Posts Tagged ‘Blair’

Blair: Watch The Eyes

July 11, 2016

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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.

Chilcot: Editors order 60pt Bodoni to hang Blair high. Not because of the Iraq War but because he is Tony Blair

June 28, 2016

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Christopher Lee

30 June 2016

The Chilcot Report on why the UK went to an illegal war with Iraq in 2003, who was responsible for such an act before the war, during the war and after the event is due to be published in London 6 July.

Chilcot is one of the most important Whitehall documents thus far the century. It tells us how we went to a war that still rages because the US-led coalition did not know how to fight such a conflict, did not understand what it was fighting and did not make plans to bring the defeated country to peace.

From the UK position, such an event and such a comprehensive study is likely to be reduced to nothing more gutter Press editing that has one purpose: Hang Blair Out To Dry. Blair is the villain say his opponents and is even a war criminal.

It matters not that everything that has been said publicly about Tony Blair has already been said.  Chilcot will not say anything new.  But so badly is Blair’s reputation that the shabby intellectualism that modern Britain has become will simply throw recycled blame on the same figure.

It is certainly true that much of the British public did not want to go to war.  Public opinion was ignored by Blair.  He talked up false information most noticeably that Iraq could deploy weapons of mass destruction against the West inside 45 minutes. This was untrue. But it was crucial false evident that forced the government lawyers to declare that on balance there should be war whereas until that lie – and it was that – the legal view was the war was illegal without a second UN Resolution of authority.

So Britain went to war illegally.  Most in Whitehall knew that.

As for the weapons of mass destruction, they did not exist.  They were weapons of mass disappearance.  There was not a single weapon found.  But still we did not understand.  Blair went to war because he became heady with the aura of power that was Washington, the White House and Crawford and worse, because he believed as he said, Saddam is a nasty man.

But Chilcot is 2.7million words.  Very little is about Blair. It shows the incompetence of British high military command.  The generals got it wrong.  Made bad decisions. MI6 got it wrong.  The Joint Intelligence Committee not only got it wrong but took part in producing a document of lies that was used as evidence of threat and therefore reason for war.  The lawyers got it right then backed down.  The Foreign Office leadership supported the PM instead of the truth.

There remains a terrible reflection of British society at the highest levels: Literally hundred of people were at fault either by omission or commission. But the spotlight of blame lands on Blair. The departments, ambitions and incompetencies and worse still the lies that took the UK into a war – that even George W Bush was not fussed if we went or not – all for the vanity of chance are listed and castigated true enough and thus Chilcot must be praised.

Chilcot will tell the truth about the others but the editors will write GUILTY BLAIR because they have never forgiven him, not for the war, but for being Tony Blair.

 

The Blair-Cameron Rule of War

November 18, 2015

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18 November 2015

Westminster

Those who criticised the way Tony Blair took the UK to war may reflect that the present Prime Minister David Cameron expresses similar sentiment.

Here at Westminster, in the mother of all parliamentary democracy Mr Cameron announced that as far as he is concerned it is not necessary to get the consent of the United Nations to start British bombing in Syria.

Of course, that is an image of the transition to war adopted by Tony Blair in 2003.  It was an apparent flagrant sweeping aside of the authority of the UN.  So it is again.  The bigger picture is different but there is one disturbing similarity between the Blair and Cameron reasoning.

In 2003 Tony Blair had been told by the then US President George W Bush that if there were to be political hassle for him (Blair) then there was no need to send in the British forces.  Political support would be just fine.

Blair believed that if the UK military was not on the start line then his famed support of the US after 9/11 would be meaningless.  He must have known also that Britain and he personally would be seen as what the former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk called a nation that had lost an empire but  had not found a role in the world.

Blair would be a second team player. Nice guy but what the White House would always see as someone in the Unsigned Christmas Card column.

And Cameron?  Go back to the intervention in Libya. There is every indication that Cameron joined the Libya operation in a hurry because the then French President Nicolas Sarkozy was leading on this, had decided to go in and that Cameron was being left behind. That could not happen again.

So Cameron told the Commons this lunchtime that whatever the UN said and presumably however his law officer the Attorney General described the legality of bombing, he Cameron would be going to the House to say the UK was joining the A Team of the US, France & Co.

Cameron may be right in what he said but best to remember four things: the UK’s bombing capability will make little difference to the campaign; a military role that has status value only  is not today needed – best stick to reconnaissance; re-read Dean Rusk and most importantly, mission creep.