TONY Blair and all those responsible for the “lies and failures” over the Iraq war will be held to account, Alex Salmond pledges today, as the long-awaited £10 million Chilcot report is finally published.
The former First Minister, who at the weekend insisted there would be “a reckoning” for the former Prime Minister and who raised the possibility of a war crimes prosecution in the Scottish courts, said he expected the 2.6m-word report from the Iraq inquiry to be “damning” for Mr Blair.
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“Thirteen years since the war began and seven since Sir John Chilcot launched his inquiry, the families of the 179 service personnel who died will finally get some of the evidence and findings as to why we were taken into this war on false pretences and why the UK government so badly failed to plan for the war or its aftermath,” said Mr Salmond.
“Having waited so many years for answers it would be a disgrace if this report were to be another Establishment whitewash in the long litany of British cover-ups from Suez onwards,” he argued.
The MP for Gordon cautioned that the Chilcot report – said to include 29 letters the former PM sent to US President George W Bush - would not provide a verdict but would produce evidence from which those responsible for the 2003 invasion and its catastrophic aftermath could be held to account.
“I want to reassure the families of those who died and everyone living with the consequences of this conflict, that there is renewed cross-party determination to ensure Mr Blair and all those responsible for the lies and failures are held to account,” declared Mr Salmond, who, in 2004, failed to impeach the former Labour leader for his role in the decision to invade.
While Fatou Bensouda, prosecutor at the International Criminal Court, has made clear charges cannot be brought regards the use of military action as the court has no jurisdiction over the "crime of aggression", the families have made clear they are prepared to launch a civil action against Mr Blair.
General Sir Michael Rose, who commanded British troops in Bosnia in the 1990s and has been advising the families of the fallen, said: “They want to see justice and if it proves as a result of reading the report that there was dereliction of duty, malfeasance in public office, intelligence was negligently handled, then they will take action."
The atmosphere at Westminster is expected to be tense as the report is published at 11am when Sir John will issue a statement. Anti-war protestors are planning a demonstration outside the QE II Centre, where the inquiry took place.
Kate Husdon, general secretary of CND, said: "The anti-war movement will gather in Westminster to demand truth and justice. It comes down to a principle; where individuals, no matter how lofty, are found to be responsible for crimes, they should face the full force of the law. No one is exempt from justice."
David Cameron, who received the 12 volumes of the Chilcot report 24 hours in advance, will take Prime Minister’s Questions at 12 noon and then deliver a statement to MPs. Heated exchanges are expected.
Thus far, Mr Blair has refused to comment on the report but insisted at the weekend he would “express myself fully and properly” once it was published.