Blair scurried into the Iraq Inquiry through a back door yesterday, as a criminal would. He kept himself well away from those who had gathered to express their outrage. All that was missing was the blanket to cover his head.
He left in the same manner, only this time accompanied by the boos and hisses of the audience. So different from Elizabeth Wilmhurst. She was the Foreign Office lawyer who had resigned in protest at the criminal actions of her boss, Jack Straw, and Blair when they took Britain into an Illegal war. Elizabeth received a standing ovation from the audience after her testimony.
Blair is an intentional politician, applying silver-tongued spin for a purpose. One purpose yesterday was clearly to protect himself. He did this by grounding his defence in 9/11. That day ‘changed everything’ and made up for the lack of intelligence etc.
But there was another purpose – Blair mentioned Iran 58 times – that would be about every three minutes. He described it as a rogue state, and used every opportunity to associate it with WMD, nuclear weapons and terror, using phrases like “particularly dangerous” and “we cannot afford the possibility that (it) be allowed to develop or proliferate WMD”.
The so-called ‘Peace Envoy’ was laying the ground for an attack on Iran.
Both the Chilcot team and the BBC were nauseatingly deferential in their dealings with Blair. A few examples:
Blair’s Attorney General had testified that in July 2002, when he offered (unasked) Blair the advice that there were no grounds to legally invade Iraq, it was clear that his advice was unwelcome. Roderic Lynne asked Blair about this, but Blair airily brushed it to one side, saying it wasn’t that it was unwelcome, he was already aware of it.
As Blair blustered, Lynne helpfully said “So basically you had got the point and did not need to be reminded of it?” and then “So he just got the wrong vibes from the reaction at No 10?”. Having covered Blair’s escape and in the process switched the frame from Blair to No 10, he rapidly moved on to say “Lets turn to that resolution …”.
What Lynne might have done was to ask how the most senior lawyer in Britain, a close friend and tennis partner of Blair, could have got it so wrong. He might have made reference to the David Manning memo to Blair in March 2002. Manning (UK foreign policy adviser at the time) had just had a private dinner with Condoleeza Rice during which he had reassured Rice that “you (Blair) would not budge in your support for regime change”.
Blair’s long-standing commitment to regime change would explain why he found the view that it was illegal to be unwelcome.
At another point Lynne invited Blair to talk about his 1999 Chicago speech “an important speech”. Blair used this speech to articulate his view that regime change could be justified and yesterday expanded on it to conflate regime change and the need to remove WMDs.
Lynne omitted to mention that a significant part of that speech was written for Blair by the man sitting opposite him, Sir Lawrence Freedman, who surely should be recused. As should the man next to him, Sir Martin Gilbert. In 2004 Gilbert wrote that in time Blair would come to be seen as a heroic figure standing side by side with Churchill.
Finally – the BBC. Once again protecting us from the unpleasant truth. Each of the live sessions I saw have been of excellent streaming quality, with the camera and microphones running before and after the arrival of the panel and witnesses. Except once. For Blair. For the last session.
It was the only session I saw where the sound was cut before the camera. You could see the panel gather their papers and chat to each other as Blair got up and walked out of the side door. But it was strangely silent – the sound was cut as soon as the chairman closed the session.
No big deal, but it meant we could not savour the boos and hisses.