Jim Sillars: Chilcot report just a scandal

Anthony Eden lied to parliament about the Suez crisis. Picture: Getty
Anthony Eden lied to parliament about the Suez crisis. Picture: Getty
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Scandal is not a word I often employ. Like “racism”, it is much over used, but it does apply to the Chilcot report, or rather, to the non-report.

I doubt if many remember it, yet its importance cannot be over-rated. Five senior Privy Councillors were appointed by Gordon Brown when prime minister (seems a long time ago now, doesn’t it?) to inquire into how the UK became involved in the second Iraq war, and the lessons to be learnt.

That war set in train a series of disasters: in Iraq Sunni against Shia and both against Christians, with thousands killed and where the killing continues; stimulated political Islam and stoked its hatred of the West, with the US and the UK as the principal targets. When the man sent to run Iraq by George W Bush was asked on TV how many Americans had died, he knew to the last one. When asked about Iraqi dea-ths, he did not know and it was obvious he did not care – something that enabled Osama bin Laden to make the famous statement: “Western blood counts for more than Muslim blood.”

If a democracy is to function, there has to be trust between those elected to lead and those who elected them. Paramount in that trust is, especially where the waging of war is concerned, with all its internal and external ramifications and consequences, that leaders tell the truth to Parliament and people. If leaders lie, their “crime” against the very basis of democracy must be revealed, and future leaders have a lesson, and warning, laid out in front of them.

In 1956 a prime minister, Anthony Eden, engaged in a conspiracy with France and Israel to make war on Egypt to take back into Anglo-French control the nationalised Suez Canal, which ran through Egyptian territory. Israel was to attack Egypt, the British and French would then intervene to “save” and continue to control the canal for international shipping – not with attacks on Israel but on Egypt. When challenged, Eden, denying any conspiracy, lied to the House of Commons and the people.

There were three results from that lie. First, the Suez crisis saw the beginning of the end of British imperial power in the Middle East. Second, American fury at British unilateral action caused Washington to assert who was the master in the so-called special relationship, by demanding and getting an end to the military action, ensuring that from then on British foreign policy was aligned with that of the USA. Third, British democracy was tarnished.

There are grounds to believe that British prime minister Tony Blair, left, in 2002-3 lied to parliament and the people to engage, as the step-child of US policy, in a war against Iraq. There is evidence available in public that suggests that while Blair again and again assured parliament he had not decided to join the US in action against Iraq, that he had in fact committed himself to do so. Did he lie, and did he commit the UK to war irrespective of the evidence produced by the UN inspectors?

The crucial evidence is in the private correspondence and communications between Blair and Bush, and what was said at the meeting they had in Crawford, Texas, in 2002. That evidence has been denied to the Chilcot inquiry. Who has withheld it? Why has it been withheld? We are all now living with the Islamist consequences of that war. We are all entitled to know who created this situation. Chilcot was meant to provide the answer. That his inquiry is being silenced is a scandal.

Sanctions Vlad for business

More sanctions on Russians? Yes, but note BP is not sanctioned despite having had a recent investment discussion with Vladimir Putin. Nor has Gazprom, the giant Russian energy company, been hit.

A secret EU report has warned that too tight a sanctions regime will have a bad effect on Germany’s economy, and therefore on the eurozone as a whole.

Alexander fails to convince us

Danny Alexander says there will definitely be no currency union between Holyrood and Westminster if Scotland becomes independent. Is this the same Lib Dem MP who signed a cast-iron guarantee that there would be no increase in tuition fees for English university students?

MPs’ expenses are over the top

I could never understand why MPs or MSPs get themselves into expenses trouble over the smallest items that other people would never ever dream

of claiming. Things like

a pint of milk, a bus ticket, a newspaper or a set of three condolence cards are what you put your hand in your own pocket for.

Polling power

Latest poll shows Tories at 33 per cent and Labour 31 per cent. Miliband’s boast of one more Christmas until a Labour government looks foolish. Meanwhile, No side reported to be sidelining Alistair Darling. It’s the message not the messenger that’s their problem.