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Henry’s got to the bottom of it, at last

John Rentoul

blairphone Henrys got to the bottom of it, at lastBeing open-minded and all, I’ll read anyone occasionally, no matter how much I have disagreed with them in the past. Thus Henry Porter in today’s Observer. Still, this part was interesting:

Could it be that Blair and the civil servants who oversaw the preparations for war always knew that the excuse of preserving the confidentiality of the prime minister’s conversations with Bush would stop Sir John’s committee getting at the truth of how we were taken to war on a handful of lies? Maybe they just hope to outlast Chilcot, prevaricating until the committee drop dead and everyone has forgotten the war.

You can imagine how that conversation went in 2003. Tony Blair to Jeremy Heywood: “I’ve got this secret plan to go to war with George Bush in Iraq.”

“The secret plan against which a million people are in the streets are protesting, Prime Minister?”

“No, not that one. That is a false flag operation. No, I mean the secret plan George and I cooked up to pretend there are WMD in Iraq and then, after we’ve invaded, to be accused of lying because we can’t find them. ”

“If I make a suggestion, Prime Minister. That might become controversial and there might be an inquiry. We wouldn’t want the inquiry to publish your secret plan, although it would obviously be allowed to see it, so the best thing might be not to mention it except to President Bush in your phone calls, because communications between heads of government are secret and subject to the 30-year rule.”

“Right. We haven’t spoken.”

Update: If you want to know about the rules for the Iraq Inquiry publishing documents, all of which it has seen, they are here. Paragraphs 7a, 13 and 15 are the most relevant.

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  • chrishaines47

    Released leaker phone call (Blair to Bush) “OK yeah, we killed that annoying Kelly chap now how many surplus economic units do you want us to put in this war?” (pause) “That many? No problem, at least Euan won’t be there. Mwah”.

  • porkfright

    Well-the truth is out there. Except Chilcot is not being allowed to tell us anything, even though we’ve paid for it. Sounds like a simple job for Trading Standards to me.

  • bugedone

    Yes not Henry’s finest work. He makes a decent point about transparency: the decision to invade Iraq was taken over 10 years ago. All the key players have long ago retired. Even the most of the junior ministers are now publishing their memoirs and working for various NGOs. Surely we can publish this stuff now can’t we? I get that the intelligence will need to remain classified for a while longer if it could endanger anyone’s life, but is it really such a big deal to know what Blair and Bush said to each other?

    I tend to the view that ministers acting in their official capacity shouldn’t be telling anyone anything that they aren’t prepared to make public eventually.

  • JohnJustice

    So nothing should be said off the record. That could make for some pretty stilted conversations and relationships between politicians, not to mention the constraints on the sort of back room compromises which are sometimes the only way of making progress.

  • mightymark

    “I tend to the view that ministers acting in their official capacity shouldn’t be telling anyone anything that they aren’t prepared to make public eventually.”

    Even commercial confidences e.g. re competitive tender prcurement discussions that could end up costing the taxpayer millions?

  • newfriendofed

    I really hope J. R. is being ironic is calling himself open-minded. Otherwise we bear witness to a serious incident of self-delusion.

  • Pacificweather

    “I’ve got this secret plan to go to war with George Bush in Iraq.”

    If TB wanted to go to war with George Bush, why couldn’t he do it in Texas?

  • Pacificweather

    If it was off the record there would not be a note so the fact that there was one means it is on the record. I doubt there is a record of Cameron calling Putin a Russian T0sser.


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