Tony Blair, Iraq and war crimes

Keeping an eye on the Iraq inquiry

I have to hold my hand up and confess that I haven't been keeping an eye on the independent Iraq inquiry, set up by Gordon Brown and chaired by Sir John Chilcot, despite having opposed the Iraq war since 2002 and obsessively followed every twist and turn of Hutton, Butler et al.

So imagine my surprise to see Seumas Milne, in his Guardian column, referring to the anti-war "climate that saw parents of soldiers killed in Iraq tell the official inquiry on Tuesday they want to see Blair indicted as a war criminal".

Did they? How had I missed this, I wondered? I was aware that Tony Blair had been publicly snubbed by a bereaved father who accused him of having "blood on his hands" at a reception last Sunday, following the service at St Paul's to commemorate the Iraq war dead.

But, on Tuesday, a group of bereaved parents, it seems, went further. Here is the BBC's online report:

At the meeting, Sir John invited the first comments from family members of those Britons killed in Iraq.

Colin Mildinhall, whose 26-year-old son, Tom, a member of the Queen's Dragoon Guards, was killed in Basra in 2006, said his prime concern was the legality of the Iraq war.

"The country was badly let down and lied to," he said.

Flt Lt Paul Pardoel was killed in the crash of an RAF Hercules in January 2005.

His widow, Kellie Merritt, asked the committee whether there would be an examination of the preparations for the Iraq invasion.

Roger Bacon, whose son Major Matthew Bacon was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2005, said: "This was an illegal war, and there is still a great deal of anger. It showed today.

"The anger was directed at Tony Blair for taking us into this mess."

His sentiments were echoed by Deirdre Gover, the mother of 30-year-old Kristian, who died in a helicopter accident in 2004.

She said: "Tony Blair deceived us on weapons of mass destruction. He should be held responsible for the conflict. He lied to his cabinet, to his government, to parliament and to us."

Strong words. But will Teflon Tony -- who, not surprisingly, wanted the inquiry to be held in private -- ever be held responsible for the Iraq imbroglio? Or will he survive the Chilcot-led inquiry as well, as he goes on to become the first president of Europe?

Watch this space.

 

 

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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The big problem for the NHS? Local government cuts

Even a U-Turn on planned cuts to the service itself will still leave the NHS under heavy pressure. 

38Degrees has uncovered a series of grisly plans for the NHS over the coming years. Among the highlights: severe cuts to frontline services at the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, including but limited to the closure of its Accident and Emergency department. Elsewhere, one of three hospitals in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are to be shuttered, while there will be cuts to acute services in Suffolk and North East Essex.

These cuts come despite an additional £8bn annual cash injection into the NHS, characterised as the bare minimum needed by Simon Stevens, the head of NHS England.

The cuts are outlined in draft sustainability and transformation plans (STP) that will be approved in October before kicking off a period of wider consultation.

The problem for the NHS is twofold: although its funding remains ringfenced, healthcare inflation means that in reality, the health service requires above-inflation increases to stand still. But the second, bigger problem aren’t cuts to the NHS but to the rest of government spending, particularly local government cuts.

That has seen more pressure on hospital beds as outpatients who require further non-emergency care have nowhere to go, increasing lifestyle problems as cash-strapped councils either close or increase prices at subsidised local authority gyms, build on green space to make the best out of Britain’s booming property market, and cut other corners to manage the growing backlog of devolved cuts.

All of which means even a bigger supply of cash for the NHS than the £8bn promised at the last election – even the bonanza pledged by Vote Leave in the referendum, in fact – will still find itself disappearing down the cracks left by cuts elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.