LONDON — Former British prime minister Tony Blair was told he had “blood on his hands” by the father of a dead soldier Friday, after a memorial for the fallen of the Iraq war in London.
The ex-premier joined Queen Elizabeth II, Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, current Prime Minister Gordon Brown as well as soldiers and families at a service paying tribute to the 179 troops who died as a result of the 2003 war.
The snub came at a reception held after the memorial in St. Paul’s Cathedral, where the archbishop of Canterbury criticised policymakers for failing to properly consider the human cost of the Iraq war.
Peter Brierley, whose 28-year-old son Shaun died in March 2003, refused to shake Blair’s hand when he offered it, telling the ex premier: “I’m not shaking your hand, you’ve got blood on it.”
Blair was ushered away, but afterwards Brierley said: “I understand soldiers go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good reason and be properly equipped to fight.
“I believe Tony Blair is a war criminal. I can’t bear to be in the same room as him. I can’t believe he’s been allowed to come to this reception,” he added after the reception at the Guildhall in central London.
During the earlier cathedral service Archbishop Rowan Williams, head of the Anglican Church, reminded his audience of the divisions caused by the military campaign to depose Saddam Hussein.
About 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the March 2003 US-led invasion, according to a tally on iraqbodycount.org.
Williams also praised the “courage and honesty” shown by the more than 100,000 British troops who served in Iraq.
“Many people of my generation and younger grew up doubting whether we should ever see another straightforward international conflict, fought by a standing army with conventional weapons,” Williams said in his sermon.
“We had begun to forget the realities of cost.
“And when such conflict appeared on the horizon, there were those among both policy makers and commentators who were able to talk about it without really measuring the price, the cost of justice.”
Friday’s ceremony marked the withdrawal of all but a handful of British military trainers from Iraq in April.
Williams said the Iraq war, which sparked public demonstrations across Britain and caused tensions among Western allies as it was strongly opposed by France and Germany, would remain contentious for years to come.
“The conflict in Iraq will, for a long time yet, exercise the historians, the moralists, the international experts,” he said.
“In a world as complicated as ours has become, it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be.”
At the reception afterwards — also attended by Prince Charles, his wife Camilla and Prince William, the man who snubbed Blair said the pain of losing his son was with him always.
“I believe he’s got the blood of my son and all of the other men and women who died out there on his hands. It comes back to me every day, every time I see a coffin come off a plane.
“It reminds me of what happened to Shaun,” he said.