Blair: Watch The Eyes

christopher_lee180-11

Christopher Lee

11 July 2016, Westminster

If it rains, Tony Blair will be blamed. He knows that. Maybe it is the only comfort he has. When so vilified the farce becomes, as farce is supposed to come, a relief.

On Wednesday and Thursday this week (13th and 14th July) the House of Commons will debate the Chilcot Report on the circumstances of going to war in Iraq, the war in Iraq and the the aftermath in Iraq.

It took seven years for Chilcot to produce his report for public distribution.  It took MPs and most journalists no further than day one of that inquiry to announce that Blair was responsible for the biggest and damned mistake in British foreign policy since Anthony Eden’s Suez venture with France and Israel in 1956.

The Chilcot Report has given politicians, media and those honestly and beyond that privileged insider group of British society to heap blame on Blair and so miss the important factor that others were as guilty.

Intelligence directors, military commanders and politicians failed to publicly say what they knew.  Some, especially generals and Intelligence officers were physically thrilled what was going on.  One director of Intelligence beamed at the thought of an exclusive source even though the source proved a liar.

But this week, none of that matters.  Much of the faults in the system, other than the instincts of many senior military to seek out war, have been corrected. And anyway, one and a half days is no time to debate such a report.

What is left for the mostly Honourable Members of the House (there are few Gallant Members nowadays) is the chance to say the report is not entirely about Blair but of course as far as they are concerned it is.

Some would even accuse the former Prime Minister of Contempt. As many of those accusers are and were Privy Councillors and knew or could have confirmed reports of what was sour about the way to war, including the legal aspect, they too should be paraded in front of the Speaker as guilty men and women by omission if not commission.

And that should be that if it were not for an interview this same week of Tony Blair appearing on Forces Television.

It is not in the Panorama tradition of We Name The Guilty Man.  The interviewer Kate Gerbeau, is far too thoughtful for that easy journalism.  She has tried to “get behind the eyes” as that wise Fleet Street reporter Cyril Ainsley use to say.

Quietly and with remarks rather than long questions Gerbeau nudges Blair to talks in a way we did not see in his two hour Question & Answer session with the media last Wednesday 6 July. This is not cosying up to Blair.  It does not set aside the interviewer’s credo of asking why is this bastard is lying to me? Cleverly, Gerbeau asks the other questions and so the set piece answers are abandoned.

Blair’s first important political achievement was to rid Clause 4 from the doctrine of his Party (including the back of the Membership Card) that promised (threatened) nationalisation of almost everything that sowed a profit. That made Labour electable. His other achievement?  Probably to bring with the Americans and the Irish themselves some agreement to the Northern Ireland “Troubles” – the Good Friday Agreement.

Gerbeau asked him could it be that these two huge achievements could be forgotten because of Iraq. Watch the eyes. Blair hardly shrugs.  That, that is the way it is. What follows is something most do not consider in Blair.

Blair never sets out his stall.  Whatever he has achieved has been achieved.  He asks no medals.  What has soured is all that matters. Only to him? Gerbeau wonders about his family. Fathers might imagine what it must be like to look your son in the eye after a day of being accused of war crimes. Blair? Look at the eyes. It hurts. But that is between them. For Blair it is about the other families – tens of thousands of Iraqis, 179 British.

This interview is not to gather a sympathy vote for Blair. A journalist meets the most illustrious people often in the most humiliating circumstances.  The reverse is true and a follower of TB may think Blair got what was coming.  It is after all something like democracy. Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.  That is what this is.

The only people who do not get this end of inquisitorial democracy are the people Blair is talking to in this interview.  Throughout the whole Chilcot week the one group ignored were the (mainly) soldiers who are serving today. They look at Chilcot and ask what would happen to us in similar circumstances. They hear former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev saying today that NATO is being provocative.  What happens next? Chilcot has the answer on paper.  Today’s Blairs do not do theory. They say Go or Do Not Go.

Blair said Go. In this interview of chemistry and inquisitiveness, watch the eyes as Ainsley would have said.  It is quietly scary because truly, not much has changed.

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