Tag Archives: chilcot report

Lord Paul Tyler writes: Chilcot and Iraq: The Verdict

The House of Lords debated the Chilcot Report on 12th July 2016: here are some of the key quotes from Peers who spoke, giving some flavour of the debate:-

“The noble Lord, Lord Touhig, said that there was an atmosphere of mutual respect at the time of the vote. I beg leave to question that judgment. Charles Kennedy was described as being guilty of appeasement. He was told that he was similar to Neville Chamberlain, and a national newspaper printed a photograph of him with the word “Traitor” underneath. There was by no means mutual respect. So the reactions on these Benches to the report from Sir John Chilcot are, as might be imagined, somewhat mixed. But the one thing on which I hope we can all agree is that Charles Kennedy’s principled leadership on this issue has been vindicated, as indeed has the similarly principled stance taken by Robin Cook.”- Lord (Ming) Campbell of Pittenweem (Liberal Democrat)

“In Parliament, as we have rightly been told, the Liberal Democrats—the noble Lord, Lord Campbell, and his colleagues—stood out. Charles Kennedy was a great party leader, who showed great courage. It was the Liberal Democrats’ finest hour, and reminds me of the South African war, when Campbell-Bannerman and Lloyd George condemned the British Government for “methods of barbarism”. In government there was, of course, Robin Cook. Chilcot is a complete vindication of what he said on every aspect—on weapons, on security and on the flouting of the United Nations. He was indeed a great man, and a very considerable loss.” – Lord (Ken) Morgan (Labour)

“ I note that last weekend the noble Lord, Lord Prescott —second-in-command in the Blair Government —wrote:

In 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that as regime change was the prime aim of the Iraq war, it was illegal. With great sadness and anger, I now believe him to be right.

I salute the noble Lord for that. I would be even more impressed by his candour if he admitted that Charles Kennedy, and Liberal Democrat MPs, of whom I was one, took precisely that same view in March 2003.”- Lord (Paul) Tyler (Liberal Democrat)

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Ming Campbell on Chilcot: “My ally right or wrong is not sustainable”

The House of Lords has been debating Chilcot this week.

Ming Campbell, our foreign affairs spokesperson at the time, spoke in the debate. Here’s his speech:

Contrary to popular belief, I have never believed that what we were presented with was a false premise—implying that there was some effort at deception—but I have always believed that it was flawed, and the distinction is important. But it is clear that throughout these events Mr Blair thought that it was the right thing to do—and he still does. That was inevitably a moral judgment, but the strength of it gave rise to the error of making the evidence fit the judgment rather than the judgment fit the evidence.

The belief that the United Kingdom should be with the United States “whatever” was a flawed belief. Indeed, some would say that that single word reveals all that lay at the heart of the disastrous decision to go to war against Saddam Hussein. On reflection, there seems to have been a complete misunderstanding of the position of the United States. George W Bush always wanted regime change—it was no secret—but why was that? It was because around him was a cluster of influential neocons who thought that his father had made a fatal error in not instructing American forces to go to Baghdad at the end of the first Gulf War. If anyone doubts the good reasons for that decision, I suggest they read the memoirs of Sir John Major, who sets out with great clarity his support for that decision.

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A PM fails this country and destroys another, yet faces no action. Where’s the accountability in that?

I’m watching an at times close to tears Tony Blair giving his response to the Chilcot Report.

He asks us to accept that he took the decision to go to war in good faith. I’m not sure that was ever actually in doubt. Charles Kennedy, in disagreeing with him in the House of Commons during the March 2003 Commons debate, did not doubt the sincerity of his position.

However, Blair’s comments, and all the regret he may feel, cannot make up for what the report makes clear was a very flawed decision making process, with insufficient planning for the aftermath, putting British forces in added danger as they were fighting on two fronts (Iraq and Afghanistan) and weren’t given the resources to do their jobs and that the process establishing whether the decision was even legal was flawed.

The “with you, whatever” memo is not quite damning as it seems. If you read the whole thing, Blair is actually trying to steer the US President down a path of forming an international coalition and pointing out the consequences of not doing so. The problem with the memo as Chilcot says is that he sent a fairly detailed exposition of the UK Government’s position without even asking the Foreign and Defence Secretaries to comment. However, I am less convinced that Straw or Hoon would have changed anything, but that’s just a personal opinion. Also, using loose language like “with you, whatever” is at best not advisable. At worst it shows a contempt for Parliament and the decision making process in Government.

I have never been one of those people who has thought that Tony Blair should be tried as a war criminal. To suggest such a thing, that there is some equivalence between him and the likes of Radovan Karadzic, sentenced earlier this year for his part in the Bosnian genocide is to my mind inappropriate. The errors of Blair and his Government were not of brutality but of folly, negligence and incompetence.

Those were pretty major errors but nobody involved is actually going to face any consequences for that. How can that be? If Blair were still in office, he would have to resign in disgrace. A decade on, he enjoys a privileged and comfortable life with an international career.

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What comes after the Chilcot Report?

The long wait for the publishing of the Chilcot Report has many similarities to the long awaited release of Guns N’ Roses “Chinese Democracy” album. Much like the album the report is long awaited and much delayed. Also like this album the report will almost certainly deliver below expectations and disappoint many.

Our party made much of our opposition to the Iraq War, and well we should have. The war was not remotely mandated by a UN Security Council resolution, nor was a solid case for acting against Saddam’s Iraq established. It seems painfully obvious years later that Tony Blair basically loaned our forces to the USA while he was influenced by the height of emotions that struck him (and much of the West) in the turbulent aftermath of the 9/11 attacks. Unlike many other western leaders though Tony Blair took his pledge of support as a total and unquestioning bond, almost akin to a blood oath.

While it is important to learn these truths it is even more important to consider carefully how or if we should militarily intervene in the future. I firmly believe that our party needs to provide a more honest and rigorous analysis of such questions than the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn.

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Chilcot Report open thread

As the Chilcot Report is published, we’ll bring you reaction and analysis from a Liberal Democrat perspective.

I’m thinking back to 15 February 2003. It was a beautifully sunny, but absolutely freezing day. I spent it with my family marching through Glasgow in protest at the proposed military action in Iraq. My husband doesn’t do much in the way of political campaigning. In fact, in the last couple of decades, he’s taken to the streets precisely twice. Once was for this march and the other was to campaign for Britain’s place in the European Union in the run-up to last month’s referendum.

My 3 year old was in a buggy waving a paper dove and still remembers that day.

When the Chilcot Inquiry was announced back in 2009, I was interviewed for a BBC News feature. I was a bit worried that the inquiry would just be another great big pot of whitewash.

Ms Lindsay says her feelings about the war have changed little in the six years since she went on the march.

“It was the first time I had ever been on anything like that. Deep down I think people thought it wouldn’t change anything but we had to give it a try, and I’d do the same again.

“I was totally against the political decision to go to war. I have nothing but admiration for the troops that went out there to do their job.

“I feel that everything we were worried about when we were protesting against the war has come to pass.

“It hasn’t made us any safer and it’s damaged Britain’s international standing in the world. If there had been a better building of an international coalition things might have been different.”

She is prepared to give the inquiry a chance but is dubious about its worth.

“I think we have to give the inquiry a go but at the moment I’m not convinced it will achieve much.

We are about to find out…

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One big thing to remember about the Iraq War as the Chilcot Report is published

The long awaited Chilcot Report will be published in a few minutes.

On the eve of publication, Twitter amused itself by guessing #chilcotslastline

My favourite came from Lib Dem Josh Dixon.

I suspect that in the wall to wall coverage today, one big thing will be missing. There will be comparatively few mentions of the one UK party that opposed the war from the start. That would be the Liberal Democrats.

Taking an anti-war stance is a courageous thing. Charles Kennedy showed enormous courage and resolve in doing so. He was roundly abused, accused of not supporting our troops, called every traitorous name under the sun.

In fact, the Sun, as you would expect, heaped ire on him as this headline shows:

It was taking a huge risk, too. He suspected, but didn’t know, that they weren’t going to find weapons of mass destruction capable of reaching the UK in 45 minutes.

I felt huge pride in the party at the time.

Watch his speech to the anti-war rally on 15 February here.

 

Also worth watching is his full speech to the House of Commons during the debate on the Iraq War on 18 March 2003. I also include the text from Hansard. Note the the extent of the aggression from Conservatives, including one Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Fabricant, that he faced.

Note the manner of Charles’ intervention. He sticks to the facts and at the end acknowledges the Prime Minister’s sincerity even though he does not agree with him. In a highly charged atmosphere he kept his cool and made his case.

It goes without saying how much we miss him.

Following the hon. Member for Liverpool, Walton (Mr. Kilfoyle), I acknowledge with thanks, through him, to the right hon. Member for Islington, South and Finsbury (Mr. Smith) and to all those concerned in all parties in this House, that an honest option has been discussed and agreed in a cross-party way. In the previous debate, the right hon. Gentleman made a powerful contribution to that cross-party basis, which needs to be heard and discussed rationally today.

Although it is sad that we have lost a very good Leader of the House, there is no doubt, having listened to his brilliant resignation statement in the House yesterday evening, that those of us who are supporting the cross-party amendment in the Lobby tonight, as I and my right hon. and hon. Friends will do, have gained a powerful additional advocate for the case that we are sincerely making.

Given the events of the past few days and the last few hours, there has been much understandable comment about the drama of the situation. In the next few hours and days, however, we are liable to see even more drama and trauma when what appears to be the inevitable military conflict against Iraq begins. Let us hope, as we all agree, that the conflict can be conducted as swiftly as possible, with the minimum of casualties: first and foremost, clearly, among our forces, but equally among innocent Iraqi civilians, with whom none of us has ever had any quarrel and who have suffered terribly under the despicable regime of Saddam Hussein.

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Nick Clegg tells Chilcot: People will think your report is being “sexed down”

Following tonight’s news about the further delay in the publication of the Chilcot Report until after the election, Nick Clegg has written to Sir John Chilcott to ask him to get on with it.

Here’s his letter in full 

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