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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/12/16

If Blair is a War Criminal, What Does that Make Bush?

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Tony Blair and George W. Bush
Tony Blair and George W. Bush
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It is with an uncanny sense of irony that President Obama announced a slowdown to ending the "war on terror" on the same day former Prime Minister Tony Blair was branded a "war criminal" by members of his own government.1 After a six-year inquiry to examine Britain's role in the invasion of Iraq (commissioned in 2009 by Blair's successor Gordon Brown), its findings were released to the public on July 6th, the same day President Obama declared:

[T]he security situation in Afghanistan remains precarious " Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of this year, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of my administration.2

Titled the Iraq Report, the inquiry includes memos that Tony Blair wrote to George W. Bush prior to the invasion of that country. One, dated the day after the 9/11 attack, shows that Blair encouraged the president to consider regime change in Afghanistan; to employ "war methods" in the days ahead; to "act now and explain and justify" decisions later; to "co-opt the rest of the world" to support U.S. action while it "is in a state of shock" and "feels maximum sympathy;" and to use "the heat of the moment to get maximum support for what [will be] done." 3 Of course within hours of the 9/11 attack the President had already stated to his senior advisors that "We are at war against terror, and from this day forward, this is the new priority of our administration." 4

Exactly one month after September 11, a memo confirms Blair's knowledge of a pending U.S. invasion of Iraq. The Prime Minister assures Bush that while "we need to deal with Saddam " I am sure we can devise a strategy for [him to be] deliverable at a later date." 5 In a December 4th memo the same year, Blair tells Bush that "any link to 11 September and AQ is at best very tenuous"so we need a strategy for regime change that builds over time." To "soften-up" Iraq, Blair advises Bush that "we should mount covert operations." 6 He was apparently unaware that the CIA had convened a "covert Iraqi Operations Group" a month before the 9/11 attack. 7 A July 2002 memo finds Blair telling Bush, "I will be with you whatever "we will need to commit to Iraq for the long term. Bedding down a new regime takes time." 8

It should go without saying that such machinations constitute a war crime. How so? According to the Nuremberg Principles that define war crimes (a document both the United States and Great Britain helped draft in the aftermath of Nazi atrocities), the "Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression" is "a crime against peace" and punishable "under international law." 9, 10 The Nuremberg Principles also state:

Any person who commits an act which constitutes a crime under international law is responsible therefor and liable to punishment. The fact that internal law does not impose a penalty for an act which constitutes a crime under international law does not relieve the person who committed the act from responsibility under international law. The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law. 11

To be clear, the United States was not unaware of the consequences of its role in drafting the Nuremberg Principles. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson, chief prosecutor during the Nuremberg Trails from which the principles were taken, stated:

If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them. And we are not prepared to lay down the rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us" We must never forget that the record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well. 12, 13

Once derided by early Americans for having no respect for law, the British have come a long way in producing a report to hold their government responsible for "crimes against peace." How is it, we may ask, that the United States, a nation according to George W. Bush that "has always been guided by a moral compass," has not conducted its own Iraq inquiry? 14 While there is plenty of evidence that pertains to the war's senior architect, of particular interest is the so called Manning Memo detailing a two-hour meeting between Tony Blair and President Bush on January 31, 2003. The memo makes clear that the president intended to invade Iraq regardless of whether weapons of mass destruction were found, and set a date of March 10th to "begin the bombing." Particularly damning is the revelation of his plan to provoke Saddam Hussein into initiating conflict by disguising a U.S. surveillance plane as belonging to the United Nations in hopes that the Iraqi leader would shoot it down. The memo shows the president also entertained an outright assassination, also defined as a war crime in the Nuremberg Principles. 15

President Bush responded to the release of Britain's Iraq Inquiry through a spokesman who stated that the president "continues to believe the whole world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power." 16 Too bad we can't ask the more than 160,000 Iraqi civilians who have died since the invasion to share their thoughts on the matter. 17


1. Tony Blair is branded a 'war criminal' as Chilcot Report implies Blair took the country to an 'illegal war' :

2. Full text of President Obama's speech on Afghanistan, July 6, 2016: 3. Read Tony Blair's letters to George W Bush promising to back US President 'whatever' - and his doubts over Iraq war just months after invasion:

4. Karen Hughes remembers the 9/11 terror attacks:

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Michael Galli is the Dean of Students at Rivendell Academy, a small 7-12 interstate public school on the New Hampshire / Vermont border, where he teaches classes on media and U.S. foreign policy.

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