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Robin Cook, UK Leader of House of Commons: Opponents of Iraq war "were in the right"


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Robin Cook is calling for a U.K. Parliament investigation of the grounds for the Iraq war, which he believes to be false.

Cook, an MP, was Leader of the House of Commons (the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives) until he resigned that post in protest on March 17. He is part of Tony Blair's own Labour Party and in fact served as Blair's own foreign secretary (equivalent to Secretary of State) prior to becoming Leader of the House of Commons.

http://news.independent.co.uk/world/politics/story.jsp?story=410484

The Independent

The case for war is blown apart

By Ben Russell and Andy McSmith in Kuwait City

29 May 2003

Tony Blair stood accused last night of misleading Parliament and the British people over Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, and his claims that the threat posed by Iraq justified war.

Robin Cook, the former foreign secretary, seized on a "breathtaking" statement by the US Defence Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, that Iraq's weapons may have been destroyed before the war, and anger boiled over among MPs who said the admission undermined the legal and political justification for war.

Mr Blair insisted yesterday he had "absolutely no doubt at all about the existence of weapons of mass destruction".

But Mr Cook said the Prime Minister's claims that Saddam could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes were patently false. He added that Mr Rumsfeld's statement "blows an enormous gaping hole in the case for war made on both sides of the Atlantic" and called for MPs to hold an investigation.

Meanwhile, Labour rebels threatened to report Mr Blair to the Speaker of the Commons for the cardinal sin of misleading Parliament - and force him to answer emergency questions in the House.

Mr Rumsfeld ignited the row in a speech in New York, declaring: "It is ... possible that they [iraq] decided that they would destroy them prior to a conflict and I don't know the answer."

Speaking in the Commons before the crucial vote on war, Mr Blair told MPs that it was "palpably absurd" to claim that Saddam had destroyed weapons including 10,000 litres of anthrax, up to 6,500 chemical munitions; at least 80 tons of mustard gas, sarin, botulinum toxin and "a host of other biological poisons".

But Mr Cook said yesterday: "We were told Saddam had weapons ready for use within 45 minutes. It's now 45 days since the war has finished and we have still not found anything.

"It is plain he did not have that capacity to threaten us, possibly did not have the capacity to threaten even his neighbours, and that is profoundly important. We were, after all, told that those who opposed the resolution that would provide the basis for military action were in the wrong.

"Perhaps we should now admit they were in the right."

Speaking as he flew into Kuwait before a morale-boosting visit to British troops in Iraq today, Mr Blair said: "Rather than speculating, let's just wait until we get the full report back from our people who are interviewing the Iraqi scientists.

"We have already found two trailers that both our and the American security services believe were used for the manufacture of chemical and biological weapons."

He added: "Our priorities in Iraq are less to do with finding weapons of mass destruction, though that is obviously what a team is charged with doing, and they will do it, and more to do with humanitarian and political reconstruction."

Peter Kilfoyle, the anti-war rebel and former Labour defence minister, said he was prepared to report Mr Blair to the Speaker of the Commons for misleading Parliament. Mr Kilfoyle, whose Commons motion calling on Mr Blair to publish the evidence backing up his claims about Saddam's arsenal has been signed by 72 MPs, warned: "This will not go away. The Government ought to publish whatever evidence they have for the claims they made."

Paul Keetch, the Liberal Democrat defence spokesman, said: "No weapons means no threat. Without WMD, the case for war falls apart. It would seem either the intelligence was wrong and we should not rely on it, or, the politicians overplayed the threat. Even British troops who I met in Iraq recently were sceptical about the threat posed by WMD. Their lives were put at risk in order to eliminate this threat - we owe it to our troops to find out if that threat was real."

But Bernard Jenkin, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "I think it is too early to rush to any conclusions at this stage; we must wait and see what the outcome actually is of these investigations."

Ministers have pointed to finds of chemical protection suits and suspected mobile biological weapons laboratories as evidence of Iraq's chemical and biological capability. But they have also played down the importance of finding weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Earlier this month, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, provoked a storm of protest after claiming weapons finds were "not crucially important".

The Government has quietly watered down its claims, now arguing only that the Iraqi leader had weapons at some time before the war broke out.

Tony Benn, the former Labour minister, told LBC Radio: "I believe the Prime Minister lied to us and lied to us and lied to us. The whole war was built upon falsehood and I think the long-term damage will be to democracy in Britain. If you can't believe what you are told by ministers, the whole democratic process is put at risk. You can't be allowed to get away with telling lies for political purposes."

Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, said MPs "supported war based on a lie". He said: "If it's right Iraq destroyed the weapons prior to the war, then it means Iraq complied with the United Nations resolution 1441."

The former Labour minister Glenda Jackson added: "If the creators of this war are now saying weapons of mass destruction were destroyed before the war began, then all the government ministers who stood on the floor in the House of Commons adamantly speaking of the immediate threat are standing on shaky ground."

The build-up to war: What they said

Intelligence leaves no doubt that Iraq continues to possess and conceal lethal weapons

- George Bush, Us President 18 March, 2003

We are asked to accept Saddam decided to destroy those weapons. I say that such a claim is palpably absurd

- Tony Blair, Prime Minister 18 March, 2003

Saddam's removal is necessary to eradicate the threat from his weapons of mass destruction

- Jack Straw, Foreign Secretary 2 April, 2003

Before people crow about the absence of weapons of mass destruction, I suggest they wait a bit

- Tony Blair 28 April, 2003

It is possible Iraqi leaders decided they would destroy them prior to the conflict

- Donald Rumsfeld, US Defence Secretary 28 May, 2003

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Yeah very credible if you ignore the resolutions, the Videos of the atrocities and weapons now shown daily on the history channels, the mass graves averaging 15,000, the children in prisons for refusing to join Saddams version of the hitler youth and the smile on those liberated.

Its ok........

You can hide in that dark corner and reassure yourself that the West are the bad guys and not the terrorist and dictators.

You can do that because you are lucky to live in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave.

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This is a shame because Tony Blair showed true leadership through this ordeal. His power stayed in tact because of the support of the Conservative party, and not his own. This was a crucial moment for his entire career and legacy, and he took action in favor of civilization, and against its cannibals.

The comparisons to Churchill are inaccurate, in my view, but he did a tough job very well, with those closest to him ready to disown him. That, in any capacity, is quite difficult.

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"Cook is Leader of the House of Commons, the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives. He is part of Tony Blair's own Labour Party and in fact served as Blair's own foreign secretary (equivalent to Secretary of State) until recently." Thought that was former Leader of?

True enough TWD. Since many an "expert", if memory serves, said that Blair was in political jeopardy with the resignation by Cook himself, (yep. Cook quit back in March I believe), as leader of House of Commons in protest against the war in Iraq. Rumors at the time also have him being a little miffed at Blair for removing him as Foreign Minister and replacing him with Straw back in 2001. So no real suprise that he his calling for an investigation. No suprise if it gets some legs too. Considering how hotly debated the war was in the first place. :rolleyes:

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Originally posted by Park City Skins

"Cook is Leader of the House of Commons, the U.K. equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives."

Thought that was former Leader of?

Thanks for the correction, PCS. He resigned on March 17, in protest of the Iraq war.

http://politics.guardian.co.uk/iraq/comment/0,12956,916359,00.html

Why I had to leave the cabinet

This will be a war without support at home or agreement abroad

Robin Cook

Tuesday March 18, 2003

The Guardian

I have resigned from the cabinet because I believe that a fundamental principle of Labour's foreign policy has been violated. If we believe in an international community based on binding rules and institutions, we cannot simply set them aside when they produce results that are inconvenient to us.

I cannot defend a war with neither international agreement nor domestic support. I applaud the determined efforts of the prime minister and foreign secretary to secure a second resolution. Now that those attempts have ended in failure, we cannot pretend that getting a second resolution was of no importance.

In recent days France has been at the receiving end of the most vitriolic criticism. However, it is not France alone that wants more time for inspections. Germany is opposed to us. Russia is opposed to us. Indeed at no time have we signed up even the minimum majority to carry a second resolution. We delude ourselves about the degree of international hostility to military action if we imagine that it is all the fault of President Chirac.

The harsh reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading member. Not Nato. Not the EU. And now not the security council. To end up in such diplomatic isolation is a serious reverse. Only a year ago we and the US were part of a coalition against terrorism which was wider and more diverse than I would previously have thought possible. History will be astonished at the diplomatic miscalculations that led so quickly to the disintegration of that powerful coalition.

Britain is not a superpower. Our interests are best protected, not by unilateral action, but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules. Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened. The European Union is divided. The security council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of war without a single shot yet being fired.

The threshold for war should always be high. None of us can predict the death toll of civilians in the forthcoming bombardment of Iraq. But the US warning of a bombing campaign that will "shock and awe" makes it likely that casualties will be numbered at the very least in the thousands. Iraq's military strength is now less than half its size at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq's military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate invasion. And some claim his forces are so weak, so demoralised and so badly equipped that the war will be over in days.

We cannot base our military strategy on the basis that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a seri ous threat. Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of that term - namely, a credible device capable of being delivered against strategic city targets. It probably does still have biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions. But it has had them since the 1980s when the US sold Saddam the anthrax agents and the then British government built his chemical and munitions factories.

Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years and which we helped to create? And why is it necessary to resort to war this week while Saddam's ambition to complete his weapons programme is frustrated by the presence of UN inspectors?

I have heard it said that Iraq has had not months but 12 years in which to disarm, and our patience is exhausted. Yet it is over 30 years since resolution 242 called on Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

We do not express the same impatience with the persis tent refusal of Israel to comply. What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops to action in Iraq.

I believe the prevailing mood of the British public is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam Hussein is a brutal dictator. But they are not persuaded he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want the inspections to be given a chance. And they are suspicious that they are being pushed hurriedly into conflict by a US administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain taking part in a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies. It has been a favourite theme of commentators that the House of Commons has lost its central role in British politics. Nothing could better demonstrate that they are wrong than for parliament to stop the commitment of British troops to a war that has neither international authority nor domestic support.

· Robin Cook was, until yesterday, leader of the House of Commons

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Robin Cook is keeping busy. Here's his opinion piece in today's Independent:

The Independent

Robin Cook: Britain must not be suckered a second time by the White House

The British government needs to concede that we went to war for reasons of US foreign policy and Republican Party politics

30 May 2003

Chutzpah was the word that used to be applied to people who radiated belief in themselves without possessing any visible reason to justify it. In the chutzpah stakes Donald Rumsfeld is way off the top of the scale.

Before the war he told us that Saddam had "large stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons and an active programme to develop nuclear weapons". After the war he explains away the failure to find any of these stockpiles or nuclear installations on the possibility that Saddam's regime "decided they would destroy them prior to a conflict''. You have to admire his effrontery.

But not his logic. The least plausible explanation is that Saddam destroyed his means of defence on the eve of an invasion. The more plausible explanation is that he did not have any large stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

We need to rescue the meaning of words from becoming a further casualty of the Iraqi War. A weapon of mass destruction in normal speech is a device capable of being delivered over a long distance and exterminating a strategic target such as a capital city. Saddam had neither a long-range missile system nor a warhead capable of mass destruction.

Laboratory stocks of biological toxins or chemical shells for use on the battlefield do not add up to weapons of mass destruction. But we have not yet found even any of these.

When the Cabinet discussed the dossier on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction I argued that I found the document curiously "derivative''. It set out what we knew about Saddam's chemical and biological arsenal at the time of the (previous) Gulf War. It rehearsed our inability to discover what had happened to those weapons. It then leapt to the conclusion that Saddam must still possess all those weapons. There was no hard intelligence of a current weapons programme that would represent a new and compelling threat to our interests.

Nor did the dossier at any stage admit the basic scientific fact that biological and chemical agents have a finite shelf life. Odd, since it is a principle understood by every chemist. Go in to your medicine cupboard and check out the existence of an expiry date on nearly everything you possess.

Nerve agents of good quality have a shelf life of about five years and anthrax in liquid solution of about three years. Saddam's stocks were not of good quality. The Pentagon itself concluded that Iraqi chemical munitions were of such poor standard that they were produced to a "make-and-use'' regime under which they were usable for only a few weeks. Even if Saddam had destroyed none of his arsenal from 1991 it would long ago have become useless.

It is inconceivable that no one in the Pentagon told Donald Rumsfeld these home truths, or at the very least tried to tell him. So why did he build a case for war on a false claim of Saddam's capability?

Enter stage right (far right) his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, a man of such ferociously reactionary opinion that he has at least the advantage to his department of making Rumsfeld appear reasonable. He has now disclosed: "For bureaucratic reasons we settled on weapons of mass destruction because it was the one issue everyone could agree on.''

Wolfowitz is famously a regime-change champion. He was one of the flock of Republican hawks who wanted a war to take over Iraq long before 11 September. Decoded, what his remarks mean is that the Pentagon went along with allegations of weapons of mass destruction as the price of getting Colin Powell and the British government on board for war. But the Pentagon probably did not believe in the case then and certainly cannot prove it now.

Wolfowitz also let the cat out of the bag over the "huge prize" for the Pentagon from the invasion of Iraq. It has furnished them with an alternative to Saudi Arabia as a base for US influence in the region.

As Donald Rumsfeld might express it, we have been suckered. Britain was conned into a war to disarm a phantom threat in which not even our major ally really believed. The truth is that the US chose to attack Iraq not because it posed a threat, but because they knew it was weak and expected its military to collapse.

It is a truth that leaves the British government in an uncomfortable position. This week Tony Blair was pleading for everyone to show patience and to wait for weapons to be found. There is an historic problem with this plea. The war only took place because the coalition powers lost patience with Hans Blix and refused his plea for a few more months to complete his disarmament tasks.

There is also a growing problem of transatlantic politics with the British Prime Minister's plea for more time. The US administration wanted the war to achieve regime change and now they have got it they do not see why they need to keep up the pretence that they fought it to deliver disarmament. The more time passes, the greater the gulf will widen between the obliging candour on the US side that there never was a weapons threat and the desperate obfuscation on the British side that we might still find one.

There is always a bigger problem in denying reality than in admitting the truth. The time has come when the British government needs to concede that we did not go to war because Saddam was a threat to our national interests. We went to war for reasons of US foreign policy and Republican domestic politics.

One advantage of such clarity is that it would help prevent us from being suckered a second time. Which brings us to Rumsfeld's latest sabre-rattling against Iran. It is consistent with the one-dimensional character of the Rumsfeld world view that he talks of Iran as if it were a single unified entity. In fact, Iran is deeply divided by a power struggle.

On the one side, there are President Khatami and the majority of the parliament who are reformers, reflecting the political reality that most Iranians consistently vote to join the modern world. On the other hand are the conservative forces of the old Islamic revolutionaries led by Ayatollah Khamanei, who still retains control over the security apparatus.

When Labour took office I initiated a policy of constructive engagement with the reformist government, which has been skilfully continued by Jack Straw. It bore fruit for us in their renunciation of the fatwa on Salman Rushdie and it has been helpful to them in providing credibility as people who could build a positive relationship with the outside world.

The blanket hostility to Iran of the Bush administration has undermined the reformers and provided a welcome shot in the arm to the ayatollahs.

British policy on Iran makes sense in securing the advance of the reformers, which is in the interests of ourselves and of the Iranian people. This time we must make clear to the White House that we are not going to subordinate Britain's interests to a US policy of confrontation. Iran must not become the next Iraq.

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Blair is under heavy scrutiny right now. I feel badly for him. The lack of weapons discovery supposedly is casting a pretty ugly shadow. I admire the man's courage and conviction in the way he faced down parliament and fought for what he thought was right. Strange, I really do believe that he believed in this cause a lot more than I believed Bush was doing it for purely defensive or altruistic reasons.

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