Lunchtime. A slippery and unapologetic Tony Blair defended his right to smite at the Iraq Inquiry this morning with his well-rehearsed Minority Report line: we knew Saddam was a bad man and would have done bad things. So you can now be done for pre-crime and Blair is the man to decide.
"It was all about risk" and not an actual threat, he smarmed. "I made the decision based on RISK of renewed WMDs." You may do well in a poker game, Tony, but as a Prime Minister your JUDGEMENT (a word he kept repeating ad nauseam) sucked. He couldn't even extract anything from the Americans in exchange for services rendered (not including whatever it is that Blair may have gained personally). Lyne asked why he couldn't get Bush to give him a reach-around and offer anything on the Middle East and Israel. Oh, that's because Bush didn't think Israel was a fundamental issue.
The biggest stunna of the morning was his insistence on linking 911 with Iraq. Even Fox News no longer returns to this bowl of sick. But Blair kept pressing this as if it was possessed of magic properties and, because there is no lawyer on the panel, he was never pressed to justify and present evidence. It was a point left dangling like a bloody great big elephant on a string.. "The calculus of risk had changed." Force was always an option because he said so. It was his personal JUDGEMENT and he had to make that decision.
Blair didn't want his Amurkin buddies, who had officially been seeking regime change since 1998, to be alone. Ah! Murderous foreign policy determined by an act of chivalry.
Blair also humbly claimed to have been the party to persuade President Clinton to put Serbia under heavy manners over Kosovo and get mediaeval on their behinds. In the same way, he said he was telling Bush to go for it in Iraq. I'd always pictured this as a runt egging on the schoolyard bully. But my father had always maintained that people have it wrong: that because British imperialism is the oldest in the world and they are very good at this, it's not America manipulating us; it's the British Foreign Office dog wagging the US tail. And from Blair's account, Dad was right.
The word "oil" finally surfaced with another Mystic Meg moment. Let's not think about what actually happened in 2003, let's think ahead to 2010 with oil "no longer $25 per barrel, but $100 per barrel". Uh, I think oil had occurred to us at the time.
He weaseled out of the infamous BBC Fern Brittan interview where spoke of "removing" Saddam Hussein but now asserts that because he didn't use the actual words "regime change" he's home and dry.
What we do know is that the UN's Article Two states that you can't use military action to effect a regime change, and there's also a matter or proportionality which Shock And Awe most certainly was not. Resolution 1441 was only about disarmament and any action would have had to have been proportionate to that end. But in order to use military action, the phrase "by all necessary means" (diplomacy-speak for war) would have had to have been included. Which it wasn't.
Hah! 14:45 Blair just lied about 1441. He says "It's pretty obvious ... in spirit" it gave us the right to say, "that's it. This Saddam's last chance. For our armed forces that was sufficient". Smite, smite! Not that he uses words to specifically mean violence. He's very carfeful to let the casual listener draw that conclusion. So next time you're up in front of the law, plead "in spirit". His questioner knows no detail of 1441 and can't challenge him.
The panel were helpful, with Sir Rodders Lyne helping out at a weak moment in the performance with the cue, "So you were pressing for the UN route". An OK amdram actor, Blair picked up the cue which I was beginning to wish was a sawn-off snooker cue and that someone would whack him round his big arrogant homicidal head with it.
Sadly, the protest was a washout with STW leadership managing to mass-mobilise only about 250 people. Timed to start at 8am, Honest Tone had slipped into a back door half an hour earlier and caught the organisers napping.
Depressing to see the line-up of commentators in the media consisting of Westminster Village hawks and lackeys. The strongest detractor was Sir Menzies Campbell on BBC R4 lunchtime news. Where's George Galloway, Bob Marshall Andrews and Craig Murray, f'rinstance? Sharp accounts from Craig Murray here and here
Je ne regrette rien Tony Blair Part Deux