Leading article: Why Blair must be questioned again

Saturday 23 June 2012 23:09
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Why does Alastair Campbell's account of cabinet decision-making about Iraq nine years ago still matter?

Because, more than any that a government can make, the decision to join military action is the most serious. Millions of British people believed at the time that they were being taken to war on a false premise. They, and The Independent on Sunday, feared that Tony Blair had committed himself to the US. George Bush's motives were an unhealthy mixture of wanting to impress US voters with a vigorous response to the humiliation of 9/11, completing his father's unfinished business from the first Gulf War and a strategic concern about security of oil supplies.

We suspected then that Mr Blair was not wholly candid in his dealings with Cabinet, Parliament and the people. Today, we report the testimony of Mr Campbell, the best-placed chronicler, that Lord Goldsmith, who as Attorney General was the Government's legal adviser, did not want Mr Blair to present his advice "too positively" to the Cabinet. Lord Goldsmith was "casting doubt in some circumstances, and if the Cabinet had to approve the policy of going to war, he had to be able to put the reality to them". On Mr Campbell's account, Mr Blair was reluctant for those doubts to be aired at Cabinet, which was presented days later with a single page of advice, with the arguments against force omitted.

This withholding from his senior colleagues of the arguments on one side of the question might not matter had they been discussing taxing caravans, but they were about to decide whether or not to send British servicemen and women to their deaths, and to unleash the disorder and bloodshed of regime change.

As Sir Menzies Campbell demands, the Chilcot inquiry should reconvene to ask Lord Goldsmith, Mr Blair and Mr Campbell about this newly published account.

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