IRAQ – Chilcot Inquiry
Philippe Sands QC has said it all: “The questions sent by the Chilcot Inquiry to Tony Blair make crystal clear the key issues on which the report will focus. “In the run up to the war these include: the timing, nature and extent of commitments given to President Bush; the preparation and presentation of intelligence; the circumstances of the decision to return to the United Nations; the role of the attorney general and the effect of his legal advice at various stages; the role of the cabinet; and the presentation of information to parliament and the public.
“Mr Blair's responses to those questions are, to put it charitably, elusive and less than complete. But once the fluff is stripped away, today's defensive testimony, the written answers and the totality of the evidence before the tribunal points to a simple story: the prime minister took an early decision to support President Bush in the quest to remove Saddam, assured him repeatedly of his unequivocal statement of support, ignored the law, and deprived the cabinet and parliament of key information.
“In short, Mr Blair managed to skilfully lead the entire machinery of government — attorney general, cabinet, parliament — into a place from which British involvement in the war became inevitable.
“Mr Blair has paid a big price for delivering his commitment to President Bush: his legacy is an unlawful and disastrous conflict that continues to cause misery and claim lives, shredding public trust in government, diminishing Britain's role in the world, and undermining the rule of law. To the Chilcot inquiry falls the task of picking up the pieces.”Philippe Sands QC is professor of law, University College London, and a barrister at Matrix Chambers
Tony Blair is an exceptional man. He is acutely intelligent, a highly accomplished barrister, one of the most skillful politicians to have walked the corridors of Westminster ever, and could well have been in the top three of the most astute and effective prime ministers to have led these islands.
He made a mistake. He took us into a bad war. That is his tragedy and, more to the point, ours as our young men and women continue to lose their lives and parts of their bodies (I don’t include Iraqis here simply because whatever we did GWB would have seen to their demise on his own). It was an egregious mistake that, had he been a smidgen cleverer and more prescient, he would not have made. But he did, and having made it he has only one course of honourable action and that is to admit it wholeheartedly and not give us this trash of having done the right thing. That, of course, would expose him to the possibility of prosecution and incarceration. Well, Mr Blair, welcome to the world of moral courage. At least his legacy would have stayed intact, possibly even been enhanced. Continuing with his current dissimulation and smirking denials (a mannerism he probably does not recognize in himself) he simply exposes himself as the supreme tergiversator, and that is how history will remember him.
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