A group of British lawmakers launch a fresh effort to interrogate Tony Blair for misleading the parliament and the public over the Iraq War, reflecting widespread frustration that a seven-year inquiry did not result in any accountability for the former prime minister. MPs from six parties will propose a motion Monday calling for a parliamentary committee to investigate the discrepancies between what Blair said publicly to the Chilcot Inquiry and privately about the war in Iraq especially to the US government, The Guardian reported Saturday.
The Chilcot Inquiry, established in 2009 to investigate Britain’s most controversial military engagement since the end of the Second World War, published its 6,000-page report in July. The long-awaited report offered a scathing critique of the military intervention, slamming Blair for being too eager to support then US President George W. Bush. The new move against Blair is being backed by Alex Salmond, MP and former first minister of Scotland, Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru Hywel Williams, Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas as well as a number of senior Tory and Labour MPs.
Citing documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, The Guardian reported last week that the Chilcot Inquiry was designed by senior British civil servants to “avoid blame” and reduce the risk that individuals and the government could face legal action. Salmond also said some MPs believe that senior officials were “preoccupied with preventing previous and future prime ministers being held accountable”. “An example should be set, not just of improving government but holding people to account,” the MP added.
The new motion will be debated on Wednesday in Commons time allotted to the Scottish National Party. It says the Iraq inquiry “provided substantial evidence of misleading information presented by the then prime minister and others on the development of the then government’s policy towards the invasion of Iraq as shown most clearly in the contrast between private correspondence to the United States government and public statements to parliament and people.” The motion also asks the Commons Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee to examine the “contrast in public and private policy and to report on what further action is necessary to help prevent repetition of this disastrous series of events.”
Salmond said the committee could recommend that Blair be stripped of membership of the Privy Council in London which formally advises the government. According to the Chilcot report, Blair had presented the case for war with “a certainty which was not justified” based on “flawed” intelligence about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction (WMD), which was not challenged as it should have been. It has long been speculated that Blair had offered strong backing to the Bush administration during his private conversations with the US president as planning was already underway for the Iraq invasion.
The inquiry revealed that Blair promised Bush back then, “I will be with you, whatever.” The new motion comes as Blair is positioning himself to return to British politics, seeking an office close to Parliament to shape the Brexit negotiations. The former prime minister is understood to have held talks with senior British ministers and officials recently to engineer a comeback, promising to champion the “politically homeless” in the UK. Since leaving Downing Street in 2007, Blair has largely remained disengaged in British politics because of his controversial instigation of the country’s involvement in the US-led war in Iraq.