Sunday, June 21, 2009

Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private

• Former PM feared facing 'show trial'
• Leak reveals plan to provoke invasion

The Observer, Sunday 21 June 2009

Tony Blair pushed Gordon Brown to hold Iraq war inquiry in private

• Former PM feared facing 'show trial'
• Leak reveals plan to provoke invasion

Tony Blair announces on 20 March 2003 that British servicemen and women are engaged from air, land and sea in the war against Iraq. Photograph: PA

Tony Blair urged Gordon Brown to hold the independent inquiry into the Iraq war in secret because he feared that he would be subjected to a "show trial" if it were opened to the public, the Observer can reveal. (And so he should!!)

The revelation that the former prime minister - who led Britain to war in March 2003 - had intervened will fuel the anger of MPs, peers, military leaders and former civil servants, who were appalled by Brown's decision last week to order the investigation to be conducted behind closed doors.

Blair, who resisted pressure for a full public inquiry while he was prime minister, appears to have taken a deliberate decision not to express his view in person to Brown because he feared it might leak out.

Instead, messages on the issue were relayed through others to Sir Gus O'Donnell, the cabinet secretary, who conveyed them to the prime minister in the days leading up to the announcement of the inquiry last week…

… Blair is believed to have been alarmed by the prospect of giving evidence in public and under oath about the use of intelligence and about his numerous private discussions with US President George Bush over plans for war. A spokesman for the former Labour leader would only say last night: "This was a decision for the current prime minister, not for Tony Blair."

The Observer reveals today that six weeks before the war, at a meeting in Washington, the two leaders were forced to contemplate alternative scenarios that might trigger a second UN resolution legitimising military action.

Bush told Blair that the US had drawn up a provocative plan "to fly U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, painted in UN colours, over Iraq with fighter cover". Bush said that if Saddam fired at the planes, he would put Iraq in breach of UN resolutions and legitimise military action…

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