned before a court and held accountable, like he and George W Bush were in their absence in 2011, by the judges at a Malaysian war crimes tribunal.

In the meantime, Blair is free to add to the vast fortune – estimated to be over £70 million – that he has accumulated since he left office in 2007, and to advocate endlessly that the west emulate what he and Bush did in Iraq with new wars, whether it be in Syria, Iran or Ukraine.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

06 May 2014

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