2007 - 2021

Iraq, Oil and the Blair Ego



Are we going back to Iraq? For how long this time? What for? To clear up the mess created by Tony Blair’s regime? It’s time to reclaim our discredited foreign policy shambles.

The low-level madness of British Foreign Policy is being unveiled daily. Philip Hammond, (Memo to No Borders crew: the first Foreign Secretary who now openly says he will take us out of Europe) is a walking disaster area.

Hammond is hubris unbound.

As drones fly over Baghdad and people are buried alive, his line as Defence Secretary is still haunting: “the extent to which we punch above our weight defines us”. Worse than this. There’s still a cold chill comes over me when I realise that if there’s a genuine emergency in Britain, a group of public school boys will meet call themselves ‘COBRA’  and someone will telephone Danny Alexander, to see what he thinks we should do. Really. Truly.

Richard Shirreff, packing few punches puts it: “Our Government’s response to events in northern Iraq has been farcical, tragic and ultimately dangerous.”  He writes:

This has not been David Cameron or Philip Hammond’s finest hour. A week which started with Hammond marching his troops (a brace of Hercules C-130 transport aircraft) to the top of the hill, in order to drop “humanitarian” relief to Yazidi refugees on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, has ended with Cameron having to march them down again because, according to Barack Obama, there really isn’t a problem after all. More concerning is the spineless lack of leadership and the abject absence of any credible strategy which this unhappy saga has demonstrated.  Greeted with incredulity, the knee-jerk reaction was to send Tornado fighters, not to strike (heaven forbid) but to photograph from a great height. More incredulity: let’s send four Chinook helicopters. To do what? I can’t go into detail on such military matters, says the hapless Justine Greening, the Minister for International Development on Radio 4’s Today programme.

The situation is a omnishambles worthy of the Thick of It, without the laughs.

It’s not funny, it’s a disgrace, and it’s with shame that those who supported this disaster  should reflect. Instead the Better Together campaign is littered with Iraq apologists and unreconstructed Blair Fan Boys. Yes we are talking to you John McTernan, Brian Wilson, Jim Murphy and countless others.

Safer Together

In a statement that evoked a horrible Blairite deja vu, Mr Cameron today said: “True security will only be achieved if we use all our resources – aid, diplomacy, our military prowess – to help bring about a more stable world. If we do not act to stem the onslaught of this exceptionally dangerous terrorist movement, it will only grow stronger until it can target us on the streets of Britain.”

It already has.

Douglas Alexander joined the cacophony today pleading for the security services to be involved.

And behind all of this? Oil.

In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as “highly inaccurate”. BP denied that it had any “strategic interest” in Iraq, while Tony Blair described “the oil conspiracy theory” as “most absurd”.

Remember the cackling scribes who laughed at the idea that Britain would cover up oil interests, this time off the coast of Scotland? It’s routine.

Now it turns out that just five months before the March 2003 invasion, Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, told BP that the Government believed British energy firms should be given a share of Iraq’s enormous oil and gas reserves as a reward for Tony Blair’s military commitment to US plans for regime change.

The papers show that Lady Symons agreed to lobby the Bush administration on BP’s behalf because the oil giant feared it was being “locked out” of deals that Washington was quietly striking with US, French and Russian governments and their energy firms.

Minutes of a meeting with BP, Shell and BG (formerly British Gas) on 31 October 2002 read: “Baroness Symons agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis.”

And so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say.

The veteran Middle East writer and author Robert Fisk asks simply: “How do they get away with these lies? Now Tony Blair tells us that Western “inaction” in Syria has produced the Iraq crisis. But since bombing Syria would have brought to power in Damascus the very Islamists who are now threatening Baghdad, it must therefore be a mercy that Barack Obama does not listen to the likes of Blair.”

Stronger Together

What happened to the protagonists that brought us this unmitigated foreign policy disaster? Prospects vary.

Gordon Brown is scaring pensioners in Kelty. Tony Blair, we’re told, is now advising the government of over twenty countries.

Secret_World_of_Oil_PB_Export_300dpi_CMYK-06976c85d7c435b66d3b693a3956d40dThe Telegraph tells us that:

“Tony Blair has more than £13 million deposited in the bank following his most commercially successful year since quitting Downing Street. The latest accounts for a network of companies used to run his growing business empire show Mr Blair’s business interests around the world are booming. Profits at one company alone, which he owns, totalled almost £2 million while shareholder funds on two businesses total £7 million. The accounts, for the 12 months to April 2013 and which were lodged at Companies House last week, give the best indication yet of Mr Blair’s earning power. His wealth, including a London townhouse, a country estate and several other properties, is estimated at £70 million.”

Others are not quite so sure. Ken Silverstein, author of The Secret World of Oil suggests:

“No one knows for sure just how much money Blair has made, but the Financial Times estimated that in 2011 alone he raked in at least $30 million in speaking fees and for advising governments and corporations. He and his wife own seven homes, including a £40 million (approximately $64 million), seven-bedroom property once owned by Sir John Gielgud. Blair’s transformation into a human cash register has outraged many in Britain, and all the more so as he continues to collect a pension and allowance for a private office that costs taxpayers more than £122,000 (approximately $200,000) per year. Blair’s “love of money” has brought about his complete “moral decline and fall,” Nick Cohen wrote in a column in the Observer. […]”

I’m sure we should all feel “intensely relaxed about people getting filthy rich” as Peter Mandelson famously said.

This is about power, obscene wealth and ultra-hypocrisy.

Last week there was no shortage of MPs from all sides publicly calling on the Prime Minister to recall Westminster in order to discuss the worsening crisis in the Middle East.

It’s a complete irrelevance. It’s the wrong parliament.

Backbenchers have no power, the parliament itself has little. Even if it did its subject to bigger, deeper, geopolitical forces than the UK parliament. This is where ‘small’ Scotland would actually have more clout than ‘big’ Britain.

America makes British foreign policy, that and the desperate hankering for imperial power and what the Americans call ‘pork-barrel’ politics.

It doesn’t make any difference whether its’ Labour or Conservative, it’s still British Foreign Policy.

The only parliament we should be re-convening is the Scottish Parliament, with powers over what’ still coyly referred to as ‘defence’.

Seven years ago I wrote (On the Night Shift) that “What we have seen is the descent into barbarism. Where leaders rule without moral restraint, legal redress or ethical direction”.

Nothing has changed. Nothing will change while Britain remains in charge of ‘defence’.

Nor is this some cheap campaign gag.

As Seamus Milne writes:

“The most recent US academic estimate of the death toll is at least half a million, while Iraq Body Count has recorded a minimum of 190,100 violent deaths as a result of the invasion – 4 million became refugees. That wasn’t a “tragic error”, as some claim, or a problem of post-invasion planning. It was a barbarous crime whose predicted consequences Iraqis are living with today. The idea that Tony Blair – who helped launch the war on a false pretext and now says we need to “liberate ourselves from the notion that ‘we’ have caused this” – remains Middle East peace envoy is beyond parody.”

That’s not something swept away by Blair MacDougall or a spluttering Alistair Darling. That’s a record to be deeply ashamed of and a motivation to move away from as soon as we can. Let’s defend ourselves, let’s play a role where appropriate, let’s rid ourselves of this record of shame.

Comments (14)

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  1. McDuff says:

    Great article Mike, says it all.

  2. Flower of Scotland says:

    This is all my nightmares rolled into one! What do you think the film about it all will be called? Who will play Blair?
    Please release us from this and all you have to do is vote YES!

  3. Andy Nimmo says:

    Sometimes obscene is too nice a word for the lot of them. Anyone who now thinks we should remain part of this needs to book themselves in pronto for either a brain or a conscience transplant

    1. Dean Richardson says:

      I’d say the word ‘criminal’ is more appropriate.

  4. tartanfever says:

    Utter insanity.

    I was there in London with one million others, we marched and the size of that demo convinced me that an Iraqi invasion would not happen.

    How wrong I was. I was disheartened by labour by 1999 (after voting for them in ’97) and by the time this was happening I was vowing never to vote for them again until Blair/Straw/Brown/Darling and all the rest were in custody in the Hague for crimes against humanity.

    Doesn’t matter what labour do now, I will never forgive them for that.

    Looks like the tories are keen to go down the same road.

  5. Fay Kennedy. says:

    As always a brilliant article Mike. The hardest part of being around in these malignant times is finding the words to articulate the horror. What a disaster that cretin and his sycophants have created. Just hope that the Yes vote is the result on the 18th. and small steps can begin to start a new way for the future of Scotland.

  6. John Page says:

    I think you are too negative, Mike…………things can only get better when Lamont and Milliband get into power………

  7. bringiton says:

    Unlike England,Scotland doesn’t need access to other people’s oil.
    The instability in the Middle East is entirely down to Anglo American foreign policy which is driven by greed.
    Blair seems to be a good fit with this sort of behaviour.

  8. Steve Bowers 74% win says:

    Great article, you forgot to mention the cost of Blair security detail, it’s costs a fortune to keep his blood soaked hands alive.

    We so need to distance ourselves from these things, Westminster must be chuffed with this turn of events, they can trot out the bad guy/ good guy scenario and urge voters to stick together,

    1. williemin says:

      Can we nae jist hang Blair under a warmonger plan, Then turn aw his BLOOD MONEY ower to helping the refugee situation in Iraq Kurdistan, surely an excuse can be made for this, he made plenty excuses and lies for his glory.

  9. Optimist Till I Die says:

    Sow the wind and reap the whirlwind isn’t that the saying? Well it looks as though Blair’s chickens are coming home to roost (to mix a few metaphors).

    If anyone believes this punching above their weight nonsense and think that voting Yes would be equivalent to jumping into an uncertain future just ask them to backtrack a little bit. About twenty years would do, even just a few years might be sufficient. Point out the number of unexpected catastrophic events that have unfolded: unjustified wars and financial crises to mention a few. It would be best to add a few more to the list; there are plenty to choose from where the UK government is concerned. To widen the scope one could even mention tsunamis and volcanic eruptions. That potential abyss is always there but it human nature to deal with challenges and problems, regardless of their origins.

    Ask if getting dragged into another Imperial war in the hope of maintaining access to Middle East oil would be justified, knowing that only the richest in society would benefit, then point out how Iran is now our ‘friend’.

    It was only a year or so the media was working its way to fever pitch telling us how evil the Iranian government was. And think how close we were away from involvement in Syria’s civil war. Only a Royal decree would have been needed to over-ride the role Westminster.

    The age of Empire is over and it is arrogant as well as short sighted to think the UK has a moral right to intervene unilaterally and militarily in the affairs of another country. If the countries of the world, especially those with the resources to do so, cannot act in concert through the United Nations then that is as clear an indication that the U.N. needs reform just as much as Government in the UK. Let’s take the first step by voting to ensure an Independent Scottish Government and kick-start the reform of the UK.

    1. Andy Nimmo says:

      Correct me if I’m wrong on either of the following statements please folks.
      1. Isn’t this ISIS Group carrying out the atrocities the same army that were begging US and UK for assistance to overthrow Hussein
      2. Didn’t the US and by association the UK lapdog support and fund the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia on the grounds that they were anti-communism. The same Khmer Rouge that went on to slaughter more of their own countrymen than any other nation

  10. Ken MacColl says:

    As, once again, the revelations the UK’s complicity in the process of airlifting suspected war criminals from Afghanistan and Middle Eastern theatres of war via Diego Garcia through questionable undemocratic regimes to end up dumped to languish in Guantanamo the whole circus threatens to erupt once again.
    Meantime we have the grisly spectacle of Brian Wilson, who appears to have carved himself a career in corporate boardrooms, on a Vote No tour which brings him to Oban this weekend. Apparently willing to share a platform now with the original former Labour Ego, George Galloway, how far he has travelled from the youthful Polaris protester that used to appear at Ardnadam on the Holy Loch ? Not so sure whether George is an enthusiastic WMD supporter or not but we are assured that he is really a “pussy cat” who will certainly support the self-government aspirations of any country in the world except his own.
    This is a double act that fairly sums up the Better Together campaign.

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