Tony Blair = Chilcot- Part 4- Factors which decided how many troops would be sent to Iraq.

Mr Blair is asked by Baroness Prasha, why when offered 4 options for the military operations in Iraq, he chose the one which involved the most British troops being vulnerable on the ground. Tony Blair states that we were not obliged to pick the option, which would require the most troops to be made vulnerable, by placing them on the ground- and starts by telling us that he ‘believed’ he was right.And we have Tony Blairs ‘beliefs’ again.He talks about the dangers of ‘distancing oneself from America‘ because apparently, once that happens, its a ‘long way back’. His chief of staff had talked about the need to choose the option, with the largest amount of land troops=’MoD had advocated the largest package, the large land force option, because they felt this was important to their relations with the US military, and also because they felt it was good for soldiers morale’ . Blair  says that the military preferred to be ‘at the centre of things‘.I think this in itself, raises questions. What reason did we have, to be at the centre of things? Apart from believing it was right, the military wanting to be in the thick of it, and the US needing to see us contributing and taking a major role? Where is the consideration for British Soldiers(the ones whose names are read out at PM Question Time-every week)?Clare Short made the point in her evidence, that this meant the UK occupied a very new position, as joint occupying force, with the US, that it probably made Mr. Blair feel important. Given the sheer arrogance, and the weight he has given to his own beliefs, above hundreds of years of democratic process, I am inclined to agree that this seems likely.Surely, when we are planning the type of military intervention, and sending troops to kill innocent civilians, and to die- then there are other factors which should decide how many troops we send. Like the objectives, like the plan most likely to result in achievement of objectives. The plan which will cost the least lives? You know- the kind of considerations you are fairly sure come into play, when you send thousands of British forces to war.Not -wanting to be in the thick of it, and appeasing America. Or, as was insinuated, but not overtly stated- the need to have influence?Blair is proud that Bush ‘left it to us’ to decide the scale of our military intervention, but I suppose if your partner is offering you unconditional support to your aims, then you trust that they will prioritise your needs, over anything else- like soldiers lives, or the need for evidence to justify this.He says- ‘The reason was to say: here we have this situation,in which we believe there is a threat, America believesthere is a threat, we are going to act jointly’.Again, he appears to have forgotten that the aim for the Americans was regime change, by military intervention, and that his own Foreign Secretary, had told him that aim was illegal. Please note that he says he ‘believes’ there was a threat- not that there was actually a threat. Evidence given 7 years after a justified conflict, should really contain the statement somewhere that there WAS a threat.I would like to pause to vomit, at this comment he made, about our armed forces- ‘and the thing that is extraordinary about them and magnificent about them, they are prepared to do the difficult things.’By difficult, I presume he means lay their lives, on the line, in an illegal war, because they are paid to do so, and their rights as soldiers to refuse to take part in illegal military action, are hardly likely to be enforced…sorry- that was an entirely irrelevant stop, on his part and mine- but as I have friends who have served more than once, in both Afghanistan, and Iraq- who absolutely had to do those ‘difficult’ things- this particular comment made me sick.At least from this part of Blair’s testimony, we are clear that he has stated openly, what factors came into play, when sending thousands of  British men and women, to kill and die for his ‘belief’.

Tony Blair- Chilcot Part 3- the ‘partnership’ with the US.

We left the evidence, at the point where Tony Blair had lied, and dismissed the idea that the meeting at Crawford, was to discuss Iraq-claiming that he offered only public support for tackling Saddam using military action as a last resort- after being very clear- that it was a time in which he was planning militarily, and where every meeting in preparation for Crawford was about that planning.We move onto the issue, of the nature of our relationship with the US.Blair told many of his advisors, that our support for the US was conditional-which would make sense. He also told many of his advisors that it wasn’t. I can see problems with offering unconditional support, to a country, who are dead set on a military intervention they know is illegal, to achieve regime change- which they you are aware, and have in writing, has no current legal justification. HOwever, he was apparently lying when he said the support of the US had conditions, and now clarifies that actually, our support of the US was absolutely unconditional.The fact that he was willing to lie to people regarding the nature of our relationship with the US, is almost as worrying as the idea that we should offer unwavering support to a nation in those circumstances. And there are questions about why.Christopher Meyers evidence raised a possibility. He stated that Tony Blair had in fact been trying to say ‘yes-BUT’- but the US were roundly ignoring ANY pleas he had for changes in approach. If one partner is refusing to listen to the other, and the other has offered unwavering unconditional support- is that a partnership?We have TB saying- ‘if it came to military action because there was no way of dealing with this diplomatically, we would be with him, and that was absolutely clear, because, as I had set out publicly, not privately, we had to confront this issue, it could be confronted by a sanctions framework that was effective.’ If the ex- Prime Minster has openly during evidence, stated that he didn’t believe that sanctions would work, if he is completely, and unquestioningly in support of the US policy of regime change, through whatever means necessary, and Tony Blairs advisors are saying that the US was not listening to the UK, then I find it highly unlikely, that in private with Shrub, he was discussing effective sanctions? Or am I just cynical.Blair soon returns to the choice he felt he ‘had’ to face.(Again no explanation of why now?) You know- the ‘logical’ choice- where they could go ahead with sanctions, support the UN or ALTERNATIVELY use force? The plan that HAD to happen, as a result of a terrorist attack that wasn’t connected to Iraq in any way. Yup-That sounds like saying that Saddam could be confronted by an effective sanctions framework.Then we come back to*YAWN- ‘What changed after September 11 was that, if necessary, and there was no other way of dealing with this threat, we were going to remove him.” Again, apparently an act not within the control of the Iraqi people, or Saddam HUssein- meant that we had absolutely no other choice but to refuse to give sanctions the chance to work, or the UN inspctions….Shall I just write ‘YAWN’ instead of repeating that illogical justification, to save typing time?At this point I get quite excited. Because this is the point where Tony Blair tries not to look like Bush’s lapdog. Baroness Prasha refers back to the evidence of Jonathon Powell(he was Chief of Staff at the time) who said that actually, the assumption that we were unconditionally on board with the US, meant that any leverage we had had in discussions, had been reduced.Then Tony Blair skips back to talking about terrorism. Again, he clearly isn’t aware he is talking about a sovereign state, and not a group of individuals.  He says that his strategic thinking, on Iraq, was that 9/11(yeah, yeah, I know) had brought  about a whole new threat- not of political ideaology, but religious fanatacism, and that he felt the middle east peace process was central to this whole issue.Iraq were a nation state, and actually one of the states in the middle east, who allowed religious freedom. Saddam was psychotic-but actually, not really signed up to the religious fanaticism of Al Qaeda- although it was clear that attacking Iraq illegally was not exactly going to do anything to tackle a fanaticism, that was arguably not just religious, but a political standpoint, which was justified by the appearance of the US and the UK to be declaring ‘war’ on Islam. Since the invasion, extremism has flourished in Iraq, and worryingly for women, so has Sharia Law.If you are seeking to tackle extremism, is the best way of going about it, legitimising it, by actually declaring ‘war’,  in the very literal sense of the word-with armies and fucking everything? Terrorists are criminals, not nations. Terrorism doesn’t rely on armies, you don’t tackle terrorism by dropping bombs on markets with civilians-in the same way the terrorists don’t win, by walking into markets wearing their bombs. You declare war on an enemy you won’t define- then you are waging possible war on everyone- and forcing a response. Doesn’t seem like the best basis for tackling ‘extremism’.If you ‘strategic thinking’ on the issue of a war with one country, is an entirely unrelated event- then I think there is a problem.I also find, given this statement about his view of radical Islam, his openness about the fact that he spoke to the Israelis, at this meeting in Crawford, to be concerning. Especially given George W Bush’s views on Israel and Palestine.At this point, this does not get explored- because Roderick Lyne wants to ask Mr.Blair about his statement that the ends, and the means of the US were the same- given that the US had a stated aim of regime change through military actions.Well duh? About time Sir Roderick. Tony Blair says yes that is true, but that the UK was pushing the UN route. HOw does one achieve the end of regime change through military action, and ‘push’ the UN route? Sir Roderick, then astoundingly, almost congratulates Mr.Blair on going for the second UN resolution-even though he has it in a document, that the pursuance of alternative routes, is merely US strategy for garnering international support for military action.If I could just refer you back to the UK policy section of the Iraq Options 2 document-”Within our objectives of preserving peace and stability in the Gulf and ensuring energy security, our current objectives towards Iraq are:* the reintegration of a law-abiding Iraq which does not possess WMD or threaten its neighbours, into the international community. Implicitly this cannot occur with Saddam in power; and* hence, as the least worst option, we have(Past tense) supported containment of Iraq, by constraining Saddam’s ability to re-arm or build up WMD and to threaten his neighbours.”Under Sir Rodericks guidance- Blair then tells us that the unwavering support, the unconditional support for US aims, he had, was actually him persuading very hard, that they should go to the UN. Now, given that he has by Jonathon Powells evidence, reduced his leverage with the US- and they didn’t want to go down the UN route, and we have the same Iraq Options document saying-”A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, non currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult. We should therefore consider a staged approach, establishing international support, building up pressure on Saddam and developing military plans. There is a lead time of about 6 months to a ground offensive.”Then I think I can hazard a guess at why the US agreed to go down the UN route, at least once….. even if they would be ignored later. THere follows much discussion about why Blair didn’t push Bush on the Middle East peace proces
s,
or make it a condition. BUt I don’t think there is much merit, given that Blair has already shown that he was little more than a lapdog, agreeing US bidding, without condition.Although he helpfully tells us that most arab leaders were well glad to be rid of Saddam-= and this strikes me as odd. If you were in a region like the Middle East, and the US had just declared that a terrorist attack on them, gave them carte blanche to do what they liked, to whichever country- I don’t see how you would be massively happy about an illegal war which deposed a leader the US didn’t like. I would probably be watching my back in those circumstances, not congratulating the UK/US. ALthough I might want to keep them on side…I am not a middle east expert. I do have a friend who originates from Bahrain, she is from a very wealthy family. When she started dating an american, her mother called her a collaborator, and the absolute horror of her wider family, led her to abandon the relationship fairly quickly. THis is not a traditional family, where any boyfriend would be dissaproved of, and is not in one of the countrys named as part of the axis of evil.The discussion about whether our support of the US was conditional or not, or whether they listened to us- it is going round in circles to say one thing. The US had an objective- regime change through military intervention. We knew what that plan was. We either agreed with it entirely, or at least agreed that it was the plan we were following. We considered it a ‘joint aim’. The US neither knew, nor cared, whetherour opinions were outside that, and by Tony Blairs own admission were not willing to enter into negotiation over their role in the Middle East Peace Process, nor did they see this as a partnership-unless a partnership is a pairing where one side does what they please, and the other party supports it. Fortunately, Tony Blair ‘believed’ in their position.The pursuit of  a 2nd resolution, which Sir Rodney all but congratulated Mr.Blair on, does not appear to me, to be an attempt to exhaust diplomatic solutions, the pursual of the 2nd resolution fit entirely  with the UK foreign policy objectives, laid out in the Iraq options 2 document. Just a way of garnering international support, and buying time, before the inevitable military action, which was planned even before either party attended Crawford.

Tony Blair at Chilcot = Pursuing Regime Change and ignoring democratic process

Baroness Usha Prashar takes over questioning from Sir Roderick Lyne.She starts by asking TB about his response to the shift in US policy, from WMD, to ‘regime change’. I won’t bore you with the repetitive details of Blairs answers. He again talks about 9/11 changing things, and refers to states who will ‘ trade the technology and capability of such weapons.’ He describes this as a ‘warning’ from the US. But rather predictably, doesn’t care to elaborate on any evidence that Saddam a) had weapons that could be traded b) had shown any desire to sell such weapons to terrorist organisations c)had any links with Al Qaeda d) or share details of that ‘warning’.Baroness Prashar actually points out that he hasn’t actually answered her question, and asks again, how he responded to the shift in American policy. Blair replies- ”We intended to respond by saying, “From now on we have to deal with it“.There was me thinking we were a country in our own right, who weren’t obliged to do something because the US did. He does not mention, at any point being wary of a shift in policy to regime change, and military action, he describes no incidence of urging caution, of gathering information.Baroness Prashar moves back to the chequers meeting, covered by Sir Roderick earlier in proceedings.She challenges Blair directly, asking  if it was true, that he had told the Chequers meeting it was ‘regime change in part because of WMD, but more broadly because of a threat to the region and the world.’He replies that the issues were conjoined, and again digresses to tell us all what a terrible regime Iraq was under.He goes on to tell us that the Americans working for regime change, is the same proposition as multilateral action, supporting the UN. Apparently, the Americans didn’t ‘believe’ he was going to give up weapons capability, and were going for regime change, and our response was-“We have to deal with his WMD ambitions. If that means regime change, so be it“.Apparently, he does not  draw a disctinction between a nation, taking it upon themselves to change the regime of a sovereign state, with no change in evidence of a material threat, and responding within international agreement, to a material threat of a nation possessing, and being willing to trade,  weapons capable of causing mass destruction, outside its national borders. I wonder if he really can’t see the difference between the two?Baroness Prashar asks what advice he received, and what conclusions they led him to, in preparation for his meeting at Chequers. (Remember the Manning Memo, and the Iraq Options document?) The answer didn’t need much paraphrasing-‘Basically, we were obviously now going we had the military action in Afghanistan, it was obvious that the American system, indeed our own system, were now going to look at this WMD issue and there was advice on options as to containment and regime change and so on and so forth.”Sorry, lets get that again. We were ‘obviously’ going- now we had the military action in Afghanistan? Eh? And there was advice on regime change ‘and so forth’???? Is that what she asked Mr.Blair? What advice, specifically, did you receive prior to the meeting at Chequers, or the meeting at Crawford? I think if it was ‘obvious’ we were going, there should really be a record of why?He describes the time as quite intense, because he was trying to get an idea of whether the policy of Smart Sanctions, was a ‘runner’ or not? Again, he appears not to understand he is talking about a war.Baroness Prashar asks him why the Defence Chief of Staff was at this meeting, and he responds-”Because it was very obvious that the American system certainly wasn’t going to rule out military action, and, you know, from a very early stage, I could see coming down the track I mean straight after September 11, frankly..’.Sorry, again, my teeny weeny, lay persons brain is confused. His advisor thinks he is absolutely on board with regime change, but that he has to manipulate parliament. The US is set on regime change, but that is ok because regime change is the way we are going to deal with the WMD issue, and this is at a time, when the US own documents, state that they know fine well a war is illegal- but that they know how to get around that, Tony Blair can see military action on Iraq coming, from as early as 9/11(well, we all could, couldn’t we?)(”A legal justification for invasion would be needed. Subject to Law Officers advice, non currently exists. This makes moving quickly to invade legally very difficult. We should therefore consider a staged approach, establishing international support, building up pressure on Saddam and developing military plans. There is a lead time of about 6 months to a ground offensive.”Iraq Options Paper)TB is apparently having difficulty remember whether Lord Mike Boyce, who was Chief of Defence staff, was there at the meetingn at Chequers, prior to Blairs visit to Crawford. Lord Boyce is fairly clear that he doesn’t remember such a meeting. Yet Blair insists he is there? Why would Blair lie about that? Its not like he had a history of cronyism, and exclusion of key figures, when it suited him.Tony Blair thinks we all need to consider the fact that we were ,  ‘‘Everyone was moving on from Afghanistan. It was always going to be on the agenda, once you had September 11, and, as I say, a different sense from everybody that we had to act, and so we had, you know, a perfectly good discussion about it”. And here we are again. It doesn’t matter how many times we go round in circles with Mr.Blair-this is what it comes down to. After 9/11, regardless of what Saddam did- invading Iraq was always going to be on the agenda. People were beginning to get bored- we needed a sequel. Well, I think the point of this inquiry, Mr.Blair- is to find out why. I don’t want to labour the point, but  why does a terrorist attack, by individuals allied to one organisation, mean that invasion of a country is inevitable, regardless of what they did, or didn’t do, and whether the novelty of Afghanistan had worn off or not, I would still quite like to know what that had to do with Iraq. I would like to agree with Tony Blair though, he wasn’t the only one who could see it coming. God knows, when most Americans stated in polls, that they believed Iraq to be behind the attacks on the Trade Towers, our media mocked, little did they know, that our own Prime Minster might as well have believed it.Baroness Prashar refers back to Jack Straws evidence, when TB insists he was at the meeting. He gave advice prior to it. So if Mike Boyce wasn’t there, and Jack Straw wasn’t there, yet he thinks they were- is that not a problem? And who precisely did Tony Blair, think he had to discuss this with? Either this meeting was so unimportant, that it barely registered above what type of coffee he drank that morning, or he lied, or he just didn’t think any of defence chiefs, or foreign secretarys needed to be involved. I am not sure which is more frightening, I know which is more likely.Baroness Prashar, who is really doing a nearly credible impression of someone who may be asking about why a war started, at this point- asks TB if he and Jack Straw were agreed on the tactic of going to the UN, as a means to allowing the cabinet to support military action, as part of the plan to achieve the desired objective of regime change- and Mr.Blair, replies ‘absolutely’. Sorry- if the objective of going to to the UN for a resolution, is to increase support for unilateral military action= does that not render the party line that we were exploring all diplomatic solutions, untrue? And wasn’t Jack Straw fairly clear on the fact that to invade Saddam, with the objective of regime change, was illegal?I apologise for getting repetitive(seriously, you think the post is repetitive- you should read the transcript of Blair’s evidence), so
lu
ckily the questioning moves forward to support for the action, in europe.Mr Blair says it was quite important to get other leaders on board with the plans that he had already made. He was confused apparently, about why the support that the US had garnered, immediately post 9/11, had diminished. It couldn’t be because the US had declared a ‘war on terror’, without defining what ‘war’ meant, or what ‘terror’ was, and apparently believed that a plane flying into a building, was justification for doing what the fuck they liked, regardless of the consequences, and the rest of the world looked on, shitting themselves, could it? I didn’t find the attitudes of european leaders confusing- they seemed fairly clear on their views.I find it quite confusing that Mr.Blair completely dismissed the objections, of leaders of major western democracies, in his preparations, democracies who were as much a part of the UN, as we were. Even more confusing than his dismissal of the thoughts of the british public, or his own MP’s.Blair says that his meeting at Crawford(the one AFTER the Manning memo, and AFTER the Iraq Options March 2002 document) was designed to get a ‘real sense’ of what the Americans wanted to do. Mr.Blair, I was sat at home, and I had a real sense of what the Americans wanted to do. You had it written in black and white,, had apparently already discussed that you were going to push this plan, and use the UN route to buy time- to build support- how on earth, are we expected to believe that you went to Crawford, to get a ‘sense‘ of what the US wanted to do? Wouldn’t getting a sense of what the US wanted to do, require going back in time t0 the week after 9/11?And then we move onto Blair and Bush’s meeting at Crawford. Apparently, Iraq wasn’t even on the agenda really. Not compared to Israel. A meeting at Chequers to discuss the impending war, and yet it was relegated to second place, during the meeting in Crawford, due toe the problems in Israel at that time. For a second, I thought maybe the rhetoric about ignoring UN resolutions, being intolerable was real, and that was what they were discussing. What with Israel ignoring countless UN resolutions….But no. That is my naiivety showing through. Apparently, they spoke to Israeli officials, while at Crawford, on the subject of Iraq. And after the  ‘frank’ discussion, between Blair and Bush, it was apparently agreed that Blair would ‘deal with Saddam’.  Apparently, the views of Israel were sought. Now, as the only concrete reason for this action, was non compliance with UN resolutions, I am wondering why Israels views would be sought? All of a sudden, the idea that Israel was a contributing driving force behind the war in Iraq, becomes slightly less paranoid. Given that in Tony Blairs speech to the George Bush Presidential Library, Tony Blair made a point of saying that the source of the conflict between Israel and Palestine, was NOT the existence of Israel, at his speech in the George Bush Presidential library later that week, and that they increased their level of aggression(in breach of upteen UN resolutions) later that Spring, I would say that this raises concerns that are far wider, than the war in Iraq, and which raise important questions about the role of the US and Blair, in the Middle East Peace Process.’We were agreed on both, actually, as it came to finally, but we were agreed that we had to confront this issue, that Saddam had to come back into compliance with the international community, and, as I think I said in the press conference with President Bush, the method of doing that is open, and indeed he made the same point.He concludes this line of questioning, by talking about his need to allay Mr.Bush’s fears, that we wouldn’t act strongly enough-and the message that would send to the world. I wish he had given the british public similar consideration. Of course, he hadn’t agreed to go to war at that meeting. Of course not. Ridiculous suggestion. Apparently, he is also very confused at the suggestion that he made a private committment, because what he made, in this private meeting, where noone else was present, which had been prepared for, with what was essentially plans for invasion-was a public commitment to deal with Saddam in an appropriate, and legal way.President Bush says of the meeting ‘”The Prime Minister and I, of course, talked about Iraq. We both recognised the danger of a man who is willing to kill his own people and harbouring and developing weapons of mass destruction.”‘. Yup, that sounds like a meeting, where discussion of Iraq wasn’t a major part of the agenda.We have more of Tony Blairs ‘beliefs’, when he says he ‘believed’ the attack on the trade towers, to be an attack on the UK. Can I respectfully ask, that before our future leaders decide we have been attacked, that they have a clear definition of what constitutes an attack on the UK, and an appropriate response. And that in govt inquirys, when ex Prime Minsters state they believe they have been attacked, that someone questioning them, ask them to actually quantify this belief with evidence.I got quite pleased when Baroness Prashar said that she believed that he did discuss military planning, at Crawford. Its the nearest that I have seen, to someone calling Mr.Blair on blatant lies, or his belief that the people he is speaking to, are stupid. The idea that, in that context, there was no military planning at Crawford, or that Blair didn’t promise our support, is ludicrous. Only slightly more worrying is the revelation that the Israelis were involved in conversations at Crawford, when there were no fucking advisors, or anyone else, present.Blair goes back to the stance that we were still ready to go down the diplomacy route, even though he has stated that he felt it regime change through military action, was inevitable, that actually, it had been on the cards, since 9/11.I think the point at which he is blatantly lying, creates a natural point, at which to pause. I shall resume again tomorrow.*please note the shift to discussing Saddams ‘ambitions’-rather than the outright claims, that he had weapons, and we knew he had them. An assumption which underpinned many of the speeches at that time.

Tony Blair at Chilcot- Part 1-development of policy towards Iraq

So the following post, might end up being unreadable. It may be long. It will probably meander. This post may not be aimed at you, the reader, I think its more for me. I want to go through the  evidence given by Tony Blair at the Chilcot Inquiry. I am not a lawyer, I don’t have legal training. I am not a political analyst, am not really anything. I just want to know. I want to read what he said, and even if he isn’t ever held accountable, I want to be able to say that I listened, and used my critical faculties to break down what he said. After 7 years of shouting till am hoarse about this war, it feels like screaming in an empty room, but I still want my voice heard.  Regardless of the consequences of Chilcot(and do any of us truly expect anything to come of it?), this is the last time that Mr.Blair will have to justify what he did, in detail, unless a slot becomes free at the Hague.Area of questioning 1.) How did the policy in Iraq develop?Sir Rodney Lynes opening question, was to ask about the development of policy toward Iraq. He drew a distinction between policy surrounding Iraq, pre-9/11, and post 9/11, which Mr.Blair congratulated him on.We need to be absolutely clear here. This is very important. Before we start.9/11 did not have anything to do with Iraq. Saddam Hussein had no links with Al Qaeda, there is no evidence to suggest that Al Qaeda existed in Iraq, prior to us going to war. Although they do now. THere was absolutely no connection between 9/11 and Iraq.Tony Blair said ‘I would fairly describe our policy up to September 11 as doing our best, hoping for the best … but with a different calculus of risk assessment … The crucial thing after September 11 was that the calculus of risk changed.”I am going to ignore that the man who I voted for(twice) has just described his foreign policy pre-9/11, with regard to Iraq as ‘doing our best and hoping for our best”.The fact that Sir Rodney Lyne asked this question, and validated this assumption, even though he demonstrated clearly in his question, that since 1991, Saddam Hussein had been successfully managed through a combination of sanctions, even though they were expensive and difficult to maintain, troubles me. A lot.Let me be absolutely clear, when you are assessing risk, the fear you feel does not have an effect on the risk that is posed. The calculus of risk does not change, because someone else ‘attacked’ the person assessing the risk. 9/11 made people afraid. That was nothing to do with Iraq.A significant amount of TB’s evidence was allowed to hang on this flawed premise, and it went unchecked, and unchallenged.Tony Blair stated that sanctions had been ‘eroding’- and referred to notes between himself, and the late Robin Cook, to demonstrate this. He stated that the containment and sanctions,  were expensive, and had little support. This is presumably to justify why he later abandoned them, for an divisive and expensive war.TB goes on to explain, for us the ignorant laypeople, WHY the calculus of risk changed post 9/11.It is important that he never says that a single concrete factor with regard to Iraq had changed. But he talks about how the ‘view’ of the US, UK governments changed.He says ‘It changed the perception of risk. It changed attitudes towards perceived threats’. Also ‘Objectively, the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of 11 September. What has, however changed, is the tolerance of the international community, especially that of the United States.”He states ‘after that time, my view was you could not take risks with this issue at all, and one dimension of it, because we were advised, obviously, that these people would use chemical or biologicalweapons or a nuclear device, if they could get hold of them.So the calculus of risk changed, because Saddam Hussein who had NO chemical, biological weapons, or nuclear devices- might give the weapons he didn’t have, to people he wasn’t connected with, as a result of a terror attack, that he wasn’t part of? Ok. Head round that. Glad I have got my head round that, because Tony Blair, goes onto say that that was not only the official  British position, but the US position.If this is going to be part of his justification for going to war- surely this would be the point where we ask to see the evidence that a) Saddam Hussein HAD those weapons. b) that he had connections with people who wanted them. But no, apparently that is not necessary.He then goes onto say something entirely more worrying- we obviously had to deal with Afghanistan, but from thatmoment, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Iraq, the machinery,  as you know, of AQ Khan, who was the former Pakistaninuclear scientist and who had been engaged in illicit 24 activities and in distributing this material, all of25 this had to be brought to an end.”Again, I think this is time to go back to a couple of misunderstandings, that Mr.Blair appears to have been labouring under, while PM.First of all- terrorist attacks, are not carried out by nations. They are carried out by individuals. Which makes them criminal acts. The idea that we should be going to war, with one country, on the basis of a criminal act, is ludicrous.(Especially given our history of harbouring criminals- Pinochet-anyone?). The idea that this would give us the right to wage war on any country in the world- without any need for our enemy to be shown to pose any concrete threat to us- is possibly, one of the most frightening things I have ever heard from a politician. Apparently not to Sir Roderick.And that, in itself, wouldn’t be so laughable- if it wasn’t for the current situation in Pakistan-where it is difficult to find accurate reports of how much of the land north of Islamabad is under Taliban control, where our troops are fighting, where our secret private militias are operating, and which our money is funding, and where if Islamabad fell- the idea of terrorists obtaining nuclear weapons from countries which didn’t have them, would seem like a lovely fucking idea.Sir Roderick handily summed and clarified that all this was ok for Mr.Blair-So that was your perception of the way in  general the risks, the global risks, had changed; that one had to think about them differently’. Blair goes on to say ‘and I think I said this at the time was because it was Iraq that was in breach of the United Nations Resolutions, had ten years of defiance and I felt, we felt, it was important that we make it absolutely clear he has to come back into compliance’. To me, and I may be reading it wrong- We have now, on record, a clear statement that the reason that the position on Iraq changed, was not something that was within the control of Saddam Hussein, or the Iraqi people. The motivation for a change in policy on Iraq- was the mindset of Blair and Bush, which had been altered, by an unrelated act.He does gives non-compliance with UN resolutions, as another reason for the ‘change’ in policy. But he cites a decade of ‘non compliance’- but doesn’t state, what it was, that happened within Iraq, what intelligence-led to the decision that somethign had to be done now. By the UK and the US. He gives no information about who was involved in this decision, discussion, and still fails to say what it was, apart from an unrelated terrorist attack, that triggered such a dramatic change in policy.He goes on to describe conversations with Clare Short, who was at that time the International Development Secretary, about how Iraq were misusing aid. And many points are raised for me here. Given that at in the past 12 months, we have redesignated ‘aid‘ to pakistan, to be used in areas, where we, or our private militia, are engaged in military conflict- and this includes education funding etc- I am unsure as to whether this is the point at which, we should be taking the moral high ground with regard to how ‘aid’ money is spent. But I digress. THere were other points raised in this part of the evidence, which troubled me.He talks movingly about how the child mortality rate, was comparable to that of the Congo.(Would it be a good idea to check what the mortality rate was SINCE the invasion?). He discussed how the sanctions had become unpopular, and lays the blame for this entirely at the door of Saddam Hussein.Here is the rub, I remember the problems with Oil For Food Programme, and the problems were slightly more complex than that, as I recall. I also recall a few familiar names, being in the hat, with regard to corruption of the oil for food issues- including Cheney, Halliburton, ELF, UN officials, and a myriad of private companies, many of whom were linked- quelle surprise, to the family Bush. But hey ho, I digress.It is fair to say that sanctions were unpopular in Iraq- but it would be a gross simplification, verging on distortion of a the truth, to say that the sole reason for this, was Saddams dishonesty. Saying that Saddams own corruption of the Oil for Food programme, was a factor, while Dick Cheny was leading the charge, is a bit like….well, I can’t come up with a metaphor. Pots and Kettles, seem inadequate here.While I have no doubt that Saddam was a corrupt dictator(a fact we were well aware of, when we propped him up to support our aims in Iran. Were you aware that Douglas Hurd had to take a picture of him shaking hands with Saddam Hussein down from his wall, when he was interviewed regarding the first Iraq conflict- the interview took place in his home)- the question here, is supposed to be why the policy with regard to Iraq, had to be changed, so that we could end up at war so quickly. The fact that Saddam wasn’t a nice man, really doesn’t cut the mustard. What changed? When?Blair also discussed the sanctions failures, preventing Saddam from getting ‘stuff’ over borders to neighbouring countries, and discusses border patrol. And it struck me- surely if we are talking about someone having the ability to create weapons of mass destruction(which comes later)-then the fact that they are  ‘smuggling’ goods across borders-borders that are patrolled- would indictat  that the ability of Saddam, to er…manufacture weapons so effective that they could be used to cause mass destruction, in countries outside Iraq might be limited… If you are having to smuggle the basics, and are still getting caught- am guessing that sites where the production of WMD are going to be a bit more difficult to hide..Tony Blair then moves himself on, to asking whether the smart sanctions framework, would have been a valid method of containing Saddam.Tony Blair refers to the March 2002 options for Iraq paper.  Sir Rodney Lyne- points out that this paper has actually been classified, by the government of which TB was part of, even though it is widely available on the net. What kind of govt inquiry doesn’t have access to the same level of information, as a blogger? In case you can’t be bothered to read this, this was a document which clearly stated-The US administration has lost faith in containment and is now considering regime change. The end states could either be a Sunni strongman or a representative government. Tre [sic] three options for achieving regime change are:* covert support to opposition groups to mount an uprising/coup; air support for opposition groups to mount an uprising/coup; and * a full-scale ground campaign.”THe document was dated March 2002, yet, even during evidence where Tony Blair denies outright, over and over agin, that regime change was the point of the action- there is a clear statement that for the US, it is. And Tony Blair has said repeatedly, that the US position, and the UK position, were the same at this point-shoulder to shoulder, and all that. Sir Roderick, is not allowed to ask Mr.Blair about this. In fact, Tony Blair has to tell his examiner, that the paper is probably declassified now.THe following, is my favourite paragraph from the entire transcript. I sat, incredulous, as he said this-‘If you read the paper, what they are saying is, it is possible it might work, but, equally, it is possibleit won’t. But here is a point that I think is really, really important on the socalled smart sanctions, thatthere was then, following that paper, a whole series of government discussions about these smart sanctions.Each of them were indicating that they might work but they could give no guarantee of it working. Theprevious regime had obviously not yielded the previous sanctions framework had not yielded the benefits that we thought, in terms of sustainability, and the thing that I think is very important about this is the paper which I think has been declassified’Now, even if the paper had said what Tony Blair thinks it said-which anyone with a reading age, above primary school level, can see it doesn’t. His logic is pretty much astounding. If there is a possibility that something might not work, then logic dictates that the possibility of sanctions working remains.Am I to understand that Tony Blair was dismissing the idea of sanctions, because there was a possibility that they may not work? Again, am not a political analyst- but surely, if assessing any sort of sanction, in a complex world- there is a strong possibility that they may not work. And then ONLY if they don’t work, you are led to the next logical stage, having given every other possibility a chance.Perhaps we should just skip to Tony Blair admitting- ‘Therefore, you can still argue, I guess, that this sanctions framework would have been successful’.Blair talks about the difficulties in negotiating Smart Sanctions, and talks about the difficulty in getting the Russians to agree the new sanctions framework.   ‘‘we now had a new sanctions framework, but this new sanctions framework, to get it through the UN had been watered down in the absolutely vital component of the trade restrictions.’ The important thing to note, is that the problem that Blair was having with these sanctions, was not about Saddam Hussein, but about getting the UN to agree to the sanctions that both he, and Bush, wanted.Given that our foreign policy at that time, according to Mr.Blair, was being driven by the irrational fear caused by a terrorist attack on another country- am not sure that the fact that other countries didn’t necessarily agree with his approach, was a good reason, to accelerate the path to war. But hey ho, at least it is on record as being the case. And given the criticisms of the sanctions that were in place, it may have been that Russia had a point about the trade sanctions…. Its not like Tony Blair has just spent ten minutes arguing that the fact that sanctions were unpopular, was one of the major factors in them corroding- or that lifting of trade sanctions, as part of the new Smart Sanctions may possibly have remedied this.And my favourite quote of the day-‘We had it again and again and again, and the options were very simple. The options were: a sanctions framework that was effective; alternatively, the UN inspectors doing the job; alternatively, you have to remove Saddam.’The options were a) which might
be successful b) which also might be successful or the c) you HAVE to have regime change? Sorry- run that by me again. I get the first bit. New sanctions might be successful, so we need to have a look at those first. And UN weapons inspectors doing the job? Or alternatively to allowing both those options- regime change?Was that Blair saying that the goal of the invasion of Iraq, was regime change? I initially thought that such a completely illogical sentence was a mistake, but it is repeated word for word, several times, throughout his testimony.Before I move on, can I just go back the evidence offered by Sir John Sawyers about the sanctions framework- “I think it was working, but the costs of it were quite high and there were risks to the various elements of our policy that we wanted to reduce.”At this point in the proceedings, another issue needs to be explored.The ‘Iraq options paper’ that the Chilcot Inquiry didn’t have access to, wasn’t discussed in Cabinet. This document with the clear statement that the US position IS in fact regime change, at a time, when the american media were discussing regime change, as the motivating factor for military action in Iraq- wasn’t discussed once, in cabinet. Now given that we have a democratically elected parliament, with very set rules about who should be involved in decision making-shouldn’t the officials we elected, have had the opportunity to discuss this very important paper-which stated that regime change was now the aim of the US- on record? Sorry, I must be confused about what democracy is.It wasn’t even sent to some cabinet ministers. And when it was discussed, it was discussed at a secret meeting at Chequers, a meeting to prepare for the now infamous meeting with Bush at Crawford. Simon Carr, makes the point in todays Independent that as Chilcot doesn’t even have access to the now infamous memo, from David Manning, UK foreign policy advisor,  to Tony Blair, ahead of the visit to Crawford‘I said that you would not budge in your support for regime change but you had to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion that was very different than anything in the States’Perhaps next time Mr.Blair is called to Chilcot, he will be asked about this. I doubt it. That email sounds very much to me, like someone defending the ability to deliver what has been promised, with a bit of elbowing to push it on a bit. But that might just be me.When asked to detail his consideration of the arguments against military action, Blair says- – I was reading telegrams coming in from ambassadors abroad and so on.He acknowledges that ‘military action always something that you should consider only as a last resort’ but dismisses this, as easily as he dismissed the telegrams, that he recalls recieving, but not the content of.He acknowledged that ‘there were issues to do with relationships in the Muslim world, there were issues to do with what the effect would be in the Arab world and so on’ but again- he dismisses them because apparently-‘what you find in these situations is that you will get a range of different views. …So it is not as if we weren’t getting the full range of views. We got the full range of views from the very beginning- apparently, you had them, you just couldn’t be arsed listening to them.He says he had to make a decision. Again, I am wondering what it was, apart from the rhetoric of a changed perception of the risk posed by unrelated terrorism- that prompted this, and meant that a ‘decision’ was necessary. Especially given the resolutions being breached were UN resolutions. What was it, that meant that Britain and the US were compelled to act?He fails to mention at this point, the genuine concerns that were already being raised about the lack of consideratoin of a post-war strategy. I distinctly remembering including this concern, in one of the several letters I sent to my MP- but apparently concern over post war planning, was not even on his radar, as a possible downside of military action. He does briefly mention recieving advice ‘ about a humanitarian catastrophe if Saddam was removed.’ Apparently he called for papers on this, but more about ‘what the Sunni Shia relationship would be’. Ultimately it came down to this- ‘So all of these things were factors that we had to take into account, but the primary consideration for me was to send an absolutely powerful, clear and unremitting message that, after September 11, if you were a regime engaged in WMD, you had to stop’You notice how important the potential for a humanitarian crisis was, the concerns about how this would divide the world, the effect on relations with Islam- how important when contrasted with his need to make a point. (Did you notice me not mentioning the fact that there was absolutely no evidence at this point, that Saddam had, or even had the capability to make- WMD- and that absolutely nothing had changed, apart from Sept 11? Yeah- am getting repetitive. This is a long post for gods sake…)Sir Rodney finishes his part, by asking Blair whether the goal of military intervention, was regime change- to which TB replies-”No, the absolutely key issue was the WMD issue”The discussion moves onto a speech Blair made, in April 2002, the day after he met George Bush at Crawford, at the George Bush Presidential Library at College Station, where Blair made a great deal of the challenges of an interdependant world, and the need to show solidarity with the US, but where he spoke at length, passionately, in fact, about the need to act on the issue of Iraq- again, not feeling the need to draw any distinction between 9/11, and the issues affecting Iraq. Feeling free to imply connections that aren’t there, or to imply that Saddam is in fact, developing weapons of mass destruction, even though we know absolutely, that there was no evidence that he was doing so that Tony Blair could have seen. The important thing, in this speech, is the concentration on the regime itself.”Secondly, we must be prepared to act where terrorism or weapons of mass destruction (WMD) threaten us. The fight against international terrorism is right. We should pursue it vigorously. Not just in Afghanistan but elsewhere….If necessary the action should be military and again, if necessary and justified, it should involve regime change. I have been involved as British prime minister in three conflicts involving regime change. Milosevic. The Taliban. … leaving Iraq to develop WMD, in flagrant breach of no less than nine separate UN security council resolutions, refusing still to allow weapons inspectors back to do their work properly, is not an option. The regime of Saddam is detestable. Brutal, repressive, political opponents routinely tortured and executed: it is a regime without a qualm in sacrificing the lives of its citizens to preserve itself, or starting wars with neighbouring states and it has used chemical weapons against its own people.As I say, the moment for decision on how to act is not yet with us. But to allow WMD to be developed by a state like Iraq without let or hindrance would be grossly to ignore the lessons of September 11 and we will not do it.Again, there are many additional phrases, which Blair was desperate for us to see= he especially wanted us to note that he had said ‘calm and measured response’ was necessary. Unfortunately, the need for calm and measured response, came as a line, in the midst of several paragraphs glorifying military action, and some rather vivid language, when describing Saddams regime.Still, it was mentioned in the speech right= but given the need identified in Mannings memo- to ‘ to manage a press, a Parliament and a public opinion tha

t was very different than anything in the States’- I suppose an occasional line about being calm and measured was necessary. Besides, he was describing the aftermath of 9/11, and if that is what you define as ‘calm and measured’-then in comparison, I suppose you could describe invading Iraq in similar terms.And Sir Rodericks final questions, relate to the Fern Britton interview. You know, the one where Tony Blair was clear, that he was going in, no matter what. But apparently, he didn’t mean it, he was having an off day.THere is some clarification, where Sir Rodney does actually challenge TB about the fact that nothing had actually changed, with regard to Iraq, TB responds thus-”Now, my assessment of risk prior to September 11 was that Saddam was a menace, that he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best. If you had asked me prior to September 11, did I have any real belief in his good faith. No, I didn’t. Did I really think that a new sanctions framework was going to do the trick?Prior to September 11th, he was a menace, and a threat- and you didn’t have any faith in the sanctions, and then what? Post September 11th, what changed? You thought Sept 11th gave you the mandate to get rid of a guy you didn’t like? The leader of a sovereign state? On the other hand, precisely because the consequence of military action is so great, for me the calculus of risk was, “Look, we are just going to have to do the best we can. After September 11, that changed, and that change, incidentally….but in my view, we cannot afford the possibility that nations, particularly nations that are brutal, rogue states, states that take an attitude that is wholly contrary to our way of life, you cannot afford such states to beallowed to develop or proliferate WMD.’‘Seriously- go back and read that second part of the paragraph. Because the consequences of war were so great(ie the humanitarian disaster, the deaths of our own armed forces, the effect on the country and the wider islamic world?), he didn’t go to war, and then because a terrorist attacked a building, in another country-those consequences reduced? Or is this where we go back to how perceptions have changed. The way someone feels, something irrational and emotional, should not be enough to all of a sudden give a mandate, for the awareness of how great the consequences of war are, to be thrown out of the window. SO we have the mandate to get rid of anyone who what? Thinks about creating WMD? Dislikes us enough to aim them at us? Do they have to have them? Do we have to have evidence that they have them? Or is just enough that we ‘believe’ they exist?And finally, we have Blairs finest moment at Chilcot, in that first session. He describes the difference between going to war for regime change, and the issue of WMD- as a ‘binary distinction’. To those of you who don’t know what a binary distinction is, it is for example- like the difference between dark green, and light green. The distinction is there, but they are both green at the end of the day.Tony Blair had within his power to protect the United Kingdom, not to change the government of any country in the world, he liked. And if the Prime Minister of the UK believes that the distinction between  regime change in a sovereign state, and protecting the UK from an increased material threat is a binary distinction, he is a fool. And of all the things I think Tony Blair is, a fool, is not one of them.End of questioning by Sir Roderick Lyne. Think will do this in a series of blog posts. I appreciate its not to everyones taste-and am sure normal service will be resumed when have finished.

Fringe political parties.

As my regular readers will know, I have been having election dilemmas. Yes I know the election is not until May, but am a geek.As the two main parties unlikely to get my vote, am looking at smaller parties. In interest of fair hearings, I went on to the UKIP website. Well, I actually went on to see whether they were serious about their ludicrous ideas about burkas. What I found was a gem. A breathtakingly hilarious forum, which has clearly shown me the problem with fringe parties. I beg you to take a look. Get yourself a cuppa, a bar of chocolate, and get ready to be astounded….http://www.democracyforum.co.uk/forum.php

Ban the Burka.

I am saying here and now,  if they ban the bhurka, I am going to buy one, and I will fucking wear it till it wears out. I may customise it.Horrible item of clothing. Its very existence is abhorrent to me. The need to have an item of clothing that conceals everything. What does that say? But that is my opinion, and I have met several women who wear it, and feel empowered by it. Which kind of makes my ‘opinion’ irrelevant.White, middle aged men, talking about how much empathy they feel with the oppressed women of Islam, decrying the burka as a symbol of everything that is wrong with Islams attitude to woman. In their response have come up with an idea that in one swoop, removes the right of those women to freedom of religious expression through clothing, places autonomy over a womans body to the state, and apparently clarifies just how much of my flesh someone in the general public is expected to see before I am allowed to take part in society.Here is a message, you don’t get to offer up control of women’s bodies  to make a political point. Women’s bodies are not political battlegrounds. Since when did control over what I choose to wear become a pawn in political game, to be won or lost by white men I have never even met. Whats next?  ‘Slutty’ clothes demean and disempower women, so we will ban those? Heels hurt their feet, lets ban those?Who precisely gets punished for the wearing of the said garment? The woman you say is forced to wear it? Or the man who ‘forces’ her? Apparently in law, a man is assumed to have legal responsibility for what I wear, unless I can prove otherwise? My capacity to choose needs to be limited for my own protection? Protection from what precisely?There are millions of women who have been, and are in abusive controlling relationships.  Are we going to ban every single item used in that abuse? I know a woman who was forced to wear boden clothes, so she wouldn’t look slutty. Are we banning Boden?Whats next? Tackle domestic violence by making it a crime to be punched?You might want to look up the meaning of the word liberation. You don’t liberate women by telling them what to wear. If liberating women is your game, I could point to about a dozen laws which need to be changed  or strenghtened. Changes which could improve choices for women across the UK, immediately, and without removing their basic democratic rights. I cannot fathom how turning the control over what a woman wears, into a power struggle between her husband and the state, while criminalising her for being abused  even fits the loosest definition of the word liberation.But then, this idea is not being discussed as a way to attack MY democratic rights is it? We are not liberating me? Its just them oppressed  muslim wimmins. They are not like us are they? Muslim= terrorist-right?  Oh wait sorry- muslim woman equals battered brainless chattel.  Those smart intelligent women appearing on Newsnight to defend their right to wear what they choose, are clearly lying. As are the women I know who wear the veil, niqab, and burka, while operating as solicitors, social workers, and teachers.Funnily enough most women I know who have felt pressure to wear the veil, niqab, and burka, haven’t been pressured by their families, but by the need to assert their faith in the face of blatant islamophobia from govt, press, and public. Getting through a day in burka, is  hard enough, and not because of the restricted visibility, but because of the spitting in the street, andabuse that it brings. Hardly the best getaway garment in the current climate.Who knew, all you needed to do to get support for an idea that sets us back as a society for hundreds of years, and which removes basic rights for everyone, and introduces basic gender inequality to  statute books, was the example of a few brown people being a bit different. We can’t have that, can we? Legislation covers everyone, not just the few  womenwho dress in a way you find threatening.

Procrastination.

Today, I had several things to do. Once all those things were done, I was free to go and do something else. Something entirely more fun.I wake up. I realise it is a child free day, I am very pleased. I decide that a waste of this precious quiet time, would be an affront to anyone with a sense of civility. So I have a cup of tea. And there it begins.I did manage to make it to the shower, 3 hours later. I don’t want to be entirely unfair on myself, during those three hours of drinking tea, and dossing on the net, I did manage to successfully use internet banking, to sort my standing orders, and pay some bills. Which is the first time I have successfully managed to do this. However, the management of my finances, led to the realisation that I could, if I so wished, with only a bit of magical magitrickery next week, afford a very very pretty dress. This led to much soul searching, as I fought my shallow irresponsible side. Which took a great deal of time, many posts on twitter, and at least three cups of tea.And hey ho, a miracle has occured. I have procrastinated for so long, that if I start doing the things that need to be done now(ie cleaning, and domestic drudgery), I will not be finished in time to make it to the shop that is selling my very pretty dress. Which means that procrastination has saved me £60. Procrastination may be the thief of time, but it has saved me money, and at least two panics next week, as I realised that buying that dress was a damn foolish thing to do.So I felt I had to share this. Not that I am using writing this blog to procrastinate…..

Terror threat

I know I am bit cynical, but a guy burns his leg on an aeroplane. A guy we know about, a guy whose own father warned us about him-where we may as well have had an up to date CV, a big sign on his head saying ‘I am here’, and who probably told customs he had explosives in his pants, putting paid to the myth of ‘liar liar, pants on fire’.This guy burns his leg, miraculously, at a time when Gordon Brown is  trying to justify the expense required to tackle the dangerous mess in Pakistan, created by the war on terror, and our ill advised military jaunts. A time when money being poured into Pakistan, is dressed  as anything but what it is. All of a sudden we increase the terrorist threat to severe.Hey presto, we now need cameras in the sky, to revolutionise policing, and increase surveillance capacity. I suppose the friends of mine on this list have nothing to worry about. Terrorism is the threat right? Not authoritarianism.