On Eve of Chilcot, Critics Intensify Calls for Tony Blair to Face 'Reckoning'
There 'has to be a judicial or political reckoning' for Blair's role in Iraq War, one critic charges
Ahead of Wednesday's release of the long-awaited UK government inquiry into the Iraq War—which took a full seven years to complete—many anti-war critics are demanding that Tony Blair and other prominent officials finally face justice for the disastrous decision to invade Iraq in 2003.
"I wouldn't want to talk to [Tony Blair], I would just stare at him right in his eyes, for all the people that died in that war."
—Jason Ward, 12-year-old son of slain British soldierThose critics include the wife of a Royal Marine, Norwegian nurse May-Helen Forsberg, who was five months pregnant when her husband was killed on the first day of the conflict.
Forsberg's son, now 12, was named after his father, Major Jason Ward. The younger Jason never met his father, and Forsberg told Sky News that he used to ask for a ladder to climb up to heaven to finally meet him.
"I think Tony Blair and George Bush are to blame and I've always thought that," Forsberg told Sky News.
"I would ask them to apologize to all those who are left behind," Forsberg said. "What is it Jason says? They should go to jail forever."
If he were ever to meet Blair in person, Jason said, "I wouldn't want to talk to him, I would just stare at him right in his eyes, for all the people that died in that war."
While many have expressed fear that the 2.6-million-word Chilcot report will end up a whitewashing of recent history, others see a long overdue chance to pursue Blair and other pro-war politicians for their actions in 2003.
Admiral Lord West, who headed the Royal Navy when the invasion took place in March 2003, added fuel to the fire on Monday when he remarked that Blair had been looking for an excuse to wage war on Iraq as early as 2002.
That claim contradicts Blair's defense that he had "exhausted all diplomatic routes" before joining forces with Bush in 2003, as the Mirror notes.
According to The Independent, Lord West said that Blair's administration was just "looking for a reason to actually do it":
"I think there had been a decision that we were going to invade Iraq, that that was going to happen, but they were looking for a reason to actually do it.
"Of course Blair and everyone else will say, 'No, we didn't make the decision until right up to it'. You can always say that, can't you?
"But I would not have told the fleets, the Royal Navy and the Marines, to be ready for war in the northern Gulf by the end of the year. I would not have sailed the Mine Counter-measures Force for the Middle East so they were in place for operations.
"You don't wake up in the morning and think that. Some bastard told me to do it. That's why I did it."
Former Scotland First Minister Alex Salmond is among those who are predicting that the Chilcot inquiry's results will spell bad news for Blair.
"179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism—these are just some of the reasons perhaps [Blair] should understand why people don't hold him in the highest regard."
—Alex Salmond, former Scotland First MinisterIndeed, according to TIME, Salmond "thinks the report must be bad for Blair because he has been vigorously defending his actions in the run-up to publication, which is significant given he will know how the report criticizes him because of the Maxwellisation process," referring the procedure by which those criticized in the report were given advance copies to read and opportunity to respond.
Salmond told Sky News that there "has to be a judicial or political reckoning" for Blair's role in the Iraq War.
"He seemed puzzled as to why Jeremy Corbyn thinks he is a war criminal, why people don't like him," he added. "The reason is 179 British war dead, 150,000 immediate dead from the Iraq conflict, the Middle East in flames, the world faced with an existential crisis on terrorism—these are just some of the reasons perhaps he should understand why people don't hold him in the highest regard."