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2005-06-17

British Father of Soldier Killed in Iraq: "My Son Died For a Lie"

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We speak with Reginald Keyes, British father of Lance Corporal Tom Keyes, who was killed in Iraq in June 2003. Keyes ran against British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the British elections earlier this year and he got roughly 10% of the vote. [includes rush transcript]

  • Reginald Keyes, ran against Tony Blair in the recent UK elections. His son, Lance Corporal Tom Keys, 20,was killed in Al Majar Al Kabir, Iraq in June 2003.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re now joined in D.C. studio by Reginald Keyes, the British father who lost his son, Lance Corporal Tom Keyes, killed in Iraq. Reg Keyes ran against British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the British elections, got roughly 10% of the vote. We welcome you to Democracy Now!

REGINALD KEYES: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. You were at yesterday’s hearing?

REGINALD KEYES: I was there. Very, very interested to hear what was going on, and I applaud the Congressmen and Congresswomen for their stance on these issues because over in Britain, we are actually forging ahead with a similar program, where we are actually going to bring Tony Blair to account for misleading Parliament, for misleading the public, and worst of all, misleading our brave troops who have given their lives in the conflict, because we have a similar web of deceit going on over there, where the Prime Minister deliberately deceived a packed Westminster House over the threat that Saddam Hussein posed to your country and, of course, to our country. And I’ll give you a few quotes now. Tony Blair actually stated that Iraq’s WMD program was "extensive, detailed, and authoritative." He also quoted the program was "active, detailed, growing, up and running now." And he also stated it could be "actually deployed against British interests within 45 minutes." Nothing could be further from the truth. This was manipulating evidence — well, supposedly evidence — to fit the case to go to war. So, George Bush and Tony Blair need to be shoulder to shoulder to face the repercussions their actions and their deceit.

AMY GOODMAN: Reg Keyes, can talk about what happened to your son, Lance Corporal Tom Keyes, what he understood about why he was going to Iraq, and what you understood at the time?

REGINALD KEYES: Well, in Britain, we believed our Prime Minister. Our Prime Minister was telling us that Saddam Hussein could threaten our country and our country’s interests within 45 minutes, that this WMD program was ready to be deployed against us. So, I had misgivings about this because the weapons inspectors were pleading for more time. They were not being given that time. There was a rush, there was a haste to war, and I couldn’t understand why all avenues of diplomacy had not been explored before the rush to war. So my son marched off down that platform, boarded a train, his head held high, proud to do his duty for his country, flushed with patriotism, but sadly he died deceived, deceived by his own Prime Minister.

He believed his Prime Minister, and I did also, and that’s why I’m here today. I’m a very angry father. My son, he died for a lie. And Tom had only been over in Iraq for a few months before he was saying — he was telephoning home and saying, "Dad, I don’t know what we’re doing here. These are very poor people. They’re already on their knees economically. They’ve got no fight in them. They can only produce homemade devices. There’s no weapons of mass destruction here."

Morale was at an all time low. And my son was one of 75 military policemen in Iraq, British military policemen. Sadly, he should have been home before he was killed, but they kept him on and sent 50 back. And my son was then what they call in army terms "de-scaled." His equipment was removed, his morphine, his grenades, his distress flares. His rounds of ammunition were removed, his satellite phone was removed. All they gave my son back and his five colleagues was 50 rounds of ammunition. They then deployed them 23 kilometers away, where the radio range they had at the time was only 15 kilometers, to a notoriously hostile police station where they came under attack by a mob of 500 armed Iraqis. And sadly, after running out of ammunition, they were overwhelmed and ritualistically slaughtered, and they suffered horrific death.

And I’m here today to bring George Bush and Tony Blair to account for these horrendous crimes. We have to bear in mind that we rightly condemned the mass graves of Saddam Hussein. But what about the mass graves of George Bush and Tony Blair? We have over 100,000 innocent Iraqis slaughtered. We have 1,700 brave British troops now lying in their graves. We have over 88 British servicemen lying in their graves. None of these people will feel the summer sun on their faces ever again. There has to be a price to pay for that.

AMY GOODMAN: 1,700 U.S. troops, right. Reginald Keyes, Britain’s Armed Forces Minister, Adam Ingram, has admitted that the Bush administration lied to British officials about the use of napalm-type firebombs in Iraq. In a private letter obtained by the Independent newspaper of London, Ingram says the U.S. originally told him they hadn’t used the MK-77s in Iraq at any time, but then writes, "I regret to say, I have since discovered this is not the case and must now correct the position." The MK-77 bombs are an evolution of the napalm used in Vietnam and Korea. They carry kerosene-based jet fuel and polystyrene so that the gel sticks to structures and to its victims. Your response to this latest news.

REGINALD KEYES: Well, I think that it’s just abhorrent that one government can lie to another government when they have the same common objective, and that’s to forge forward with an illegal war. But I also understand there’s a second issue here. I also believe that President Bush actually said to our government that cluster bombs would not be used. And I believe now there’s evidence out there in Iraq that indeed cluster bombs were used. And I believe that is a contradiction in terms, as well. And I just find it’s unbelievable these two warmongers can try and survive when there’s such a web of deceit going on behind them.

AMY GOODMAN: Reginald Keyes, can you talk about running against Tony Blair, how you went from — well, there were papers reporting you attempting suicide after your son’s death, to running for the prime ministership?

REGINALD KEYES: Well, I’ll start with that last question first. It was Tony Blair’s keynote speech at the Labour Party conference in Brighton, and he did not intend to have Iraq on the agenda. He — Iraq was such a — how I can put this, a weeping sore to him, such a wound, he did not want it prodded. But I fully intended to prod that wound. I arrived at Brighton on the seafront there, a ring of steel around his hotel where he was about to deliver his keynote speech minus any reference to Iraq.

I took a rope with me, a noose. I had fixed it so it wouldn’t tighten around my neck and I could just see a radio gantry opposite the hotel. It was a very, very dangerous attempt to do because with helicopters hovering overhead, there was gunboats out on the water, surrounded by armed police on the rooftops, but I managed just to quickly scramble over a barrier, climb this mast with police clutching at my ankles. And I unfurled a banner.

And at the time the hostage Ken Bigley was about to be executed, and we had 44 British troops dead at that moment in time. And I made sure that Tony Blair’s keynote speech included Iraq because I vehemently shouted across the hotel that 44 troops have died, while Tony Blair lied, and one more life hangs in the balance. And I demanded an apology for my son’s death; otherwise, I threatened that I would throw myself from that tower. It was just a dignified protest. I dressed myself in my best suit. And his speech was certainly interrupted by Iraq.

After that, I had a quiet moment and then I — it was suggested that I stood against Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon over the issue of my son having his equipment removed; that, I fully intended to do. I then received a phone call from a journalist who was in contact with a record producer, who was prepared to, for want of a better way of putting it, bankroll an attempt to take on Tony Blair in his own constituency up in Sedgefield. So I agreed to do that.

So I traveled up to Sedgefield, where it is a religion to vote for Tony Blair. It’s like a faith. And I arrived there on a wet, miserable afternoon thinking, "How the hell can I have any success here where people are so strongly supportive of Tony Blair?" But within four weeks, a team came on board, people from all walks of life, left wing, right wing, people in the middle politically, authors, musicians, celebrities all came to help. At one stage over one hundred people turned up at the offices to help. Doctors, lawyers, solicitors, hippies even, and within four weeks we took over 10%, nearly 11%, of the vote in Sedgefield as purely an independent. And on election night, I had the chance to stand on that platform and deliver a speech with Tony Blair standing behind me ashen-faced, and he had to listen to what I had to say.

AMY GOODMAN: Reginald Keyes, I want to thank you very much for being with us, and condolences to your family on the death of your son, Tom Keyes, a British soldier in Iraq.

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