Blood on Blair's hands
- 'Why did Blair send my teenage son to fight
an illegal and dishonest war?'
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
"Does Tony Blair really value what these men are going through? Does
he really understand the sacrifices these men and women are making?"
Mrs Hamilton-Bing was out shopping with her husband, Rob, when live
images of the Lynx helicopter crash were broadcast across the world
Frozen to the spot, they stared at the images of soldiers battling
rioters, knowing that somewhere in that violent melee was their
"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 façade," 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
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
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
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
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
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)
16 UK troop deaths (as of 1 August 2006)
1,300-8,000 direct civilian deaths (Guardian estimate). Unknown
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)
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)
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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