I watched most of this morning’s TB session on the Iraq inquiry website. I don’t know who put the site together but I wished we’d had more of them around when I was doing government communications. It is clear, simple and very well designed.
It also means it is possible to watch a screen freed from the clutter of broadcasters who seem to think the public’s attention span is as a gnattish as theirs. I’m all for twitter as one form of communication, but I’m not sure we need the running commentary of reporters, or the constant reminders of what has already been said.
I said when this inquiry first started that some people will never believe that there was a case for the war in Iraq, and will always believe that there was some duplicity or conspiracy behind the decision to go to war.
There was nothing said this morning that I haven’t heard many times before, but for me the most important part of the procedings was when TB pointed out that ultimately this was a judgement that he as Prime Minister had to make.
The inquiry is rightly going over all the key moments in the decision-making processes involved, and pointing out that at every turn, different options could have been pursued and different decisions taken. That is the nature of any walk of life, but perhaps especially politics and international statesmanship.
It is clear from the blanket coverage, here and abroad, the all day trending on twitter, and the volume of traffic to news sites, that his appearance will generate millions of comments, but ultimately there are only two views. He made the right judgement. Or he made the wrong judgement.
Many of those who think he made the wrong judgement may express themselves more violently, and frankly nothing said today is likely ever to move them from the position they hold.
As someone who thinks he made the right judgement, and as someone who saw all the processes that led to him making it, I think what today has shown so far is that he was fully seized of the enormity of the decision, but that ultimately the security and strategic interests of the UK left him with no option but to take the course he did.
Too much of this debate is conducted in black or white terms. Political and diplomatic judgements are rarely black and white. But those who say he was wrong, let alone those who say he is evil, or a liar, or any of the other insults bandied around by opponents, at least have to acknowledge the ‘what if’ question that he posed this morning. What if Saddam had been left unchecked, continuing to defy the UN and face down the world, and what if he had continued to develop and one day use – as he had before – a WMD programme? Judgements are rarely black and white. Nor are unintended consequences. There would have been consequences to inaction too.
‘The millions of comments…are only two views. He made the right judgement. Or he made the wrong judgement.’
‘Too much of this debate is conducted in black and white terms’
Which one is it, Alastair?
‘….and will display the same combination of guts principles and statesmanship as TB will’
The only similarity between Brown and Blair is that both are prepared to lie to the electorate when it suits them, principles ?, don’t make me laugh.
It’s rather gratuitous of you to suggest that some of the anti may express themselves more violently. More violently than what? The Bush/Blair shock & awe? Saddam? Our warlord allies in Iraq & Afghanistan? The police who invoke anti-terror laws against peaceful protest? A spin doctor who is infamous for swearing at and bullying his own friends and colleagues?
Even in just a few hours, it is possible to see the complexity of some of the issues, alongside the wretched simplicity of so many of the arguments put by those who disagree, not to mention the simplicty of the media and the commentary surrounding this. Thanks for the tip about the website
I’ve never doubted Blair’s integrity and I never will. His 2010 argument was spot on.
People constantly overlook Blair’s concern of the consequences of letting America go it alone. He made the same point in the chamber of the House back in 2003 almost as forcefully as his argument for disarming Iraq. He’s made the point again today. These are the shades of grey involving the Iraq debate that I have never seen explored in the countless hours of media coverage.
Military acttion is bloody. It’s dirty. People die. To think that Tony Blair, or any British Prime Minister, would make the decision to take military action on a whim, or to cosy up to an American President is an insult to the thousands involved in implementing that decision.
He is reminding me why I liked having him around as prime minister. He is in a different league to the Brown/Cameron league of leadership.
AC, shame you;re not watching the TV. Just seen an Iraqi woman saying she cannot understand why Britain isn’t proud to have liberated the people from Saddam Hussein. Same point you made a couple of weeks ago. Agree Blair is doing well.
Another outrageously inept piece of broadcasting (as I write) from the ITV lunchtime news. Where do they get candidates for their live interviews from? Anyone at all in the room seems fit to comment on today’s proceedings – from the doorman to the cleaner! As a senior officer friend of mine, currently serving in Kabul says, and I quote; ‘A few things to bear in mind when you hear the news, the whining etc: Our kit is as good as it can be wpns, vehs, body armour. Training outstanding. guys and girls are some of the best that UK has. Everybody here volunteered to be in the forces and accepts whatever happens.’ If you join the army as a career, at some point you should expect that there is the possibility you may have to actually do what you’re trained and paid to; Fight for your country’. Of course I feel desperately sorry for the families that have lost loved ones – but they knew what they were doing when they signed up. Don’t disrespect theirmemory, or denegrate their courage and bravery in wanting to defend their country, with post-rationalisation hysteria. The same goes for Tony Blair. He took an immensely brave and difficult decision which many others would have cowered from making. Don’t berate the man for the courage and personal integrity he showed. He did his job in the best interests of his country. He deserves our praise not press driven indignation. Makes my blood boil!!!! Rant over 🙂
Posted this against wrong blog originally …
The world may well be a better place without Saddam. But that was just not the case put to the British people. No matter how much people squirm, spin or wriggle it was ALL about WMD. There can be no serious doubt that the evidence on WMD was spun and massaged.
By all means, argue that the end justified the means. Hey, you might even be right on that. But please stop trying to pretend that the public weren’t misled, and deliberately misled, about the evidence for Saddam Hussein’s WMD programme.
No one doubts that leadership requires judgement. And leadership in such difficult circumstances requires the most careful judgement. But judgement must be supported by a careful, reflexive and serious review of the evidence – as well as an ability to question and reflect on one’s deeply held assumptions and limiting mindsets (and those of partners and allies). In these circumstances it is not enough to rely on faith or belief. “I truly believe what I did was right” is the narcissist’s defence.
Seems to me that in the end, the evidence that counted was that which supported Blair (and Britain’s) status as friends of the US.
And, seems to me, the ‘what if’ scenarios you’re referencing now are just extensions of an attempt at post hoc rationalisation, when, in the end, the evidence has proved that the judgement was wrong.
Saddam was a without doubt a deeply unpleasant and dangerous man – but he was not responsible for 9/11 and there were no WMDs…
What a relief to hear Tony Blair giving us a powerful reminder of the threat we were (and still are) under after 9/11. Its about time the balance was re-dressed: there have been too many years of people naively attacking the decision to go to war when they don’t understand the fantacism of Islamic extremism and characters like Saddam Hussein who was financing suicide bombers through out the region. Maybe we will need Blair back when we and the US are inevitably going to have to make a decision about the Iranian threat.
Secondly, I sympathise with all these mothers and fathers of dead soldiers, but they always say, Tony Blair passes the blame to everyone else; what they forget is that when someone joins the army, it isn’t up to their parents to decided which is an ok war for them to fight and which isn’t. It is decided by parliament on the basis of intelligence, national security and complex UN negotiations. They are projecting all their loss onto the government, which is understandable but not realistic.
I agree. I do read the web site which as you say is excellent. The Iraq Digest site is also very good. Like you, I cannot watch the main channels broadcast of the enquiry. Why oh why do journalists take us all as dimwits and unable to interpret or understand questions and replies. Further, I disagree with so much of the interpretation placed on words by journalists. I have just listened to the World at One – one can almost know what those taking part were going to say. As I have a rather large TV, I use the red button which means like the Parliament Channel, I can omit commentary from so called expert journalists.
I agree that Tony Blair has defended his decision making very well. What struck me more than anything else this morning is that he was a very good strategic thinker – much more than I was aware of. I think he demonstrated his strategy very well. It all made sense to me.
I believe that we made the right decision at the time and I know that polls at the time indicated that the majority of the citizens of this country felt the same. I get very angry at those people who now seek to rewrite their views and or decisions based on what we now know. Last night on the World Service, Michael Meacher gave an interview, the content of which demonstrates the type of person I mean. How silly they all are. People generally accept that honest decisions are made based on evidence available at the time. To witness people trying now to suggest they were manipulated (last night’s interview) is pathetic. What weak people we have in Parliament when they say they are manipulated.
I have been reading around over the lunch time and as to be expected, regardless of the testimony provided to the enquiry, its validity, its honesty or whatever, peoples minds are made up (as are the media). Somehow, I feel that those opposed to the war, those military families who blame the Government (the majority do not), seem to dominate the media. People like me are not heard. A balanced and fair media as Fox News says!!!!Is it any wonder that newspaper circulation is falling and that all of us – even us oldies rely on the web for our news.
“I’m all for twitter as one form of communication, but I’m not sure we need the running commentary of reporters, or the constant reminders of what has already been said.”
Of course you don’t like it AC, because it draws attentions to TB’s inconsistencies. Just in case you missed it – a useful post from your mate Gilligan:
“During the afternoon break, the Telegraph’s Andrew Gilligan, speaking to BBC News 24, says that the Chilcot panel are “starting to get it”, although they still let witnesses off the hook more than they should. On his Telegraph blog Gilligan says that amidst all the bluster today Blair has made two key admissions; 1) that the threat posed by Iraq was not growing; and 2) that he may have misled MPs in July 2002 by telling Parliament that Britain was not planning for an invasion.”
Am surprised he has not been quizzed further on the Fern interview and his statement ‘we would have deployed other arguments” when asked what he would have done if he knew there were no WMDs in Iraq at the time. Other arguments for what….. rather goes against his assertion today that it was only ever about WMDs.
Query too – why were our troops sent in without proper NBC kit if WMDs were such an issue – negligence of the hightest order if nothing else.
I have been at work so only dipping in and out, but what comes through to me is a sincerity and also a deep understanding of issues that most people do not have to address. I was always a ‘don’t know’ on the war, but I really dislike the way so many who disagree with Mr Blair express their disagreement. He was a good prime minister and he remains in my view a good man and our country’s politics misses him
Had Tony Blair made that decision to go to war with Bill Clinton, we would not now still be talking about it.
Tony Blair is a victim of having to work alongside the biggest clown President since nobody! That’s why TB is in the dock, not for any other reason. Our great leader went to war with a clown and he is still living with that decision years later.
Agree totally with Jonathan below.
Trying to spin the argument doesn’t wash. If Blair had argued the point you and he make today in 2003 you would not have got the commons vote.
You are all living up to your rep!
Good evening Alastair,
Have just been watching bits of the Iraq enquiry. PM Blair is a LEGEND – head and shoulders above every European politician since the time of the all-time-greats like Schmidt in Germany for example. A man like that just happens every 50 years or so. No need for airbrushing here…
Clare Short was rather good today. She exposed Blair superbly.
This isn’t just down to a question of “judgement” – as much as you would like that to be the case. The truth still yet might just come back to bite you on the arse.