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Tony Blair’s Great Game: Toying with the Chilcot Investigation
February 8, 2010
One of the most remarkable things about England’s ongoing “Iraq War Inquiry” is how little has been written about it in the U.S. Though many Britons believe the so-called Chilcot inquiry is a whitewash, there are important facts to glean from the testimony of high level officials who led Great Britain to the war in Iraq, facts which reveal contradictions in their official stories and bear comparison with the U.S. government’s version of what happened.
Last week, thanks to the internet, the transcript of former Prime Minister Tony Blair’s testimony became available. His version of events leading up to the war, compared to the known facts about why the two most powerful nations in the world really went to war, revealed a high level of dissembling on his part -- especially on the issue of “regime change.” The secret to unraveling his lies and omissions is simple: insert the missing context of oil. During the BBC’s roundup of the first day of hearings, a BBC reporter spoke to one of the first witnesses, a foreign policy official who spoke about the impact of 9/11 on the Foreign Office’s deliberations as to the advisability of military intervention in Iraq. Then the BBC interviewed a British soldier who had been to Iraq. The soldier got right to the point: “This war is about oil, I don’t care what they say.”
Blair and his questioners said absolutely nothing about oil during a full day of testimony, so I shall provide the missing context below.
First, the known facts. Republican neo-cons advising Bush on his war strategy, including Vice President Dick Cheney (like Bush an inveterate oil man) had plotted for years to seize Iraq’s oil. Iraq was the first issue on their agenda when Bush came into office in 2000. Bush said “Find me a way,” and his lawyers got to work, concocting the necessary legal pretext for invading Iraq. But they all knew that seizing the oil was only half the equation. The other half was transporting the oil, via pipeline, to market. Their terminal point of choice was the Israeli port of Haifa, which housed not only a large refinery that had fueled the British navy in World War II, but was the terminal point for a previous pipeline that had connected the oil of Iraq to Palestine until the Israeli war of Independence in 1948.
Fast forward to April 4, 2003, only two weeks after the U.S invasion of Iraq. The Asia Times reported that “Iraqi consent [to building a new pipeline to Haifa] will be out of the question as long as the current [nationalist, anti-Israel] regime of Saddam Hussein is in power. As acknowledged by the Israeli minister [National Infrastructure Minister Yosef Paritzky] a prerequisite for the project is, therefore, a new regime in Baghdad with friendly ties with Israel.” The new regime was to be headed up by Ahmad Chalabi, an exiled Iraqi leader, who openly supported the resurrected pipeline project. (Chalabi would go on to be Oil Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of Iraq in 2005-2006 before his precipitous fall from power after his duplicitous role in fabricating the WMD story became publicly known.)
The London Observer on April 20, 2003 quoted a former senior CIA official as saying that “it has long been a dream of a powerful section of the people now driving this administration [of President George W. Bush] and the war in Iraq to safeguard Israel’s energy supply as well as that of the United States. The Haifa pipeline was something that existed [up until Israel’s war of independence in 1948], was resurrected as a dream, and is now a viable project—albeit with a lot of building to do.”
Among the powerful people who favored the pipeline to Haifa were Pentagon neocons Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and Douglas Feith, who, from the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans, tried to link Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein to justify the invasion of Iraq. Between 2001 and the March, 2003 invasion, all worked closely with the now widely discredited New York Times reporter Judith Miller to develop the false WMD story, with crucial assistance from Ahmad Chalabi. Meanwhile, Bush’s lawyers were developing bogus legal arguments [link again?] to justify the waterboarding of prisoners in an equally spurious attempt to elicit false confessions linking Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda and 9/11.
To sum up, the Bush administration came up with phony pretexts for the war in Iraq, cynically used a New York Times reporter to perpetuate its lies, tortured Afghan prisoners to further develop its lies, and then relied on lawyers in the Department of Justice to cover up its actions. All of this has been documented in the U.S., and yet Tony Blair apparently believed he could blithely sail through an entire day of questioning by the Chilcot Inquiry without being subjected to world condemnation.
Let’s look at what happened during his testimony about regime change in Iraq.
His questioners focused in on a meeting Blair had with President Bush in Crawford Texas in April, 2002, approximately a year before the invasion. No one – not even an advisor – was present at this meeting.
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