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New call to impeach Blair over Iraq

Matthew Tempest and agencies

Monday January 9, 2006

Tony Blair should be impeached over the Iraq war, according to one of Britain's most senior former soldiers. General Sir Michael Rose, who commanded UN forces in Bosnia, accused the prime minister of taking the country to war on what turned out to be "false grounds", saying it is something "no one should be allowed to walk away from".

Despite publicly insisting that his aim was to rid Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, Mr Blair "probably had some other strategy in mind", said Gen Rose.

He makes the call for Mr Blair's impeachment in a documentary by the former BBC correspondent and former independent MP Martin Bell.

Gen Rose told Bell he would have resigned his commission rather than take troops to war on the flimsy basis offered by Mr Blair.

And he said: "The politicians should be held to account, and my own view is that Blair should be impeached.

"That would prevent politicians treating quite so carelessly the subject of taking a country into war."

He added to that criticism on the Today programme, saying: "Certainly from a soldier's perspective there can't be any more serious decision taken by a prime minister than declaring war.

"And then to go to war on what turns out to be false grounds is something that no one should be allowed to walk away from."

The general described Mr Blair's actions in the run-up to war as "somewhere in between" getting the politics wrong and actually acting illegally.

"The politics was wrong, that he rarely declared what his ultimate aims were, as far as we can see, in terms of harping continually on weapons of mass destruction when actually he probably had some other strategy in mind," he said.

"And secondly, the consequences of that war have been quite disastrous both for the people of Iraq and also for the west in terms of our wider interests in the war against global terror."

Gen Rose is one of a number of retired soldiers taking part in a documentary by the former war correspondent Bell, entitled Iraq: The Failure Of War.

In his documentary, Bell denounces the war as an "ill-considered adventure" and suggests it may prove more damaging to those who launched it even than America's involvement in Vietnam.

Bell wrote yesterday: "In March it will be three years since the invasion, yet Iraq remains in the unshakeable grip of sectarian violence and may be on the brink of civil war.

"In just two bloody days last week, more than 170 people were butchered by insurgents.

"We have entered a tunnel with no light at the end of it. The mission has not been accomplished.

"Instead we face the prospect of war without end. Even Vietnam offered a less disastrous outcome."

There has already been an attempt by MPs, led by Plaid Cymru's Adam Price, to impeach Mr Blair for "high crimes and misdemeanours" in taking Britain to war against Iraq. The campaign had backing from Tory MPs such as Boris Johnson, as well as Lib Dem, Plaid and SNP members.

Gen Rose accepted parliament had endorsed the decision to commit British troops to military action, but he said that was because the PM had stressed the argument that dictator Saddam Hussein must be stripped of the power to deploy weapons of mass destruction.

The weapons of mass destruction (WMD) argument used to persuade MPs that war was justified had turned out to be wholly wrong, he told Today.

The intelligence relied upon by Mr Blair should have been tested properly by giving UN weapons inspectors more time to see if Saddam did have WMD.

Gen Rose said he would not have been prepared to lead the army into a war that he believed was wrong and on such weak grounds.

"You cannot put people in harm's way if you don't believe the cause is right or sufficient," he said. Senior soldiers should point out strategic failures, he went on.

He said most people thought the continuing presence of troops in Iraq was achieving little, but he said it would be wrong to just walk away.

Responding to Gen Rose's accusation at this morning's lobby briefing, Mr Blair's official spokesman said: "General Rose is entitled to his view. Equally, the government is entitled to point out that we have had free democratic elections in Iraq for the first time in well over a generation.

"In the last of these elections, 69% of the population of Iraq expressed their view.

"In terms of the reasons why we went to war, that has been investigated by four inquiries, including two select committees of the Houses of Parliament.

"The matter has been gone well over and in terms of the outcome - which is what matters - of course there have been difficulties, but we have in process the creation of a democratically elected government in Iraq and that speaks for itself." Iraq: The Failure of War can be seen on Channel 4 at 7.30pm on Friday.