Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

DebateNI home of Northern Ireland politics

There are bigger beasts than Gerry Adams to be hunted down

'Gerry Adams isn't the biggest chancer in politics when it comes to telling the truth'
'Gerry Adams isn't the biggest chancer in politics when it comes to telling the truth'

Gerry Adams isn't the biggest chancer in politics when it comes to telling the truth – and won't be while Tony Blair is still around.

Many in the media who have been chortling with glee at the sight of Adams squirming are willing participants in what amounts to a conspiracy to protect Blair from opprobrium for giving the go-head for a murderous and entirely unjustified attack on a country with which Britain was not at war.

It is a statistical near-certainty that at least one of the 100,000-plus Iraqis who perished in the Bush/Blair massacres was a mother-of-10.

To say this is not to excuse Adams's alleged roles in the killing of Jean McConville and the cover-up of the sexual abuse of a child. It is to suggest that a bit of perspective might be in order.

We have recently been treated to a visit from the man who did most to finesse Blair's falsehoods in relation to Iraq. Here to hawk his diaries, Alastair Campbell missed no opportunity to heap praise on the former premier for his alleged part in bringing peace to our troubled land.

Campbell's credentials as a truth-teller had become clear in January 2010 at the Chilcot inquiry into the launch of the war when he defended the "dodgy dossier" which he had helped prepare. The purpose of the dossier, he swore, wasn't to make the case for war, but to highlight his boss Blair's frustration at the prevarication of others who remained unconvinced about weapons of mass destruction.

General Michael Laurie, head of information at the Defence Intelligence Agency at the relevant time, upon hearing of Campbell's evidence, emailed the inquiry: "Alastair Campbell said to the inquiry that the purpose of the dossier was not 'to make a case for war'. I had no doubt at that time this was exactly its purpose and these very words were used."

Campbell also told Chilcot that he had, indeed, been the author of the – baseless – story that Iraq had the means to bomb British targets at 45 minutes notice.

Laurie denied this, too. During his evidence to the inquiry, he said the intelligence information delivered to Blair had been "beefed up" in Downing Street. Asked whether the effect had been to give the public "a false picture" of the threat to Britain, Laurie replied, "Yes, yes, yes".

Campbell was not asked during his visit to Ireland whether he supports Blair's continued blocking of the truth about Iraq. Chilcot's inquiry, now in its fourth year, has been bogged down by the refusal of the Cabinet office to release documents which the inquiry has asked for. A letter from the inquiry to David Cameron, published by the inquiry, explains that Chilcot believes he needs sight of "25 notes from Mr Blair to President Bush", plus notes of "some 200 Cabinet-level discussions". Blair could trigger release of the documents by saying that this would be okay by him. But he won't.

What Chilcot is on the trail of is evidence of when Blair assured Bush that Britain was ready to go to war. Until early 2003, Blair was repeatedly adamant in the Commons that no decisions had been made, or assurances given; that matters of war and peace were for the Commons itself to decide.

If documents were to emerge recording that Blair had committed the country to war without either a UN resolution, or the assent of parliament, even as oleaginous an operator as Campbell might find it impossible to maintain the myth that Blair is a man of peace.

And, yet, in Belfast, Dublin and elsewhere, seemingly admiring interviewers have invited Campbell to elaborate on his praise for Blair the peacemaker, while failing to ask for his reaction to the contrasting fact that the image of Blair which millions of British people have in their minds is of a man covered in Iraqi blood.

In the past week, some of the same journalists have been to the fore in denouncing a number of Irish newspapers and broadcasting outlets across the water for not following up on the Disappeared by besieging Adams for answers with even more vigour.

Of course, Adams should be pursued. Justice and decency demand it. But if Chilcot manages to bring out the truth about Blair, some commentators who have been hot on the heels of the Provo generalissimo might have to begin to consider the question of priorities and acknowledge there are bigger beasts in the political jungle which it would be in the public interest to bring down.

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