Fauquier Times Democrat (Virginia)
By Cheryl K. Chumley
Laying bridges across the ocean, the Independent Party candidate who ran against England's Tony Blair for prime minister brought his anti-war message to America, staying with a Fauquier County family while attending a Capitol Hill impromptu hearing on the now-infamous Downing Street memo.
The memo, the talk of Britain this past month, is a run-down of a 2002 meeting between Blair and several of his advisors during which he was supposedly appraised of President George W. Bush's purported efforts to slant intelligence in favor of invading Iraq, post Sept. 11.
Last Thursday, the memo became the focus point of an informal meeting at the Capitol, headed by Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and attended, notably for Fauquier County, by Reg Keys, former Independent candidate for Britain's highest governing office and guest of a Warrenton family, Neil and Linda Swanson.
Two movements are afloat, Keys said, to unseat Blair and Bush from their positions of power and hold them accountable for the atrocities they have committed during this "bloody, costly, illegal war which has cost the lives of 100,000 innocent Iraqis, 1,700 British personnel and 88 British troops."
As of Monday, the cost to America insofar as casualty count has been around 1,723, according to the Internet site, Iraq Coalition Casualty Count.
The movement in Britain is aimed at impeaching Blair and convicting him of Ministerial Code of Conduct violations. The effort in America, informally led by Conyers and including the participation of other like-minded members of Congress and grassroots organizers, is similarly targeted, bent on removing Bush from the White House.
"I feel both of these men have been a disgrace to proud nations" like Iraq, Keys said, relaying the death count and characterizing the president and prime minister as guilty of "creating their own mass graves."
As for those who wage that America attacked Iraq in response to Sept. 11, during which nearly 3,000 were killed in a peacetime atmosphere, Keys said such views stemmed from ignorance.
"Really, people who come from that criticism come from a point of ignorance," he said. "The reason for the war was weapons of mass destruction ... and my prime minister told me Iraq possessed (them). Well, I believed him ... but the inspectors reported back there were no WMDs."
But without proof of WMDs, Bush and Blair knew they "couldn't have their grubby little war," Keys said, and as such, concocted a strategy to convince the nations' populaces of the need to capture Saddam Hussein.
Keys' military son was swept into this plan, he said, and lost his life in combat just days shy of his 21 birthday.
"If weapons of mass destruction were found, I'd be home grieving, I'd accept it," he said. "If the war was backed by international law, backed by the United Nations, I'd be home."
While admitting the world is a better place with Saddam Hussein removed from power, Keys also blamed the current instability in Iraq on American and British involvement.
"There's no doubt about it," he said, "Saddam Hussein was an evil dictator. But it is against international law to go to war for a regime change ... (and) under Saddam, the country was stable. But now the borders are unpoliced, terrorists come and go freely, it's sparring into Civil War and you now have Iraqis killing Iraqis," a different situation from when Saddam Hussein was killing Iraqis.
Better than attacking Iraq, Keys said, would have been to gather intelligence for a while longer -- maybe "six to 12 months would be a realistic time to wait," he said.
And better than continuing the status quo in Iraq, he added, would be to devise a solid exit strategy for troops.
"What do they do, just walk away? I can't see George Bush and Tonly Blair walking away from all that oil," Keys said. "They need to completely remove all troops, install a peacekeeping force, U.N.-backed. It must be U.N.-backed ... and this might be the soothing balm that calms."
Or, as Saddam Hussein himself said, "George Bush and Tony Blair should be seated on either side of me," agreed Keys. "Let's bring leaders to accountability."
One way of accomplishing such, he said, would be to compel the United Nations to "take action against Tony Blair ... to (issue him) an indictment for war crimes."
By way of comparison, Keys said he did not decry the former President Bill Clinton's air strikes against Kosovo, a purported illegal attack that broke both War Powers Act and constitutional law by surpassing the authority of a president to wage lengthy military action absent congressional permission.
Calling Bush and Blair a "pantomine horse," with Bush as the front and Blair as the rear, Keys said the present American-Britain leadership relationship is "unhealthy" and too close.
"I don't feel it was so close with Clinton," he said. "But at the time, that country (Kosovo) was at civil war. That wasn't happening in Iraq. We got involved (in Kosovo) to help, to try to placate a civil war."
Keys came to stay with the Swansons through their son, David, a founder of the anti-war group, After Downing Street, http://www.afterdowningstreet.org  .
"He called us Tuesday and asked how would we like to host a person from the U.K." for the Capitol Hill hearings, Linda Swanson said.
The bonus, all agreed, was when they discovered their ideological similarities, especially in regards to the Iraq war.
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