Former British Pm John Major Ties Iraq

Former British PM John Major Ties Iraq to Bomb Attacks

Former British PM John Major said Monday to the BBC,

‘ “I think what has happened is not that the Iraq war and other policies created that threat, I think it was there and growing, though it was not in full bloom.

“I think it is possibly true that it has made it more potent and more immediate, but having said that, there is absolutely no doubt that we were going to have to confront terrorism at some time.

“And what I suppose you might say about the events of the Middle East is that they have brought it forward and brought it into focus.”

One of the ways that political elites deal with bad news is to develop a joint response to it that seems at least plausible, especially if it is repeated again and again by high officials on television, and which has the effect of deflecting the issue. The Bush administration adopted this tactic to deal with the lack of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. Their talking point was that it was too early to say that the WMD wasn’t there. It might still be found (as if you could hide a centrifuge or a chemical weapons depot). Bush administration officials said this ad nauseum. Sometimes you still hear them say it. The spell of this talking point was first broken in August, 2003, when former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski told Wolf Blitzer that it was “increasingly ludicrous.”

The Blair government’s attempt to simply deny a link between the Iraq War and increased risks of terrorism for London was similarly ludicrous, and the spell has been broken even more quickly, as other members of the political elite refused to play along. Even Blair is said to have winced at the absolute denials of his foreign secretary, Jack Straw.

Only Donald Rumsfeld is now left denying, at least in public, a link between the Iraq War and acts of terrorism.

David Wearing writes from the UK to say that Blair and Straw had earlier acknowledged liberally that the Iraq War raised the risks of terrorism.

‘In the abovementioned post, you say: “I don’t know what was in Straw’s mind, but the connection [between Iraq and the London bombings] is clear as day”

Here’s what we know – with absolute certainty – was at least somewhere in the mind of Jack Straw, and in the mind of Tony Blair, as they categorically denied any connection between Iraq and the recent incidents here in London.

Five weeks before the invasion of Iraq, Britain’s intelligence chiefs warned the government in strong terms that military action would increase the risk of terrorist attacks against Britain by groups such as al-Qaeda. As the UK Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee noted in 2003: “The JIC assessed that al-Qa’eda and associated groups continued to represent by far the greatest terrorist threat to Western interests, and that threat would be heightened by military action against Iraq”.

Later, in 2004, a joint Home Office and Foreign Office dossier, ordered by Tony Blair following the train bombings in Madrid, identified Iraq as a “recruiting sergeant” for extremism. The analysis was that the Iraq war was acting as a key cause of young Britons turning to terrorism.

In 2005, the government was warned yet again, just weeks before the London bombings. The Joint Terrorist Analysis Centre – including officials from MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the police – explicitly linked the Iraq war with an increased risk of terrorist activity in Britain. The report said that “Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist-related activity in the UK”.

Ironic that the analysis of MI5, MI6, GCHQ, the police and advisers from the Home and Foreign Offices should now be so forcefully contradicted by Blair’s government. During an interview with the BBC around 18 months ago, when it was becoming obvious that banned WMD would never be found in Iraq, Blair said, “You can only imagine what would have happened if I’d ignored the intelligence and then something terrible had happened”. No comment required.

If Blair really does believe there’s no connection between Iraq and the terror attacks, then he’s changed his mind about that quite recently. In 2003, speaking to the Intelligence and Security Committee, Blair said that, “there was obviously a danger that in attacking Iraq you ended up provoking the very thing you were trying to avoid”. But the risk was worth taking, he went on to say, to deal with the threat posed by WMD. Again, no comment required.

Most of us in Britain never accepted Blair’s current line of argument, and never wanted to take these risks to begin with. On 15 February 2003, hundreds of thousands of us demonstrated in London against the coming war on Iraq. At the time, 79% of Londoners felt that British involvement in the invasion “would make a terrorist attack on London more likely”. In the wake of the London bombings, two-thirds of Britons expressed the view that the invasion of Iraq and the attack on our capital were linked.

Now, after a second attack on London in as many weeks, which might easily have been as bad as the first, I can’t help but notice (as you yourself have done) that my government’s policies are putting me, my fellow Londoners and everyone else in Britain at an increased risk of falling victim to terrorists. What’s worse is that in doing so they’ve been deliberately and repeatedly ignoring the advice of the UK’s intelligence services, departmental advisers and independent experts, as well as strenuously avoiding any honest discussion of the problem, preferring to obscure the issues with self-serving mendacity. As far as I’m concerned, New Labour is clearly failing to uphold its basic duty of care towards us and as such has rendered itself unfit to govern in the most fundamental sense. ‘

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