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New Call To Impeach Blair Over Iraq

AFP file photo of British troops in combat in Iraq.

London (UPI) Jan 09, 2006
British Prime Minister Tony Blair should be impeached for going to war on Iraq on a false basis, one of Britain's most senior former soldiers said Monday.

The ex-United Nations commander in Bosnia, Gen. Sir Michael Rose, said Blair had to be held to account for his actions.

"To go to war on what turns out to be false grounds is something that no one should be allowed to walk away from," he said.

"Certainly from a soldier's perspective there can't be any more serious decision taken by a prime minister than declaring war," he told BBC Radio.

Blair's actions had been "somewhere in-between" getting the politics wrong and acting illegally, he said, with consequences that had been disastrous both for Iraq and for the wider "war on terror."

Rose said he believed Parliament had only endorsed the war because of Blair's argument about weapons of mass destruction, which had turned out to be wholly wrong.

The intelligence relied upon by Blair should have been tested properly by giving U.N. weapons inspectors more time to see if Saddam Hussein really had WMD, he continued.

However the threat of WMD was probably not Blair's real reason for war anyway, Rose added.

"The politics was wrong, that he rarely declared what his ultimate aims were, as far as we can see, in terms of harping continually on weapons of mass destruction when actually he probably had some other strategy in mind.

"And secondly, the consequences of that war have been quite disastrous both for the people of Iraq and also for the west in terms of our wider interests in the war against global terror."

But, he added, despite the feeling of many people that the continued presence of British troops in Iraq was achieving little, it would be wrong to just walk away from Iraq now.

Rose is one of several former soldiers taking part in a Channel 4 documentary entitled Iraq: The Failure of War, to be broadcast in Britain on Friday.

It is in the documentary, by former BBC war correspondent and former independent member of Parliament Martin Bell, that Rose makes his call for impeachment.

He said: "The politicians should be held to account, and my own view is that Blair should be impeached.

"That would prevent politicians treating quite so carelessly the subject of taking a country into war."

He adds that he would have resigned rather than lead troops into battle on the flimsy basis offered by Blair.

Responding to Gen. Rose's accusation at a lobby briefing Monday, Blair's official spokesman said: "General Rose is entitled to his view. Equally, the government is entitled to point out that we have had free democratic elections in Iraq for the first time in well over a generation.

"In the last of these elections, 69 percent of the population of Iraq expressed their view.

"In terms of the reasons why we went to war, that has been investigated by four inquiries, including two select committees of the Houses of Parliament.

"The matter has been gone well over and in terms of the outcome -- which is what matters -- of course there have been difficulties, but we have in process the creation of a democratically elected government in Iraq and that speaks for itself."

There has already been an attempt by MPs to impeach Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanors" in taking Britain to war against Iraq. The campaign had backing from Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Plaid Cymru and Scottish National Party MPs.

However Lord Tim Garden, former assistant chief of defense staff and a defense spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats, said this was "always going to be more a gesture than a reality" and those heading the bid had not expected it to go ahead.

"The oddest thing of all is that Mike Rose comes in at this stage," he said, questioning why the former soldier had not come forward with his views during the impeachment campaign in 2004, when the bid could have very much benefited from his support.

Garden told United Press International he did not in fact agree that Blair should be impeached as this would be "handing out the sentence without having heard the evidence."

There should first be an independent inquiry into how the government made the decision to go to war, he said.

Four separate inquiries into events surrounding the war have already been held, including the Butler report into intelligence failings and the Hutton inquiry into the death of Dr David Kelly, the former weapons inspector who claimed the government had exaggerated the case for invasion.

However critics said the parameters of the inquiries were too narrow and did not examine how the government made the decision to go to war. The Butler report was boycotted by the Liberal Democrats, the only major British party to oppose the U.S.-led invasion.

Garden told UPI it was "extraordinary" that there had still been no objective inquiry into that decision-making process and the conduct of the war.

"That is still something which leaves people, rightly in a democracy, feeling very uncomfortable."

Britain had gone to war on what Blair himself had now admitted was a "false premise," he said, and conducted itself in a way which had brought "enormous death and destruction" to the Iraqi people.

There were still questions over the legality of the war under international law, he added.

Last month, more than 100 MPs from across the parties backed a call for an inquiry by senior parliamentarians into the handling of the Iraq war and its aftermath.

The motion called for a special committee of seven senior MPs to review the decision-making process. The committee would be members of the Privy Council and would therefore be able to look at sensitive intelligence material.

A debate and vote on the issue will likely be held in Parliament this spring. However Lord Garden told UPI that an inquiry was unlikely to go ahead as the government would rebuff it.

"It may have to wait until we have a government of a different complexion," he said.

Source: United Press International

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