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25 November 2009

“Teflon Tony“ and the Chilcot inquiry

Torture revelations remind us of the former premier's evasiveness

By Mehdi Hasan

Ian Cobain has another excellent (and depressing!) piece on the UK’s alleged complicity in torture abroad on the front page of today’s Guardian, in which he mentions an exchange that he had with Tony Blair’s spokesman over Blair’s alleged role in authorising or approving the policy that may have led to British citizens being tortured abroad. Note the manner in which the former PM, through his spokesman, avoids answering the question and instead repeatedly reframes it in his favour.

From Cobain’s piece:

The Guardian reported this year that an official government policy, devised to govern British intelligence officers while interrogating people held overseas, resulted in people being tortured, and that Tony Blair, when prime minister, was aware of the existence of this policy.

The Guardian has repeatedly asked Blair about any role he played in approving the policy, whether he knew that it led to people being tortured, whether he personally authorised interrogations that took place in Guantanamo and Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and whether he made any effort to change the policy. Blair’s spokesman responded by saying: “It is completely untrue that Mr Blair has ever authorised the use of torture. He is opposed to it in all circumstances. Neither has he ever been complicit in the use of torture.”

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When the Guardian pointed out to Blair that it had not suggested that he had authorised the use of torture — as opposed to asking him whether he had authorised a policy that led to people being tortured — and that his spokesman had not answered the questions that were asked, his spokesman replied: “Tony Blair does not condone torture, has never authorised it nor colluded in it. He continues to think our security services have done and continue to do a crucial and very good job.”

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Teflon Tony remains the master of evasion. Good luck to Chilcot et al next January or February when the time comes to grill him on Iraq, WMDs and the intelligence. They’ll need all the luck they can get . . .