Tony Blair and Alastair Campbell joke about killing Clare Short

Clare Short speaking at a protest in 2009 –
Faizan Bhat – CC License – via Wikimedia.

9 April 2003

[ 9 April 2003 ]

Unlike other ministers, Clare Short, the secretary of state for international development, was not afraid to voice her opinion, within and outside Cabinet, that the Iraq war was both illegal and a disproportionate use of force. Tony Blair and his communications director, Alastair Campbell, both viewed her criticism as politically embarrassing. During a meeting of the War Cabinet on 9 April 2003, Campbell recalls in his diary, that he had passed a note to the prime minister, reminding him that Saddam Hussein had once had his health minister shot because he was irritating him, and should he bring a gun. Blair scribbled a one word answer – “Yes.”1

Short had written to Blair on several occasions prior to the invasion, advising him that she thought that a war, without a second UN resolution, would be illegal and that it would create a humanitarian catastrophe. As it was, according to a detailed study conducted by the medical journal The Lancet in 2006,  an estimated 654,000 Iraqis died as a result of the invasion and resulting sectarian violence.2 Many more died in the subsequent few years. When giving evidence to the Chilcot Inquiry in 2010, Short explained how she and her cabinet colleagues had been deliberately kept in the dark about the legal advice given by Sir Michael Wood and Elizabeth Wilmhurst, senior Foreign Office lawyers, which emphasized the need for a second UN resolution.3


  1. Alastair Campbell , The Alastair Campbell Diaries: The Burden of Power – Countdown to Iraq, Arrow Books, London, 2013 p. 541.
  2. “Mortality after the 2003 invasion of Iraq: A cross -sectional cluster sample survey,” The Lancet, Vol 368, Issue 9545, 21 October 2006 accessed online at
  3. James Sturcke, ‘Clare Short: Tony Blair Lied and Misled Parliament in Build Up to Iraq War,’ The Guardian, 2 February 2010 accessed online at

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© 2020 Alisdare Hickson All rights reserved

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