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Blood on Blair's hands

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    Why did Blair send my teenage son to fight an illegal and dishonest war? Terri Judd Independent 02 September 2006
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 6, 2006
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      'Why did Blair send my teenage son to fight
      an illegal and dishonest war?'
      Terri Judd
      02 September 2006

      The mother of a British soldier caught up in one of the bloodiest
      incidents in Iraq this year has accused Tony Blair of sending her son
      to fight an "illegal" war.

      Dani Hamilton-Bing, whose son tried to quell rioters in Basra after
      the downing of a Lynx helicopter in May that killed five British
      soldiers, attacked Mr Blair for putting the lives of over-stretched
      troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at risk.

      The early learning lecturer's comments are unusual because tradition
      dictates that military families of serving soldiers do not speak out.

      But Mrs Hamilton-Bing said that anger at seeing her son sent to fight
      a dishonest war had driven her to take action, adding that many other
      military families shared her views.

      She said: "My son joined to fight legal wars, not wars based on lies
      and deception.

      "Does Tony Blair really value what these men are going through? Does
      he really understand the sacrifices these men and women are making?"
      she asked.

      Mrs Hamilton-Bing was out shopping with her husband, Rob, when live
      images of the Lynx helicopter crash were broadcast across the world
      from Basra.

      Frozen to the spot, they stared at the images of soldiers battling
      rioters, knowing that somewhere in that violent melee was their
      teenage son.

      "We just got in the car. We couldn't get home fast enough and sat
      glued to the television. We just wanted to catch a glimpse of him, to
      know he was alive," said Mrs Hamilton-Bing, 43.

      Unaware that her son was in fact inside the burning Warrior armoured
      vehicle on their screen, she tried to call his mobile throughout the
      day until they finally spoke:

      "He said, 'That was me Mum, that was my wagon that was alight'. You
      have to remain calm but inside you are screaming and crying," she

      Mrs Hamilton-Bing insists that she is part of a majority vehemently
      against the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, who believe the forces
      have been over-stretched, and treated like "mercenaries" for hire by a
      dishonest Prime Minister.

      She believes that she is only reflecting the views of the servicemen
      and women who say nothing because they acknowledge that they
      relinquished that right when they signed up and "took the Queen's

      "People just see these big strapping lads going off to war and these
      strong people waiting behind. It is a fa├žade," she said.

      On Thursday Mrs Hamilton watched her son, Pte James Hamilton-Bing, 18,
      of the 1st Battalion, The Light Infantry, return to Basra after his
      leave, knowing full well that in his previous four months in Iraq he
      has endured nightly mortar attacks, riots, countless fire fights and
      watched a comrade die. Perhaps worse are the things he would not talk
      about. The first time she watched his father drive him off to the
      airport on his way to Iraq in April the normally relaxed lecturer - a
      military daughter and a military wife - disintegrated. "I couldn't
      walk. My legs would not carry me. I was like jelly. I just sat and
      cried. It was self-pity. I couldn't be bothered to get dressed, to
      eat. I was quite horrid and uncaring to [my 12-year-old daughter]
      Chloe. I didn't appreciate how she was dealing with it," she explained.

      After her own mother declared that she had two choices - dissolve into
      a nervous wreck or channel her grief - she decided to set up a support
      network for families and was stunned by the response. She received
      calls from women just streets away and others half-way across the
      world. Today the Iraq families are being joined by those whose
      relatives have been deployed to Afghanistan.

      "Nobody believes what the Government says. Nine out of 10 agree with
      me," she said, adding: "There is a general feeling of two steps
      forward, one step back all the time. There doesn't seem to be any end
      in sight."

      Like them, she now has rituals for coping. The telephone never leaves
      her side. The family do not go out together in case a call comes in.
      Her son's bedroom is left exactly as it was the day he walked out.
      "When he went his bed was left as he had got out of it that morning. I
      would not clear it up in case he didn't come back."

      The other day she found herself accosting a woman who was yelling at
      her young son in the supermarket. "I said, 'I don't want to be rude
      but can you not speak to your son like that? My son is 18 and he is in
      Basra. Just appreciate your son. My son could be dead any day and you
      are worrying over a bag of sweets'."

      Over the months she has listened to the change in her teenage soldier.
      Initially enthusiastic, his phone calls home began to change. He
      stopped talking of peacekeeping and began describing deadly battles in
      the "hell hole". He sounded exhausted.

      "They don't have enough resources. They are over-stretched. Everyone
      is doing two men's jobs. Every time I spoke to him he was dead on his
      feet. He could barely say 'yeah' on the phone."

      The worst moment came when the Lebanon conflict was dominating the
      news, she explained: "He said, 'People have forgotten about us, Mum.
      We are doing this shitty job, doing our best and they have forgotten
      about us'. That cut me to the quick."

      Mrs Hamilton-Bing admits she was fiercely proud when her son joined
      the Army at just 16. In their home county of Cornwall, it offered a
      far better career than joining the tourism or building trade. It was
      not until she was listening to the local news one day that she
      realised that the "Op Telic" training he was undergoing meant he was
      off to Iraq.

      "I am not against war, just an illegal war. I can't understand why we
      are there. I want to know why we needed a UN mandate of nine out of 15
      and we went in with just four. Maybe if Tony Blair tried to tell me I
      would understand better," she said.


      Blair doing lasting damage to UK, says Iranian leader
      Simon Tisdall
      Saturday August 19, 2006

      President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran has urged British voters to
      throw Tony Blair's government out of office to prevent Britain being
      drawn into new foreign policy "disasters" in the Middle East.

      Speaking to a British newspaper for the first time since he took power
      a year ago, Mr Ahmadinejad told the Guardian that Britain's failure to
      push for an early ceasefire in the war in Lebanon, and its continuing
      role in the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan, were doing "lasting
      damage" to its reputation among Muslims. The Iranian president also
      suggested that the UN security council's failure to act sooner in the
      Lebanon crisis had undermined its ability to deal credibly with the
      dispute over Iran's nuclear programme that will come to a head next week.

      "The British people should stop supporting governments that are waging
      war in the Middle East such as their own government, the United States
      government and Israel," Mr Ahmadinejad said during a visit to Bile
      Savar in Ardabil province.

      "The United States wants to create a 'new Middle East'. But only the
      people of the Middle East can do this. They want a Middle East that is
      free from US and British domination."

      He said Britain's collaboration with Washington meant it could become
      involved in more Middle East conflicts. "This is risking more
      disasters.This is doing lasting damage to the reputation of Britain
      among ordinary people."

      The Iranian leader warned that the age of international dominance by
      the US and a handful of other countries was drawing to a close: "They
      are trying to deny our right to develop nuclear power. But no one can
      impose anything on the Iranian people. They will not succeed. This
      arrogance will not last forever. Soon you will see the great powers
      kicked out of their throne."

      Mr Ahmadinejad's outspoken criticism may reflect official nervousness
      that Britain could back US air strikes against Iran's nuclear
      facilities if no settlement of the dispute is reached.

      The US, Britain, France and Germany suspect Iran is trying to acquire
      a nuclear weapons capability, a charge Tehran denies. A UN security
      council resolution passed on July 31 ordering Iran to suspend uranium
      enrichment by August 31 or face possible sanctions has been denounced
      as "illegal" by Mr Ahmadinejad.

      Tehran says sanctions will have no effect on its nuclear programmes.
      Iran is expected to deliver its response to the west's compromise
      nuclear package on Monday or Tuesday.

      Downing Street said yesterday: "President Ahmadinejad has said
      publicly that he wants Israel wiped off the map, and denies the
      Holocaust. This is a regime that funds, arms and glorifies terrorism,
      thinks nothing of undermining its neighbours' stability and, most
      worryingly, that is trying to acquire a nuclear weapon. The
      international community is working hard to prevent this happening."


      Blair knew the attack on Lebanon was coming but he didn't try to stop
      it, because he didn't want to. He has made this country an accomplice,
      destroying what remained of our influence abroad while putting us all
      at greater risk of attack.

      Blood on his hands
      John Kampfner
      New Statesman
      Monday 7th August 2006*

      At a Downing Street reception not long ago, a guest had the temerity
      to ask Tony Blair: "How do you sleep at night, knowing that you've
      been responsible for the deaths of 100,000 Iraqis?" The Prime Minister
      is said to have retorted: "I think you'll find it's closer to 50,000."

      No British leader since Winston Churchill has dealt in war with such
      alacrity as the present one. Back then, it was in the cause of saving
      the nation from Nazism. Now, it is in the cause of putting into
      practice the foreign policy of the simpleton. During his nine years in
      power, Blair - and in this government it is he, and he alone - has
      managed to ensure that the UK has become both reviled and stripped of
      influence across vast stretches of the world. In so doing, he has
      increased the danger of terrorism to Britain itself.

      Israel's assault on Lebanon is, in many respects, as disastrous as the
      war in Iraq. But at least then the pre-war hubris and deceit were
      played out in parliament and at the UN. This latest act of folly took
      place suddenly, with only the barest of attempts to justify it to
      global public opinion. And it stems from the core Middle East problem:
      the decades-old conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians.

      I am told that the Israelis informed George W Bush in advance of their
      plans to "destroy" Hezbollah by bombing villages in southern Lebanon.
      The Americans duly informed the British. So Blair knew. This exposes
      as a fraud the debate of the past week about calling for a ceasefire.
      Indeed, one of the reasons why negotiations failed in Rome was British
      obduracy. This has been a case not of turning a blind eye and failing
      to halt the onslaught, but of providing active support.

      Blair, like Bush, had no intention of urging the Israelis to slow down
      their bombardment, believing somehow that this struggle was winnable.
      Israel has a right to self-defence, but it could have responded to the
      seizure of its soldiers, and to the rocket attacks, by the diplomatic
      route. That would have ensured greater sympathy. Now, growing numbers
      in Israel itself realise that military action will bring no long-term

      Even if the guns fall silent for a while, the damage has been done.
      This is the score sheet so far: roughly 800 deaths; shocking images of
      the slaughter of children in Qana; no clear Israeli military advance.
      And the transformation of Hezbollah from an organisation on the
      periphery of Lebanese politics into an object of admiration across the
      Arab world.

      But it is even worse than that. Is the assumption that civilians are
      legitimate targets if they do not flee certain areas any different
      from the principles that underlay the US war in Vietnam? Blair and
      Bush have given their blessing to the forced displacement of a large
      population, in violation of the guiding principles of the UN
      Commission on Human Rights.

      Lebanon will now provide a rich source of inspiration to radical
      Islamists in their distorted quest for martyrdom. Senior Whitehall
      sources involved in the fight against terrorism are gravely concerned
      about the consequences of the Prime Minister's failure to condemn
      Israel's actions. The intelligence services say it is too early to
      tell whether Lebanon has already contributed to radicalisation in the
      UK; they work from the assumption that it will, like Iraq and Afghan
      istan. This is not in any way to justify or suggest equivalence, but
      it is surely the duty of a leader to produce a risk assessment of his
      actions. If Blair is prepared to put Britain in greater danger, he has
      to persuade its citizens that he is doing so for good reason.

      Blair, at his rhetorical best in front of friends in California,
      appears in no mood for self-doubt. "I have many opponents on the
      subject," he told Rupert Murdoch's elite gathering at Pebble Beach on
      30 July. "But I have complete inner confidence in the analysis of the
      struggle we face."

      Either he is delusional, or he has no choice but to say what he says.
      One close aide recalls that when the Prime Minister was preparing a
      foreign-policy speech in his Sedgefield constituency in 2004, a year
      after the invasion of Iraq, he considered a mea culpa of sorts, but
      changed his mind, asking his team: "Do we want headlines of 'Blair: I
      was wrong' or 'Blair: I was right'?"

      Whatever he may think alone at night, the Prime Minister is locked in
      a spiral of self-justification for his actions in Iraq, his broader
      Middle East policy and his unstinting support of Bush. His speech in
      Los Angeles on 1 August was spun as a rethink. If so, it is too
      little, too late. Historians reflecting on the Blair-Bush "war on
      terror" that followed the attacks of 11 September 2001 would be right
      to see it as a joint venture. Ultimately, his US policy is his foreign
      policy. It has, by his own admission, underpinned his every action.

      But one part of the jigsaw that Blair claimed to be vital was never
      put in place. The "road map", drawn up in 2002 by the quartet of the
      US, EU, United Nations and Russia, has remained the best hope for
      peace between Israelis and Palestinians, yet it was never implemented,
      because Bush didn't really believe in it. If Blair felt so
      passionately about it, and if his public silence did win him the
      influence inside the White House that he claims to have, he could and
      should have stood up and been counted on that issue, if on no other.
      Instead, he meekly accepted American inaction. The horrific events of
      the past three weeks can be traced in large part to that failure.
      Blair's exhortations to his American audience at least to consider the
      Palestinian issue were lamentable.

      Before taking office in 1997, Blair travelled light on foreign policy.
      Saddam Hussein's chemical gassing of 5,000 Kurds at Halabja in 1988
      passed him by: unlike dozens of other MPs, he didn't bother to sign a
      motion condemning it. Once in power, and frustrated at the pace of
      reform in domestic politics, Blair seized upon the theory of
      "humanitarian interventionism" that grew out of anger over inaction,
      first in Bosnia and then Rwanda. His decision to back military action
      in Kosovo reflected that thinking, and led to tension with Bill
      Clinton over America's reluctance to commit ground forces.

      Banalities of "good and evil"

      Having spent a month in Rwanda in 1994, seeing attacks take place, I
      need no persuading that inaction can be as hideous as action.
      Sometimes it is right to fight, but - as Blair should know from his
      Chicago speech of 1999, in which he set out the principles of
      humanitarian intervention - the outcome is what matters. When I began
      work on my book Blair's Wars, I tried to give the Prime Minister the
      benefit of the doubt, until I realised, on speaking to many people who
      worked closely with him, how simplistic and impressionable he was.

      Now, as Blair hides behind banalities about "good and evil" and the
      familiar, crude definitions of "terrorism", his ministers look on
      helplessly. They talk openly to journalists - in the "you can print
      it, but just don't name me" deal that is the coward's life at
      Westminster - of Blair's "Bush problem". Shortly before MPs left for
      their summer break, one senior member of the cabinet accosted me in
      the corridors of the Commons, and asked: "How much further up their
      arses do you think we can go?" I suggested that this was more up to
      him than to me.

      At least over Iraq someone resigned. This time, ministers do nothing.
      Their private complaints have no moral or political value, because
      they will not stop Blair. Under cabinet rules of collective
      responsibility, they are endorsing the Israeli assault.

      Blair's survival in power is no longer a game of cat-and-mouse with
      Gordon Brown; it is no longer a question of Labour's ability to stave
      off the Conservatives. It is far more serious than that.

      A record of conflict: the death toll from wars Britain has fought
      under three prime ministers

      *Tony Blair*
      71,617 deaths
      9 years in power

      Iraq war (2003-)

      115 UK troop deaths 30,000 Iraqi troop deaths (estimate by Gen Tommy
      Franks in Oct 2003) 39,460-43,927 civilian deaths (Iraq Body Count)

      Afghanistan (2001-)

      16 UK troop deaths (as of 1 August 2006)

      1,300-8,000 direct civilian deaths (Guardian estimate). Unknown
      Taliban deaths

      Sierra Leone (2000-2002)

      1 UK troop death 25 foreign troop deaths (at least)

      Nato bombing of Serbia (1999)

      No UK troop deaths. Unknown Serbian troop deaths 500-1,500 civilian
      deaths (according to Human Rights Watch/Nato estimates)

      Operation Desert Fox (1998)

      200-300 Iraqi deaths (based on UN estimate)

      John Major*
      22,316 deaths
      7 years in power

      Gulf war (1991)

      16 UK troop deaths 20,000-22,000 Iraqi troop deaths 2,300 civilian
      deaths (according to the Iraqi government)

      Margaret Thatcher*
      1,013 deaths
      11 years in power

      US bombing of Libya from UK bases (1986)

      100 Libyan deaths

      Falklands war (1982)

      255 UK troop deaths 655 Argentinian troop deaths 3 Civilian deaths

      The figures do not take into account the estimated 350,000 Iraqis who
      died as a result of sanctions between 1991 and 2003 - under John Major
      and Tony Blair.

      Blair's body count is probably underestimated here because there are
      no figures for Taliban and Serbian military deaths.

      Estimates for Iraqi deaths range between 30,000 and 300,000. The
      official Bush estimate is 30,000 deaths. Iraq Body Count estimates
      between 39,460 and 43,927, although it admits this is far below the
      real total, as the database counts only reported deaths. A Lancet
      report in 2004 estimated 100,000 deaths, although one of the authors
      says the total could be 300,000.

      Research: Daniel Trilling



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