L’attaque militaire sur l’Irak, menée par Bush et Blair, était illégale car elle ne reposait ni sur une autorisation du Conseil de Sécurité – vu l’absence de menace sur la paix – ni sur la légitime défense. C’était clair depuis le premier jour, d’où le refus de Chirac pour la France, le refus du Conseil de sécurité, et les immenses manifestations à travers le monde. Illégale en son principe, on aurait pu espérer qu’elle respecte le droit dans sa conduite… Or, cette guerre a été l’occasion de graves crimes de guerre : non-respect de la distinction des objectifs civils et militaires, disproportion dans les attaques, torture, exécutions sommaires, dont celle du chef de l’Etat, Saddam Hussein. Ajoutons la déstabilisation de toute une région en libérant les forces du terrorisme.
Les mensonges et les dissimulations n’ont qu’un temps, et la loi est là pour s’occuper des criminels. Dès 2009, l’évidence des violations du droit international étaient telle que Gordon Brown, alors premier ministre, avait dû se résoudre à… nommer une commission d’enquête parlementaire, la commission Chilcot, du nom de Sir John Chilcot qui la préside. On parle du dépôt du rapport en juin 2016… Beaucoup de temps perdu, alors qu’il aurait été si simple d’ouvrir d’emblée une information judiciaire… Mais l’essentiel est que ça progresse. Au passage, rien du côté des Etats-Unis, le pays des amours fulgurants du droit et de la violence armée.
Après le rapport, il faudra s’attendre à un procès pénal, comme le prévoit Corbyn, car toutes ces violations graves du droit sont sanctionnées par la loi. Une issue assez inévitable, qui a amené Blair à tenter une petite manœuvre par des excuses de pacotille.
Et comme me le faisait remarquer hier soir un vieux professeur de droit international, après une ripaille dans l’un des meilleurs restaurants italiens de Lyon, cette affaire permettra peut-être d’ouvrir enfin un débat judiciaire sur les responsabilités des chefs d’Etat dans l’affaire libyenne… tant il est évident que le mandat initialement donné par le Conseil de sécurité a été forcé, et que ni la France, ni la Grande-Bretagne n’avaient pour mission le renversement du régime ou la mort de Mouammar Kadhafi. A suivre...
Revenons à la guerre d’Irak. Six ans pour remettre le rapport, c’est du délire, et Peter Oborne, un journaliste réputé, a effectué sa propre analyse, publiée ce 29 octobre dans le Daily Mail. Clair, net et précis. (Je reproduis le texte en anglais, désolé pour ceux qui ne lise cette langue).
Was the information presented by the then Labour government on Saddam Hussein’s so-called ‘weapons of mass destruction’ and other matters that led Tony Blair to take Britain to war in 2003, a reflection of the true facts?
Earlier official reports into the invasion of Iraq have cleared Blair from the charge that he had misled Parliament or twisted the evidence.
However, there is devastating evidence proving that as prime minister he deceived the House of Commons and the British people over the threat from Saddam.
The most powerful testimony of all was provided by Dr Hans Blix, Chief Weapons Inspector for the United Nations at the time of the build-up to the Iraq War.
He described to us how some of Blair’s claims about ‘weapons of mass destruction’ (WMD) in his famous ‘dodgy’ dossier of September 2002, were based on ‘a misrepresentation’.
The dossier followed Blair’s press adviser Alastair Campbell prevailing on his friend, the intelligence chief John Scarlett, to strengthen the language in the document so that the suggestion that the Iraqis might be able to deploy missiles within 45 minutes was changed to ‘are able’.
Speaking to us from his native Sweden, Blix said: ‘The big difference in the British dossier was that they simply asserted that these items are there. But when Mr Blair asserts that there were weapons, well, that’s an assertion and it was not supported by evidence.
‘Both the UK and the U.S. replaced question marks with exclamation marks. I certainly think it was a misrepresentation.’
Dr Blix went on to say that Blair’s deception of the British people was not confined to the notorious 2002 dossier. He says Blair also misled Parliament in his key, eve-of-invasion speech in March 2003 before MPs voted on the issue.
The respected weapons expert challenged Blair’s claims that Saddam possessed up to 1,000 shells and bombs filled with mustard gas.
He said his UN team had only ‘cited them as unaccounted for’, while Blair ‘implied that they existed’.
Dr Blix continued: ‘We had explained in our report that the Iraqis had told us that most [weapons] had been destroyed in 1991 and that there were also inaccuracies in their calculation of how much they’d had, and I think that was a plausible explanation.
‘There was no trace of that, if I remember rightly, in Mr Blair’s statement in Parliament.’
Dr Blix also questioned whether MPs would have voted for British troops to invade Iraq if they had known the truth. He said the Blair government’s claims were ‘not really sustainable’.
Shaken by the force of his testimony, I asked whether he thought Blair had misrepresented the truth and had lied to Parliament in order to make the case for an illegal war.
Dr Blix paused. Then came this devastating response: ‘Well, I’m a diplomat, so I’m not using such . . . such words, but in substance, yes, they misrepresented what we [the UN inspection team] did and they did so in order to get the authorisation that they shouldn’t have had.’
We had this assertion that Blair misled the British people over intelligence reports concerning the existence of WMD corroborated by a key British diplomat.
Carne Ross was Britain’s foremost expert on Iraq at the United Nations, handling British relations with the weapons inspectors and the Iraqi government in the run-up to war.
He told us he was ‘intimately involved’ with the dossier on WMD. Speaking from his office in New York, Ross said that ‘in draft after draft, the evidence was massaged to say things that it didn’t really justify . . . What I saw was that we were suddenly making claims for which I didn’t think we had any justification — for which I hadn’t seen any evidence.’
We have also discovered that Blair’s No 10 team even went so far as to traduce the then French President, Jacques Chirac.
They tried to set him up as a public hate figure among those who wanted Iraq invaded.
Sir Stephen Wall, Downing Street adviser on European affairs at the time, told us that Blair and Alastair Campbell agreed to brief the pro-war Sun newspaper into publishing a story that Chirac ‘had made it clear that in no circumstances was he prepared to go to war against Saddam Hussein’.
The truth, though, was that Chirac had not completely ruled out backing the resolution (which could not be passed without the agreement of the French). Instead, he had only ruled it out for the time being.
Blair misled the British people about the threat from Saddam.
Did the invasion of Iraq increase the threat to Britain from Al Qaeda?
This question is central to Chilcot’s investigation as the case for going to war depended in part on the claim that an invasion would actually reduce the threat.
For, if not removed, it was feared that Saddam might easily join forces with international terrorists such as Al Qaeda and launch an attack on the West.
As the invasion of Iraq began in March 2003, Blair told the Commons: ‘Should terrorists obtain these weapons, now being manufactured and traded around the world, the carnage they could inflict to our economies, our security, to world peace would be beyond our most vivid imagination.’
Who better to explain the truth about possible links between Saddam and Al Qaeda than Baroness Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 at the time.
She told the Chilcot Inquiry that contrary to the claims that, if not tackled, Saddam might link up with Al Qaeda, Downing Street had been told by the intelligence services that an invasion of Iraq would risk increasing the Al Qaeda threat.
When questioned whether an invasion would increase the overall threat from international terrorism, Baroness Manningham-Butler told Chilcot: ‘Substantially.’
Indeed, she went on to say that, by 2003, she found it necessary to ask the PM for a ‘doubling of our [MI5] budget’ in order to cope with a sharp increase in the threat from Al Qaeda and international terrorism. As a result, MI5’s budget was doubled because of the increased Al Qaeda threat following the Iraq invasion.
The evidence that the Al Qaeda threat did increase as a result of the Iraq war is clear and unambiguously proven.
Did Tony Blair enter into a secret agreement with U.S. President George Bush that the UK would support a U.S. invasion come what may?
Circumstantial evidence suggests that Blair did enter into some kind of an arrangement with Bush when he met him at his Texas ranch in April 2002, 11 months before the invasion.
Several key documents written ahead of this meeting suggest a crucial change in British government policy.
One was a memo from the PM’s foreign affairs adviser, David Manning, in March 2002, to Blair after Manning’s meeting with Condoleezza Rice, Bush’s National Security Adviser. In the memo, Manning told Blair: ‘I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change, but you had to manage a Press, a Parliament and public opinion that was very different from anything in the States.’
Only two weeks ago, it emerged that another key White House figure at the time, U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, had written to Bush in similar terms, saying that ‘on Iraq, Blair will be with us should military operations be necessary’.
The memos by Colin Powell and David Manning definitely hint at some kind of private deal because the British people certainly were assured that any war with Iraq was not about regime change but about getting rid of WMDs.
However, I concede that the wording in both memos is consistent with Blair’s repeated public statements that he was ready to disarm Saddam by force only if peaceful means did not work and the Iraqi leader couldn’t be persuaded by the United Nations to give in.
There is no hard evidence that Blair had pledged to go to war at all costs. The memos by Colin Powell and David Manning were consistent with Blair’s public statements that he would disarm Iraq by force only if Saddam could not be made to disarm by peaceful means.
Was the war legal?
All 27 lawyers at the Foreign Office at the time agreed that the war was illegal without a second resolution from the UN Security Council authorising the invasion.
Confidential documents released to Chilcot show that Sir Michael Wood, the most senior lawyer at the Foreign Office, warned Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and his aides, on numerous occasions, that this was the case.
In an admirable act of principle, one Foreign Office lawyer, Elizabeth Wilmshurst, resigned when her advice was ignored.
Later, it was revealed that she had said she could not agree with the decision to go to war ‘in circumstances which are so detrimental to the international order and the rule of law’.
Carne Ross, a key British diplomat at the UN ahead of the war, also explained to us how Britain failed to get the required UN resolution, which would have made the war legal.
‘The UK attempted to introduce a resolution at the Security Council explicitly endorsing military action against Iraq and it failed to get that resolution... and in my book, if you try to get the Security Council to give you authority to do something and it doesn’t give you that authority, then you don’t have authority.
‘You can’t then claim that, in fact, all the resolutions from 12 years ago [relating to the previous Iraq War], give you that authority. That’s nonsense.’
Conclusion: It is clear that the invasion of Iraq was illegal under international law.
The damning verdict
Certainly, the war was illegal. Also, there’s no doubt that Tony Blair misrepresented the facts in order to sell the war to the House of Commons and the British people.
I am convinced, too, that the war greatly increased the threat of international terrorism to Britain.
But there is no hard evidence Tony Blair entered into any secret deal in blood with George Bush ahead of the war, as some have claimed.
The delay in publishing the official inquiry is inexcusable, particularly considering Britain is under pressure to send forces into Syria.
Never has the need to learn the lessons of Iraq been more urgent, and yet we still await the Chilcot Inquiry, a shameful seven years after the last British soldier left Iraq.