Scottish Daily Mail
Army families’ fury at Blair invitation to honour Afghan dead
FAMILIES reacted with fury yesterday at learning that Tony Blair will attend a service honouring soldiers killed in Afghanistan.
They say the former prime minister has blood on his hands after sending their sons to war and should be facing an inquiry instead.
Mr Blair and his successor Gordon Brown will be among the 2,000strong congregation at a commemoration service at St Paul’s Cathedral in London.
Politicians, royalty, military chiefs and serving soldiers are on the guest list. But fewer than half of the 2,000 places have been given to the families of the 453 war dead – who are limited to two seats each.
Relatives said it was ‘horrific’ that Mr Blair and Mr Brown should have a place, while many family members of those who died had not.
Bob Wright, 68, whose son Corporal Mark Wright was killed in an unmarked minefield in September
‘Blood on his hands’
2006, said: ‘He (Tony Blair) is the last person I would want to see. He would have some cheek going. He took the country to war, and cost all of those lives and he’s got blood on his hands.’
Grandmother Joan Humphreys, 70, said it was ‘horrific’ Mr Blair had been invited but she had not.
The Dundee pensioner, whose 24year-old grandson Kevin Elliott was killed by a bomb in Afghanistan in 2009, added: ‘Kevin was my grandson, we were very close and I haven’t been invited but Tony Blair has.
‘I know mothers who haven’t been invited and he just simply shouldn’t have a place.’ Another guest, Ian Sadler, said Gordon Brown should not have been invited either.
Mr Sadler said his 21-year-old son Jack was in a vehicle that had inadequate armour when he was killed by a roadside bomb in 2007, while Mr Brown was PM.
He said: ‘ I’m hoping Gordon Brown doesn’t stand up and say anything because he has lots of questions to answer.’
Mr Blair sent troops to Afghanistan to oust the Taliban and kill Osama Bin Laden following the September 11 attacks in 2001. But the decision sparked widespread condemnation after t he war dragged on for 13 years and led to hundreds of British deaths. There was outrage when he sent UK troops to Iraq in 2003.
Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister in 2007, with the last of Britain’s troops withdrawing from Iraq in 2011 and Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Around 90 per cent of those attending next Friday’s service to mark the end of the Afghan campaign are either current serving personnel, veterans or family members of those who have died.
The Queen, the Prince of Wales, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry will also attend, along with defence and foreign secretaries from 2001 to 2014, Nato allies and charities. Mr Blair and Mr Brown were invited by the Ministry of Defence.
A spokesman for the Stop the War campaign said: ‘It is obscene that Tony Blair i s taking the place of what could be a family member of someone who died in Afghanistan.’
In October 2009 Mr Blair was accused of having ‘ blood on his hands’ as he attended a commemoration service marking the end of the Iraq campaign. Peter Brierley, whose son Shaun was killed in Iraq in 2003, refused to shake the former PM’s outstretched hand.