Blair attacked by politicians and families of war dead

Blair attacked by politicians and families of war dead
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, bereaved families and anti-war protesters have condemned the UK's 2003 invasion of Iraq, after the release of a critical report on the build-up to war.
5 min read
06 Jul, 2016

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has apologised for the UK's invasion of Iraq, after former Prime Minister Tony Blair was named and shamed in a UK public inquiry into the war.

Corbyn issued an apology to the families of those killed in the war on behalf of the Labour Party, which Tony Blair is the former leader of.

"I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq," Corbyn said after meeting families of British soldiers who died.

He also apologised to the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi victims of the war, and who are still falling victim to bombs and shootings by rival parties.

"Finally, it is an apology to the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret 'I will be with you, whatever' understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed," Corbyn added.

Earlier, in parliament, Corbyn said that the British people were "misled" into war, and the government must now decide on what action should be taken about this.

Some believe this could be a veiled threat to pursue Blair in court.

The former PM known to be a critic of Corbyn and the leftward direction Labour has taken under his leadership, while Corbyn is facing a rebellion from "Blairites" in the party.

The timing of the inquiry comes at a critical time in politics, but not soon enough for the families of those who died in the war.

Report release

The news came as retired civil servant John Chilcot publically released the Iraq War Inquiry after years of delays at 11am on Wednesday.

As protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre bayed for Tony Blair's prosecution, John Chilcot delivered his damming Iraq War Inquiry report into the UK's leadership's handling of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. 

Also present was the father of a dead serviceman who delivered his own verdict: "My son died in vain".

Having waited seven years for the former civil servant - John Chilcot - to deliver his verdict on the UK's role in the 2003 conflict, bereaved families and anti-war protesters were united in an outpouring of anger.

"There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world's worst terrorist," Sarah O'Connor, whose brother Bob was killed in Iraq in 2005.

The inquiry found that former Prime Minister Tony Blair had taken Britain into a badly planned, woefully executed and legally questionable war in 2003.

O'Connor demanded that Blair explain his actions directly to relatives of the 179 British troops killed in the invasion and subsequent occupation.

"Why is he not here looking at us? If he is so sure of his decision, why is he not here looking at our eyes, and seeing our faces?" she said.

Given the chance, grieving mother Rose Gentle said she would ask Blair: "Why did you kill my son?"

Reg Keys, whose son Thomas died when a mob attacked a police station in 2003 in an area north of Basra, southern Iraq. 

He accused Blair of "manufacturing and massaging the intelligence reports" even though Chilcot laid the blame for faulty intelligence at the feet of spy chiefs.

'War crimes'

Outside the Queen Elizabeth II Centre in London - where Chilcot delivered a summary of his 2.6 million-word report - more than a hundred protesters shouted "Blair lied, thousands died!" and "war criminal Tony Blair!".

Two demonstrators were dressed up as Blair and former US president George W Bush, with fake blood dripping from their hands, while others carried placards reading: "Blair must face war crimes trial", "Justice for Iraq. The Hague for Blair", and "Bomber Blair. Jail this criminal now".

"Tony Blair is a war criminal. We knew the war was based on lies," said Michael Culver, 78.

Although more restrained, the families were equally determined to see Blair, and other government officials, face further action.

"If state officials are determined to have acted unlawfully or in excess of their powers, then the families will then decide on whether to take any necessary and appropriate action," said Matthew Jury, who is representing some of the relatives.

There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world's worst terrorist.
- Sarah O'Connor

"All options will be considered."

Legal action could "motivate government into making sure that they change the way they do business," said Richard Bacon, whose 34-year-old son Matthew was killed in 2005, adding that "never again must so many mistakes be allowed to sacrifice British lives."


Iraqi war victims

Iraqis say they're not satisfied that the head of Britain's Iraq War Inquiry has not recommended prosecuting former British Prime Minister Tony Blair for war crimes.

Many Iraqis are still mourning the loss of more than 250 people killed in a massive weekend bombing in Baghdad claimed by the Islamic State group.

Ali al-Saraji, a Baghdad resident, says Blair, "destroyed our country," and should be prosecuted as a war criminal for his involvement in bringing about the Iraq war.

The instability that the 2003 US-led invasion unleashed in Iraq persists to this day and has left more than 100,000 Iraqis dead, tens of thousands wounded and millions displaced.

"Since 2003 until now, our country has been a scene of destruction, killing, massacres, explosions and sectarianism," Saraji said.

The rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq following the 2003 invasion later morphed into the militants who now call themselves "the Islamic State" group.

"Everyone who took part in the war against Iraq should be condemned, either Britain or others," said Juma al-Quraishi, an Iraqi journalist.

Agencies contributed to this report.