Last Tuesday, the United Kingdom began “the most thorough investigation yet into the decisions that led up to the war and governed Britain’s involvement” through a series of Iraq war hearings in which numerous high-level British officials — including key war supporter and Bush ally ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair — are expected to testify about their role in bringing their country to war.
The hearings, chaired by privy council member John Chilcot, have brought to light a number of explosive facts which unveil the level of chicanery practiced by the Blair government in taking the country to war over the opposition of the vast majority of British citizens:
– Blair was told prior to the war by his intelligence services that Iraq did not have access to weapons of mass destruction. Sir William Ehrman, the director-general of defense and intelligence at the Foreign Office at the time, told the inquiry that British intelligence services had concluded ten days prior to the beginning of the war that Saddam Hussein did not have access to weapons of mass destruction and that he also likely lacked warheads capable of delivering such weapons. The Blair government ignored the advice of their intelligence services and supported the war anyway. [11/25/09]
— The Blair government had decided to support the US-led war up to a year before the invasion. Sir Christopher Meyer, the ambassador to Washington at the time, told the inquiry that the Blair government had decided that it was “a complete waste of time” to resist Bush’s efforts to go to war and had instead opted to offer advice about how to invade. Meyer also told the inquiry that former US national security adviser Condoleeza Rice had called the Meyer on the day of the 9/11 attacks and told him, “We are just looking to see whether there could possibly be a connection with Saddam Hussein.” Meyer also reiterated that both the American and British government were constantly looking for a “smoking gun” to justify the upcoming war. [11/26/09, 11/26/09]
— Blair was told the Iraq War would be illegal under international law by his attorney general. In a July 2002 letter, former British attorney general Lord Goldsmith warned Blair that the UN charter only permits military intervention “on the basis of self-defence” or for “humanitarian intervention” and that neither case applied to Iraq. Blair responded by banning Goldsmith from future cabinet meetings and ignoring his verdict on the legality of the war. [11/29/09]
The Iraq war Inquiry will continue through 2010 and is expected to release its conclusions in a formal report at the end of that year. Although few expect there to ever be prosecutions as a result of the deception or illegality of the invasion of Iraq — despite the fact, as one of the last surviving judges of the Nuremburg Tribunal has said, the leaders who launched the invasion should be held accountable — there are other important reasons to investigate the drive to war. As Chilcot said at the opening of the hearings Tuesday, the inquiry was set up not only to “identify the lessons that should be learned from the UK’s involvement in Iraq,” but also to “help future governments who may face future situations.”