Thoughts: The Blair Perfomance

I actually ‘won’ a ticket for the afternoon session.   I got excited when it arrived in the post only to find on closer inspection that it wasn’t for the main room, but a ticket for the viewing gallery. i.e. the chance to watch it next door on a big screen.  I decided to save the five hour return journey and put my feet up and watch it on Sky.

I’m prepared to accept his word on a couple of points (thousands aren’t!):

  • He genuinely believed that Saddam had WMD.
  • He genuinely believed he was acting in the best interests of the UK.

I also totally get his point that at the end of the day he had to make a judgement, and he did.

What bothers me though is the lack of recognition anywhere that those beliefs and that judgement, although sincere, look to have been wrong.  It mystifies me that he kept trying to get the panel to ‘ask the 2010 question, not the 2003 question’.  The 2010 question he wanted asking was about a ‘hypothetical world’ where Saddam had WMD.  The 2010 question we are all asking is the real world question where Saddam did not have WMD.

The thing that really, really bothers me though is this:  When you are a leader, yes, you have to make judgements.  You make judgements (hopefully) on data more than instinct.  In national security issues the data you rely on for the judgement calls is ‘intelligence’.  Let’s say that the Inquiry decides to cut Blair some slack and say that given the intelligence he was given at the time, the call was reasonable.  He had to trust the intelligence that proved wrong.  If I was Blair my fury with intelligence services would know no bounds.  For the hundreds of millions of pounds we spend on our intelligence they got something we had been on the case of for over a decade dreadfully wrong.  The consequences of their failure was:

  • Millions (billions?) spent on a war
  • Huge loss of life of Iraqi Civilians
  • Significant loss of life from our own armed forces
  • Distraction from the task at hand in Afghanistan
  • Removal of the one regional counter-weight to the ambitions of Iran
  • The entire quartermaster stores of the Iraqi army passing into hostile militias to be used god knows where
  • The radicalisation of certain British youth introducing a new domestic front for terror

But on the plus side we did get Saddam.  Not sure the debit and credits work in our favour though.

So given the consequences of this judgement, I am baffled that the chap who provided the data to the PM from which he made his judgement, John Scarlett – instead of getting hung out to dry – gets promoted.  As with Goldsmith the questioners gave Blair a chance to hang some of the blame on them and he loyally stuck up for them.  The mind boggles.

Anyway, I stand by my predications as to the Inquiry’s findings: HERE



Filed under Centre Right, Iraq, Politics, UK Politics

4 responses to “Thoughts: The Blair Perfomance

  1. Chris. T (Wilmslow)

    Did he genuinely, really believe he had WMD? Or did he just ‘hope and suspect’ he had WMD as it would make regime change easier to justify. As I watched I decided it was the second.

  2. Very well put…
    I think Kevin Maguire summed it up well on Twitter with:
    Blair: “It’s not a lie or a deceit or a conspiracy but a decision.” Yes, the wrong decision.

    Your “bullet-points” are also a very good precis.

  3. I disagree with you on several counts, but on one especially that I think is overwhelmingly important: in Britain, it is *not* down to the Prime Minister to make a decision like this on his own. Tony Blair is simply wrong when he says endlessly, “I had to make a decision.” He didn’t. The Cabinet had to make a decision (and, nowadays, would then have to put it to the House of Commons). What the Inquiry seems to have established is that Blair took it on himself to make a decision on his own – unconstitutionally – and then under- or misinformed the Cabinet and the House of Commons to make sure that they agreed with him. Even if invading Iraq had been the right thing to do, the ends did not justify such means, or make them constitutional or legal.

    I think, though, that you misunderstand Blair’s 2010 question: he is no longer assuming that Saddam did have WMDs in 2003 but is a) hypothesising that he would have succeeded in getting them since then and b) inviting us to think: ‘In any event, WMDs or not, aren’t we just glad Saddam and his sons are dead and doesn’t that justify it all after the event?’

    The answer to that – however loathsome Saddam was (and however disgusting it was that the CIA assisted him into power and, for some time, we all helped to keep him there) – the world is *not* a better place on balance as a result of the 2003 war. Blair ignored the opinion of Western security agencies, even before the war, that invading Iraq would *increase* the threat of terrorism, and he refuses to accept the evidence that it has indeed done so.

    In the end, I am still mystified as to what was going on in Blair’s head. We now know that the people then in power in the US had planned to invade Iraq long before “9/11” and that they only ever regarded WMDs as a convenient pretext to do so. And the US is certainly not in the habit of ousting dictators merely because they are “monsters” – in fact, it has rather a record of installing them. In other words, the reasons Blair so self-righteously cites for going to war may have been his reasons, but they were never Bush’s or Cheney’s.

    I suspect that Blair was influenced by two things he cannot admit. He overreacted to “9/11” and allowed his apocalyptic excitement to confuse his thinking, so that he made connections that didn’t exist. And he was seduced by the glamour of US power, and imagined that the jackal that follows the lion is sort of an honorary lion as well.

    Finally, could I quote an opinion from one of the few knowledgeable people who still approve of the invasion, the “Vicar of Baghdad”, Andrew White?

    “The Coalition made some very serious errors. Its troops had stood by while all the hospitals, museums, universities and libraries, and all the ministries except the Ministry of Oil, were comprehensively looted – but this was not its most catastrophic mistake. First, it failed to secure the country’s borders. The first time I drove from Amman to Baghdad after the war, the border control consisted of one smiling American soldier chewing gum, and the only question he asked was ‘Where are you guys from?’ Soon, Iraq was being infiltrated both by militant Shia from Syria and Iran and by al-Qa’ida and other Sunni radicals. I myself encountered three young British Asians on the border with Jordan who told me they had come ‘to fight the Coalition’.

    “[Second, there was the US] decision to dismiss every last man in the Iraqi army and police. Clearly, some people had to go, but the result of sacking everyone was the anger and anarchy that engulfed the whole country. Suddenly, hundreds of thousands of men trained to fight (and still in possession of their weapons) had no job, no income, no status and every reason to revolt.”

    In my opinion, the invasion was a criminal act of aggression – but the even greater crime was the reckless, arrogant, stupid negligence with which one of the most complex and volatile societies in the world was allowed to descend into anarchy. If Blair does not feel some moral responsibility for this, he is in very serious denial and I believe should be pitied as much as vilified.

  4. Huw,

    I’ll not take any issue with your view on the execution of the post war operations – impossible to disagree – but I’m not so sure that we’ve ever really enjoyed a halcyon period of ‘Cabinet Government’ that would create a constitutional convention for Blair to have breached. Major maybe, but even then when his moment came I doubt the Cabinet had final say on troops going in.

    Also this sentance struct me: “I suspect that Blair was influenced by two things he cannot admit. He overreacted to “9/11″ and allowed his apocalyptic excitement to confuse his thinking, so that he made connections that didn’t exist.”

    At the risk of sounding like I am defending him (which makes me shudder!) the one bit of his evidence that I did accept as valid was the concept of the calculus of risk changing after 9/11.
    The problem is that if you chance the calculus so that the threshold for violent remedy is lower, then bang dud data into the calculation – you get a deadly mistake.

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