Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair secretly pledged in March 2002 to support the Bush administration’s planned Iraq War, according to a once-classified White House memo reported Oct. 18 by the Daily Mail in London.
“A bombshell White House memo has revealed for the first time details of the ‘deal in blood’ forged by Tony Blair and George Bush over the Iraq War,” the Daily Mail reported.
“The sensational leak,” said the story, “shows that Blair (shown in a 2014 photo) had given an unqualified pledge to sign up to the conflict a year before the invasion started. It flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis. He told voters: ‘We’re not proposing military action’ – in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals.”
The document that reporters William Lowther and Glen Owen described as “the damning memo” was from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell (shown in a file photo) to President George Bush and written on March 28, 2002, “a week before Bush’s famous summit with Blair at his Crawford ranch in Texas.”
The email surfaced as one of 30,000 retrieved by the U.S. Department of State from the private server of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in response to demands by House investigators and private critics seeking information under Freedom of Information Act law.
Blair has denied both before the UK’s Chilcot Commission and in his 2010 memoir, A Journey: My Political Life, that he made a firm decision to lead his country to war before the Parliament approved it in 2003. That was nearly a year after Blair's secret pledge to the Bush administration.
The memo thus suggests that Blair has been lying about the timing and that he deserved the insulting nickname “Bush’s Poodle” that some in the UK have given Blair for his perceived subservience to the Republican U.S. president, who served from 2001 to 2009.
Current Labor Party leader Jeremy Corbyn floated the possibility of Blair's prosecution on war crimes charges in August even before the current revelation.
The revelations parallel several others during recent days in the United States and Britain regarding the honesty and skill of important Western foreign policy leaders. The Justice Integrity Project began a series of reports on these epic breakdowns on Oct. 18 with our column NY Times Features Challenge To Obama Bin Laden Raid Story.
These developments are explored below as a part of a series on foreign policy that began Oct. 13. It has presented so far (in chronological order):
- U.S. v. Russia Proxy War In Syria Creates High Stakes For You
- NY Times Features Challenge To Obama Bin Laden Raid Story
- Memo Exposes Former British PM Tony Blair
- How Obama Leads Drone Strikes Killing Many Civilians
- Clinton's Benghazi Hearing
- Pardon Plea For Imprisoned CIA Whistleblower Wins Press Backing
- Madeleine Albright, Godmother To Foreign Policy Disasters
- Russian Attacks In Syria Expose U.S., Allied Debacle
Beyond Blair's conduct, the Colin Powell memo raises several other disturbing issues regarding governance of the self-described world's leading democracies. Among them are the secrecy of decision-making and the failure of watchdog institutions to achieve accountability for deadly, wrong-headed, disastrous and arguably corrupt decision-making on recent wars undertaken by the two nations.
With rare exceptions, the party system, the press, and blue-ribbon commissions have ill-served the public. That's one conclusion from the Blair scandal, as from similar bodies in the United States.
Regarding the party process in the United Kingdom:
Blair, prime minister from 1997 to 2007, led the nation's Labor Party. The party has traditionally been the country's main rival to the Conservative Party.
But Blair launched a "Third Way" movement to adopt corporate-friendly positions. Blair formed a political alliance with the powerful conservative News Corp. publisher Rupert Murdoch, an advocate of global military interventions and bare-knuckle political and business tactics. One way, as evidenced by the "hacking scandal" several years ago, was when News Corp. journalists operating in league with rogue police officers used illegal surveillance for years to collect secrets from celebrities and political figures. The celebrity secrets could be used for news stories. The political secrets, including on about sex scandals, could be used to blackmail targets to achieve the goals of top executives involved in the scheme.
During the run-up to the Iraq War, Blair worked closely with Bush administration neo-cons and other U.S. war advocates while telling his countrymen he was objectively evaluating evidence on whether Iraq's leader Saddam Hussein should be overthrown for possessing "Weapons of Mass Destruction" and other actions. Britain supplied the United States with important evidence that turns out to have been at best mistaken if not fraudulent during this period to support Powell's 2003 argument at the United Nations that a coalition needed to overthrow Hussein's government.
Regarding the press (broadly defined as to include broadcasters):
Murdoch (shown in a file photo) holds vastly more media power in Britain than even in the United States because he controlled by prestige media, such as The Sunday Times, and also the high-circulation tabloid, The News of the World, plus satellite news distribution via B-SkyB. So, his general support of Blair at key junctures was important.
Most other leading publications were conservative also. Moreover, the British Broadcasting Co. (BBC) carries a strongly pro-government slant on military, foreign affairs, and intelligence matters. This is not surprising in that Britain is the original locale of the term "Old Boys Network" and BBC, while not government-run per se, depends on revenue from mandatory customer licensing fees, which places the government into the core business in indirect ways.
Important also is that Great Britain has no written constitution and no equivalent to the U.S. First Amendment guaranteeing a free press. Therefore, media seeking to cover secrets are at risk of new enforcement mechanisms, including the kind of raids the nation's powerful intelligence agencies imposed on the liberal Guardian and sister paper Observer in June 2013 after they covered former NSA and CIA employee Edward Snowden's whistleblower revelations.
Regarding investigative commissions:
The Blair revelations over the weekend followed years of public griping that the Chilcot Commission, named after former civil servant Sir John Chilcot, has failed to issue its investigative report on the genesis of the Iraq War. The commission has spent 10 million pounds (about $15 million) in a secret investigation that began in 2009. Its controversial mandate precluded it from assigning any fault. Chilcot, 76, a former lawyer for the M5 and M6 intelligence services from 1999 to 2004, had been a member of the previous commission, named the Butler Review in honor of its chair, Lord Butler. The Blair-appointed Butler Review issued a report in 2004 on intelligence lapses on WMDs before the Iraq War but many in the press and public derided the report as a worthless whitewash.
For Chiilcot's current work (which is in addition to his employment running the Police Foundation), he has personally made about 1.5 million pounds at a rate of 790 pounds a day, according to press reports a. That translates into some $2.3 million total and $1,223 per day at current exchange rates in U.S. dollars.
Chilcot said during the summer that it would likely take another year or so before any findings could be released on why Britain entered the Iraq war under Blair. The Associated Press has reported: Chilcot has defended the time spent on the investigation, saying that while he understands the anguish of family members, the process must be fair to decision makers. The inquiry has no precedent, with 130 sessions held to take witness testimony and more than 150,000 documents received, Chilcot says.
Blair testified in 2010 in secret and later said he made no firm commitment for Britain to enter the war until the evidence and parliamentary action required it in 2003. Blair made similar statements in his 700-page memoir, which mentions Colin Powell just twice, each time in a passing reference.
After leaving government Blair has enriched himself with his book, speaking fees, directorships and other revenue streams thereby further antagonizing his critics, including those in his own party.
Jeremy Corbyn, shown in a file photo, won Labor's leadership post last month. In August, he responded to a question about Blair by saying he might one day have to answer for his actions at trial. Details: Tony Blair could face trial for ‘illegal’ Iraq war, says the man who may soon lead Blair’s party.
Meanwhile, the Labor party was devastated in regional elections earlier this year, particularly because it lost nearly all of its seats in Scotland, its longtime stronghold.
The shameful failure of the Chilcot Commission to satisfy public interest in the causes of the Iraq War has parallels in many similar U.S. investigating commissions. One of the most blatant such cover-ups was that by the 1964 Warren Commission in its report on the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy, as we have reported here in our 28-part Readers Guide to the JKF assassination. Another was the failure of both major commissions investigating the causes of the 9/11 attacks. The Senate-House Joint Commission led by intelligence committee chairs of the Senate and House, Bob Graham and Porter Goss, respectively issued a rushed report at the end of 2002. The 9/11 Commission led by former New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean and former House Foreign Affairs Committee Lee Hamilton issued a report in 2004.
Congress still refuses to make public, for example, the Bush-classified 28 page findings in 2002 by the Joint Senate-House Committee identifying those who funded 9/11 hijack suspects. Similarly, congress and the federal courts have refused to let 9/11 victim families victims pursue litigation against suspected funders from Saudi Arabia and have instead granted sovereign immunity to Saudis and presumably other state actors suspected of involvement.
Rays of Hope in the Gloom?
Some hopeful signs arise out of this disgraceful saga.
For one thing, it appears that the Colin Powell memo was produced out of Freedom of Information litigation and House Government Operations Committee subpoenas seeking documents kept secretly on former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's private email server. The conservative watchdog group Judicial Watch and the Republican majority committee have sought to build a record of misconduct if not criminality against the leading Democratic presidential contender.
This editor attended a Judicial Watch conference on the Clinton emails in September and witnessed the close relationship between the Daily Mail's U.S. political editor David Martosko, described as a master of "smash mouth politics," and Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton, who works closely also with the House committee's Republican staff led by Committee Chairman Kevin Gowdy (R-SC). So it is no surprise that the conservative-leaning and widely read Daily Mail obtained the scoop.
The Powell memo on Blair was likely an inadvertent finding of the kind that sometimes pops up and is too juicy to overlook, at least for a UK publication.
Somewhat similarly, Judicial Watch's document hunt last spring turned up extremely revealing memos dated in November 2012 from Clinton's private advisor Sidney Blumenthal informing her that CIA David Petraeus was being sacked for disloyalty to the Obama administration and not the sex scandal with his biographer Paula Broadwell (shown with him in a file photo) that has always been cited as the reason for his forced resignation after the 2012 election and Benghazi murder of four U.S. personnel.
The brief account by Blumenthal tended to confirm reporting at the time in the alternative media by former Navy intelligence officer Wayne Madsen and in his December 2012 book, L'Affaire Petraeus and revisited in our own Presidential Puppetry in 2013.
But aside from a Washington Times column by Monica Crowley last spring the mainstream media have almost entirely ignored Blumenthal's memo tarnishing Petraeus and his powerful backers, as we reported here last spring in a three-part series Justice Integrity Project, What's Important About Hillary Clinton's Emails.
Our answer, much like that regarding the current Blair scandal, was that Hillary Clinton’s secret personal email system involved frightening national security intrigues and political backstabbing.
To put the best light on this, we can now see an outraged public (even if proceeding because of varied political goals) can unearth documents exposing suspected intrigues. And if enough people pursue the emerging facts even political parties, the press, and government commissions can be roused to at least some action on at least major scandals that somehow come to light.
Related News Coverage
At left, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell displays a vial of what was described as anthrax during his presentation on the dangers of purported Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) to the UN Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003. CIA Director George Tenet (left) and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Negroponte look on from behind.
The U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence found that many of the allegations in the speech were not supported by the underlying intelligence. Beyond that, allied military and civilian personnel found no significant WMDs in Iraq that posed a threat to the United States. A high-ranking former CIA officer debunked the administration's claims, as summarized in Tyler Drumheller, CIA officer who exposed U.S. reliance on discredited Iraq source ‘Curveball,’ dies at 63.
The nation's major anthrax scare had been in the fall of 2001 when four individuals were killed when letters containing highly weaponized and easily disbursed anthrax were sent to several journalists, as well as to the two major Democratic senate leaders reluctant to approve the Patriotic Act curtailing American freedoms after 9/11 to increase anti-terror measures. The letters accompanying the deadly anthrax included such crudely lettered slogans as "Death To America," "Death To Israel" and "Allah is Great." As recounted by Canadian professor Graeme MacQueen in his 2014 book The 2001 Anthrax Deception, researchers have traced that deadly anthrax to a strain developed exclusively by the U.S. Defense Department and its contractors even though
Investigators named researcher Stephen Hatfill a "person of interest" in the crime. But he denied involvement and won a $5 million award. Authorities then focused on another researcher, Bruce Ivins, who also protested his innocence. But Ivins was found dead and ruled a suicide, ending the investigation for nearly all practical purposes but leaving in place many anti-anthrax measures.
At right, President George W. Bush announces "Operation Iraqi Freedom" on March 19, 2003 beginning the allied war to overthrow Saddam Hussein in an action sought by America's leading neo-conservatives and other Zionists since their Project for a New American Century manifesto in 1996.
Revelations of Britain's Lies On Iraq War
Daily Mail, Leaked Memo Reveals Blair's 'Deal In Blood' With Bush Over Iraq War, William Lowther and Glen Owen, Oct. 18, 2015.A bombshell White House memo has revealed for the first time details of the ‘deal in blood’ forged by Tony Blair and George Bush over the Iraq War. The sensational leak shows that Blair had given an unqualified pledge to sign up to the conflict a year before the invasion started. It flies in the face of the Prime Minister’s public claims at the time that he was seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis. He told voters: ‘We’re not proposing military action’ – in direct contrast to what the secret email now reveals.
The classified document also discloses that Blair agreed to act as a glorified spin doctor for the President by presenting ‘public affairs lines’ to convince a skeptical public that Saddam had Weapons of Mass Destruction – when none existed. In return, the President would flatter Blair’s ego and give the impression that Britain was not America’s poodle but an equal partner in the ‘special relationship.’
The damning memo, from Secretary of State Colin Powell to President George Bush, was written on March 28, 2002, a week before Bush’s famous summit with Blair at his Crawford ranch in Texas. In it, Powell tells Bush that Blair ‘will be with us’ on military action. Powell assures the President: ‘The UK will follow our lead.’
The disclosure is certain to lead for calls for Sir John Chilcot to reopen his inquiry into the Iraq War if, as is believed, he has not seen the Powell memo. A second explosive memo from the same cache also reveals how Bush used ‘spies’ in the Labour Party to help him to manipulate British public opinion in favur of the war. The documents, obtained by The Mail on Sunday, are part of a batch of secret emails held on the private server of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton which U,S. courts have forced her to reveal.
Open Democracy, We don't need to wait for Chilcot, Blair lied to us about Iraq. Here's the evidence, Peter Oborne, Oct. 28, 2015. With the help of the BBC and Dr David Morrison, I carried out my own inquiry. The facts are devastating for Blair, for parliament and for all of us. Two weeks ago I found myself in conversation with Dr Hans Blix, head of the United Nations weapons inspection team ahead of the Iraq invasion in 2003. Dr. Blix told me that Tony Blair’s claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction were simply not an accurate reflection of the intelligence provided to the British government. Peter Oborne is the former chief political commentator of the Telegraph and reports for Channel 4's Dispatches and Unreported World. He has written a number of books identifying the power structures that lurk behind political discourse, including The Triumph of the Political Class.
The Guardian, Chilcot under pressure to report after leaked Blair-Bush Iraq memo, Rowena Mason, Oct. 18, 2015. Sir John Chilcot is facing renewed pressure over his inquiry into the Iraq war following the emergence of a leaked White House memo that appears to prove Tony Blair backed military action a year before seeking a vote in parliament. The document shows a contrast between Blair’s public position in early 2002 that he was not proposing military action and the private opinion of the U.S. that the British prime minister would “follow our lead.” The White House memo for former president George W. Bush says: “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary. He is convinced on two points; the threat is real; and success against Saddam will yield more regional success.”
The note from Colin Powell, the former US secretary of state, in March 2002 tells Bush that Blair would “present to you the strategic, tactical and public affairs lines that he believes will strengthen global support for our common cause.” It added that Blair had the presentational skills to “make a credible public case on current Iraqi threats to international peace”.
The note, obtained by the Mail on Sunday, was written before the famous Crawford summit between Bush and Blair, who has always denied the two countries were on an unstoppable path to war at that point. There were however contemporary newspaper reports that Blair had decided war in Iraq was inevitable. At the time, Blair said: “This is a matter for considering all the options. We’re not proposing military action at this point in time.”
Sir Christopher Meyer, a former British ambassador to the US, told the Chilcot inquiry that he was not present at the meeting and therefore “not entirely clear to this day ... what degree of convergence was, if you like, signed in blood at the Crawford ranch.” It comes as Chilcot continues to avoid setting a final deadline for the publication of his long-awaited report into the war.
Alex Salmond, the SNP’s foreign affairs spokesman and Scotland’s former first minister, said “the net was now closing” around Blair and added to concern over Chilcot’s conduct. “The memo contradicts claims from Mr. Blair that all that time he had been seeking diplomatic ways to avoid an invasion. It also adds weight to the evidence given by Sir Christopher Meyer, the former UK ambassador to the United States – to the Chilcot inquiry – that the military timetable and preparation for invasion took precedence over any diplomacy and specifically over the timetable for the weapons inspectors led by Hans Blix,” Salmond said.
A spokesman for Blair has said the memo is “consistent with what he was saying publicly at the time.” A further note written in April 2002 draws on information given to the US by a Labour MP, whose name is redacted.
Guardian, Chilcot report unlikely to be delayed by Colin Powell memo, Ewen MacAskill, Oct 18, 2015. Report into Iraq war still likely to be published in 2016 says inquiry witness, as substance of memo already established by other evidence. A spokesman for the inquiry said Sir John Chilcot will not be commenting on the memo so as not to prejudice or pre-empt the report. Chilcot informed David Cameron last week that he planned to provide a timetable for publication of the long-delayed report by 3 November. The report is likely to be published next year. Some of the families who lost relatives in the war threatened legal action to force publication.
AP via Washington Post, Leaked memo offers insight into Blair’s thinking before Iraq, Danica Kirka, Oct 18, 2015. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair supported military operations in Iraq about a year before the British Parliament approved such action, according to a 2002 memo written by then-U.S.Secretary of State Colin Powell. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair supported military operations in Iraq about a year before the British Parliament approved such action, according to a 2002 memo written by then-U.S.Secretary of State Colin Powell. The once-classified memo was released by the U.S. State Department after a 2012 Freedom of Information request. “On Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary,” Powell wrote. Publication of the memo is likely to increase pressure on John Chilcot, chairman of the U.K.’s Iraq war inquiry, to publish the results of the investigation, which began six years ago. Families of service personnel killed in Iraq have threatened to go to court to speed up the release, saying the delays are prolonging their suffering as they search for answers.
Washington Post, Tony Blair could face trial for ‘illegal’ Iraq war, says the man who may soon lead Blair’s party, Adam Taylor, Aug. 5, 2015. When Jeremy Corbyn, the current front-runner in the Labor party leadership race, was asked whether Tony Blair, the former Labor prime minister who led the country into the Iraq war, should be tried for his role in the conflict, he said: "If he's committed a war crime? Yes." Corbyn made the comment on Tuesday during an interview with "BBC Newsnight." Pressed on whether he personally thought Blair had committed a war crime, Corbyn responded that the Iraq war was "illegal" – and that it was possible Blair could face trial for it. As remarkable as it may be to hear a possible party leader talk about a potential war crimes trial for a predecessor, Corbyn's comments weren't out of the blue. Corbyn is a veteran of Labor's leftist ranks and a member of Amnesty International.
Daily Mail, Stop paying them! Calls for cash for Chilcot inquiry to stop after £1.5million were paid in fees but it still has not reported, John Stevens, July 19, 2015. MPs have called for Sir John Chilcot to stop being paid after it emerged he and his team have shared more than £1.5 million in fees even though there is still not a publication date for the long-delayed report. More than £10 million has been spent on the official inquiry into the Iraq War since it was set up in 2009 with the aim to be completed by the end of 2010. Sir John, a retired civil servant, is paid £790-a-day. Prime Minister David Cameron has written to Sir John to warn he is ‘fast losing patience’ with the Iraq inquiry, amid claims the report might not appear for yet another year.Catching Our Attention on other Justice, Media & Integrity Issues
Financial Times, Was Blair Bush’s poodle? Edward Luce, May 10, 2007. Whenever Tony Blair needed to escape his domestic woes, Washington was the preferred bolthole. In spite of his badly tattered reputation at home, the outgoing prime minister remains in high standing on both sides of the aisle in Washington – even among trenchant critics of the war in Iraq. One reason Mr. Blair gets a relatively free pass from American critics of the Iraq war is because they see his unwavering support for Mr. Bush as having been motivated by noble intentions. Unlike Mr. Blair’s British critics, who say he ducked the opportunity to influence the White House over issues such as Israel-Palestine and Guantanamo, they have a more modest assessment of Britain’s influence in Washington.
Bloomberg via Yahoo!, Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump Team Up on George W. Bush, Alison Elkin, Oct. 18, 2015. It's not every day that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders see eye-to-eye on an issue. But on Sunday the two candidates from opposing ends of the political spectrum stood in agreement that former President George W. Bush's Iraq invasion was a serious mistake. "I would say that the decision — Bush's decision to get us into a war in Iraq unilaterally — was one of the worst foreign policy blunders in the history of the United States. It destabilized the entire region, and led us, in many respects, to where we are today," Sanders said, appearing on ABC's This Week on Sunday. Trump, meanwhile, took up a similar argument on Twitter.
About this one issue, Sanders and Trump seem to be on the same page, even though Trump called Sanders a "maniac" and a "socialist-slash-communist" last week. For his part, Sanders also jabbed at Trump on Sunday in refusing to comment on Trump's name calling. "Well, if I had to respond to every absurd thing that Donald Trump said, I would spend my whole life doing it," Sanders said on This Week. Still, the two candidates have common ground when it comes to the Bush administration's decision to invade Iraq, in part because reassessing it allows each man to target a respective rival in the presidential race. For Sanders, it serves as a reminder that Democratic front-runner and then-New York Senator Hillary Clinton voted to approve the war.
Other Justice Integrity Project Coverage
Justice Integrity Project, NY Times Portrays Hersh Challenge To Obama Bin Laden Raid Story, Andrew Kreig, Oct. 18, 2015. A New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story Oct. 18 raises questions about the Obama administration's account of a 2011 raid killing alleged 9/11 planner Osama bin Laden. The generally sympathetic profile of investigative reporter Seymour Hersh highlighted his controversial but seldom re-reported or re-referenced challenge last spring to conventional wisdom about bin Laden's death during the Navy SEAL raid. News of the daring raid and death helped establish foreign policy credibility for the president's re-election campaign in 2012. The Times treatment comes at the same time that separate investigative reports and Western foreign policy reverses raises similar questions about the veracity and even morality of the bipartisan U.S. foreign policy establishment in ways seldom seen since the Vietnam War era.