Tuesday, February 02, 2010

 

Tony Blair - Chilcott

I watched most of Tony Blair's evidence to the Chilcott enquiry on the internet. Within the terms of reference the panel did a fair, polite, but ultimately inadequate job, and left many questions unanswered, so the suspicions will remain that this will all end in a whitewash.

One of those questions is how Iraq, rather than other "axis of evil" countries, was selected by Blair. For example, North Korea has shown itself to be both madder, more malignant, worse to its own people, and WMD (nuclear) capable than Iraq was or was ever likely to be. So how was the particular threat of Iraq determined to be the highest priority? Saddam was not in bed with religious fundamentalists, in fact they were a significant risk to him, so links to Al Qaeda ("AQ" as TB kept calling them) were simply not there. Saddam had no connection with 9/11 at all; on the basis of which country actually had the most direct connection Saudi Arabia would have been high on the hit-list. One can accept that post-9/11 the UK's assessment of terrorist risk changed, but that might have produced a worldwide list of say six suspect countries. So what made Iraq specifically go to the top of that list, to be such an immediate priority that the task in Afghanistan could not be properly completed before this was taken on? Was there some form of strategic defence review post 9/11, or was it just Blair's opinion? The panel did not seem to get to grips with this, which leaves open the view that 1) the US had already determined that Iraq should be taken out, for reasons of oil but with the excuse that Saddam was a baddie (see Cheney's paper from pre 9/11), 2) Blair had already undertaken to Bush that the UK would support the US "whatever", so we were also by default committed to topple Saddam, and 3) that the urgency was imposed by a gung-ho US president with connections to the oil business wanting a successful conventional hi-tech war to boost his poll ratings, and with loopy advisers planning world domination. And the UK just went along, TB grinning and loving the plaudits, making up reasons as we went. Tragic.

Second, TB claimed that it was all going fine until Iran started meddling in things, and that noone could have foreseen this. What??? The hostility of neighbouring countries to the proposed invasion was completely apparent well before March 2003. Syria's president bluntly told TB in late 2002 that it would all end in tears. This is a region where loyalties, hostilities and rivalries are rarely defined by national borders; the regional politics are complex and far-reaching. To suppose that the invasion of Iraq by western powers was a matter that would remain to be dealt with just within the borders of Iraq is just simple-minded. So my guess is that somebody somewhere did some scenario planning on exactly the topic of how Iraq's neighbours might react. If they were not asked to plan for Iran, it's a huge and unforgiveable lapse in judgement. If they missed Iran out of the scenario planning, it's complete incompetence. If they did plan and their findings were ignored, it's criminal. So, which was it? The panel did not explore this point, and TB was allowed to get away with his claim that Iran was an unfortunate rogue variable.

There's still so much more to be uncovered.

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