If the U.S. gets its way, the world will never know the details of top-level discussions between George W. Bush and Tony Blair that paved the way for the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
An exclusive report released Thursday by The Independent reveals that the White House and U.S. State Department have launched a fierce battle against the release of a four-year government-ordered investigation into the lead-up and aftermath of British participation in a war now widely viewed in the UK as a catastrophe.
The inquiry, led by Sir John Chilcot, is believed to take aim at the official version of events, including misrepresentation of Iraq intelligence, as well as questions about whether former British Prime Minister Tony Blair engaged in secret negotiations with the Bush administration while lying to the British people.
Yet, the U.S. government is forbidding the release of communications between Blair and Bush in the lead-up to the war, declaring it classified information and pressuring British Prime Minister David Cameron to wipe this information from the report.
The Independent reports that the hidden documents "are said to provide crucial evidence for already-written passages that are highly critical of the covert way in which Mr Blair committed British troops to the US-led invasion."
The paper goes on to quote a top-level diplomat, who declared, “The US are highly possessive when documents relate to the presence of the President or anyone close to him... this is not Tony Blair’s or the UK Government’s property to disclose.”
There are signs that the British government is poised to cave to U.S. pressure, in a bid to protect the 'special' relationship between the two countries.
The Independent reports:
Although the Prime Minister told Chilcot in a letter last week that some documents needed to be “handled sensitively”, the Cabinet Office decoded the Prime Minister’s phrases yesterday, telling The Independent: “It is in the public’s interests that exchanges between the UK Prime Minister and the US President are privileged. The whole premise about withholding them [from publication] is to ensure that we do not prejudice our relations with the United States.”
Immediately following the release of the report, a Cabinet spokesperson denied that the U.S. has veto power over the Iraq War inquiry, declaring, "All sides recognize that this raises difficult issues, involving legal and international relations considerations."
The inquiry was launched by Gordon Brown in 2009, expected to take a year to finish, and has already been concluded but remains hidden from the public. The report has no set publication date at this time, according to The Huffington Post.
An editorial by Guardian editors sounds the alarm over the delayed release of the report, declaring, "If there is an urgency, it is because only with publication of Chilcot's report can this generation hope to learn the lessons of that misguided war and how to avoid repeating those mistakes."