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12th May 2011,
Tony Blair’s “may have been” on WMD was missed by the press
Today the Iraq Inquiry has released further documents so exciting the over-excitable. Sir John Chilcot makes clear that we will need to wait until the autumn before we read their full report, something that will not so excite the above-mentioned.
Blair’s Weapon of Media Destruction was not noticed. Why not?
In the previous post – Chris Ames’s Iraq Inquiry Digest (so-called). Spinning by triangulated omission? – I took Chris Ames to task on his so-called Iraq Inquiry Digest doggedly spinning out of balance, if it were ever balanced in the first place. His blog’s name makes it sound neutral. It is nothing of the sort. It is as neutral as my blog is on Tony Blair. The difference being that I have never pretended to be neutral.
THE MISSING ARGUMENT
In his recent post targeting Blair for so-called spin on intelligence, so-called lies, so-called exaggeration and so-called mistrust by some other opiners, Chris Ames chose NOT to mention Tony Blair’s more recent encounter with that same panel member Sir Lawrence Freedman at the Iraq Inquiry in January this year, 2011. Ames fails to allude to this, distracted as he was by rummaging through year-old evidence sessions for any tasty scraps he may have inadvertently overlooked.
DECIDER c/w OPINER
Yet it was during THIS January’s so-called grilling of Blair that Ames, were his mind sufficiently open, might have spotted the difference between a political decider and a political opiner.
I know Mr Ames has pored over all of Blair’s evidence in both Januarys, 2011 and 2010, and I am sure he has watched the videos umpteen times. Chris Ames’s position is that there is a smoking gun here – SOMEwhere. Mr Ames knows, as WE ALL KNOWERS all know, that if and when he finds that gun he can pin Blair to the wall and get Brownie points for shooting the golden bullet at the former PM. It’s a messy job, Chris, but somebody’s got to do it! Hmmm?
Ames’s selective quoting is all the more remiss for this reason: it was in an interchange with Sir Lawrence Freedman that Mr Blair said something which virtually ALL the mainstream press and British bloggers seem to have failed to notice, or more likely decided to skip lightly over.
Most of our glorious press also leapt blithely over the fact that there were very few who turned out to protest in January. I was there on both occasions, 2010 & 2011, and I took a few pictures. Believe me, this year the protesters were outnumbered by the police. Last year the placard-wavers were at least double in number, though still outnumbered by the police.
I’ve looked, I’ve googled, I’ve searched. I’ve found almost nothing by the British press or even the American mainstream press on this Blair/Freedman exchange. Andrew Sparrow mentioned it briefly in his live report from Blair’s second appearance at the Iraq Inquiry, but still didn’t give it sufficient coverage to raise other press antennae. (jump below, then click to jump back)
After all the inquisitorial nit-picking that Blair and others have been subjected to by the latest series of the Iraq Inquiry Unlimited, somehow they ALL missed the significance of this:
Blair to Freedman: “May have been is my justification for this”
So why do I believe that the words “MAY HAVE BEEN” mean so much?
In response to a line pursued by Sir Lawrence Freedman on Saddam’s compliance or lack of regarding resolution 1441 there was this (end of page 90 of Blair’s written transcript):
18 SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: It may or may not. We will come
19 back to the problem —
20 THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Sir Lawrence, it is really
21 important. May have been is my justification for this.
22 I was not prepared to run this —
23 SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: You had set in motion a process
24 which was rather abruptly discontinued.
Before you read the surrounding context of this interchange below, which is also really important, let me repeat this response by Tony Blair:
“Sir Lawrence, it is really important. May have been is my justification for this. I was not prepared to run this –“
Note how, in the original numbered lines, Mr Blair was, as it were, “rather abruptly” interrupted by Sir Lawrence. We can safely conclude that Tony Blair’s next word would have been “risk”.
In context Blair had been saying that he thought that since Saddam had not complied with 1441 and showed no signs of complying, the conclusion that he took was that he never intended to comply. The “may have been” was in reference to the notion put by Blair that Saddam may have had ambitions to develop his WMD programme in competition with Iran.
PROVISOS – Only for the open-minded
- I realise that all of this has to be seen with the acceptance that Iran IS developing WMD, or intends to.
- And I realise that to the antis ‘innocent until proven guilty’ applies the other way round on Tony Blair on Iraq as on much else.
- And I realise that if you think Blair lied from the off, nothing will ever change your mind.
- And I realise that if you are of the opinion that all of this from Blair is only in order to rewrite history in his own favour, it is going to mean zilch.
- I also realise that if you think a leader should only lead with your personal permission on every policy, especially foreign policy, my provisos are all non-sequiturs.
DECISION-MAKING – “A 55-45 SITUATION” (Obama)
But we should all realise that this “may have been” from Blair is, as they say, crucial. It is also the same argument that President Obama used to justify taking out Osama bin Laden.
President Obama faced sharply divided counsel and, to his mind, barely better-than-even odds of success when he ordered the commando raid last week that killed al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, the president said in an interview broadcast Sunday.
Obama acknowledged having only circumstantial evidence placing bin Laden at the compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. There was not a single photograph or confirmed sighting of the man, he said, and he worried that the Navy SEALs would find only a “prince from Dubai” instead of the terrorist leader responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
“At the end of the day, this was still a 55-45 situation,” Obama told CBS’s “60 Minutes” in his first broadcast interview since bin Laden’s death early last Monday. “I mean, we could not say definitively that bin Laden was there. Had he not been there, then there would have been some significant consequences.”
The difference between Obama’s decision-making on something he could not be sure of, and Blair’s? Arguably, not much. They both helped rid the world of a tyrant. But the blowback on Blair has been enormous, while the plaudits for Obama have been widespread.
The blowback against Blair & Bush purportedly centres around the body count in Iraq. To those against the invasion this is a reason NOT to have gone in in the first place. Or so they tell us. To those in agreement with the invasion the body count – mainly Iraqis (& others) on Iraqis – only serves to amplify the view that Saddam’s Iraq and the various insurgency groupings there needed to be tackled. Tackled and defeated.
The fact that Saddam was tried in an Iraqi court before being hanged, compared with the fact that none of the public has seen any evidence of bin Laden’s death OR body seems to be of little consequence.
Apart from a few diehards of moral relativism such as Chomsky most on the British left believe Obama deserves re-election, whereas Blair deserves locking-up or better still the same fate as Saddam or even Bin Laden.
The logic behind this sort of conclusion is that in Tony Blair we had a leader as evil as both of these murderous men.
Here’s the full discussion between Tony Blair and Sir Lawrence, in context. Context IS important. The crux, even:
P88 – 91 text, January 2011 transcript:
(The section in question is on page 90 of the 177 page evidence transcript)
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: The difficulty was that you set in motion a process — you got the international community to agree under Resolution 1441. You had been demanding the inspectors to return. The inspectors had returned. The initial cooperation had not been good. Now the initial cooperation was much better. Hans Blix was
saying this progressively. It wasn’t just military force as you mentioned in your statement. Getting sanctions lifted was obviously a major incentive for him as well. The problem with the argument you have just put is why bother with the inspections process at all, because the cooperation was coming. There was more of it. If you still didn’t think this was going to do the job, why set the process in motion at all?
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Because here is the situation. You declare 1441. You have given him a final chance for full, immediate and unconditional cooperation. Now at that point he can make a big decision, which is to say, “I am going to put aside my concealment, my lack of cooperation, all the things I have done in the past and I am going to cooperate fully”. He doesn’t. So he is in breach of 1441. The part of the problem in this is frankly that those who supported 1441, which was not on the American side of the argument, got buyer’s remorse in the end. They agreed they could be given a final opportunity. Then they wanted another opportunity. The point about his change of heart and the important point about the Iraq Survey Group and the rest of the evidence is that if he had not taken that decision really to put the past behind him and turn over a new leaf, yes, it’s true whilst that military pressure was there he might cooperate, but when it wasn’t there he was going to be back and he was going to be back with far more money with, the international community having built up this great consensus, it would then have disintegrated. That’s why I think when you look at this today and you ask. Okay. Supposing we had all backed off in March 2003 and left Saddam there, what do we actually think would be happening today? Personally I think it is at least as arguable — I am not going to say it is certain because nobody knows — it is at least as arguable that he would have been developing in competition with Iran.
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: It may or may not. We will come back to the problem —
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Sir Lawrence, it is really important. May have been is my justification for this. I was not prepared to run this —
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: You had set in motion a process which was rather abruptly discontinued. Can I just ask you about this “clusters” proposals you are putting forward and why it had difficulty. According to Jonathan Powell you did try to extend the timetable. You had asked the Americans for nine more weeks. President Bush he said that he wouldn’t have agreed to it. He might have agreed to a little time but not nine more weeks. Do you recall that?
THE RT. HON. TONY BLAIR: Yes. We were asking — I don’t know exactly what the timeline was, but yes, we were asking for more time. The Americans I think — I am not sure about this, but I think our own military would have been also anxious about a time that long — but, you know, we could have probably come to a compromise somewhere on it I guess. That’s not the problem we got into in the end. The problem was, and this is where this whole business to do with the Second Resolution and the attitude of France which would I like to deal with in light of things that have been said to you, the problem was that there was no consent for an ultimatum, and whether it was nine weeks or one week, without an ultimatum it would be pointless.
Read more of this exchange (Pgs 88 – 91) text, January 2011 transcript
The Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, one of the fairer and more balanced of British journalists – he reports more than he opines – had this clip in his live report of Blair’s evidence on January 21st this year. It is reported in a very limited fashion, but at least it is mentioned. Odd how no other journalists thought this exchange was worth expanding on.
January 21st 2011, Sparrow’s live report:
11.51am: Blair says that the countries that supported UN security council resolution 1441 but did not support America got “buyer’s remorse” in the end. They voted for Saddam (left) to be given a final opportunity. Then they wanted him to be given another final opportunity.
Blair says that if Saddam had been left alone, he “may have been” now in competition with Iran in developing WMD. That “may have been” his justification for the war, Blair says.
- Video evidence, Tony Blair, 21st January 2011
- Written evidence (177 pgs), transcript, Tony Blair Jan 2011
- One sharp-eyed American blogger who noticed the ‘May Have Been’ – BlueRidgeNow
- Blair at the Iraq Inquiry. A Chilcot nod a Freedman smile. Why?
- Alastair Campbell
campbellclaret Alastair Campbell
@BBCLauraK nothing to add to evidence to inquiry. Dossier not case for war. Set out why govt more concerned re IraqWMD. Never met Gen Laurie
- And John Rentoul is making the case for war – AGAIN – here
Sign the Ban Blair-Baiting petition here
I am staggered by all the hate directed towards our former Prime Minister. I believe that Tony Blair made the Iraq decision in good faith and is most certainly NOT a war criminal. If anyone should be tried at the Hague it should be those in the media for totally misrepresenting the information and facts. The media are to blame for fuelling this hatred as it is purely driven by them. (UK)
Tags: alastair campbell, cabinet office, Chris Ames, David Omand, Iran, Iraq, Iraq inquiry, Iraq Survey Group, iraq war, John Chilcot, John Rentoul, Lawrence Freedman, Mark Allen, Osama bin Laden, Paul Waugh, Saddam Hussein, SIS4, Tony Blair, Weapon of mass destruction, weapon of media destruction, wmd