The claims come as more than 600,000 people have already signed an online petition to have former British Prime Minister Tony Blair stripped of his recently awarded knighthood. Anti-war campaigners accuse Blair of war crimes for sending British troops into Iraq and Afghanistan during his tenure.
Former UK Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon has claimed that during Tony Blair’s time in office, Downing Street ordered him to burn a secret memo that said the 2003 invasion of Iraq could be illegal.
The claim, which first emerged in 2015 and was rejected by Blair as “nonsense” at the time, was made by Hoon in his recently published memoir “See How They Run”, according to the Daily Mail.
The book argues that the memo was delivered by Blair’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Powell in 2003 and that Hoon’s principal private secretary was told “in no uncertain terms” to destroy the secret legal advice, written by Attorney General Lord Goldsmith, after reading it.
Hoon, however, defied the instruction by deciding to lock it in a safe at the Ministry of Defence, the memoir asserts, claiming that the memo is “probably still there”.
The revelations come as an online petition to have Blair stripped of his recently awarded knighthood is rapidly gaining support, with more than 600,000 people signing it in just a few days.
Blair, who served as prime minister from 1997-2007, was appointed Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter in Queen Elizabeth II’s New Year Honours List, which recognised the achievements and service of notable people across the UK in 2022.
Blair’s political opponents and the public on social media, however, insisted that the unsavoury legacy of his invasion of Iraq in 2003 rendered him unsuitable for the honour.
Activist Lindsey German, behind the Stop the War Coalition, said Blair’s knighthood was a “kick in the teeth” to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, and for all those who protested the US-led war in Iraq.
Reacting to the petition, Labour leader Keir Starmer claimed that it was not a “thorny” issue and that he thinks Blair “deserves the honour”.
“He won three elections, he was a very successful prime minister. I haven’t got time to list this morning all his many achievements, which I think vastly improved our country”, Starmer argued.
The petition, in particular, asserts that the ex-prime minister “was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes”.
Blair took a decision on the UK’s participation in the 2003 US coalition-led invasion of Iraq, arguing that the Saddam Hussein government possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. The latter was subsequently proven false, as no stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD programme were ever found in the country.
The invasion destabilised the political and security situation in Iraq, also worsening the population’s living standards and paving the way for the emergence of Daesh*.
The US officially ended its combat mission in Iraq on 9 December, yet about 2,500 American soldiers still remain in the country, working as advisers and trainers.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/Islamic State) is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.