56-year-old Tony Blair today came and faced the Chilcot inquiry as a sober lad. He left, as a totally puzzled gentleman. A converted catholic and now more sentient of the actual dealings in Iraq before March 20, 2003, he will be wishing G W Bush was still president.
And that is not the big deal. The big deal is 7 years after he and his closest confidant authorised the removal of dictator Saddam Hussein, very few people believe this world is safer. Have that!
With Saddam hanged, more than 6000 of coalition soldiers dead by Oct 2009, and no trace of WMD in a country that is still at war, Blair was still adamant – his own fiddly-self as he took centre stage to be part of this absolutely useless inquiry which it has to be agreed is a farce and costing me and you millions of pounds – his most dramatic moment coming in the last few minutes of his questioning when the former PM confirmed he had no regrets over the war.
No wonder one audience member, probably one, whose son or relative saw their last day inside Iraq, called out: “ Oh come on!” Sometimes it plays-out nicely to know your leaders are fascinating politicians involved in cowboy politics but to actually watch them practice in front of you or on your TV set is far too callous. Sir John Chilcot had to tell the audience to be quiet during those closing minutes of Blair.
“It was divisive and I’m sorry about that,” he conceded but continued: “If I’m asked whether I believe we’re safer, more secure with Saddam and his sons out of power, I believe that we are.”
On Secret Talks with Bush
‘I never regarded September 11 as an attack on America. I regarded September 11 as an attack on us and I had said I would stand shoulder to shoulder with them,’ he told the inquiry.
‘We did in Afghanistan and I was determined to do that again. This is an alliance that we have with the United States of America. It’s not a contract – you do this for us, we do that for you. It’s an alliance and it’s an alliance that I believe in passionately.’
Dodgy Dossier and WMD
Asked if he understood the difference, Mr Blair claimed: ‘I didn’t focus on it a great deal at the time.
‘This has take on far greater significance than it ever did at the time.
‘In the light of what subsequently happened and the importance it subsequently took on, it would most certainly have been better to have corrected it. ‘
Mr Blair admitted sharing a view with President Bush that it ‘wasn’t necessary’ to have the UN Security Council’s support for war.
The Prime Minister said he wanted a ‘UN situation in which everyone was on the same page and had agreed’ because, politically, this would have made ‘life a lot easier’.
But, despite stressing in 2003 how desperate he was to secure a second UN resolution, he admitted having reached the conclusion that – if the UN route failed – Saddam would still have to go.
Mr Blair added: ‘The American view throughout has been, ‘This leopard isn’t going to change his spots’ – he was always going to be difficult.’
A way out
‘I think President Bush at one point said, before the debate, ‘Look if it’s too difficult for Britain, we understand’.
‘I took the view very strongly then – and do now – that it was right for us to be with America, since we believed in this too.’
Legality of the War
‘Obviously we had to have a definitive decision – yes it’s lawful to do this or not,’
‘A lot hung on that decision. Therefore it was important that it was by the attorney general and done in a way which we were satisfied was right and correct.’
Already hundreds of protesters are enraged that the man whose decision or indecision led to the mess that was the Iraq war, sneaked into the inquiry building through a backdoor. It is no wonder that Tony had to creep in some 2 good hours before he was even scheduled to arrive and all this to avoid a confrontation with members of the public, whose money he spent on a very baseless and misguided war.
I was watching Channel 4 news on Thursday and while they were right about Blair’s likelihood to doge the most serious questions, their mock Chilcot Inquiry was at least able to pose the right questions to the Blair actor.
This Chilcot inquiry has up to now served us no better. The idea is brilliant yes but the Chilcot panel is failing to ask the right questions. We all recall in December last year when Adam Holloway, a defence specialist, said MI6 obtained information indirectly from a taxi driver who had overheard two Iraqi military commanders talking about Saddam’s weapons.
The 45-minute claim was a key feature of the dossier about Iraq‘s weapons of mass destruction that was released by Tony Blair in September 2002. So this might as well have been a war waged from just a taxi conversation, and this is still not a problem. What I don’t get is why is the panel not asking questions that even a 16 year old would find easier to phrase to all these guys testifying to this inquiry?
National security? Yes I heard you say national security, and I will take that for a valid answer. But why are we in this position anyway? A Glaswegian friend of mine Hasan Mallick knows even better. During a chat today he told me “the fact that the inquiry, its members and the terms of reference were set up by the government should hint to you that they are never going to be arduous with the question of legality. A wastage of money and time to find out what we already know.”
Mr Mallick is one of the many Britons and peace loving people around the world who have come to think otherwise of governments we duly vote into power only to make decisions that end up costing so much both in terms of money and dear lives. It is a shame. And when the inquiry chairman comes out to succinctly declare that they are not looking to apportion blame or express a view as to any potential criminal or civil proceedings against any person, no witnesses will be compelled to attend and evidence will not be delivered under oath, there is only one word that comes up. Whitewash!
A brave wise leader, who took his Country and his people to war, would face his people without fear, or shame. If he thought he was so right in taking Britain to war, you might have to ask him why he sneaked into the building today like a chicken thief. His people at the very least need him to face them, when so many died for him, that is what makes a great leader, Churchill would have faced his people with courage, because he would have had nothing to fear from making his decision of taking his people to war.
Cuppa anyone? No I will have some Baileys!