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As Blair blasts Iraq ‘conspiracy’ hunt, British officials eye Bush, aides

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Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair wants the public to believe that his motives in helping the United States invade Iraq were completely pure.

The reasons for an inquiry into his government’s actions, he argued during a recent interview, stem merely from an “obsession” to uncover a grand “conspiracy” to take the two nations to war.

But it’s not just Blair who should be sweating the British inquiry. UK officials are also considering interviews with Bush administration officials, The Washington Post noted Monday evening.

“John Chilcot, head of the inquiry, confirmed that he hopes to obtain evidence from officials in the United States, but did not name specific individuals, or specify if his panel hopes to put questions to former President George W. Bush himself,” the paper reported.

It also quoted Chilcot as saying the UK inquiry cannot accept “formal evidence” from American officials, but would instead seek to “interview” them.

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Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who interviewed Blair on his Fox News program, asked the former prime minister: “I don’t pretend for a moment to understand American politics very well and I certainly don’t understand British politics, but why so many of these inquiries? There has been four and they’ve all been relentless. They haven’t really mined any new ground.”

Blair replied: “I think it’s partly because we have this curious habit – I don’t think it’s confined to Britain actually – where people find it hard to come to the point where they say: ‘We disagree – you’re a reasonable person, I’m a reasonable person – but we disagree.’ There’s always got to be a scandal as to why you hold your view. There’s got to be some conspiracy behind it – some great deceit that’s gone on, and people just find it hard to understand that it’s possible for people to have different points of view and hold them reasonably for genuine reasons. So I think there’s continual desire to sort of uncover some great conspiracy when actually there’s a decision at the heart of it – but there it is.”

“Several [of the inquiry’s] sessions have focused on the accusations that Blair offered Bush support for an invasion as early as April 2002 – a year before legislators approved Britain’s involvement,” the Post added.

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Chilcot said his panel may recall witnesses after they noticed “gaps” in evidence given by testimony, according to the Financial Times.

“It is widely expected that Mr Blair will be among the witnesses who are summoned back before the inquiry,” The Independent noted.

Giving testimony before the inquiry in late January, Blair said he has “no regrets” about his decision to send British soldiers into Iraq, even as audience members heckled him with cries of “liar” and “murderer.”

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Blair became the subject of fierce controversy in 2005, when the contents of the so-called “Downing Street Memo” were revealed in the press. The memo, often cited to by Iraq war critics, claimed that US President George W. Bush had settled on a course for war months before it was publicly announced and that “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.”

The World Health Organization estimated at the beginning of 2008 that over 150,000 Iraqi civilians had suffered violent deaths since the war was launched in 2003.

This video is from Reuters TV, published to the Web on Jan. 29, 2010.

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New Zealand tightens gun laws again after mosque attack

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New Zealand announced plans for a national firearms register Monday in its second round of gun law reforms following the Christchurch mosque attacks which killed 51 Muslim worshippers.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said regulations around who could hold firearm licences would also be tightened to "stop weapons falling into the wrong hands".

Ardern said the March 15 killings, when a gunman opened fire at two Christchurch mosques as worshippers gathered for Friday prayers, had changed attitudes towards gun ownership in New Zealand.

"There is a new normal around firearms, it is a change of mindset," she told reporters.

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Mascots and javelin carriers: Tokyo adds robots to Olympic roster

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A roster of Olympic robots that will do everything from welcoming visitors to transporting javelins has been unveiled as Tokyo works to showcase Japanese technology at next year's Summer Games.

Japan hopes the 2020 Olympics will be a chance to put its tech sector back on the map after years in which the country's reputation as an industry leader has flagged.

Auto giant Toyota has a roster of five robots with different roles to play, from cutesy renditions of the Olympic mascots to a staid transport bot.

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Final hours of voting in race to become British PM

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The voting closes Monday in the contest to become Britain's next prime minister, with Boris Johnson expected to be confirmed as the winner charged with delivering Brexit.

After a month-long contest between former London mayor Johnson and Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, the postal votes of up to 160,000 grassroots Conservatives will decide the governing party's next leader.

The voting window slams shut at 5:00pm (1600 GMT).

The result will be announced on Tuesday, with the winner immediately becoming the new Conservative leader, the victor taking office as prime minister on Wednesday.

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