Torygraph: Ministers mislead Parliament on Iraq

...yet again!

Hopefully the Prince of Lies will be kebabbed yet agaiin at PMQs this noon! :twisted:

Ministers accused of misleading Parliament on Iraq
By Michael Smith, Defence Correspondent and George Jones, Political Editor
(Filed: 20/10/2004)

Ministers were accused last night of misleading Parliament over the redeployment of British troops in Iraq to an American-controlled area. A decision to move the soldiers was made more than a week ago, defence sources said.

"It was decided and virtually under way," one said, describing the Government's claim that no decision had been made as "nonsense". He added: "I think there is an issue over the extent to which they have misled Parliament."

A British military convoy heads north from Basra yesterday
The accusations will increase pressure on Tony Blair, who was struggling last night to contain the most serious backbench revolt he has faced on Iraq with many Labour MPs who supported the war opposed to the redeployment of 600 soldiers of the Black Watch.

A group of 45 Labour MPs demanded a Commons vote before any decision was made.

Amid signs that he was considering backing down, the Prime Minister insisted there was no political aspect and that no decision had been taken prior to a reconnaissance yesterday by British officers of the area where they would be based.

"There has been a military request by the American military to the British military, not a political request from the US president to me," he said.

"No decision will be taken to redeploy British troops unless it is clear militarily that should and can happen."

But one reliable defence source said the Black Watch was told at the beginning of last week: "Here is your warning order, you are about to move."

Iraqi children play games behind a British soldier in Basra
The Government had hoped to make the move without any announcement, sources said. But the news leaked after it reached families in Scotland and at the regiment's base in Warminster, Wilts.

The manner in which the issue has been handled will add to the growing anger in Whitehall over how Mr Blair is prepared to make a decision and then expects civil servants, intelligence officers or military officers to produce the evidence to support it.

"We've seen this happen with MI6 over the intelligence on WMD and now it's happening with the military," one Whitehall source said.

The reconnaissance team at Iskandiriya, a US Marines base south of Baghdad, was not there to decide whether or not the Black Watch should deploy, defence sources added. It was there to work out how to make the best of a difficult situation.

It was the way in which the British troops should operate and under what conditions that would form the basis of the advice on the move from Gen Sir Michael Walker, Chief of Defence Staff.

Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, told Parliament on Monday that the formal US request for British troops was made on Oct 10. But Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday that he had first heard about the redeployment two weeks ago.

"You don't wait two weeks before sending a reconnaissance team out, give them a few hours to come up with a report, and then expect the Chief of Defence Staff to come up with his recommendations for ministers the next day," one source said.

"Things simply don't happen that way. Not in the British Army at any rate. The idea that no decision had been made when Mr Hoon addressed MPs yesterday is nonsense."

Air Marshal Sir John Walker, a former deputy chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee, said yesterday there was unhappiness within Whitehall and even No 10 over how Mr Blair was ready to ride roughshod over his advisers on Iraq.

"It's known as the 'Tony Wants' syndrome," Sir John said. "Tony wants to send these troops and the Army has to come up with a way to do it. People are saying the Black Watch are only the reserves but in the military business reserves are fundamental."

The Black Watch was sent to Iraq in June to give British troops an armoured rapid response force.

Gen Walker is known to have expressed concern that to remove the unit to make "a political point" about support for the US was extremely risky.

There were signs last night that the furore might be forcing a rethink.

Officials suggested the schedule announced by Mr Hoon, under which a decision would be made as early as today, might be stretched - possibly to after the US presidential election on Nov 2.

This would avoid claims that Mr Blair was "doing a favour" for President George W Bush, while a refusal to redeploy would likely be seized on by John Kerry, the Democratic challenger.

quiller said:
some pinko site:

but they reckon that the black watch are already on the move. anybody any idea? are those scottish flags in the red trucks? are they old photos? or is TCH a liar?

although some of those comments underneath absolutely make my blood boil. what bastards. time to add some of our own comments i think.
quiller said:
but they reckon that the black watch are already on the move. anybody any idea? are those scottish flags in the red trucks? are they old photos? or is TCH a liar.
They're either stock shots or the B-echelon boys are establishing dumps up-route. The BW CO only arrived in Iskandariya yesterday to do his risk assessment, so it's doubtful the whole battlegroup is on the move. This weekend, unless political arrse-covering intervenes. 8)

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