Rose Gentle, mother of a 19-year-old Gordon killed in Iraq, says “I feel sickened. How will the families get to know the truth? We are just shoved aside.”

Rowena Mason

Tony Blair should ask the Chilcot inquiry to publish his correspondence with George Bush about the Iraq war, as releasing only the “gist and quotes” will allow suspicions to fester, Sir John Major has said.

The former Conservative prime minister, who lost power to Blair in 1997, said it was a pity the full papers were going to be withheld by the Cabinet Office.

The Chilcot inquiry has been accused of allowing a whitewash after it struck a deal with ministers to publish the gist of letters between Blair and Bush, but not the full correspondence.

The publication of the Chilcot report has been overdue for several years, with discussions in recent months focusing on 25 notes from Blair to Bush and 130 records of conversations.

After intense negotiations, Sir John Chilcot, who has been leading the inquiry since 2009, has agreed with the Cabinet Office that the gist of the conversation can be made public, but direct quotations from the notes will be kept to “a minimum necessary for the inquiry to articulate its conclusions”. He has also agreed that use of material from the letters “should not reflect President Bush’s views”.

No decision has been taken, however, on exactly which quotations from the correspondence will be published, or how the “gist” will be phrased.

There is now an agreement to release a small number of extracts from the most critical minutes of more than 200 cabinet-level discussions.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Major said: “Firstly, they will leave suspicions unresolved and those suspicions will fester and maybe worsen. And secondly, in many ways I think withholding them is going to be very embarrassing for Mr Blair, not least of course because he brought the Freedom of Information Act into law when he was in government. But that is the decision that has been reached, effectively by the Cabinet Office.”

Major said the current government does not have the power to release them but could be overruled by Blair and other senior figures in the former Labour government.

“I suppose the previous Labour government could approach them and say, ‘We’d like to overrule this, we think it better if they release those papers’, but the government can’t do that. Let me make that point: the government cannot do that. Mr Blair could, the previous Labour government could, and maybe in their own interests they could think about that because otherwise, as I say, this will fester and I don’t think anybody wishes to see that.”

Meanwhile, the mother of a 19-year-old soldier killed in Iraq has said she feels sickened by the decision to publish only partial extracts of the Blair-Bush exchanges before the war.

Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was killed in June 2004, said she believed the former prime minister was laughing at the families and would “walk away from it with a smile on his face”.

“I feel sickened,” Gentle said. “How will the families get to know the truth? We are just shoved aside. We just feel, what’s the point?

“I think Tony Blair has got a lot to do with the decision. He is kind of behind it.”

Gentle said the limited disclosure would mean the families were “still going to be wondering” about what had actually gone on between Blair and Bush before the invasion.

“I think it is definitely a whitewash. I feel Tony Blair is going to walk away from it with a smile on his face. I feel he is laughing at us.”

The former Labour MP Andrew MacKinlay, who was a member of the foreign affairs select committee, said: “I am not surprised that Chilcot has surrendered. It is a bad, bad day for democracy and justice. The establishment of this country, and the security and intelligence services, have won again.

“Truth has lost out. We were lied to as a country time and time again on Iraq. The lies endure.”

Reg Keys, father of Tom, killed in Iraq, famously stood against Tony Blair in the 2005 general election. In this BBC interview, he gives his views on Tony Blair’s appearance at the Iraq inquiry.

Source: The Guardian

30 May 2014

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