Tony Blair was guilty of “criminal irresponsibility” for launching the Iraq war in 2003 based on the testimony of one discredited local politician who said that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, Ken Livingstone has said.
The former London mayor spoke out as he defended his claim last week that Blair was to blame for the 52 deaths in the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005 after ignoring warnings that the invasion of Iraq would provoke terrorists.
His claims prompted calls at a meeting of the parliamentary Labour party on Monday night for Livingstone to be sacked from his role as co-convenor of Labour’s defence role.
But Livingstone strongly defended his remarks on Question Time on BBC1 last week in which he said that Blair’s failure to heed warnings from the security services about the impact of the invasion of Iraq on terrorism had “killed 52 Londoners”.
He told the Today programme on BBC Radio 4: “I simply told the truth. Everybody knows who saw the website they [the 7/7 bombers] left; they’d actually gone to kill Londoners and give their own lives in order to do that because of our involvement in Iraq. This is the problem.
“Tony Blair was told by the security services when he took that decision this will put us at risk. We started preparing for that. We spent four years of tests and exercises because we knew that terror attack would come.
“If that had been the truth – that Saddam Hussein had had nuclear weapons, weapons of mass destruction. But to base that whole war on the testimony of one discredited local politician now in retrospect looks like absolutely criminal irresponsibility.”
Livingstone’s remarks may have referred to the late Ahmed Chalabi, a founder of the Iraqi National Congress, who passed on intelligence to the US in the run-up to the war claiming that Saddam Hussein possessed WMD.
In his appearance on Question Time, Livingstone said: “I remember when Tony Blair was told by the security services: ‘If you go into Iraq, we will be a target for terrorism.’ And he ignored that advice and it killed 52 Londoners.”
This article was written by Nicholas Watt Chief political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Tuesday 1st December 2015 08.36 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010