Sunday, October 11, 2009

"You've Blood on Your Hands, Blair Told at Iraq Memorial"

FORMER prime minister Tony Blair was publicly snubbed by a bereaved father yesterday who accused him of having "blood on his hands" for sending troops to fight in Iraq.

Mr Blair, who has repeatedly defended his decision to lead Britain into the conflict, was rebuked by Peter Brierley, whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, 28, was killed in 2003.

The clash came at a reception for guests who had attended a commemoration service marking the end of Operation Telic – the Iraq campaign – and honouring the 179 British personnel who died during the six-year conflict.

Mr Brierley refused to shake Mr Blair's outstretched hand at the event staged at the Guildhall in London and told the politician: "I'm not shaking your hand, you've got blood on it."

The former prime minister was ushered away and afterwards Mr Brierley, from Batley, West Yorkshire, said: "I understand soldiers go to war and die but they have to go to war for a good reason and be properly equipped to fight. I believe Tony Blair is a war criminal. I can't bear to be in the same room as him. I can't believe he's been allowed to come to this reception.

"I believe he's got the blood of my son and all of the other men and women who died out there on his hands."

His son was a 28-year-old radio systems operator with 212 Signal Squadron when he was killed in a road traffic accident in March 2003 in Kuwait while serving in Operation Telic.

Mr Blair had joined the Queen, Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Iraq veterans and bereaved families at the St Paul's Cathedral service.

During his address, the Archbishop of Canterbury criticised "policy makers" for failing to consider the cost of the Iraq war.

Dr Rowan Williams, who has previously described the decisions that led to the conflict as "flawed", praised the "patient and consistent" efforts of troops on the ground.

The senior cleric said: "Many people of my generation and younger grew up doubting whether we should ever see another straightforward international conflict, fought by a standing army with conventional weapons.

"We had begun to forget the realities of cost. And when such conflict appeared on the horizon, there were those among both policy makers and commentators who were able to talk about it without really measuring the price, the cost of justice."

The Archbishop alluded to the controversial nature of the conflict, which brought hundreds of thousands of people on to the streets in protest in the run up to the war.

He said: "In a world as complicated as ours has become, it would be a very rash person who would feel able to say without hesitation, this was absolutely the right or the wrong thing to do, the right or the wrong place to be."

But Dr Williams went on to praise the efforts of the forces on the ground, who he said were really the ones with the task of upholding Britain's "moral credibility".

The service was a solemn event where prayers were said for the fallen and a marble plaque from the Basra Memorial Wall – dedicated to the 179 British personnel who died – was blessed by the Archbishop as the monument is to be moved to the UK's National Memorial Arboretum.

Among the congregation were senior royals including the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Prince William, the Earl and Countess of Wessex and the Princess Royal.

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