Comment at end
15th January, 2010
‘DOING FOR’ BLAIR & CAMPBELL & BROWN & LABOUR & ANYONE ELSE THAT DOESN’T TOE THE PRESS’S LINE
If you watched Question Time last night, as referred to here and by John Rentoul here, you will be aware that the jumped-up mob are out for blood. And Alastair Campbell’s appearance at the Iraq Inquiry really got their juices flowing.
[Aside: On the Chilcot Inquiry The Telegraph’s Con Coughlin has quite a useful contribution to the debate. His phraseology on the “doing for” Blair inspired most of my thoughts in this article. He says –
“Chilcot Inquiry unlikely to find the smoking gun that does for Blair”
More on Coughlin’s article later.]
By the time I get to my thoughts on Coughlin’s article I might have worked out a good reason for wanting to ‘DO for’ Blair. I’ll let you know…
ON IRAQ AND THE IRAQ BANDWAGON JUMPERS
There has been more written about the Iraq Inquiry than its evidence, so far merits. Most of the analysis and opinion is of little use, biased as it is. Even this blogger admits to bias. MY bias? Aside from thinking that Tony Blair did the right thing over Iraq and showed real leadership (which admittedly colours my approach), I also take the position that in democracies we elect governments IN ORDER TO TAKE TOUGH AND CONTROVERSIAL DECISIONS as well as easy, popular ones. Tough ones, so WE don’t have to.
It is not and never should be, for instance, “war by referendum”.
I’ve tried, but I have found it impossible to think of ANY policy decision in recent years which has turned people who presumably wouldn’t normally say “boo” to a goose into a trainee lynch-mob, straining at the bit to get at their prey.
There’s a reason for this – and the reason is the press coverage, aided by the sprog bloggers.
People don’t get their ideas out of thin air. Only from the press do they imbibe the notion with their morning coffee and Daily MAUL that nothing good was ever intended in the Iraq invasion and that nothing good will ever come from it. And only from the press do the words “B.Lair” – *correction “B.Liar”, “war criminal” and “warmonger” rise as though organically. It’d be interesting to find whose hand first coined such monikers for politicians in our country. If it wasn’t actually the Daily MAUL and its followers, they soon enough drew the pictures to illustrate it all.
[*Note on my correction above. It’s automatic for me, apologies… I suppose, to spell things right if I can. Thus I hadn’t noticed that I hadn’t spelt “B.Liar” ‘wrongly’ as it were, until now, 13:50, 16 Jan. “B.Liar” proponents will recognise this “automatic” habit, I’m sure.]
Chilcot: LESSONS TO LEARN? A BAD LESSON IS NOT GOOD
The idea that the Inquiry is TO LEARN lessons, is an interesting way of putting it. Interesting because the “learn lessons” phrase seems to me a sop to try to please the unhappy. It’s not real life nor real politics and it could be a hostage to fortune. Political decisions aren’t dependent on the results of inquiries on policy decisions, and nor should they be.
Of course the Inquiry isn’t REALLY about learning lessons, anyway. It’s about satisfying the insatiable, even though we know their hunger for retributive justice will never be satisfied. And even though those for whom they are seeking ‘justice’ have not asked them to act or speak on their behalf. Iraqis, like Afghans are in growing numbers, happy to have western “interference” in their lives, especially given the alternatives.
But politicians have to be kept in their place, don’t you know? Under our feet where they belong. I imagine that David Cameron is working himself up to go for a “war or not by popular vote” policy. If so, don’t disparage it. It’s a policy, and Mr Cameron needs one or two of those.
SHAMING & REPRIMANDING
The Inquiry is mainly about reprimanding and shaming leaders. This is a poor substitute for getting them into court for their “crimes”. But it’s a “lesson” to aspiring politicians not be get above themselves again. I mean… WHO do they think they ARE? Democratically accountable elected members of parliament or something? Liable to be thrown out of office if they don’t deliver or deliver the wrong baby? For the people By the people?
Many of those wanting the heads-on-plate verdict are doing so for (party) political reasons. In other words they belong to the minority – yes it was a minority who were against the Iraq invasion not a majority as a badly informed woman in the Question Time audience insisted last night. It was NOT 80% against; it was actually 63% FOR.
Most of these antis are Liberal Democrats and OLD Left Labourites. Others are anarchists and fringe pressure groupings. They have been joined by many within the hypocritical Conservative party, even though the Tories largely voted with Blair. Their reasons are clearly political, hardly ever principled. They have been led by the nose or by expediency, to support the DAILY MAUL tale that “Blair lied”, so it wasn’t their (trusting) fault that they had agreed with him over Iraq (and WMDs). They now have the Daily MAUL’s permission to go back on their original position.
The whole premise of many of those who wanted this Inquiry, and who smile when it’s going well (for them) and scowl when it isn’t, is that Mr Blair – yes, HIM personally – is a liar, cheat, unprincipled, self-server who deserves a lot more punishment than we could ever hope to give him, legally. And, what’s more – he’s surrounded by more of the same, only weaker versions. And he’s now rich! Don’t forget that, whatever you do, yells the indignant MAUL – dear envious eyes of Britain – don’t forget THAT! A so-called “socialist”. RICH! Whatever next?
IRAQ INQUIRY – so many premises
The Iraq Inquiry, high-mindedly asking solemn questions, reeks at times of pathetic self-indulgence. That, more than an example of democracy in action, is what it often conveys to me, anyway. I hesitate to use the word “pompous” as I am sure the panel all mean well, but you get my drift. The panel seems to be bending over backwards to prove its integrity and that it is NOT going to be brow-beaten by ‘clever’ witnesses. Even that accepted premise suggests that the witnesses may be too clever for anyone’s good, including their own, so adding to the pressure to “nail them”, misguided though that “too clever” premise may well be. Or even the premise of the real need to “nail” anyone. Hopefully the panel will prove too clever for the press and the antis of this country – the REAL nailers with the preconceived premises.
LEARNING THE WRONG LESSONS
Where might all this “lessons to learn” business lead? To be frank it opens up so many other areas in which we could “learn”, aka change policies. And mainly this area – war/defence. Perhaps it is not surprising that it is the habitually electorally unsuccessful Liberal Democrats who scream the loudest on this. They who would do away with Trident and perhaps even unilaterally disarm.
Why was I under the misapprehension that we voted for parties dependent on their policies, and not dependent on what an Inquiry told them they should be (have been)? Didn’t we vote for Blair’s party two years after the Iraq invasion, even when The MAUL and others had already started calling him a “war criminal”? Wasn’t the ‘lesson learned’ from the popular vote that there was general satisfaction with his party, certainly more than with either of the other two?
I evidently need to learn a lesson or two about “democracy”. It now depends on which papers you read and on how gullible you are.
And I didn’t even vote for Labour.
Just for the exercise – if we were to learn some new ‘lessons’ around war & defence what considerations would we have to take on board?
- Our preparedness or not for military action?
- A larger army or a smaller one?
- Should we unilaterally disarm our nuclear missile capability?
- Should we disconnect from our strongest ally, the USA or even NATO?
- Should we take a neutral position as far as war is concerned?
- Should we sink our defence decisions into an EU army and go through the EU in future before any war decision is taken?
- Should we aim to please the press, because THEY are the distillers and fonts of all knowledge, in their all-pervasiveness?
- Should we ‘know our place in the world’ and forget that millions still look to our country as the ‘Mother of Parliaments’ and the example for democracy?
If the end result is to make a future PM and government cower in the face of the enemy because the REAL enemy is the press and they fear the possible destruction of their character and motivation as has clearly happened in Mr Blair’s case that is a bad lesson to learn.
HOW GENUINE ARE THOSE WHO WISH US “TO LEARN LESSONS”?
A little like the old chestnut that people vote for ALL sorts of different reasons, people have ALL sorts of different reasons for trying to pin Blair to the wall over Iraq.
- For a start there are genuine anti-war people, the pacifists. But they are not generally hangers ‘n’ floggers as populate the Guardian Cif pages and the Daily MAUL.
- There are the bereaved families of some soldiers who have been roused to outrage by press reports, some even true, of insufficient equipment.
- Not to mention those angry that Blair took us to war for “personal” post-PM ambitions. Now where did they get THAT idea, I wonder? The Daily MAUL?
- There are the “Blair lied, people died” poets.
- Then there are those who have a newly found attachment to so-called “international law”, despite the fact that such laws are constantly evolving and are seldom noticed by many signatories in their international, even domestic policy choices.
- Then there are those who say – “look at the thousands who have died because of Blair”. (Not Bush … just Blair.)
- And those who say “for WMDs it would have been AOK to go in (and kill thousands) but for any other reason, like ‘regime change’ – ah well, that’s different.”
- And these – “we haven’t sorted out Mugabe, or Saudi Arabia or China – so why sort out Saddam?”
- And these – “Saddam was our friend not long ago and kept things stable in Iraq.”
- And these – “The Middle East is now a powder keg because of us.” (They clearly hadn’t noticed it before.)
- And these – “We have increased terrorism around the world because of our actions.” (They clearly hadn’t noticed it before.)
- And these – “it’s none of our business – hands-off!”
- And these know-alls – “it was all about the oil!”
- There are the ‘disappointed’, mainly on Labour’s Left. They wanted a Tony to lead them, true, but it was Bennite, rather than Blairite. This New Labour Tony was far too right for them! Far too right in every way.
- And the umpteen conspirators of umpteen theories, who wouldn’t recognise a real conspiracy if it started to take over their country from the inside. Clearly.
So, like Thatcher before him, it’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ for one T. Blair. If they can’t get him one way, they’ll get him another.
Meanwhile, the rest of us, who understand that democracy and even law, international and domestic are not always built on solid rock and not always infallible, are portrayed as gullible fodder for the establishment; useful idiots.
It’s just such a pity for the Iraq debate fire-stokers that they fail to notice that the Iraqi people are happier now than under Saddam, despite the ongoing attacks from insurgents within their own country. (Whose blood-soaked hands in Iraqi deaths the fire-stokers also fail to notice.)
So, no, I haven’t yet found a reason to “do for Blair”. I’ll keep looking.
Back to Con Coughlin at The Telegraph.
Compared to most this is actually a pretty fair article, for a British journalist. I even agree with some of it! I disagree with the premises that are, as it were, taken as understood. I do not accept such “premises”, nor do I accept them as widely understood or accepted. Notwithstanding ‘Question Time’ and its ilk.
“Chilcot Inquiry unlikely to find the smoking gun that does for Blair”
Former officials’ outbursts have brought us no nearer to knowing the truth about the invasion of Iraq, says Con Coughlin.
This is not the first time that the Whitehall establishment has sought to get its revenge on Mr Blair for aligning the country so closely with George Bush’s obsessive quest to remove Saddam Hussein.
Premise Number One – Bush had an “obsessive quest” to remove Saddam. He may have had a strong desire so to do, but this langauge is unnecessary. There were more people than George Bush desirous to be rid of Saddam. ANY British prime minister would have been hard-pushed NOT to go along with our strongest ally in “the quest” after 9/11, whatever exactly the quest was.
And while the cameras have been banned for some sessions, such as this week’s discussion of the secret deal with Iranian-backed militias to end hostilities in Basra, this courtesy will not be extended to Mr Blair, nor to Mr Brown, if the inquiry deems it necessary to call him.
This explains why expectations are running high that when the former PM – aka “the great deceiver” – finally tears himself away from his globe-trotting and graces the inquiry with his presence, he will be revealed as the liar and war criminal his detractors hold him to be.
Premise Number Two – (said by Blair’s ‘detractors’, not Mr Coughlin) – Blair, the globe-trotter gracing us, is “the great deceiver, liar and war criminal.” This kind of language is pointed and unnecessary, and feeds into general misconceptions.
One of the more diverting features of the inquiry has been the enthusiasm with which so many of Mr Blair’s former officials have set about getting their revenge. There was Sir Christopher Meyer, the former Ambassador to Washington, claiming that Mr Blair signed a Faustian pact with Mr Bush to overthrow Saddam come what may. This prompted Sir Ken Macdonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, to accuse Mr Blair of being deceitful in his justifications for the invasion. Allegations such as these are hardly surprising, given the intense hostility Mr Blair aroused in both the diplomatic and judicial classes during his premiership. The Foreign Office’s pro-Arab bias was exposed when a motley collection of ambassadors penned letters to the newspapers voicing their opposition to Saddam’s overthrow. Would they have been so forthright if Mr Blair had been planning to invade Israel? It was for this reason that Mr Blair deliberately excluded Sir Christopher from his discussions with Mr Bush, and had little regard for his cables from Washington, which for some inexplicable reason seem to have gone missing from the Downing Street archive.
Here I have to say I DO agree with Mr Coughlin. This country seems to have lost the Judao part of its traditions, almost the Christian part too, but that’s another story. The pro-Arab lobby in the country, as well as within Whitehall and much of the press, is deeply unbalancing in today’s world, even worrying in its Obama-esque hands-out-to-all intensity.
The problem, however, is that these outbursts bring us no closer to the truth about the Iraq war: they are speculative, rather than factual. The same problem arose this week when Alastair Campbell revealed that Mr Blair had written several letters on Iraq to Mr Bush in 2002, the year before Saddam’s overthrow. Did this prove, as Sir Christopher alleged, that Mr Blair signed up to removing Saddam long before he admitted it to Parliament? The problem is that this does not square with the established facts, which are that, without Mr Blair’s insistence on going through the UN, the US would have gone to war long before March 2003.
Again I agree with Mr Coughlin. Blair gets little … no thanks for any brake he applied to any action lined up by the USA. He may well have wanted to delay the invasion until the UN inspectors had completed their tasks, but Britain was an ally not the Big Boy in the room. It seems that if we can’t be the Big Boys, the Blair detractors want us to throw away the ball and go home in a huff.
If we really wanted to know the truth, Sir John would be summoning the likes of Mr Bush and Dick Cheney, as well as other key architects of the invasion, such as Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz or Douglas Feith. That, of course, is well beyond its jurisdiction – which is just one of the many reasons that this inquiry, like all those before it, is unlikely to find the smoking gun that finally nails Mr Blair.
Premise Number Three – “if we really wanted to know the truth”. Who is “we”? Speaking personally I don’t want to pursue politicians till the ends of their days over political decisions. I want to leave the decisions to my government, and think “there but for fortune”. But I realise that many do want to pursue decision-makers relentlessly because they think they were or still are corrupt/evil/misled. Or, more likely, because they want to make sure that such as Mr Blair never returns to British politics to threaten the rest of them with REAL LEADERSHIP again.
Best nail him now, while they have the chance. As for American witnesses, well, we know THAT won’t happen, and never would.
Another is that the inquiry’s remit is to look at the lessons that can be learnt, rather than whether there is a case for putting Mr Blair on trial. On this basis, the real culprit is Clare Short, the then International Development Secretary, whose department had responsibility for post-war planning in Iraq but who, for her own political reasons, was not fully engaged. After all, the failure of that planning is the main reason we are having this inquiry in the first place: if the coalition had succeeded in stabilising Iraq immediately after Saddam’s overthrow, I doubt we would be having this argument today.
To my mind, the fact that the country collapsed into anarchy within months of the brilliantly executed military campaign to overthrow Saddam is a far greater indictment of the Blair government’s competence than the decision-making process that led to that overthrow in the first place.
Premise Number Four – the implication here is that the remit SHOULD be about “whether there is a case for putting Mr Blair on trial.” There clearly isn’t such a case, even if he lied (which he didn’t.) He got parliament’s approval. That’s all he needed, in fact more than he needed.
Premise Number Five – the learning lessons business on “post war planning” is the “reason we are having the Inquiry”. Not quite. It is partly about that AND plenty of other matters, or so they tell us in this attempt to achieve closure. While I agree that the shortcomings of Clare Short may well be highlighted and reasonably so perhaps for her refusal to comply with relief aid requirements for weeks after the invasion, the Inquiry is NOT ONLY about that failure. If one was so minded, Short’s position could be interpreted as another Blair mistake – HUGGING HIS ENEMIES CLOSE. Never be surprised by the press’s squirming and double-dealing in their attempts to blame Blair for anything and everything. They know all the tricks, and they know that the public will soak up most of them.
Having said that there is no doubt in my mind that had few died (even though the many who did were killed by locals, insurgents and imports from other countries in the region) Iraq would NOT have been a reason to try to haul Blair across the coals. So, as Mr Blair said on another matter, they’d have to find another reason.
Premise Number Six – Collapse into anarchy was NOT the fault of the British government or army, but the Americans. That is an historical fact and had Blair and his people tearing their hair out, reportedly. And America, not Britain, as I have mentioned before, was the BIG BOY in the class. They made, or didn’t make the post-war decisions for which our former PM seems to be paying a heavy toll with his reputation.
On the whole Mr Coughlin’s article has a decent go at working out the whys and wherefores of the Doing for Blair business. But I still think it barely scratches the surface as to what those who are gunning for him really want.
They want brownie points for being “right” before we realise they were “wrong”. Before people realise that the Iraq conflict was one of the most successful foreign conflicts in which this country has ever been involved.
And no, in case youre wondering, no – I still can’t find a reason for wanting to “do for” Mr Blair.
As I mentioned at the start of this post, people vote for ALL sorts of different reasons. A whole lot of ways to come unstuck. Unfortunately for President Obama, many of these reasons for voting for him have either failed, had to face realpolitik, or have just been undeliverable in time and/or within budget. It took Blair several years to start to disappoint, not just one year.
2. An interesting article by Tony Blair – A Time of Tests