Blair’s defense secretary says he was ordered to burn crucial document ahead of Iraq war

LONDON: Tony Blair’s defense secretary during the invasion of Iraq has bolstered a campaign to strip the former British prime minister of his knighthood by revealing that he was ordered to burn a secret document that detailed how the war could be illegal.

In his new memoir “See How They Run,” Geoff Hoon said Blair’s chief of staff, Jonathon Powell, told his private secretary “in no uncertain terms” to destroy the document.

Blair rubbished the claim when it first emerged in 2015, but Hoon has now stood by the accusations in a detailed account.

In his book, Hoon outlines how the Ministry of Defense civil servant was shocked by Powell’s demand, and that they opted to ignore Downing Street’s “burn it” orders by locking the memo in a safe instead.

He describes his shock at being told to destroy secret advice on the legality of the conflict, which came from the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith. Days before fighting began, Goldsmith changed his mind and gave the British invasion a legal green light.

Hoon, who has since retired from frontline politics, goes on to claim that Blair signed a “deal in blood” with former US President George Bush to support the war a year before it kicked off.

The former minister also argues that he paid the price of his political downfall after standing up against the war, claiming that he was sacked and “hung out to dry” by Blair who was looking to escape blame for the deeply unpopular invasion and continuing conflict.

The fresh allegations come as a furore broke out over the British Queen Elizabeth II’s decision to knight Blair, who will now take the title Sir Tony. More than 680,000 people have signed a petition calling for Blair’s knighthood to be retracted.

The Chilcot report, the official review into the Iraq war, dealt with Hoon’s controversy and the issues surrounding Lord Goldsmith’s legal advice.

The report found “that the circumstances in which it was decided that there was a legal basis for UK military action were far from satisfactory.”

Human rights lawyer Philippe Sands revealed Goldsmith’s legal advice in his 2005 book “Lawless World.”

He told the Daily Mail: “When Lord Goldsmith wrote the legal advice warning that war in Iraq could be illegal, he can hardly have expected that those who received a copy would be told to ‘burn after reading.’

“Yet Mr Hoon says that this is what he was told, offering further confirmation of what has long been known — ministers, parliament, and the public were misled by Mr Blair into supporting a war that was seen by many as unlawful and a crime.

“In modern Britain, it seems, such a manifest act of wrongdoing does not preclude the offering of a high-level gong.”

Source: Arab News

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