Britain’s can of worms
Posted on December 31st, 2013

The Island Editorial

December 30, 2013, 8:03 pm

The British government is planning to declassify some documents pertaining to private talks between Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George Bush in the run-up to the Iraq war, according to a news item we publish in today’s World View section. This move is aimed at facilitating the publication of the much-delayed Chilcot report on Britain’s involvement in that conflict, we are told.

It is more than ten years since the conclusion of the Iraq war and Britain has not yet made public the findings of its inquiry despite its responsibility for killing hundreds of thousands of people including children. Egyptian Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed Mustafa ElBaradei, has observed in his internationally acclaimed book, The Age of Deception, Nuclear Diplomacy in Treacherous Times: “The harshest reality of the Iraq War and its extended aftermath””an aspect that has been disturbingly minimised in Western media reports””is the Iraqi civilian loss of life. Estimates have ranged as high as eight hundred thousand Iraqi deaths during the first three years of the war. This does not count the millions maimed or wounded, or the millions displaced from their homes and stripped of their livelihoods.” One cannot but agree with the respected international civil servant on his assertion that ‘the United States and its allies promoted an ethos of violence and cultural division that harkened back to an earlier era of human history’.

But, Britain continues to sit on the Chilcot report to appease the US, which does not want it published for obvious reasons, while urging other countries to probe their accountability issues in a transparent and credible manner and prosecute the perpetrators. This, the UK does in spite of the fact that the documents that the US and the UK submitted to the IAEA, in support of their claim that Saddam Hussein had obtained uranium from Niger, sufficient to produce 100 nuclear bombs, were all fabricated. Even Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has declared in the British Parliament itself that the Iraq war was illegal.

The much-publicised move to declassify documents detailing Bush-Blair talks has, in our book, all the trappings of a ruse to delay the release of the Chilcot report and divert international attention. A British government official has been quoted as saying that their plan is to declassify many of the records and be ‘as open as possible’. Who will decide how open the process should be? It is Prime Minister David Cameron and his Cabinet. This is ludicrous, to say the least. The need is for complete transparency and no room should be left for incriminating documents to be deep-sixed on some flimsy pretext.

In fact, Britain, which is on a global campaign to have alleged atrocities against civilians in conflicts probed and war criminals punished, should have set an example by launching a full-scale war crimes probe into the allegations against its own troops and wartime Prime Minister Blair.

ElBaradei has posed some very pertinent questions as regards the Iraq war: “Should the United Nations request an opinion from the International Court of Justice as to the legality of the Iraq War? If the answer is that the war was, in fact, illegal””and moreover, if consideration is given to the massive civilian casualties incurred””should not the International Criminal Court investigate whether this constitutes a ‘war crime’ and determine who is accountable? Should Iraq request reparations at the International Court of Justice, or another forum, for the damages incurred during a war launched in violation of international law and on the basis of falsehoods?” These questions need to be discussed and answers found. Geneva is the best place for that purpose, we reckon.

When Britain appointed Sir John Chilcot to investigate its involvement in the Iraq war on Blair’s watch it may not have expected the issue to get out of hand in this manner. Prime Minster David Cameron, the self-appointed crusader hunting for war criminals, has cut a very pathetic figure.

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