30 Nov 2009

Iraq inquiry: what the anti-war heavyweights say

At the start of the second week of the Iraq inquiry, four well-known opponents of the conflict gave their reaction to the findings so far to Channel 4 News.

Tony Benn: former Labour minister and anti-war campaigner

Tony Benn retired from parliament in 2001 to “spend more time involved in politics”. He spoke out against the Iraq war at the now famous 2003 protest in London organised by the Stop the War Coalition.

He told Channel 4 News: “It is a very important inquiry. I think it will establish, inevitably, that war crimes were committed.

“We have to take the inquiry seriously and see what do with it after that.

John Pilger: journalist and documentary-maker

A passionate critic of foreign military and economic adventures by western governments, John Pilger has been a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam war in 1967. In his 2003 book, The New Rulers of the World, he wrote: “The ‘War on Terrorism’ is terrorism”.

After week one of the inquiry, he told Channel 4 News online: “Some of the key decisions were taken by Bush and Blair ‘in isolation’, but most were not.

“The entire cabinet in 2002 knew what Blair was doing and they backed him, as did the JIC, and every adviser from Alistair Campbell to the author of the ‘dodgy dossier’.

“All but a handful were collusive or complicit. Neither was Blair the didums being led toward hell by bad Bush.

The infamous Downing Street memo shows that Blair played an aggressive role in the crime of the 21st century. John Pilger

“The infamous Downing Street memo shows that Blair played an aggressive role in what was, by any measure of international law, the crime of the 21st century.

“And what a crime it was and still is. During 17 years of siege and invasion followed by a divide-and-rule occupation, more than two million Iraqis are dead – that’s many more people than died during all the years of slavery.

“You get no sense of this from the current Iraq inquiry because you are not meant to. What strikes me is the way it’s world-weary ‘revelations’ are dribbled through the media, taking second and fifth billing in the serious media to, for example, the gatecrashing by a couple of ‘reality stars’ at a White House party.

“But then much of the media played its own part by amplifying and echoing Bush’s and Blair’s lies and not fulfilling its basic journalistic responsibility by challenging and exposing the lies and their epic crimes until it was too late and a river of blood flowed through Iraq.

“Now the so-called inquiry and its coverage are serving merely to normalise the unthinkable.”

Peter Kilfoyle MP: outspoken critic of the Iraq war

Peter Kilfoyle is Labour MP for Liverpool Walton. He resigned from the Cabinet in 1999 and voted against the Iraq invasion. He was later accused of leaking a memo detailing a conversation between Tony Blair and George W Bush about the bombing of Falluja.

Speaking about the Iraq inquiry so far, he said: “The first week of the inquiry suggests people are trying to distance themselves from their own part in the build-up to the war. The whole government establishment and the press were part of the charade.”

Lindsey German: founder of Stop the War Coalition

Former editor of Socialist Review, Lindsey German helped set up Stop the War Coalition after the 9/11 attacks on the US in 2001, in protest at the “war on terror”.

She said: “I think a lot of evidence is coming out about what a lot of us were saying in 2003. It is clear that the UK was going to do whatever America said.

“Chilcot is afraid that many will see it as a whitewash which is why the inquiry has started off with the more controversial aspects.

“The fact remains it was an illegal war and the former prime minister [Tony Blair] should be indicted for war crimes.”

Iraq inquiry: in search of the pro-war voices