Saturday, January 30, 2010

Blair-faced gall


Tony Blair explains his 'church/steeple strategy for
world peace to the Iraq Inquiry (photo from BBC)

I've spent most of the day looking at footage and reading the commentary on Blah-Blah's highly anticipated appearance at the Iraq Inquiry. The conclusion is unequivocal - he started out sheepish but, once he realised he wasn't going to get anything remotely challenging thrown at him, he grabbed the whip hand and ordered his inquisitors back to their kennels. It was a bit like a scratch team of footman had been hastily assembled to quiz Henry VIII about his table manners by all accounts.

Simon Jenkins in The Guardian describes how an early fumble by Sir Roderic Lyne causes weeks' worth of carefully constructed evidence to crumble as a resurgent Blah-Blah demonstrates just how quick his hands really are. The Guardian's other Simon (Hoggart) calls it a 'bravura performance by the maestro of self-justification, the supremo of sincerity'. I'd had the idea that the inquiry was being mounted to examine the legality of the invasion. Wrong. The panel has apparently been convened to find out how many different ways could be found to ask the same question - whether or not Blah-Blah believed he had done what he believed to be right.

Over at The Times, Matthew Parris thinks that Blah-Blah is only in the hot seat because the war turned out badly. I suppose that would explain the incoherent grilling. Is it possible this whole thing is a charade? The Independent didn't think so, arguing in this leading article that, Blah-Blah's insistence on distilling the whole thing down to a question of judgement exposes him to a graver charge. 'If joining the US invasion was simply a matter of judgement, it was a judgement that was catastrophically wrong,' it claims.

Simon Heffer (my goodness there certainly were a lot of Simons at this inquiry) of The Telegraph agrees with Blah-Blah's assessment that the destruction of the World Trade Centre was 'an attack on us all' and getting rid of Saddam was probably a good thing but he still should have taken responsibility for the consequences of the botched action. We all know that is never going to happen. Assuming liability has consequences of its own. Blah-Blah is a lawyer. He knows that. Besides, it's not as if there is any pressure on him to do anything of the kind. There's no real dilemma here. It's a case of no conviction without confession.

The Guardian also commissioned a range of views from other interested observers. Haifa Zangana, a novelist who had been imprisoned under the Saddam regime writes,

'He was in a warm, well-lit hall, conversing with gentle folk in an academic conversation that could have lasted forever. Undergraduates would have asked more probing questions.'

I guess the cheques are in the post then.