John Wesley Dean III (born October 14, 1938) served as White House Counsel to United States President Richard Nixon from July 1970 until April 1973. In this position, he became deeply involved in events leading up to the Watergate burglaries and the subsequent Watergate scandal cover-up. He was referred to as "master manipulator of the cover up" by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). He pleaded guilty to a single felony count in exchange for becoming a key witness for the prosecution. This ultimately resulted in a reduced prison sentence, which was served at Fort Holabird outside Baltimore, Maryland.
Dean is currently an author, columnist, and commentator on contemporary politics, strongly critical of conservatism and the Republican Party, and a registered Independent who supported the impeachment of President George W. Bush.
This is the 10th anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq. John Dean writes in the Preface of Conservatives Without Conscience (2006) on how we got into this quagmire, not by accident, but by neoconservative plot.
Dean posits that Contemporary Conservatives have become extremely contentious, confrontational, and aggressive in nearly every area of politics and governing. Today they have a tough-guy (and, in a few instances, a tough-gal) attitude, an arrogant and antagonistic style, along with a narrow outlook intolerant of those who challenge their extreme thinking. Incivility is now their norm.
Dean writes, “During the Father Bush period there was a presumption of civility,” Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute observes, but “we lost it under Clinton,” when Conservatives relentlessly attacked his presidency, and “then the present President Bush deliberately chose a strategy of being a divider, rather than a uniter.”
AUTHORITARIAN POLICES OF NEOCONSERVATISM
Dean writes that the Christian Science Monitor describes neoconservatives as mostly liberal Jewish intellectuals who became disenchanted with the left in the 1960s and 1970s. By the 1980s they had become Republicans, having found a home for their aggressive policies in the Reagan administration.
According to the Monitor, what distinguishes neoconservatives from other Conservatives is their desire for militarily imposed nation building. They believe the United States should “use its unrivaled –forcefully if necessary—to promote its values around the world.”
Neoconservatives do not trust multilateral institutions to keep world peace; rather they believe the United States must do it. An American empire is a perfectly plausible scenario for neoconservatives; containment is a policy they believe is outmoded.
Neoconservatives view Israel as “a key outpost of democracy in a region ruled by despots.” They want to transform the Middle East with democracy, starting with Iraq. Today the foreign policies of neoconservatives and of the Bush administration are fundamentally synonymous.
Plotting the Invasion of Iraq
“He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue.
I. Scooter Libby
“He will be succeeded by a contemptible person who has not been given the honor of royalty. He will invade the kingdom when its people feel secure, and he will seize it through intrigue.
I “Scooter” Libby, Vice president Dick former chief of staff and national security adviser—and he was also an assistant to the president—is an uberneoconservative, a personification of the true believer who has been involved with neoconservatism since its arrival in Washington during the Reagan administration.
Libby is an exemplary authoritarian. Until he was indicted by special counsel Patrick Fitzgerald for perjury, false statements, and obstruction of justice relating to the investigation of the leak of CIA operative Valerie Plame’s covert status, Libby was relatively unknown, a “behind the throne” man with unique influence within the Bush/Cheney White House.
Libby worked with Cheney when he was Secretary of Defense under Bush I, and while at the Defense Department he assisted his former Yale professor Paul Wolfowitz in drafting a defense policy guidance paper calling for unilaterally preemptive wars and the invasion of Iraq—a decade before 9/11 terror attacks. (When this highly controversial document was leaked to the press, Bush I had the policy withdrawn, assuring the world that this was not the way Americans were thinking).
Later Libby would help draft a report for the neoconservative Project for the New American Century entitled “Rebuilding American’s Defenses—Strategy, forces, and Resources for a New Century,” which was merely a restatement of the early policy paper, under Bush II it became the blueprint for the administration’s defense policy.
But reports from the east and the north will alarm him, and he will set out in a great rage to destroy and annihilate many. 45 He will pitch his royal tents between the seas at[a] the beautiful holy mountain. Yet he will come to his end, and no one will help him.
Prime Minister Tony Blair was the British neoconservative voice for George Bush in convincing the Western world to invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam Hussein. Without his acculturated English voice of sanity as spokesman for war, no one would have taken Bush’s invasions plans seriously. Bush, a Christian fundamentalist, believing he was inspired by God, and urged on by PNAC, decided to leave Afghanistan to the Warlords to pillage and plunder and invaded Iraq in 2003.
John Dean writes that while neoconservatives are not religious fundamentalists, Jimmy Carter said he believes that they hold related views. He had observed firsthand how neoconservatives evolved from criticizing his foreign policy—when he attempted to “impose liberalization and democratization” on other countries—to embracing his goals but to achieving them by employing very different means. Carter sought to spread democracy through diplomacy, while the neoconservatives “now seem to embrace aggressive and unilateral intervention in foreign affairs, especially to advance U.S. military and political influence in the Middle East.”
BBC WORLD SERVICE
19 March 2013 Last updated at 10:56 ET
A chronology of key events:
1534 - 1918 - Region is part of the Ottoman Empire.
1534-1918 - Ottoman rule.
1917 - Britain seizes control, creates state of Iraq.
1932 - Independence, followed by coups.
1979 - Saddam Hussein becomes president.
1980-1988 - Iran-Iraq war.
1990 - Iraq invades Kuwait, putting it on a collision course with the international community.
1991 - Iraq subjected to sanctions, weapons inspections and no-fly zones.
2003 - US-led coalition invades, starting years of guerrilla warfare and instability.
1914 - 1918 - World War I.
1917 - Britain seizes Baghdad.
1920 - Britain creates state of Iraq with League of Nations approval.
1920 - Great Iraqi Revolution - rebellion against British rule.
1921 - Faysal, son of Hussein Bin Ali, the Sharif of Mecca, is crowned Iraq's first king.
1932 - Iraq becomes an independent state.
1939-1945 - World War II. Britain re-occupies Iraq.
1958 - The monarchy is overthrown in a military coup led by Brig Abd-al-Karim Qasim and Col Abd-al-Salam Muhammad Arif. Iraq is declared a republic.
1963 - Prime Minister Qasim is ousted in a coup led by the Arab Socialist Baath Party (ASBP). Arif becomes president.
1963 - The Baathist government is overthrown by Arif and a group of officers.
1966 - After Arif is killed in a helicopter crash on 13 April, his elder brother, Maj-Gen Abd-al-Rahman Muhammad Arif, succeeds him as president.
1968 - A Baathist led-coup ousts Arif. Revolution Command Council (RCC) takes charge with Gen Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr as chairman and country's president.
Petroleum firm nationalised
1972 - Iraq nationalises the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC).
Almost one million people died in the conflict; exchanges of war dead continued for years
1974 - Iraq grants limited autonomy to Kurdish region.
1979 - Saddam Hussein succeeds Al-Bakr as president.
1980 - The pro-Iranian Dawah Party claims responsibility for an attack on Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, at Mustansiriyah University, Baghdad.
1980-1988 - Iran-Iraq war.
1981 June - Israel attacks an Iraqi nuclear research centre at Tuwaythah near Baghdad.
Chemical attack on Kurds
1988 March - Iraq attacks Kurdish town of Halabjah with poison gas, killing thousands.
1990 March - Farzad Bazoft, an Iranian-born journalist with London's Observer newspaper, accused of spying on a military installation, is hanged in Baghdad.
Iraq invades Kuwait
1990 - Iraq invades Kuwait, prompting what becomes known as the first Gulf War. A massive US-led military campaign forces Iraq to withdraw in February 1991.
1991 April - Iraq subjected to weapons inspection programme.
1991 Mid-March/early April - Southern Shia and northern Kurdish populations - encouraged by Iraq's defeat in Kuwait - rebel, prompting a brutal crackdown.
1991 April - UN-approved safe-haven established in northern Iraq to protect the Kurds. Iraq ordered to end all military activity in the area.
1992 August - A no-fly zone, which Iraqi planes are not allowed to enter, is set up in southern Iraq, south of latitude 32 degrees north.
1993 June - US forces launch a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in retaliation for the attempted assassination of US President George Bush in Kuwait in April.
1995 April - UNSC Resolution 986 allows the partial resumption of Iraq's oil exports to buy food and medicine (the "oil-for-food programme").
1995 October - Saddam Hussein wins a referendum allowing him to remain president for another seven years.
1996 August - After call for aid from KDP, Iraqi forces launch offensive into northern no-fly zone and capture Irbil.
1996 September - US extends northern limit of southern no-fly zone to latitude 33 degrees north, just south of Baghdad.
1998 October - Iraq ends cooperation with UN Special Commission to Oversee the Destruction of Iraq's Weapons of Mass Destruction (Unscom).
Operation Desert Fox
1998 December - After UN staff are evacuated from Baghdad, the US and UK launch a bombing campaign, "Operation Desert Fox", to destroy Iraq's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programmes.
1999 February - Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, spiritual leader of the Shia community, is assassinated in Najaf.
1999 December - UNSC Resolution 1284 creates the UN Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (Unmovic) to replace Unscom. Iraq rejects the resolution.
2001 February - Britain, US carry out bombing raids to try to disable Iraq's air defence network. The bombings have little international support.
Weapons inspectors return
2002 September - US President George W Bush tells sceptical world leaders at a UN General to confront the "grave and gathering danger" of Iraq - or stand aside as the US acts. In the same month British Prime Minister Tony Blair publishes a ''dodgy'' dossier on Iraq's military capability.
2002 November - UN weapons inspectors return to Iraq backed by a UN resolution which threatens serious consequences if Iraq is in "material breach" of its terms.
2003 March - Chief weapons inspector Hans Blix reports that Iraq has accelerated its cooperation but says inspectors need more time to verify Iraq's compliance.
2003 March - UK's ambassador to the UN says the diplomatic process on Iraq has ended; arms inspectors evacuate; US President George W Bush gives Saddam Hussein and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face war.
2003 March - US-led invasion topples Saddam Hussein's government, marks start of years of violent conflict with different groups competing for power.
2003 July - US-appointed Governing Council meets for first time. Commander of US forces says his troops face low-intensity guerrilla-style war.
Saddam's sons Uday and Qusay killed in gun battle in Mosul.
2003 August - Suicide truck bomb wrecks UN headquarters in Baghdad, killing UN envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello.
Car bomb in Najaf kills 125 including Shia leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.
2003 14 December - Saddam Hussein captured in Tikrit.
2004 March - Suicide bombers attack Shia festival-goers in Karbala and Baghdad, killing 140 people.
2004 April-May - Shia militias loyal to radical cleric Moqtada Sadr take on coalition forces.
Hundreds are reported killed in fighting during the month-long US military siege of the Sunni Muslim city of Falluja.
Photographic evidence emerges of abuse of Iraqi prisoners by US troops.
Sovereignty and elections
2004 June - US hands sovereignty to interim government headed by Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.
2004 August - Fighting in Najaf between US forces and Shia militia of radical cleric Moqtada Sadr.
2004 November - Major US-led offensive against insurgents in Falluja.
Jordanian-born Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made Al-Qaeda in Iraq the most feared insurgent group
2005 30 January - Some 8 million vote in elections for a Transitional National Assembly. 2005 28 February - At least 114 people are killed by a car bomb in Hilla, south of Baghdad, in the worst single such incident since the US-led invasion.
2005 April - Amid escalating violence, parliament selects Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani as president. Ibrahim Jaafari, a Shia, is named as prime minister.
2005 May onwards - Surge in car bombings, bomb explosions and shootings: Iraqi ministries put the civilian death toll for May at 672, up from 364 in April.
2005 June - Massoud Barzani is sworn in as regional president of Iraqi Kurdistan.
2005 August - Draft constitution is endorsed by Shia and Kurdish negotiators, but not by Sunni representatives.
2005 October - Voters approve a new constitution, which aims to create an Islamic federal democracy.
2005 December - Iraqis vote for the first, full-term government and parliament since the US-led invasion.
2006 February onwards - A bomb attack on an important Shia shrine in Samarra unleashes a wave of sectarian violence in which hundreds of people are killed.
2006 22 April - Newly re-elected President Talabani asks Shia compromise candidate Nouri al-Maliki to form a new government, ending months of deadlock.
2006 May and June - An average of more than 100 civilians per day are killed in violence in Iraq, the UN says.
2006 7 June - Al-Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is killed in an air strike.
2006 November - Iraq and Syria restore diplomatic relations after nearly a quarter century.
More than 200 die in car bombings in the mostly Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad, in the worst attack on the capital since the US-led invasion of 2003.
2006 December - Iraq Study Group report making recommendations to President Bush on future policy in Iraq describes the situation as grave and deteriorating.
2006 December - Saddam Hussein is executed for crimes against humanity.
2007 January - US President Bush announces a new Iraq strategy; thousands more US troops will be dispatched to shore up security in Baghdad.
UN says more than 34,000 civilians were killed in violence during 2006; the figure surpasses official Iraqi estimates threefold.
2007 February - A bomb in Baghdad's Sadriya market kills more than 130 people. It is the worst single bombing since 2003.
2007 March - Insurgents detonate three trucks with toxic chlorine gas in Falluja and Ramadi, injuring hundreds.
2007 April - Bombings in Baghdad kill nearly 200 people in the worst day of violence since a US-led security drive began in the capital in February.
2007 August - Truck and car bombs hit two villages of Yazidi Kurds, killing at least 250 people - the deadliest attack since 2003.
Kurdish and Shia leaders form an alliance to support Prime Minister Maliki's government but fail to bring in Sunni leaders.
Blackwater shootings, Turkish raids
2007 September - Controversy over private security contractors after Blackwater security guards allegedly fire at civilians in Baghdad, killing 17.
2007 October - The number of violent civilian and military deaths continues to drop, as does the frequency of rocket attacks.
2007 December - Britain hands over security of Basra province to Iraqi forces, effectively marking the end of nearly five years of British control of southern Iraq.
2008 January - Parliament passes legislation allowing former officials from Saddam Hussein's Baath party to return to public life.
2008 March - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad visits.
Prime Minister Maliki orders crackdown on militia in Basra, sparking pitched battles with Moqtada Sadr's Mehdi Army. Hundreds are killed.
2008 September - US forces hand over control of the western province of Anbar - once an insurgent and Al-Qaeda stronghold - to the Iraqi government. It is the first Sunni province to be returned to to the Shia-led government.
Iraqi parliament passes provincial elections law. Issue of contested city of Kirkuk is set aside so elections can go ahead elsewhere.
Security pact approved
2008 November - Parliament approves a security pact with the United States under which all US troops are due to leave the country by the end of 2011.
Radical Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has gained influence since the end of the US invasion
2009 January - Iraq takes control of security in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone and assumes more powers over foreign troops based in the country. PM Nouri al-Maliki welcomes the move as Iraq's "day of sovereignty".
2009 March - US President Barack Obama announces withdrawal of most US troops by end of August 2010. Up to 50,000 of 142,000 troops now there will stay on into 2011 to advise Iraqi forces and protect US interests, leaving by end of 2011.
2009 June - US troops withdraw from towns and cities in Iraq, six years after the invasion, having formally handed over security duties to new Iraqi forces.
New political groupings
2009 July - New opposition forces make strong gains in elections to the regional parliament of Kurdistan, but the governing KDP and PUK alliance retains a reduced majority. Masoud Barzani (KDP) is re-elected in the presidential election.
2009 October - Two car bombs near the Green Zone in Baghdad kill at least 155 people, in Iraq's deadliest attack since April 2007.
2009 December - The al-Qaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq claims responsibility for suicide bombings in Baghdad that kill at least 127 people, as well as attacks in August and October that killed 240 people.
Tension flares with Tehran as Iranian troops briefly occupy an oilfield in Iraqi territory.
2010 January - Controversy as candidates with alleged links to Baath Party are banned from March parliamentary polls. A court later lifts the ban, prompting a delay in campaigning.
"Chemical" Ali Hassan al-Majid, a key figure in Saddam Hussein's government, is executed.
2010 March - Parliamentary elections. Nine months pass before a new government is approved.
A complex political landscape has come into being since the fall of Saddam Hussein
2010 August - Seven years after the US-led invasion, the last US combat brigade leaves Iraq.
2010 September - Syria and Iraq restore diplomatic ties a year after breaking them off.
2010 October - Church in Baghdad seized by militants. 52 people killed in what is described as worst single disaster to hit Iraq's Christians in modern times.
2010 November/December - Parliament reconvenes after long delay, re-appoints Jalal Talabani as president and Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister. A new government includes all major factions.
2011 January - Radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr returns after four years of self-imposed exile in Iran.
2011 February - Oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan resume, amid a lengthy dispute between the region and the central government over contracts with foreign firms.
2011 April - Army raids camp of Iranian exiles, killing 34. Government says it will shut Camp Ashraf, home to thousands of members of the People's Mujahedeen of Iran.
2011 August - Violence escalates, with more than 40 apparently co-ordinated nationwide attacks in one day.
US pull out
2011 December - US completes troop pull-out.
Unity government faces disarray. Arrest warrant issued for vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi, a leading Sunni politician. Sunni bloc boycotts parliament and cabinet.
2012 - Bomb and gun attacks target Shia areas throughout the year, sparking fears of a new sectarian conflict. Nearly 200 people are killed in January, more than 160 in June, 113 in a single day in July, more than 70 people in August, about 62 in attacks nationwide in September, and at least 35 before and during the Shia mourning month of Muharram in November.
Nearly 200 people are killed in bombings targeting Shia Muslims in the immediate wake of the US withdrawal.
2012 March - Tight security for Arab League summit in Baghdad. It is the first major summit to be held in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein. A wave of pre-summit attacks kills scores of people.
2012 April - Oil exports from Iraqi Kurdistan halted amid row with central government over contracts with foreign firms.
2012 May - Trial begins of fugitive vice president Tariq al-Hashemi, who is accused of running death squads to target Shia officials.
2012 September - Fugitive former vice-president Tariq al-Hashemi rejects death sentence passed in absentia as on him for running hit squads as "politically motivated".
2012 November - Iraq cancels a $4.2bn deal to buy arms from Russia because of concerns about alleged corruption within the Iraqi government. The purchase, signed in October, would have made Russia the country's second-largest arms supplier after the US. Moscow was the main arms supplier of to Saddam Hussein.
2012 December - President Talabani's health takes a sharp turn for the worse. His website says he is in a stable condition and being treated for blocked arteries. Government sources say he had a stroke and was in a coma.
2013 February - About 35 people are killed in two attacks. At least 19 died in a suicide bombing of an anti-al-Qaeda militia in Taji, north of Baghdad, and at least 16 people died in a raid on a police station in Kirkuk, northern Iraq.
2013 March - A series of coordinated car bomb and suicide attacks hit government buildings in Baghdad, killing at least 24.
Wave of attacks and explosions mainly in Shia neighbourhoods in and around Baghdad kill 50 people on eve of the 10th anniversary of the US-led invasion. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-14546763
BBC WORLD SERVICE
Tony Blair and George W Bush should be taken to the International Criminal Court in The Hague over the Iraq war, Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said.
Writing in the UK's Observer newspaper, he accused the former leaders of lying about weapons of mass destruction.
The Iraq military campaign had made the world more unstable "than any other conflict in history", he said.
Mr Blair responded by saying "this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say".'Playground bullies'
Earlier this week, Archbishop Tutu, a veteran peace campaigner who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his campaign against apartheid, pulled out of a leadership summit in Johannesburg because he refused to share a platform with Mr Blair.
The former Archbishop of Cape Town said the US- and UK-led action launched against Saddam's regime in 2003 had brought about conditions for the civil war in Syria and a possible Middle East conflict involving Iran.
"The then leaders of the United States [Mr Bush] and Great Britain [Mr Blair] fabricated the grounds to behave like playground bullies and drive us further apart. They have driven us to the edge of a precipice where we now stand - with the spectre of Syria and Iran before us," he said.
He added: "The question is not whether Saddam Hussein was good or bad or how many of his people he massacred. The point is that Mr Bush and Mr Blair should not have allowed themselves to stoop to his immoral level."
To say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre”
Archbishop Tutu said the death toll as a result of military action in Iraq since 2003 was grounds for Mr Blair and Mr Bush to be tried in The Hague.
But he said different standards appeared to be applied to Western leaders.
He said: "On these grounds, alone, in a consistent world, those responsible should be treading the same path as some of their African and Asian peers who have been made to answer for their actions in The Hague."
In response to Sunday's article, Mr Blair issued a strongly worded defence of his decisions.
He said: "To repeat the old canard that we lied about the intelligence [on weapons of mass destruction] is completely wrong as every single independent analysis of the evidence has shown.'Chemical weapons'
"And to say that the fact that Saddam massacred hundreds of thousands of his citizens is irrelevant to the morality of removing him is bizarre.
"We have just had the memorials both of the Halabja massacre, where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam's use of chemical weapons, and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million, including many killed by chemical weapons.
"In addition, his slaughter of his political opponents, the treatment of the Marsh Arabs and the systematic torture of his people make the case for removing him morally strong. But the basis of action was as stated at the time."
He added: "In short this is the same argument we have had many times with nothing new to say. But surely in a healthy democracy people can agree to disagree.
"I would also point out that despite the problems, Iraq today has an economy three times or more in size, with child mortality rate cut by a third of what it was. And with investment hugely increased in places like Basra.
Sir Geoffrey Bindman Human Rights LawyerHuman rights lawyer Sir Geoffrey Bindman told BBC Radio 4 the Iraq war was an illegal aggressive war.
It's now almost certain that the war was illegal because it breached the United Nations Charter provisions.”
He said a war crimes trial "should be and could be held on the basis a crime of aggression has been committed and the crime of aggression was starting the war.
"It's now almost certain that the war was illegal because it breached the UN Charter provisions which say that all member of the United Nations must refrain from the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state."
Former Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said he disagreed with Desmond Tutu and Sir Geoffrey.
"The use of force is allowed among other reasons when the United Nations authorises it, and the United Nations authorised it by resolution 1441.
"The dispute between Geoffrey and myself would be whether or not resolution 1441 did or did not authorise war and we say that it did.
"Even that disagreement doesn't give rise to the possibility of war crimes, the world has very impressively over the last two decades come together and identified what they mean by war crimes; genocide, ethnic cleansing, torture and in a variety of ways brought people to trial for that"
BBC World Service
Archbishop Desmond Tutu has pulled out of an event because he refuses to share a platform with Tony Blair.
The veteran peace campaigner said Mr Blair's support for the Iraq war was "morally indefensible" and it would be "inappropriate" for him to appear alongside him.
The pair were due to take part in a one-day leadership summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on Thursday.
Mr Blair's office said he was "sorry" the archbishop had decided to pull out.
Dr Tutu, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 in recognition of his campaign against apartheid, and Mr Blair were due to appear at the Discovery Invest Leadership Summit.
Other speakers include chess grandmaster and opposition Russian politician Garry Kasparov and former Tesco chief executive Sir Terry Leahy.'Untenable'
In a statement, Dr Tutu's Office said: "Ultimately, the archbishop is of the view that Mr Blair's decision to support the United States' military invasion of Iraq, on the basis of unproven allegations of the existence in Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, was morally indefensible.
"The Discovery Invest Leadership Summit has leadership as its theme. Morality and leadership are indivisible.
"In this context, it would be inappropriate and untenable for the archbishop to share a platform with Mr Blair."
Tony Blair's office responded by saying he was sorry that Dr Tutu had pulled out, adding that the former prime minister and the former Archbishop of Cape Town "were never actually sharing a platform" together.
The statement continued: "As far as Iraq is concerned they have always disagreed about removing Saddam by force - such disagreement is part of a healthy democracy."
"As for the morality of that decision we have recently had both the memorial of the Halabja massacre where thousands of people were murdered in one day by Saddam's use of chemical weapons; and that of the Iran-Iraq war where casualties numbered up to a million including many killed by chemical weapons.
"So these decisions are never easy morally or politically."
Dr Tutu's withdrawal comes as the local Muslim party Al Jama-ah is reported to be planning a protest against Mr Blair's participation at the event because of his support for the Iraq war. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-19400136
Ten years ago, the United States invaded Iraq and began what the Bush administration said would be a short war.
But it wasn't until December 2011 that the United States officially ended its military mission there.
In addition to the tens of thousands of Iraqis who died, the war cost the lives of nearly 4,500 American service members, and wounded more than 32,200 men and women in America's military. Many of the wounded vets have faced — or are still facing — long waits for their disability and other benefits to begin.
Journalist Aaron Glantz has written a series of articles for the Center for Investigative Reporting about how government bureaucracy is failing veterans when it comes to these benefits. He says 900,000 veterans are waiting for benefits and that the number will surpass one million "very soon."
Based on Department of Veterans Affairs documents Glantz collected through the Freedom of Information Act, he learned that 600,000 of these claims are backlogged, meaning those veterans have been waiting for more than four months to access their benefits. Glantz says that on average veterans are waiting 273 days.
Glantz says the Obama administration has not been as successful in streamlining the process as it hoped it would be.
"The real question is," Glantz tells Fresh Air's Terry Gross, "President Obama came in and he made promises of eliminating this backlog, and he had a plan to eliminate the backlog and he implemented the very steps he talked about ... but here we are five years later, and it has simply not worked for veterans."
On why 97 percent of claims are still done on paper despite the new $537 million computer system intended to computerize the paperwork
"If you go into any VA office you'll see stacks and stacks of paper, giant manila envelopes going up to the ceiling sometimes into the hallways. The VA inspector general reported that at the office in Winston-Salem, N.C., there was literally so much paperwork in the office that it was inhibiting the structural integrity of the building. The frustrating thing is President Obama and the VA repeatedly say that they're solving this problem and they've spent ... half a billion dollars so far to launch this computer system, but then when you look at the reality on the ground, you see that it has only been deployed to fewer than half of the offices ... and that in those offices a very small number of claims are actually in the computer system. It's full of bugs. There have been a lot of problems, and the agency has not really been able to get it off the ground in a way that it can make a meaningful difference for veterans."
On the increase in claims from veterans
"The VA says that they are getting more claims than ever before, that that's a combination of the large number of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who have been coming home and also some decisions they have made to allow Vietnam veterans to make claims for compensation for some diseases they are only now acknowledging are caused by Agent Orange, and that they've had a flood of new claims — about a 50 percent increase — and that they're about to solve all these problems and that by 2015 nobody will be waiting more than four months. The problem is twofold: The first is, under President Obama, the number of veterans who are waiting more than a year ... has increased more than 2,000 percent, from 10,000 to 245,000, and this is not at all on the scale of the increase in claims that they have been talking about, so there is some significant and important bureaucratic dysfunction that is keeping the agency from dealing with this increase in claims."
On the understaffing of the VA
"The VA is severely understaffed to take care of all of these veterans who are coming home. Last year the VA inspector general found that the average wait time for a mental health appointment was 50 days. ... This is not because of a [malicious] intent; this is because the resources are being rationed because there are not enough providers. The problem is that the VA bureaucracy at the highest levels is so dysfunctional that they've been having difficulties staffing up to meet these needs even when Congress gives them the resources. They said about a year ago that they would hire 1,600 new mental health professionals nationally to deal with this influx of people seeking mental health care so people wouldn't have to wait so long, but recently they reported that while they had exceeded their goal in hiring administrative staff to oversee the mental health program, they had hired half of the psychiatrists that they promised. So it's two things: One is there's not enough money to hire enough people to care for all these folks, but the bigger problem I think is, even when money is made available, the agency just completely drops the ball and is unable to field the resources at the ground level so the veteran can actually access them."
On the number of suicides at home versus troops dying overseas
"The difference between the number of people who were killing themselves at home versus dying overseas is just increasing as fewer and fewer Americans are dying overseas. We're out of Iraq now. The president says we'll be out of Afghanistan by 2014. We now have 2.4 million Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, you know. Some are still in the military, but they'll eventually get out. Maybe by the time we're done with these wars, we'll have the same number of Iraq and Afghanistan [veterans] that we had Vietnam veterans. There are 3 million Vietnam veterans. ... I don't think that the public has an appreciation that these wars have as many people — almost — involved in them as the Vietnam War. There's no draft. Most people have never interacted with somebody who served in Iraq or Afghanistan ... and I think that further contributes to the suicides and the other problems, not only because, you know, the government is failing to deliver these programs efficiently, but also because of the alienation that sets in when you've had this incredible experience in your life — perhaps the most incredible experience — and you've seen your friends be killed, and all you can see in the media is a discussion of the iPhone. And in the meantime, the VA won't even approve your disability claim for an extended period of time, and that claim, for many veterans, is not only about the money and the access to health care but also about respect and an official acknowledgement from the government of what you've lost in the war." http://www.npr.org/books/titles/174638402/the-war-comes-home-washin...