Damning Blair – and not with faint praise

Admiral Lord West, former first Sea Lord, and Head of Military Intelligence 1997-2000, spoke to Victoria Derbyshire on BBC News this morning. Damning Blair – quietly, and without apparent rancour – this is part of what he said.

“I was told in July 2002 that we would be invading Iraq in New Year of 2003.

“Because there had been agreement about regime change (Blair/Bush) Tony Blair became ‘locked in’ and there became an almost inevitability of war.

“At the time I was told this was going to happen I was commanding the Fleet and I told the Fleet to be ready for war in the Northern Gulf by the end of the year. I sailed my counter-measure vessels -because they take longer – out there in September.

“I said they were going exercising because we couldn’t say why they were really going but effectively they were going because there was going to be a war.

“By the time war came I was First Sea Lord and I did feel there was a certain ‘casting around’; ‘let’s find an absolute excuse for this’.

‘So the whole WMD thing came up. And I was quite surprised, having been Chief of Defence Intelligence for three years from ’97 to 2000; and having been intimately involved in what the Iraqis had; and the whole UN inspection regime; and the Desert Fox project (when Saddam refused to comply with UN weapons inspectors); that I felt there was a ‘casting around’ for a reason to say ‘Let’s do it’.

Colonel Tim Collins

Tim Collins was Lieutenant Colonel and Commanding Officer of the ground troops who invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003.

He has a different beef with Blair, and says Blair should be ‘held to account’ for the deaths of 179 soldiers and horrific injuries to hundreds of others, ‘to remind people that there is consequence’.

This is on the basis of inadequate equipment, including the lightly protected Snatch Land Rovers which fell prey to many IEDs. Properly armoured vehicles might have survived some of the blast.

What Tony Blair says

On Radio 4’s Today, speaking to John Humphries, Tony Blair talked about encouraging Bush to exhaust the UN route before thinking about military action, to ‘give us a chance to resolve this peacefully’. He didn’t say what, exactly, might be resolved at the UN. He and Bush had already agreed on ‘regime change’.

He went on: ‘Indeed you’ll find in the report and in the evidence that after the November 2002 Resolution, President Bush accepted explicitly that if there was compliance with 1441 there wouldn’t be military action.’

“I was very clear to the Americans, ‘I’m right alongside you in dealing with this, but let’s do it the right way, and it has to be done through the United Nations’.”

Inadequate equipment

Despite what Colonel Tim Collins says, (above) Blair insists the generals had all the resources they asked for.

“I don’t recall a single occasion on which we were asked for more resources, more equipment that we didn’t say ‘yes’. I can’t be in charge of the actual equipment that is needed,” he said.

“Right at the outset, what I said – and Gordon Brown said the same – was: ‘There is no resource limitation. If you tell us what you need you will have the resources’. But obviously I can’t say what is the right type of equipment to use on the battlefield.”

More from Blair

More from Admiral Lord West

More from Colonel Tim Collins

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