Jeremy Corbyn made his first assessment of the Chilcot Inquiry in Parliament on Wednesday, a statesman-like address to the House of Commons. It was damning, yet touching, in equal measure – and without vindictiveness.
The Labour leader was one of the most prominent voices of opposition against the Iraq War at the time, leading protests and actively raising his grave concerns in Parliament.
Concerns that were shared by millions of people around the world, but tragically fell on deaf ears.
Corbyn opened by saying that:
I would like to remember and honour the 179 British service men and women killed, and the thousands maimed and injured during the Iraq war and their families, as well as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who have died as a result of the invasion and occupation launched by the US and UK governments 13 years ago.
He then began his assessment by giving cool criticism of what he called “the extraordinary time it has taken for the report to see the light”, saying it “is frankly, clearly a matter for regret”. But when it came to the subject of the decision to invade Iraq itself. He did not mince his words:
The decision to invade and occupy Iraq […] was the most significant foreign policy decision taken by a British government in modern times. It divided this house, and set the government of the day against the majority of the British people.
Corbyn’s criticism became even more overarching. Directly attacking Tony Blair’s government …
the war was not in any way […] a last resort; frankly it was an act of military aggression launched on a false pretext, as the inquiry accepts, and has long been regarded as illegal by the overwhelming weight of international legal opinion.
Questioning the legality provoked a furious reaction from some MPs. However Corbyn continued with his criticisms:
it led to the deaths of 100,000 people […] it devastated Iraq’s infrastructure and society; it fostered a lethal sectarianism […] that turned into a civil war. Instead of protecting security at home and abroad, the war fuelled and spread terrorism across the region.
He cited Sunday’s suicide bombing in Baghdad, which killed 250 people and was the worst terrorist attack since the US/UK invasion in 2003 – implying that Daesh (Isis/Isil), which claimed responsibility, was a group that had come into existence as a result of the Iraq war. “By any measure”, Corbyn said, “the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been, for many, a catastrophe”.
the decision to invade Iraq on what was clearly flawed intelligence about weapons of mass destruction (WMD) […] has led to a fundamental breakdown of trust in politics and in our institutions of government […] while the governing classes got it so horrifically wrong, many people got it right.
More jeering from backbenchers ensued, one of whom ITV’s political editor Robert Peston identified as Labour’s Ian Austin MP – who can be heard saying “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.
But Corbyn seemed undeterred. He cited the protests against the Iraq war in February 2003 as being “the biggest ever demonstration in British history”. Amid more continuous heckling, he fired criticism at both Margaret Thatcher’s and John Major’s Tory administrations, implying that while many people protested about Hussein our governments had basically cosied up to him.
Turning his attention back to Blair, he recalled:
we could see that this state posed no military threat and the WMD evidence was flimsy […] If only this house would have listened to many of its own people […] the course of events might have been different. There are members here today who voted against the war […] but none of us such take any satisfaction from this report.
Corbyn briefly paid tribute to the late Robin Cook, Blair’s foreign secretary who resigned over the war. Cook warned at the time of his grave concerns, saying that “I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support”.
The Labour leader then rounded on the decision of Blair’s administration to go to war, saying:
the Chilcot report has rightly dug deep into the litany of failures […] but the reality is it was the original decision to follow the US president into this war, in the most volatile region in the world, and impose a colonial-style occupation, that has led to every other disaster.
He summed up by echoing what surely most people who remember the Iraq war must feel. Firing a parting salvo at Blair and the other members of the government who took the UK to war, Corbyn starkly said:
those laid bare in the Chilcot report must face up to the consequences of their actions. Whatever they may be. We make decisions that […] go on for decades and decades […] we need to reflect very seriously before taking any decisions again to take military action without realising the consequence of those we will live with all of us for many decades to come, and will often have incalculable consequences as a result.
While Corbyn’s detractors are often quick to criticise the leader’s soft-touch approach to his speeches in Parliament, no such criticism could be levelled on Wednesday.
Having been at the forefront of the campaign against the Iraq War, his stance at the time has now been wholly vindicated. His speech in Parliament must have been uncomfortable listening for many on his own backbenches, as there were countless MPs sitting there who voted for military action. He defied his party to stand on the right side of history in 2003. Some might say he is doing the same today.
In his address to Parliament, Jeremy Corbyn made clear his position: the choice of New Labour and the House of Commons to invade Iraq was one of the gravest mistakes in modern history. One which cannot be allowed to happen again.
Jeremy Corbyn has been criticised by the coup plotters, most of who backed the Iraq War, for voting against Party. But what would we rather have, an automaton that follows party orders (in which case install a robot and save on expenses) of someone who thinks and votes according to his conscience?
Contrast the address by Jeremy Corbyn on Chilcot to the House of Commons with the contrived response from war criminal Tony Blair.
Blair cannot see he has done anything wrong, Iraq is a better place as a result of his actions, he would do it all over again.
The tragic bomb blast at the weekend, killed more innocent people, than all the British military who lost their lives during this illegal war.
Warnings were given not only by the intelligence services, but also by Canon Andrew White, of the chaos into which Iraq would descend. These warning were ignored.
Cannot be a coincidence that the Charity Commission launches an investigation into Andrew White aka Vicar of Baghdad, any more than a coup is launched against Jeremy Corbyn, days before the Chilcot Report is published?
Iraqis used to tell you they were Iraqis, now they are Christian, Shia, Sunni, Kurd.
Terrorism has spread across the region, has given rise to ISIS, has spread to Europe.
Blair has since devoted his life to the Middle East. Most people would be forgiven into believing he was promoting the interests of Saudi Arabia and Israel, whilst at the same time lining his own pocket.
On Wato, we had paid liar Alistair Campbell justify the action taken by Tony Blair.
Chilcot is a damning indictment of Tony Blair, but still he cannot see he did anything wrong.
A deafening silence from the Blairite coup plotters, who have every day been calling for Jeremy Corbyn to go. One of who was Angela Eagle, who not only supported the Iraq War, but also tried to block an Inquiry into the Iraq War. Can we imagine Angela Eagle, even less Hilary Benn, giving the speech Jeremy Corbyn gave?
The noise and abuse, which can be heard in the background as Jeremy Corbtn was addressing Parliament, was not coming from the Tory benches, it was coming from the Labour benches.
One of those shouting abuse was identified by ITN political editor Robert Peston as Labour MP Ian Austin – who can be heard shouting “sit down and shut up”, and “you’re a disgrace”.
The only disgrace was Ian Austin. Please sign the petition calling for him to be suspended from the Labour Party. His own local party should do the right thing, Vote of No Confidence and move that he be de-selected.
It is easy to see why the coup plotters were so keen to remove Jeremy Cobyn before the Chilcot Report was published. Jeremy Cobyn opposed the Iraq War, as did John McDonnell, which is more than they did. They were the war cheerleaders, their hands are as soaked in blood as that of Tony Blair.
Since the coop plotters outed themselves, Labour has seen a 100,000 increase in membership.
Tony Blair, Jack Straw, Alistair Campbell, should be put on trial at The Hague for war crimes. At the very least Tony Blair should be charged with Misconduct in Public Office.
Is there no dictator Blair will not act for, so long of course his palm is greased?
If the gassing of the Kurds had happened today, Blair would be doing the whitewash.
Intelligence was flawed. The executive wanted war, and the intelligence was tailored accordingly.
It was known, there were people in Iraq peddling dodgy intelligence for money or a visa to the west. It should have been verified, by satellite pictures, signal intelligence, via other sources.
When reliable, well placed sources said Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction, those sources were ignored.
The weapons inspectors said there were no weapons. They were ignored.
We should not forget David Kelly, the man who was probably killed to silence him.
David Kelly was a weapons inspector. He was also a double agent working for the British. It was he who leaked to the BBC that the Dodgy Dossier had been ‘enhanced’ at the behest of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell.
Andrew Gilligan, the journalist at the centre of the ‘dodgy dossier’ row, writing in The Telegraph on evidence submitted to the Chilcot Inquiry:
What we now know is that, according to an MI6 officer working on the dossier, the 45-minute claim was “based in part on wishful thinking” and was not “fully validated”. Another MI6 officer said that “there were from the outset concerns” in the intelligence services about “the extent to which the intelligence could support some of the judgments that were being made”.
What we now know is that on September 17 and 18 2002, a week before the dossier was published, Alastair Campbell sent memos to its author, Sir John Scarlett, saying that he and Tony Blair were “worried” that on Saddam’s nuclear capability the dossier gave the (accurate) impression that “there’s nothing much to worry about”. On September 19, Campbell emailed Scarlett again, suggesting the insertion of a totally false claim that, in certain circumstances, Saddam could produce nuclear weapons in as little as a year. This fabrication duly appeared in the dossier.
What we now know is that in his September 17 memo, Campbell suggested 15 other changes to the text of the dossier. Most were accepted; their effect was to harden the document’s language from possibility to probability, or probability to certainty. Campbell lied to Parliament about the content of this memo, giving the Foreign Affairs Committee an altered copy which omitted his comments on the 45-minute claim and played down his interventions on most of the other issues.
And what we now know is that, contrary to his campaigning certainty at the time, Blair admits in his memoirs that he privately saw the case for war against Iraq as “finely balanced”. No wonder a little tipping of the scales was needed – or, as Blair also put it in his book, “politicians are obliged from time to time to conceal the full truth, to bend it and even distort it, where the interests of the bigger strategic goal demand that it be done”.
We knew nothing of this then. Indeed, in his evidence to the Hutton inquiry, Sir Richard Dearlove, the head of MI6, described the 45-minute claim, straight-faced, as “a piece of well-sourced intelligence”, two months after his own service had discredited it. Despite his key role as Dearlove’s military counterpart, General Laurie was never called to Hutton at all; his explosive statement, and that of the two MI6 people, emerged only in 2011, at the Chilcot inquiry.
I don’t blame you if you knew nothing of all this until now; most of it, by happy coincidence, came out only long after public attention had moved on, and the government could no longer be damaged.
But the government knew – and this is what makes its behaviour towards the BBC and David Kelly so incredible. He came forward to his bosses as my source under a promise that his identity would be kept secret, but was effectively given up to the world after Campbell, in his words, decided to “open a flank on the BBC” to distract attention from his difficulties over the dossier.
Yesterday, on Wato, liar Alistair Campbell said pressure had not been exerted, and put the blame on faulty intelligence, as did Tony Blair.
David Kelly was found dead in woods, his wrists slashed.
He had withstood the pressure in Iraq, confronting Iraqis. Was he likely to succumb to a couple of hours questioning by Commons Select Committee?
The summary by Peter Oborne demonstrates how damning the Chilcot Report is on Tony Blair. Unlike many such reports, it does not pull its punches, and is not as many feared, an Establishment Whitewash.
War criminal Tony Blair, a liar, delusional, and seems to be possessed of a Messiah Complex.
Only last weekend, Blair was putting himself forward as the man to negotiate with the EU over Brexit.