Meyer confirms Blair’s big lie …


Christopher Meyer was John Major’s Press Secretary in the1990s and British Ambassador to Washington from 1997 to early 2003.  He retired a few weeks before the US/UK invaded Iraq.  His recently published memoirs are now notorious for having “revealed” that he regularly held early morning meetings with John Major in his bedroom and/or bathroom, when Major was in a state of undress.


Our Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, purported to be outraged by this “revelation”, which had already been “revealed” in The Goldfish Bowl: Married to the Prime Minister 1955-1997 by Cherie Booth and Cate Haste (p252).  The Foreign Secretary’s outrage is difficult to take seriously when the Prime Minister has already profited from the “revelation”, a fact that he has acknowledged by declaring the royalties from his wife’s book in the House of Commons register of members’ interests (see here).


Perhaps, the Foreign Secretary’s “outrage” was manufactured in order to divert attention from a rather more serious “revelation” by Meyer.  This was that the Prime Minister lied continually to the British public in the year before the invasion of Iraq and that the Foreign Secretary went along with the lie.  He and the Prime Minister pretended to the British public that the Government’s objective was the disarmament of Iraq in accordance with Security Council resolutions, and not regime change.  In reality, the Prime Minister had pledged his support to President Bush for regime change at least a year before the invasion.


This was evident from official documents from March 2002 and the Downing Street memo, leaked to journalist Michael Smith (see Daily Telegraph, 18 September 2004 and Sunday Times, 1 May 2005; details of documents are here).  It is now confirmed in Meyer’s memoirs.  Writing about the period leading up to Blair's visit to Crawford in April 2002, Meyer says:

“By this stage, Tony Blair had already taken the decision to support regime change, though he was discreet about saying so in public.” (p 241)


So discreet was he that he lied and said that he wasn’t committed to regime change, merely to disarmament, and that, if disarmament happened, regime change wouldn’t.


Perhaps, Meyer’s most telling revelation is in his account of Colin Powell’s persuading George Bush to “take the UN route” in the autumn of 2002, and Jack Straw’s contribution to this.  Meyer writes:


“One of Powell’s arguments was that Britain needed UN cover.  Jack Straw, who had built a solid relationship with Powell, had made this point in spades.” (p 250)


You only need “cover” if you are hiding your real intentions.  In this instance, “UN cover” was required to dress up regime change as disarmament.  Plan A was to get the Security Council to demand that weapons inspectors be admitted to Iraq, on terms that Saddam Hussein couldn’t accept, and use his refusal as an excuse for invading Iraq and overthrowing his regime.  As Meyer wrote:


“If he refused, this would not only put him in the wrong but also turn the searchlight onto the Security Council Resolutions of which he remained in breach.” (p 243)


However, the terms laid down in Security Council resolution 1441 were, thanks to France, insufficiently onerous to elicit the refusal from Iraq that the US/UK desired.  They had to make do with the ill-defined proposition that Iraq wasn’t co-operating with the UN weapons inspectors, a proposition that only 2 other members of the 15-member Security Council agreed with in March 2003.  The “UN cover” that Blair and Straw sought turned out to be see-through.


For a detailed account of all this, see my pamphlet (published December 2005)


Blair goes to Basra

The Prime Minister flew to Basra on 22 December 2005 in order to provide the media with opportunities to take Christmas photographs of him with troops.  The media duly got their photographs and in return reported as fact the pretence that the Prime Minister had travelled to Basra to thank the troops.


No doubt hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ money was spent on this Blair promotion exercise, but the media suspended their legendary inquisitiveness about these things for the occasion because they got their pictures.


Had the poor bloody infantry been asked if they wished to be “thanked” by the Prime Minister in person, it’s a fair bet that they would have been prepared to forgo the privilege – and the hours of spit and polish that preceded it and the extra duty required to protect him and his entourage – and make do with a video.


(Isn’t it strange how the Prime Minister never seeks photo opportunities with troops who have lost body parts in one of his many wars?)


The Prime Minister’s message to the troops was that they were doing “important” work bringing democracy to Iraq:


“… the importance of this probably is greater today than it has ever been, because if Iraq does stabilise and become a democracy, then the region is more safe, the wider world is more safe, our own country is more safe because international terrorism will be dealt a huge body blow. …”


Wisely, the Prime Minister didn’t tell the troops that Iraq was free from “international terrorism” prior to the US/UK invasion of Iraq.  Nor did he mention that he had been warned by the intelligence services prior to the invasion that the threat from al-Qaeda and associated groups would be heightened by military action against Iraq.  He was warned in a Joint Intelligence Committee assessment entitled International Terrorism: War with Iraq dated10 February 2003 (which was made public by the Intelligence & Security Committee in its report Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction – Intelligence and Assessments (paragraphs 125-8) published in September 2003).


Understandably, the Prime Minister omitted to tell the House of Commons about this intelligence before it voted for military action on 18 March 2003, lest its enthusiasm for military action be tempered.  Nor did he tell the House of Commons about another aspect of the same JIC assessment, which warned that “any collapse of the Iraqi regime would increase the risk of chemical and biological warfare technology or agents [remember them?] finding their way into the hands of terrorists, not necessarily al-Qaida”. 


Today, it you look at the MI5 website here, you will find that our domestic intelligence services are of the opinion that military action against Iraq has indeed increased the threat to Britain from al-Qaeda and related groups.  Under the heading Threat to the UK from International Terrorism, MI5 says:


“Though they have a range of aspirations and ‘causes’, Iraq is a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe. Some individuals who support the insurgency are known to have travelled to Iraq in order to fight against coalition forces. In the longer term, it is possible that they may later return to the UK and consider mounting attacks here.”


The Prime Minister has got 98 British troops killed and spent billions of pounds in military action against Iraq which increased the threat to Britain – leading to the expenditure of more millions in attempting (unsuccessfully) to protect British civilians from the increased threat.  It’s a veritable foreign policy triumph for the Prime Minister.


But, says the Prime Minister, we are bringing democracy to Iraq and that will make the whole world safer.  To repeat his words to the troops:


“… if Iraq does stabilise and become a democracy, then the region is more safe, the wider world is more safe, our own country is more safe because international terrorism will be dealt a huge body blow.”


It is difficult to follow the logic of this, as is the case with much that comes out of the Prime Minister’s mouth.


The Prime Minister must know that the presence of foreign Jihadists in Iraq – and the fact that Iraq has become “a dominant issue for a range of extremist groups and individuals in the UK and Europe” (to quote MI5) – is a consequence of the US/UK invasion and occupation.  One doesn’t have to be opposed to the occupation to recognise this.   Lt General John McColl was the British Military Representative and deputy commander of the occupation forces in Iraq in 2004.  Giving evidence to the Defence Select Committee on 2 February 2005, he said:


“I think that, as long as there is a significant Western presence in Iraq, we will continue to see significant Jihadist activity.”


It follows logically from this that a necessary condition for reducing the presence of foreign Jihadists in Iraq – and reducing the impact of Iraqi issue as a recruiting sergeant for al-Qaeda world wide – is to end the occupation of Iraq (which would, of course, end the Sunni insurgency as well).  The presence of Western forces has attracted Jihadists into Iraq, not Iraq’s lack of democracy.


Democracy only for enemies

Bringing democracy to Iraq is the current “justification” advanced by the US/UK for the invasion and occupation.  It is a striking fact that democracy is noticeable by its absence from the states whose territory the US/UK relied upon for the military operations against Iraq – and there doesn’t appear to be any sense of urgency in Washington or London for bringing democracy to these states.


The ground war was launched from Kuwait, which is ruled by the al-Sabah family.  True, there is some form of elected National Assembly, but the franchise is very limited – only 10% of all citizens are eligible to vote.  Command and control of military operations was carried out from the US Central Command base in Qatar, which is ruled by the al-Thani family.  The US Navy’s headquarters in the Persian Gulf is in Bahrain, which is ruled by the al-Khalifa family.


(The CIA World Fact book is an excellent source of information about the governance of these states – and of every other state in the world).


Saudi Arabia has kept quiet about its assistance to the US/UK in their military action against Iraq, but Bob Woodward records, in his book Plan of Attack, that in November 2002 Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, offered “every military assistance to the US” in overthrowing Saddam Hussein (p228).  It is generally accepted that Saudi Arabia is not a democracy.


Another essential base for operations in Iraq was the island of Diego Garcia, which is part of the Chagos Archipelago in the Indian Ocean.  When the US air and naval base was built there, Britain forcibly removed the indigenous people, not just from Diego Garcia itself, but from the Chagos Archipelago as a whole.  In all, about 2,000 people were removed.  In June 2004, at a time when the US/UK were using the facilities on Diego Garcia to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, the UK Government employed the Royal Prerogative – a relic of absolute monarchy – to overturn a 2000 UK High Court order granting the islanders the right to return to the Archipelago.  So much for freedom and democracy for Chagos islanders.


One could be forgiven for thinking that the US/UK crusade to bring freedom and democracy to the world is only applicable to states that aren’t subservient to the US/UK.


Opinion polls in Iraq

Before the Iraqi election, the BBC and other news organisations commissioned Oxford Research International to carry out an opinion poll in Iraq.  Just over 1,700 Iraqis were interviewed.


The BBC story (12 December 2005) on the results is entitled Survey finds optimism in new Iraq.  The headline is based on the response to the question: ‘How do you expect things to be a year from now’, to which more than two-thirds answered ‘somewhat better’ or ‘much better’.   Government ministers were quick to comment on this poll and point to the optimism amongst Iraqis indicated by the poll.


What a contrast to the Government’s reaction to the results of a poll conducted a few weeks earlier, which was commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and paid for out of the public purse.  Some 2,500 Iraqis were interviewed in this instance.  But, in this case, the Government kept the results secret and refused to comment on them after they had been published by the Sunday Telegraph on 23 October 2005.  Could the Government’s reticence in this instance be related to the fact that the results didn’t suit the Government’s case?


Remember, the poll suggested that:


           82% of Iraqis are ‘strongly opposed’ to the presence of the occupation forces

           45% believe attacks against the occupation forces are justified

           67% feel less secure because of the occupation

           less than 1% of the population believe that occupation forces have improved security


As for the state of Iraq’s infrastructure, 71% of those polled said they rarely get safe clean water, 47% say they never have enough electricity and 70% say their sewerage system rarely works.


US Strategy for Victory in Iraq

In response to growing popular disquiet about US involvement in Iraq, the White House published a 38-page document entitled National Strategy for Victory in Iraq in late November 2005.  It’s not an easy read, and it is unlikely that many Americans will read it, and be reassured by reading it.  It implicitly admits that the insurgency is largely a product of the US presence, though it doesn’t draw the obvious conclusion.


The “strategy” has three tracks to it: political, security and economic.  The core of the “political track” is concerned with inducing Sunnis, including those taking part in or supporting the insurgency, to take part in the political process.  Underlying this is the naïve assumption that taking part in politics is incompatible with supporting military activity against US forces.  As the republican movement in Ireland has proved, a strategy of operating with “the armalite in one hand and the ballot box in the other” is perfectly feasible.


The document includes a number of gems in it.  One element in the “political” action plan is:


“Isolate enemy elements from those who can be won over to the political process by countering

false propaganda …” (p1)


By planting false propaganda in the Iraqi media?


And the “economic track” includes the following assertion:


“The prosperity of average Iraqis will be enhanced only if Iraq reduces the massive subsidy programs that burden its economy.” (p11)


Just think how the prosperity of the average American would be enhanced if only the massive subsidy programs to American farmers were abolished.


In any case, have these matters not been the business of a sovereign Iraq government since the “handover” in June 2004?  Have we been misled?  Is the Iraqi government not sovereign after all?


David Morrison

Labour & Trade Union Review

7 January 2006