28th July 2010
Hans Blix was the Executive Chairman of the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission to Iraq, 2000 to 2003.
HANS BLIX: “Some people maintain that Iraq was legal. I am of the firm view that it was an illegal war. There can be cases where it is doubtful, maybe it was permissible to go to war, but Iraq was, in my view, not one of those.”
Did YOU spot the important words in the above sentence spoken by Hans Blix yesterday?
“illegal war” ? – No, that’s the Liberal Democrats’ take.
“doubtful” ? – No, that’s the press’s take.
The important words are “in my view”.
Perhaps it should not surprise us, but the press have been fairly quiet about Blix’s evidence. I wonder why?
I QUESTION BLIX’S VIEWS
But, to be fair, and before I lambast him on much of what he said yesterday, Dr Blix IS right on this. Though this is fact, as opposed to his opinion –
‘He stressed that Tony Blair never put any “pressure” on him over his search for weapons in Iraq and did not question that the prime minister and President Bush believed in “good faith” that Iraq was a serious threat.
“I certainly felt that he [Tony Blair] was absolutely sincere in his belief.”‘
I QUESTION BLIX’S JUDGEMENT (just a few examples)
BLIX: “What I question was the good judgement, particularly of President Bush but also in Tony Blair’s judgement.”
Questioning political judgement? Easy for non-politically responsible Blix to say. No point in my using what-iffery here. Suffice it to say that, for his own reasons, it is likely that had Bush and Blair done nothing about Iraq, Blix would also have questioned their “judgement”. There are many backs needing protection and many agendas at play.
‘While he believed Iraq “unilaterally” destroyed its weapons of mass destruction after the 1991 Gulf War, Dr Blix said he never “excluded” the prospect that it had begun to revive some form of chemical and biological capabilities.’
So he never “excluded” the “prospect”. But LACK OF political responsibility meant that he could stand back and criticise the judgement of those who HAD those responsibilities. His hindsight 20/20 vision tells him he might have been wrong in including that prospect. He neatly forgot to remind us of his lack of judgement.
It seems also that Dr Blix confuses the past with the present. (And some might suggest that he not is as clear-headed as he’d like us to think about the present.)
For instance, Sir Roderic Lyne to Blix at around 29 minutes into the video (page 20 of transcript) on Resolution 1441:
SIR RODERIC LYNE: Did you feel that it gave Iraq a realistic possibility of meeting the requirements of the resolution?
DR BLIX: Yes, except that it was very hard for them to declare any weapons when they didn’t have any.
SIR RODERIC LYNE: No, but we didn’t know they didn’t have any. I mean, I ask the question because we have had at least one witness that has said that actually the way it was drafted was actually as a trigger for military action, but that’s evidently not what you felt at the time from what you have just said.
DR BLIX: No. There is this big discussion as to whether a second resolution would be required. I for my part thought that to me it was clear that a second resolution was required.
And at around 40 minutes Blix expresses concern that some saw the UNSC as paralysed. As they say, he would be concerned at that, wouldn’t he?
“However, it seemed plausible to me at the time, and I also felt — I, like most people at the time, felt that Iraq retains weapons of mass destruction. I did not say so publicly. I said it perhaps to Mr Blair in September 2002 privately, but not publicly because I think there is a big difference between your role as a trustee of the Security Council, “Investigate this and report to us”, and the role of a politician.
And, on the document regarding raw uranium from Niger – at 48/49 minutes (pg 33 of transcript) –
Blix: The Niger document was scandalous. If IAEA could conclude in a day’s time that this was a forgery and this document had been dancing between the Italians and to British and the Americans and to the French and they all relied upon it and Bush alluded to it and mentioned it in the State of the Union message in 2003, I think that was the most scandalous part.
SIR JOHN CHILCOT: I would like to say something about the Niger question just in the light of what you have said because the Butler Committee, which you recall, concluded the British Government had intelligence from several different sources, that the visit to Niger was for the purpose of not actually the acquisition of uranium but acquiring it, the forged documents were not available to the UK Government at the time it made its assessment. So the fact there was forgery does not actually change the British Government’s assessment on the Niger issue. I thought for the record I should just say that.
DR BLIX: I am glad they didn’t manage to misinterpret that one.
Very funny, Dr Blix.
His judgement? Questionable.
I QUESTION BLIX’S GOOD FAITH
‘Since the war, Dr Blix has accused the UK and US of “over-interpreting” intelligence on weapons to bolster the case for war but he said the government’s controversial September 2002 dossier on Iraqi weapons seemed “plausible” at the time.’
The implication? At a later time, it isn’t plausible. Blix’s 20/20 all over again. It is NOT “good faith” to question by insinuation the good faith of others.
HIS good faith? Questionable.
I QUESTION BLIX’S HIGH-HORSE RIDING
After 9/11 and in the run-up to war, he said the US government was “high on” the idea of pre-emptive military action as a solution to international crises.
“They thought they could get away with it and therefore it was desirable to do so.”
A facile and politically naive remark, and inconsistent with that of someone who says he does not question others’ “good faith”.
HIS getting away with it? Not here he won’t.
I wonder what Blix thinks of Iraq today? Does that, and the Iraq that might have been with Saddam still in power, not indicate something? Something small? Like, for instance, Blair was right?
Blix is said to have written to the Chilcot Inquiry on several occasions to offer himself as a witness since he had waited and waited and had not yet been asked. But yesterday he came, he spoke and he used no smoking gun. Nothing to see here. Move along.
WHAT THE PAPERS SAY
I find it interesting how our papers use selected quotes from evidence. For instance for the Mail & the Financial Times, noteworthy were his opposing positions. Not that they point out that he opposes himself.
Mail: “Tony Blair was told by Hans Blix one month before the Iraq War that he was unlikely to ever find weapons of mass destruction.”
FT: ‘Hans Blix, former UN chief weapons inspector, told Tony Blair one month before the Iraq invasion that he thought Saddam Hussein may still have illegal weapons in spite of his growing doubts on the matter.
Mr Blix told the Iraq inquiry that he was becoming increasingly concerned about the credibility of western intelligence. He told Mr Blair in February 2003 that it would be “paradoxical” if Britain and the US invaded Iraq with 250,000 men only to find “very little” there.
Yet he told the then UK prime minister during the private conversation: “I said I still thought there were prohibited items in Iraq.”
Mr Blix also revealed that in late 2002, only a few months earlier, he had told Mr Blair that he “felt that Iraq had retained weapons of mass destruction”.
It seemed “plausible” to him especially in relation to anthrax stocks, he recalled. An Australian UN inspector had found evidence of anthrax reserves in Iraq which seemed “very convincing”, he said.
The testimony adds new nuances to the complex debate which raged in the months preceding the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.’
- Blix’s evidence (watch at official website) (Entire transcript here)
- The Iraq Inquiry website
- Resolution 1441
- Baroness Manningham-Buller: Increase in terrorism “shouldn’t stop you doing what you believe”
EARLIER POSTS HERE
- Tony Blair to The Hague for the ‘mess/disaster/folly’ that is Baghdad today!
- All set for more ‘Blixing it’ at the Iraq Inquiry?
Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here
A recent comment from an Albanian, Mr Leonard Dedej from Tirana – “It takes big leaders to make the hardest turns in peoples life…mr Blair is a big leader and a great man for millions of people in Balkans!!!for stopping a savage war!about Iraq I believe that the press wherever it is has not the right to judge on this issue because it simply is to small to judge!!history will judge mr Blair!as long as it is an ongoing war no one can blame mr Blair,after all he started something for a big reason..the press its often wrong because it fights for audience!!!”