Peter Oborne this morning reveals that despite protestations to the contrary, Blair had received reports of human rights violations seven weeks before the infamous photos became public.
Yet when the news of the atrocities came to light in the Press, Tony Blair played dumb and merely expressed surprise. He told MPs that neither he nor any member of his government had known about the barbaric scenes. ‘It is not correct that ministers or I were aware of those allegations in respect of American troops,’ the prime minister told the then Tory leader Michael Howard.
It now appears that in fact a shocked Bill Rammell, then a junior Foreign Office minister, had been briefed during a meeting in Geneva by the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
This meeting took place seven weeks before the atrocities became public knowledge and Abu Ghraib became a byword for American brutality. To his credit, Rammell says he was so shocked by the revelations that he immediately convened an emergency meeting of Foreign Office officials. In his statement, he said: ‘I was assured that defence ministers were already aware of the allegations and that actions were being taken by the Ministry of Defence to deal with the allegations, which was the case.’
So his claim that ministers were not aware is untrue according to the testimony of a minister who did know. The inference is that Blair must have known as well.