Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Guardian: 'Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq'

No wonder Tony Blair thinks the Iraq war didn't have much of an effect on his popularity, he's been busy not only lying to himself, but to everyone else in the world too:

Blair knew US had no post-war plan for Iraq

Tony Blair agreed to commit British troops to battle in Iraq in the full knowledge that Washington had failed to make adequate preparations for the postwar reconstruction of the country.

In a devastating account of the chaotic preparations for the war, which comes as Blair enters his final full week in Downing Street, key No 10 aides and friends of Blair have revealed the Prime Minister repeatedly and unsuccessfully raised his concerns with the White House.

That didn't stop him from sending troops though. Not only that:

He also agreed to commit troops to the conflict even though President George Bush had personally said Britain could help 'some other way'.

Even though Blair was apparently "exercised" over the fact that nothing had been planned:

Blair's most senior foreign affairs adviser at the time of the war makes clear that Blair was 'exercised' on the exact issue raised by the war's opponents. Sir David Manning, now Britain's ambassador to Washington, says: 'It's hard to know exactly what happened over the post-war planning. I can only say that I remember the PM raising this many months before the war began. He was very exercised about it.'

Manning reveals that Blair was so concerned that he sent him to Washington in March 2002, a full year before the invasion. Manning recalls: 'The difficulties the Prime Minister had in mind were particularly, how difficult was this operation going to be? If they did decide to intervene, what would it be like on the ground? How would you do it? What would the reaction be if you did it, what would happen on the morning after?

'All these issues needed to be thrashed out. It wasn't to say that they weren't thinking about them, but I didn't see the evidence at that stage that these things had been thoroughly rehearsed and thoroughly thought through.'

On his return to London, Manning wrote a highly-critical secret memo to Blair. 'I think there is a real risk that the [Bush] administration underestimates the difficulties,' it said. 'They may agree that failure isn't an option, but this does not mean that they will avoid it.'

Within a year Britain lost any hope of a proper reconstruction in Iraq when post-war planning was handed to the Pentagon at the beginning of 2003.

That memo, of course, is one of the now infamous Downing Street Memos, the release of which focused on the statement that the facts were being fixed around the policy.

Manning's memo excerpt:

"I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States. And you would not budge on your insistence that, if we pursued regime change, it must be very carefully done and produce the right result. Failure was not an option. Condi's enthusiasm for regime change is undimmed. But there were some signs, since we last spoke, of greater awareness of the practical difficulties and political risks.

"From what she said, Bush has yet to find the answers to the big questions: how to persuade international opinion that military action against Iraq is necessary and justified; what value to put on the exiled Iraqi opposition; how to coordinate a US/allied military campaign with internal opposition (assuming there is any); what happens on the morning after?

"Bush will want to pick your brains. He will also want to hear whether he can expect coalition support. I told Condi that we realised that the Administration could go it alone if it chose. But if it wanted company, it would have to take account of the concerns of its potential coalition partners."

Bush didn't do that obviously, and Blair still went along with him anyway - putting on his faithful poodle face in public while lying to his own people.

That will be his legacy. May the Iraq war dead haunt him as he leaves office in disgrace.

These revelations and interviews with the officials mentioned in The Guardian's article are part of a new documentary airing in Britain next Saturday: "The Rise and Fall of Tony Blair"

Update: Sunday's Independent has a scathing story for Blair as well which I had not seen until after I wrote the above post. Ironically, the picture's caption reads: The Face That Will Haunt Mr Blair.

The death of a hotel receptionist in British custody was first reported by the IoS. In the week that the Law Lords ruled that the Human Rights Act applies to Iraqis in British custody, Andrew Johnston reveals the shocking witness statements that shed new light on a dark chapter in an illegal war

Graphic and shocking new information - including a photograph showing his battered and bruised face - about the death of Baha Mousa, the Basra hotel receptionist killed in British military custody in September 2003, has emerged as scores of Iraqis prepare to sue the Ministry of Defence for alleged mistreatment in detention.

The dead man's father, Daoud Mousa al-Maliki, is bringing a case on his son's behalf in the next four weeks, following Wednesday's ruling by the Law Lords that the Human Rights Act applies to civilians arrested and detained by British forces in Iraq. Nine other cases are proceeding at the same time, and solicitors say another 30 are in the pipeline.

Not only do witness statements in the cases shed fresh light on Baha Mousa's death, but, taken together, they also suggest a pattern of abuse by British forces in southern Iraq during the period following the defeat of Saddam Hussein's forces. With Tony Blair's imminent departure from Downing Street, the Government will hope that it is no longer so closely associated with the unpopularity of the war and the questionable means used to prosecute it, especially if most British troops leave in the next few months. But the decision in the House of Lords raises the prospect that their conduct in Iraq will be aired in the courts for years to come.

Adam Price, the Plaid Cymru MP whose parliamentary questions did much to bring the abuse to light, said the Law Lords' judgment would be "a continued headache for the Government, and make it difficult for Gordon Brown to draw a line under the Iraq debacle". Baha Mousa, who had suffered 93 separate injuries according to the post-mortem examination, is the only Iraqi to die in British custody, a tragedy that continues to haunt the Army.

At least two witness statements taken in Damascus just last week from Iraqis detained at the same time, and obtained by The Independent on Sunday, throw fresh light on his treatment. Mohand Dhahir Abdulah, then a 17-year-old student, said he had known Baha Mousa for two years, and immediately recognised his voice when he screamed: "Please give me only half an hour so I can breathe some fresh air. I am going to die." Mr Abdulah adds: "I heard sounds of beating, so it appeared the soldiers continued to beat him, despite his screams."

Maitham Mohammed al-Waz, a 37-year-old furniture maker, says he heard a voice pleading: "Please leave me. I am dying. I am dying. Have mercy. Don't hit me. I am going to die." The following morning the soldiers removed the hood over Mr al-Waz's head. "I saw a man lying on a stretcher. His body was not covered with any cloth. He appeared dead. I recall that at one point his arm bounced off the stretcher, limp."

And for two other Iraqi men who were tortured, the abuse didn't end when they were handed over to the US military:

Both men were subsequently taken to the notorious American detention facility, Camp Bucca, before being released after several weeks in custody without charge. In Camp Bucca Mr Abdullah says he was subjected to further indignities. His statement alleges: "We were treated like animals. We had to clean human waste with our bare hands."

The entire article is just gut-wrenching.

Robert Fisk, who originally broke the story, has more.

There's an old rule of thumb which I always apply to armies in the field. If you find out about one abuse, you can bet there were a hundred others that will never be revealed. New stories of "forced disappearances", hostage-taking and torture in British custody are emerging from Basra. US troops are still being questioned about unlawful killings and torture in Iraq. If one girl is raped and murdered and her family slaughtered by a US unit south of Baghdad - all of which is true - how many others have died in circumstances we shall never discover?


And why did all of this happen again? Because war criminals like Bush and Blair made them happen by illegally invading a sovereign country that posed absolutely no threat.

It's all up now, of course. Iraq is a hell-disaster and the old clich├ęs about "hearts and minds" are as dry as the sand on the desert floor. Maybe there are hearts and minds to be maintained inside the Green Zone in Baghdad or any of the other "green zones" around the Middle East where our Western forces shelter from their enemies in their modern versions of the Crusader castles that once littered the Holy Land. But the moral high ground - if ever it could have existed after Tony Blair and George Bush's illegal invasion - has long ago been abandoned.

We will leave Iraq with all our dreams in pieces, and it will be left to Iraqis themselves - men like Daoud Mousa, carrying the grief of his son's death with him for ever - to create a new country out of the pain and sorrow we leave behind for them.

If they even can...

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