Sunday, 29 November 2009

The invasion of Iraq, and the plain truth

Tony Blair's remark to CNN - concerning the current Chilcot inquiry and the rightness or wrongness of the Coalition invasion of Iraq - that he is 'happy to go through it all again', is likely to divide Blair's admirers and detractors as cleanly as a meat cleaver.
That division was never better exemplified in my eyes than by disparate columns last week from Sir Simon Jenkins in, I think, the Guardian, and John Rentoul in the Independent. Jenkins' sub-editor rather than Jenkins himself was presumably responsible for the headline 'We want Blair's head. But Chilcot won't give it to us.' (The Guardian is very good at speaking as 'We.') But Jenkins himself must be solely responsible for the following:
"We know the truth. The report can be written in a sentence. Tony Blair went to war in Iraq because he lacked the guts to stand up to George Bush, say the invasion was not justified by facts or law, and refuse to join him in Baghdad. Despite being told to his face by Hans Blix that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, he deceived the cabinet and parliament and took his nation to war."
Now, quickly, compare with Rentoul on the same day:
"Everything important is known, with the kind of disclosure of official documents in the Hutton inquiry that would normally have taken 30 years or longer... in 2001 the British Government concluded that regime change in Iraq lacked a legal basis... the British view was always that regime change was inadequate legal basis for military intervention; that was why the legal basis was Saddam Hussein's failure to comply with UN disarmament resolutions."
In the gulf between these positions you will never see a meeting, and so like many I don't see the point of the Chilcot inquiry, which looks indeed to be rehashing old ground that was long ago sown with dragon's teeth and harvested bitterly.

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