Tony Blair channels Ronald Reagan, "doesn't remember" sending dissidents to Libya for torture

When the Qaddafi regime fell in Libya, the headquarters of the secret police were occupied by the rebel forces, who retrieved a large quantity of memos and documents detailing the cooperation between western governments and the Qaddafi regime, including the sale and maintenance of network surveillance equipment, and, notoriously, the use of Qaddafi's torturers on suspected terrorists who were secretly rendered to Libya by western intelligence agencies.

One set of documents show that the UK intelligence service worked to kidnap and render Libyan dissident Abdel Hakim Belhaj and his pregnant wife, Fatima Bouchar, for a horrific round of torture that was directly overseen by UK intelligence agents, with the knowledge of the CIA.

Now Tony Blair, who was prime minister of Britain at the time of the illegal kidnapping and torture, denies having any recollection of the programme, and insists that Libya was a fine partner in the war on terror.

A UK parliamentary committee is attempting to investigate the matter, and filed a freedom of information request with the US government for documents on UK participation in illegal rendition programmes. The CIA objected to the request, and a US judge denied it on the grounds that it had been made by a "foreign government entity" (the UK's all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition). Deputy committee chair Tony Lloyd called the ruling "odd" and "an abuse of the spirit of freedom of information." He noted that the judge had not rejected the proposal on the grounds of national security, but because "a parliamentary body that was part of the British state was 'not acceptable.'" Richard Norton-Taylor has more in the Guardian.

The CIA's approach echoes that adopted by MI6 and MI5, which have fought to prevent the disclosure in British courts of evidence relating to the US practice of extraordinary rendition.

The parliamentary group, meanwhile, is fighting a refusal by the British government to disclose papers that, it says, would reveal UK complicity in the secret flights and subsequent abuse of individual suspects. The information tribunal in London is expected to give a ruling on the request soon.

Tony Blair has 'no recollection' of Libyan dissident's rendition

(Image: Tony Blair interviewed by Fortune, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from thenickster's photostream)


      1. I’ve been wondering what I would look like if I lost that slightly out-of-alignment bottom tooth.  Paying for orthodonture is looking more appealing at the moment.

        1. Wow. I never noticed his lower tooth. Now I will never un-notice it.

          That being said, I too have crooked lower tooth. I hope it stays in for a while.

  1. This is why I want electoral debates to include questions about the candidates memories, so we can get them on record about these weaknesses before they’re elected. I believe it used to be called “character.”

  2. Probably got addicted to Retcon while PM. Ianto Jones was selling it to him on the side for pizza money.

  3. Tony Blair … insists that Libya was a fine partner in the war on terror

    I can understand how he made some phenomenally bad judgements (backing Bush, supporting Gaddafi, …); everyone makes bad judgements.  I can understand why he chose to lie about WMDs; he probably didn’t realise quite how big a lie it was at the time.  But I can’t understand why he persists in attempting to weasel out of his mistakes.  Surely he’s not scared of prosecution, so what exactly is he trying to achieve?  

    1. Overcompensating for the fact he DID know how huge a lie a it was at the time; a country was invaded on false grounds and consequently thousands of people died.

      Nearly a million of us march to stop it, knowing it was on false grounds, yet the decision was predetermined and cynical.

      Short answer, he’s a politician.

        1. Maybe he ought to be considered a war criminal, but he’s never going to be prosecuted as one.  You’d have a hard time arguing that there was no justification at all for removing Saddam.  Blair’s major error was supporting an American-led invasion that had absolutely no post-invasion plan, other than a naive belief in the ability of formal democracy and free markets to make everything work.  Wishful thinking and hubris.  However, unfortunately, an inability to plan strategically is not a war crime.  

          N.B. the non-existence of WMDs is a distraction – even if they had existed, it wouldn’t have made the war any more successful or the post-war administration any less reprehensible.

    2. Not to be a Blairite apologist, but at the time saying Gaddafi was a partner in the war on terror made sense. Libya was giving up its attempts at WMDs and was having its own difficulties with the LIFG, which whom Belhaj was linked. According to wikipedia, when Belhaj left Libya he went to Afghanistan and helped train the Taliban.

      You can see why – with Libya moving closer to the US/UK, and Gaddafi wanting a guy who seemed to be in cahoots with Taliban – Tripoli looked like an ally.

      Obviously, though, rendition is disgusting and Blair’s evasion looks distinctly weaselly.

      1. Oh yes, Libya’s WMDs. Gaddafi was totally foregoing new Rolls Royces to bump up his poison gas supply. LOL.

      2. But that’s kind of the point – it was capable of being justified at the time, but in retrospect was the wrong call.  He’s no longer engaged in national politics, so he needn’t be frightened of subtleties – if anything, his political legacy probably depends on him showing that he can embrace the subtleties.  So why does he still speak like someone who’s trying to win votes? 

        1.  Given Blair’s newfound role – roving the Middle East, selling his services – it may be considered impolitic for him to accept his part in rendering Belhaj, who has well established links with the Qatar.

  4. I remember when Blair and Labour swept into power, and not knowing much about British politics, I congratulated a lefty Scottish friend of mine on the end of Thatcherism. He just shook his head and spat and muttered “That’s not MY Labour Party.”

    I took me awhile to understand what he meant and how right he was.

  5. Probably because he didn’t. You really think politicians decide anything or have any real power?

  6. Aww he doesn’t remember.  Luckily for everyone else the British Government likes to record all communications.  So if its good enough for the people, its good enough for the leaders.  Lets drag out the records shall we?

  7. I’m about done with Right Wing Memory Loss Syndrome. Claiming one is suffering from huge memory gaps should have very serious repercussions in in the personal life. Someone claiming major life incident memory loss should instantly lose every one of their security clearances.

  8. This picture of Tony Blair makes me feel better about my teeth…but my brain still hurts. 

    Maybe if I let my teeth get like Mr. Blair’s, the pain will end. (Picture is of someone who resembles me.)

  9. Tony Blair converted to Catholicism after his term was over. Sort of the way U.S. Republicans get re-born before the Hague catches up with them, but a little classier.
    Blair was right in the thick of it with Bush,  Cheney, Condoleeza Rice,  Rumsfeld, and the rest of them.  War criminals all. But, apparently untouchable.

    1. >Blair was right in the thick of it with Bush, Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Rumsfeld

      Dont forget Polish prime minister at the time Leszek Miller, he was the one managing CIAs concentration camp in Poland.

  10. Aren’t we still torturing people…or having our ‘client’ states do it for us, or letting us use their prisons? Instead of trying to shut down Guantanamo we should make it all go live and on line and serve as an example of just how we want our soldiers to be treated if they are unfortunate to be held captive by our enemies.

  11. Wait, what?  The FOIA request was denied only because it was filed by  a foreign parliament and not by a US citizen?   UK parliamentary committee: I am a US citizen.  Call me.  You help me with the paperwork, I’ll file the FOIA request in my own damn name.  I ask nothing in return.

    But if you wind up supporting the prosecution of the Bush torture posse for its war crimes in an international court, well, cool.  But even if you don’t/won’t, call me.  (Boingboing, Anonymous and AT&T: you have my permission to facilitate this call.)

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