Monday, December 14, 2009

The Chilcot Inquiry.

I did not expect much from the Chilcot Inquiry. Thought it would be a whitewash. Perhaps its conclusions will be. But its already told us more about the thinking of Prime Minister Blair than I'd expected - and it doesn't look good. Seems he's been advised it doesn't look good, (perhaps by his old mate, Alistair Campbell who knows a bit about presentation) which is why he decided to appear in a soft interview with Fern Britton - to draw the sting out of his own appearance before Sir John Chilcot and his panel. Anyway, I've been reading quite a bit of the reporting of proceedings. George Pitcher, writing in today's Telegraph has come up with the nearest to what I'm thinking. I can do no better than reproduce these selected extracts, explaining why he finds the former Prime Minister so unconvincing;

"...its the stammery-stuttering, glottal-stopping delivery, trying to give the impression that Fern was witnessing a spontaneous revelation, rather than something carefully rehearsed. ...Blair knows that sincerity is everything and, if he can fake that, then he's cracked it. ...Blair has again used a soft BBC opportunity to prepare his way for a tricky public performance, in this case telling the Chilcot Inquiry that he'd have found any old reason to invade Iraq: WMD, regime change, bad hair day, whatever........the really troubling aspect of this Blair interview was that he was reinventing his past again, just as he did in the old days when he said that as a boy he had watched Jackie Milburn play for Newcastle United, had stowed away on a flight to the West Indies...." - (both claims were later found to be totally fictitious.)

Personally, I found his admission that he would have gone to war with Iraq, even if he'd known there were no WMD deeply shocking - as was the earlier revelation to the Inquiry that the real aim of intervention had been 'regime change' for months before he told the House of Commons it was WMD. Our Prime Minister lied blatantly and knowingly to Parliament, in order to win a vote allowing him to take our country to war. Today's extraordinary attack on Tony Blair by Sir Ken Macdonald, former Director of Public Prosecution should be the start of a fundamental reappraisal. I cannot commit to the written word just how low my opinion of Tony Blair has fallen. He is a man without shame.
UPDATE - Decided to delete the last sentence, which on next day reading I didn't like.


Cath said...

Hi Glyn - It's reassuring to see a Conservative politician using such strong terms to describe Tony Blair. I still fail to understand how this man committed the greatest crime possible for a PM - taking us to war on the basis of a lie - and yet still managed to win an election afterwards. In reality, most of what we know now was also known in 2005. Even now it's as if Campbell has terrified the media and opposition so much that very few will describe Blair in the correct, damning terms.

tomyro said...

I disagree with you on this one too.

I don't particularly like Tony Blair. I've met him F2F in Chicago where I was for a wee time acting Secretary of Labour International - the Chairperson (also 'acting') was a Prof at NU (Northwestern University, the main campus is located just north of Chicago in Evanston).

My mum thinks he has the look of a second-hand salesman, but I happen to believe that as PM he was very sincere about the decisions he made vis-à-vis Iraq. Also, I don't regard his religious belief as a sham - it is not and woe could be on your head Glyn for suggesting that. Let God decide that one, who are we to decide the measure or depth of someone's belief and faith in God. I suggest you take that back.

It's very bad to second guess leaders who do their best under great pressure in times of great crisis. I happen to think that Iran has benefitted enormously from the fall of Saddam, but we are where we are and Iran's push for nuclear armed ICMBs needs to be checked. R we going to subject the next PM to this kind of enquiry if he decides to throw his lot in with the USA to stop Iran's push for nuclear weapons?

I have not forgotten that the then leader of the Conservative Party (IDS) warned the Labour Leader against letting in even a chink of light between the UK and the USA post 911. The Conservative Party leader wanted Labour to be 100% connected to the USA post-911.

It is shameful that the Conservative Party is now adopting the tactics of undermining leadership decisions in times of crisis - we are going to 'be there again' - hamstringing our future leader(s) with threats of enquiries is just so bad. We will end up with frozen leaders - unable to act when it is time to act and we may well end up with a new NAZI type regime running amok because of frozen leadership in times of crisis.

Glyn Davies said...

Cath - I feel so strongly about this, in part, because I supported Tony Blair's decision to take Britain into the war. I believed the assertion that Saddam Hussain had access to weapons that were a threat to us, a justification for removing them and him if needed. I remember thinking at the time that I would not have supported going to war for the same reasons as Labour MP, Ann Clwyd was advocating - to remove a regime that had committed the most awful acts upon its own people. I would not support a war to remove a regime that was not a threat to us - no matter how vile the leader of that regime.

tomyro - Yes there is disagreement between us here, though not about Blair's religeon. I have no opinion on his religeous sincerity, and I do not think such a charge lies within my post. My charge was that he blatantly and deliberately misled the British people when seeking their support to go to war - and is now trying to wriggle out of it. We cannot know what the response of Parliament would have been if Blair had sought a vote to go to war to achieve regime change, or to give support to the US President. Parliament may well have given its support. I don't think I would have done, though I do concede that the climate was very different so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attack.

I'm often asked whether I think the Iraq War was successful - and I always reply that its too early to say. I also think its sensible to work closely with the US, but not to blindly follow. At present in the UK, I suspect its people of the left who are most critical of Tony Blair. Generally, I believe leaders should be honest about their intentions, and argue powerfully for them. Trust the people. If a leader's argument stands up, and is made with honest conviction, the people will give their support.

BlairSupporter said...

Really, Mr Davies.

Do you understand anything about politics? I mean realpolitik?

Do read Melanie Phillips on this., linked from here:

You and much of the the country are being misled by a LYING press.

You need to understand their various agendas, coinciding over the need to put Blair - the ultimate politician - beyond harm's way. In other words lock him up.

They will not win in this cause, becaus it is the wrong cause, wrong-headed and for ALL the wrong reasons.

Blair did the right thing and for the right reasons.

Unwash your brain, please.

I still haven't decided which party to vote for in the next general election but this "dissing" of Blair from ALL sides is a travesty of natural justice.

Even compared to the ridiculous exaggerated nonsense over MPs' expenses it is in a class of its own notoriety.

Be warned.

alanindyfed said...

If Tony Blair is an advertisement for the Roman Catholic Church, God help religion.
I can imagine Ann Widdicombe's response!
However the RC Church is now totally discredited following the revelations of the doings of the Christian Brothers and priests in Ireland and its stance on contraception.

Glyn Davies said...

tomyro - I decided to edit out the last sentence as a result of your comment on re-reading my post this morning. It was open to reading in a way I had not meant.

Blair supporter - There remain a lot of you around. There may even have been a majority of you who would have supported his decision to take Britain into war with Iraq to deliver regime change, if he had told you it was his reason. His crime, in my eyes anyway, was to insist his mission to invade was a national security measure, when it was not. I believe this untruthfulness is contributing to the widespread public scepticism about the current Afghanistan mission. And over the next year or two, a British Prime Minister may have to make the case for military action against Iran. This will be far more difficult as a consequence of Blair's behavior in the run up to the Iraq invasion.

Alan - Personally I feel more affinity with the Catholic Church as our politicians grow ever more casual in their approach to issues such as abortion and stem cell research, etc. That's not to excuse in any way the shocking behaviour of a minority of priests of course.

aries said...

Sorry Glyn, but I think it is you who is misinformed. The simple fact is: Saddam did have access to weapons of mass destruction. He had already used them against the Kurds (e.g., Sarin gas), and we knew he had large quantities of blistering agent.

We did not find the nerve agents already in bombs - and we did not find chemical or biological agents loaded on warheads. But we knew he had the capacity and knowhow to make and deploy vast quantities of nerve agent. Also, the military intelligence (though as it turned out was wrong) that he had deployed chemical agents in warheads and/or bombs.

Saddam was seen (deliberately so) talking to "Dr. Germ" - we knew for a fact that he had people very conversant in the manufacture of unconventional weapons.

It doesn't take a lot of effort to make the stuff when you have made it before and when you have people on your staff that have made it before and know how to deploy it in bombs.

Saddam had the capacity to make and deploy chemical agents in bombs - we know that for a fact, but for some reason non-scientists in the press believe unless we found the bombs with the 'fresh' agent in them that it was all a hoax, a big fat lie. When in fact all Saddam's people had to do was make a new batch of sarin et al and load the stuff straight into bombs adapted to hold the stuff. He had done it before, we know, because he dropped such bombs on Kurd villages. So he had used chemical weapons (also used them on Iranian troops) and we know that a certain member of his military scientific group was working full time on this stuff. This particularly chappy visited a certain lab in Europe - it was a bit of a standing joke who he was and what he was about.

It seems then Glyn, you are of the opinion that as we did not find freshly manufactured chemical agent already loaded into bombs ready for immediate use in the field that it was all a lie, despite the known facts that Saddam had already used such bombs on the Kurds, that he had the knowledge base, that he already had people (for some years standing) who knew how to make the stuff and load the adapted bombs - because he had done it before.

We found a lot of mustard gas bombs - but they were old ones, but still loaded with the nasty blistering agent, but we did not find freshly topped up bombs with nerve agent (of the kind he had already made and dropped on the Kurds).

Honestly, I am puzzled at your current stance. Obviously you have adopted a view point that is ignorant of the process of making such bombs, you think because we did not find new ones that he didn't have weapons of mass destruction even though he had already used such weapons, already had the people to do the processing/manufacture, and the know-how to load the adapted bombs for bombing areas with nerve agent.

Frankly, this is a witch hunt of Blair. I still remember IDS's comments (Ian Duncan Smith, then leader of the Conservative Party).

I don't support the Labour Party (I was a member), I don't support Gordon Brown, in fact I think he is doing great harm to the well-being of the UK, I don't agree with the comments that many have made about Rhodri Morgan having done a great job for Wales - the state of the economy, the state he left the Welsh economy speaks differently, so I am not a Labour supporter and I only met Tony Blair once, and apart from then have had not words in writing or verbally with Blair, so I am not in his camp. But I won't support a party that plays politics with previous leaders during wartime. Look at Margaret Thatcher, she made whopper mistakes over the Falklands, pulled out a detachment of Marines and vola, the nut job in Argentina took that as a signal to invade and how many lives and resources did that cost the UK? I seem to recall that a lot of Welsh troops suffered many deaths and injuries. Leaders make mistakes, Blair is no angel, but I remember IDS's comments - the ex-leader of your party Glyn.

norim said...

PS Y do u think at least some of Blair's testimony (perhaps most if not all of it) will happen behind closed doors? What lab came up with sarin, VX, anthrax? Who helped (and what party was in power when this happened) train Saddams's chemical/germ scientists? Which labs/conferences did they attend, in which countries? Do you honestly think your party's hands are clean on this? Be careful of finger pointing and naviety.

djeesse said...

In addition, y r we in Afghanistan? Y r we there? We are certainly backing up the U.S. President - so I don't understand your comment Glyn about slavishly following an American President.

Is the Conservative Party now advocating that we shouldn't be in Afghanistan?

Y r we there then?

Y did we declare war on Japan? Y did Churchill do that? They hadn't attacked us - so y did the then Conservative leader send us into war against Japan?

Is this the new mantra for the Conservative Party? "Change we can believe in?" If so, WOW. If so the Conservative Party deserves to be mocked into the ground, and doesn't deserve to lead this great country.

Even President Obama realizes we have to be in Afghanistan, and ultimately will realize that we have to take down the Iranian leadership - and yes, the current leader of your part will go along with it if he becomes the next PM.

So be careful what you wish for (In re Blair). Your own leader is going to committ the UK to fight to bring down the Iranian leadership - its inevitable, we have known for quite some time that Iran has worked on trigger devices to initiate a nuke chain reaction - we know for a fact that the technology came from Pakistan. Iran didn't develop it, they merely tested the known technology - and finally it become public knowledge. Right now we have the reason to go to war against Iran and to take out Pakistan's nuke scientist - they are the guys who educated the Iranian scientists. Or r we going to do nothing and watch a new batch of Nazis take over a major chunk of the Middle East? You might not know this, but America's #1 supplier of oil is not Saudi Arabia (who have already told us they will acquire (notice that word: "acquire", i.e., not develop) nuke weapons if Iran is allowed to acquire them. How long before we have a couple of hundred or so nuke blasts going off in the Middle East? Israel is now armed to the teeth with defensive anti-ICBM technology, and the USA has had exercises with Israeli anti-ICBM soldiers. We are about to enter a new phase against Iran, "just after tea-time, just after this coming Christmas" ... and the Conservative opposition is into playing politics over Iraq - for heaven's sake, your own leader might well send us to war against Iran - do you want to second guess him too?

maliho said...

As ever Glyn you are open about what you think and explain why you think that way. Which is fresh air even if we occassionally disagree with you. You are very sincere and that is important in a politician.

Blair had a tricky wicket - he had to speak one way to his left-wing constituency in the Labour Party and another way for the moderates, and still another way to the country. I would be surprised if he did not get it wrong at least some of the time. But the people voted him more than once, so the public had their chance of voting him out of office.