Comment at end
26th November, 2009
WHO SAID THIS?
“I was a firm supporter of calling Saddam Hussein to account, if necessary by war. I have not changed my mind.”
“I was in favour of removing Saddam … you did not need 9/11 or WMD to justify confronting Iraq. Saddam had not lived up to the commiments given after the first Gulf war. He had “the means and the will to concoct WMD”. There was a British interest in confronting him.
Nope. Not Tony Blair, but Sir Christopher Meyer.
(See here for this and for the running commentary of Meyer’s “evidence” by the Guardian’s excellent Andrew Sparrow.)
Lord Foulkes, Newsnight: “If we are only going to hear from the usual suspects, prima donnas … this inquiry is going to become a farce … an inquisition, a star chamber about Tony Blair.”
MEYER – LOSING IT
The former British Ambassador to the United States, Sir Christopher Meyer lost his way today to a speaking lunch and ended up at the Iraq Inquiry instead. Still, his performance will have sold him a few more books, and THAT’S what it’s all about, isn’t it? Well, isn’t it? [Link here for Meyer’s books]
You’re welcome, Sir Christopher. We Blairites never fail to help those in evident need.
So an aside to Sir Chris – please go away and wave your arms about elsewhere. Regaling us with your undiplomatic abuse-of-trust opining, contradictory as it was in several places, does your reputation no good; no good at all.
Your “evidence” at the Iraq Inquiry, with all its colourful “signed in blood” and “Thatcher would have insisted” insider opinion was just that… “OPINION”. With a touch of 20/20 hindsight thrown in for good bad measure.
Nothing to see here.
A few Meyer nuggets, if you must – some wiser than others:
Meyer says people sometime suggest it was “the nutters” in the Bush adminstration who invented regime change. That’s not true. Bush “inherited” the policy from Clinton.
Bush decided to focus on Afghanistan.
Blair backed this. He argued “very strongly for a laser-like focus on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan”.
By the time Blair got to Washington in the aftermath of 9/11, Bush had settled on the approach backed by Blair.
CRAWFORD MEETING, BLAIR & BUSH, APRIL 2002
Gilbert asks about Blair’s meeting with Bush at Crawford in Texas in April 2002. Many observers believe that this was the meeting where the decision to go to war was effectively taken.
Meyer says that for much of the time Bush and Blair were alone. “To this day I’m not entirely clear what degree of convergence was signed in blood at the Texas range.”
There were “clues” in a speech Blair gave the following day.
There were lots of interesting things in the speech. It was the first time that Blair had said, in public, “regime change”. He was trying to draw the lessons of 9/11 and apply them to the situation in Iraq. That led to conflation of the threat posed by al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.
Meyer says when he read it he felt it represented a “tightening” of the UK/US alliance.
Compared with all the “hoo-haa” about 45 minutes, this speech contained a “sophisticated argument” for pre-emption. It was a good speech. It said doing nothing was not an option.
Here’s a link to a full text of the Blair speech Meyer has just been talking about.
AMERICA SETTLING ON POLICY OF FORCED REMOVAL OF SADDAM
Lyne wants to know at what point the most senior people in the Bush administration settled on policy of forced removal of Saddam as an objective.
Meyer says it was after the anthrax scare. At the time he did not give much attention to this. But it “really steamed up” the administration. They thought that the last person to use anthrax was Saddam.
Meyer says that Britain was opposed to regime change at this point. “We had a legal problem with regime change,” he says.
Meyer says that, after October 2001, there was a “sea-change” in US attitudes to containment. Britain gradually responded to this.
Lyne says that Meyer, in his book, says that by the time Blair got to Crawford he was supporting “regime change” but that he had to be discreet about it.
(One leaked document says Blair told Bush the UK would support regime change, “provided certain conditions were met”).
Lyne ask if British policy changed as a result of what was happening in the US.
No, Meyer suggests. Blair was “a true believer about the wickedness of Saddam Hussein”.
Meyer quotes from a speech Blair gave in 1998 about this.
MEYER THINKS NOT GOING INTO IRAQ WOULD HAVE DAMAGED BRITAIN’S STANDING IN IRAQ
Meyer says he was in favour of removing Saddam. He thought you did not need 9/11 or WMD to justify confronting Iraq. Saddam had not lived up to the commiments given after the first Gulf war. He had “the means and the will to concoct WMD”. There was a British interest in confronting him.
It would not have damaged Britain to have sent fewer troops to Iraq. It would have damaged Britain’s standing in Iraq if Britain had actively opposed the war.
He says he often thinks: “What would Margaret Thatcher have done? I think she would have insisted on a coherent diplomatic and political strategy and [planning for after the toppling of Saddam].”
That’s another key quote from the session. All Meyer’s Labour enemies are going to hate him for it.
(Ed: Worry not, Labour people – it’s only Meyer’s opinion. An unknown, as it were. It signifies nothing, like much of his flowery presentation.)
Read more from Sparrow here