Sergeant Roberts was ordered to hand over his armoured vest to another unit just three days before the friendly-fire incident.
After former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was made a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter by the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, a wave of disgust was unleashed. Those objecting to Blair’s knighthood argued that he was unworthy of the honours due to “war crimes” committed in Iraq during his tenure from 1997 to 2007.
Ex-UK Prime Minister Tony Blair’s knighthood should be rescinded, the mother of one of the first British soldiers killed in the Iraq War has been quoted by the Daily Mail as saying.
Tony Blair was given the knighthood – the oldest and most senior British Order of Chivalry, founded in 1348 by Edward III – as the New Year’s Honours were awarded. A seemingly routine event in line with the tradition of honouring ex-Prime Ministers by the Queen, with appointments to the Garter bestowed as a personal gift by the monarch, fuelled a backlash.
Marion Chapman, whose son, Sergeant Steve Roberts, a tank commander, was shot at a checkpoint on 24 March 2003, has slammed the decision to make Blair a Knight Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter as “outrageous”.
It had later been revealed that due to shortages, Sergeant Roberts was ordered to hand over his armoured vest to another unit just three days before the friendly-fire incident that claimed his life.
Roberts died just four days after British troops invaded southern Iraq in 2003, and was one of 2,000 British soldiers who were forced to go into battle without armour. A subsequent inquiry into the Iraq War by Sir John Chilcot revealed that at the time the UK government was so eager to join the US coalition-led invasion of Iraq that its military “didn’t have enough time” to source all the required equipment.
The then-British Prime Minister had taken a decision to participate in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, arguing that the Saddam Hussein government possessed an active weapons of mass destruction (WMD) programme. The latter fact was subsequently proven false, as no stockpiles of WMDs or an active WMD programme were ever found in Iraq.
Last week, relatives of fallen British troops vowed to hand back Elizabeth Crosses, received by them as next of kin of those killed in action, in protest over the knighthood.
In a letter to the British monarch, several mothers pleaded with the Queen to overturn her decision, saying in their open letter:
These sentiments have been echoed by over a million people who have signed a petition to have Tony Blair, who held the keys to Downing Street between 1997 and 2007, stripped of the knighthood.
The petition, which has no legal force, was started by actor and presenter Angus Scott on the change.org website. It slammed ex-Labour leader Tony Blair of having “caused irreparable damage to both the constitution of the United Kingdom and to the very fabric of the nation’s society” during his tenure.
“He was personally responsible for causing the death of countless innocent, civilian lives and servicemen in various conflicts. For this alone he should be held accountable for war crimes,” reads the petition. It adds:
The nature of the knighthood, conferred on New Year’s Eve by the Queen, with no involvement by the government, is such that the Honours Forfeiture Committee cannot recommend its removal.
Of the other four living former prime ministers, only Sir John Major has received a knighthood-level honour.
In response to the barrage of criticism, Downing Street has said that every prime minister before Blair had received the same honour. Government minister Maggie Throup told LBC Radio that Blair “did lots of good things.”
“I think it’s only right that we do honour our previous prime ministers,” she stated.
“I don’t think it’s a thorny issue at all for me, I think Tony Blair deserves the honour,” current Labour Leader Keir Starmer told ITV, underscoring that the ex-PM had “won three elections, he was a very successful prime minister.”