Friday, 29 January 2010

Blair on the Rack

Things aren't going well for Blair at the Chilcott Enquiry. He has only been answering questions for half an hour and already he has:

1) Admitted that he didn't circulate papers concerning the options for action against Iraq to the Cabinet prior to making a final decision. As he put it, 'there were plenty of people who were against me' - note the use of the word 'me' rather than 'us'. Sounds like a story about one dictator planning the overthrow of another to me.

2) Admitted that 9/11 was the sole reason for the decision to invade Iraq. He admitted that there was no increase in the threat posed by WMD - so presumably no new evidence or intelligence to change the threat assessment.

The second point is particularly bizarre. It seems to overthrow the idea that the info in the 'dodgy dossier' was instrumental in the decision making process. Basically his argument is that when some people flew some planes into some buildings in New York, he and George Bush suddenly realised what a dangerous place the world was - before it they just hadn't worked it out apparently.

By choosing to connect 9/11 and the Iraq invasion so clearly he seems to have retreated from the threat of WMD justification. 9/11 didn't involve military WMDs - the weapons were just aeroplanes. What he said changed after 9/11 was - the risk assessment. In other words you couldn't let 'bad people' run countries any more. And it was down to him and George to decide who the 'bad people' were...

Overall in the last half hour, he has made it very clear that the invasion was a simple consequence of him and George making a decision. It wasn't new information or intelligence or a consequence of the legal process at the UN it was just a decision they made.

Which is exactly what people object to.

Blair and Bush invaded Iraq and killed hundreds of thousands of people because they decided to. Blair didn't even circulate information to his cabinet in order that they could discuss it, draw conclusion and make a decision. He just told them his decision.

It would appear from the evidence so far that Blair is now admitting that he lied to Parliament and to the country - by admitting that there was no new information that lead to the invasion. At the time, Parliament and the country at large were given the impression that the imminent threat of WMD was newly discovered - some new information had come to light, and the result was that an invasion was the right re-action.

Blair now tells us this was not the case...staggering!

The panel at the enquiry are doing a reasonable job of questioning Blair. You can see them trying to ignore Blair's efforts at rapport building - they are trying to keep it clinical. But they don't seem to be taking on board the consequences and implications of the evidence that Blair is giving..

It will be interesting to see if, once Blair's answers sink in, they return to these subjects to elicit a more straightforward admission. Blair seems so self-involved he doesn't quite realise what he is saying.


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