BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Blair likely to defend Iraq judgement

Nick Robinson | 09:11 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

We are not judges. It is not a trial.

So say the members of the Iraq Inquiry.

Tony BlairThat is not how it will feel to Tony Blair, who was smuggled into the QEII Conference Centre by the Metropolitan Police early this morning.

The inquiry to date has heard from his former officials and ministerial colleagues who have painted a picture that this was his war and his alone. He will want to remind people that the government, the opposition and, yes, public opinion backed him.

He will acknowledge that there are lessons to be learned, but defend the judgement he took and stands by still - that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the world who had to be disarmed, if necessary by force.

On regime change, he is likely to argue that there was a moral case to remove Saddam, but that his government's policy was disarmament.

On those missing weapons of mass destruction, he may point to the final report of the Iraq Survey Group, which said that Saddam had the capacity and the intent to build WMD if not the weapons themselves.

On the terrible loss of life, his friends point out that there are those who are alive now thanks to the war - because, they claim, infant mortality rates have improved since Saddam was toppled.

None of this will convince opponents of the war. It is unlikely to sway those who once backed it and now regret it.

Tony Blair's aim is likely to be rather different. He will want people to disbelieve the conspiracy theories about secret promises to George Bush "signed in blood", and the claims that he lied about intelligence. He wants the British public to accept that he took a political judgement which they might disagree with but which was just that: a judgement he discussed and debated openly, based on what he knew and feared at the time. Even that will be a mightily difficult task.

Update 0927: Tony Blar will not be making an opening statement to the inquiry this morning.

I will not be blogging live during his evidence, since I have the privilege of being in the Inquiry Room, where no electronic equipment is permitted. There is a different quality about sharing a room with the witness and the inquisitors which I do not wish to miss. As I've mentioned before, my colleague Laura Kuenssberg is micro-blogging; you can find her at @BBCLauraK, and you can get all the BBC's coverage at our live event page.


  • Comment number 1.

    Yes they are "not judges". And yes this is "not a trial". But then what is the purpose of Blair's appearance other than to allow the disgraced ex-PM a chance to salvage what little remains of his tarnished reputation.

    The charade of the Chilcot parade looks set to give him this chance.

    A great day for the chattering classes and political hacks but what will the public and what will the families of servicemen lost in Iraq think of it all?

  • Comment number 2.

    I was one who also backed the decision to go to war with Iraq.

    I believed our Prime Minister who convinced me, as he did a multitude of others, that Saddam was likely to spray me and mine with chemical weapons and then nuke those who survived.

    I remember well how he claimed that it was not regime change for that was not legal. Also that at the eleventh hour it was not too late for Saddam to give up those WMDs and if he did he could continue in power.

    With hindsight I was duped by a master craftsman.

    I hope he rots in Hell!

  • Comment number 3.

    Glad to see Laura is blogging as we may get some impartial reporting rather than the usual pro government propaganda.

  • Comment number 4.

    What sets us apart from tryanny and tin pot dictaators ? The belief that our government is honest and has checks and balances via Parliament to prevent us being taken into illegal wars. They appear to have been abused here and the head man responsible MUST take blame for what has happened. He should stand trial before the best legal minds and brains to ensure he cannot treat the country with more contempt,a qualified barrister versus civil servants at an enquiry is not a true match.

  • Comment number 5.

    The issue is not that Saddam was removed we all agree that he was an evil despot. The main point is that a decision was made and the evidence bent to fit that decision. Sloppy drafting, colour or perhaps falsehood, we will never know until the notes of Mr Blair and the letters to Bush are declassified. Until then this is the third expensive smokescreen being implemented by Labour.

  • Comment number 6.

    There’s a whole lot of ‘black and white’ smuggery going on with people in response to the Iraq enquiry. ‘Blair should tell the truth!’ we scream, all self-righteous, from our armchairs. Maybe some of you have been managers, maybe not, but in my experience as a manager you often find that truth is a luxury that you simply can’t afford. I have had to sack people, mark down appraisals etc., because of company policy, because I was ordered to, or to help my manager out of a hole. Of course, I was unable to tell those affected the exact reasons so as to protect the higher manager or director. You can't admit the truth, and you can't say that you're lying. You're stuck between the Devil and the deep blue sea. C’est la vie in business sometimes, much as I hated it.

    I’d multiply that by about 100 in the world of politics. There is an old saying: ‘An ambassador is a good man sent abroad to lie on behalf of his country’. How true that is. Sometimes honesty isn't the best policy, and the truth hurts too much. I believe that the real reason for our involvement in Iraq is simple. America forced us. If there was no verbal deal, it doesn’t matter. There didn’t have to be. They knew we would have to follow. They were going to attack anyway, as they made absolutely clear, even if they had to do it alone. Our ‘special relationship’ would have been shattered if we had refused. You might say that this would be no bad thing, but we have the relationship, and no leader of any viable political party would have risked this.

    The point is that any British leader would have been forced along this same path. That it happened on Blair’s watch is bad luck for him. I almost feel sorry for him. Almost. No wonder he’s found religion! You want the real reasons for the war? Ask Bush. Ask his administration team, who seem to have quietly slunk away whilst the world is busy looking the other way, and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the appointment of Barack Obama. Nice little diversion, that one. Couldn’t have been planned any better. The Republicans field a no-hope OAP candidate, lose horribly and thus avoid any damaging awkward questions. We should have thought of that one!

    So, in order to avoid the unpalatable truth – that our soldiers' lives were being spent propping up our friendship with Uncle Sam – we needed to come up with some good reasons for attacking Iraq. Hence the spicy dossiers. So much waste paper. Of course their evidence is uncompelling because the contents had to be adjusted to fit a conclusion that was already written! Now, like the poor manager, Blair has to cover up the real reasons so as to protect Dubya and the good people of America. I’m sure the ‘thank-you’ will be worthwhile, and I hope we can expect it just as soon as they remember that we exist.

  • Comment number 7.

    On C4 news last night one of the country's top lawyers said that in 2007 George Bush admitted that there Was an anglo-american pact made at camp David in 2002.

    If true it beggars belief that the enquiry has not used this evidence in their interviews.

  • Comment number 8.

    "I say old chap, we have to ask you some dame tedious questions, will try and make it as painless as possible. Please let me know if you think I am going too far or if I am not asking the correct questions."

    I agree that this is not a trail however it is an inquiry and by definition should unearth the truth and nothing but the truth. It does appear that this is the case, maybe not a whitewash but more an inept group of ex civil servants who are not experienced or qualified to carry out such an exercise.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment has been referred for further consideration. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    if 'al jabeeba' (ooh you're so clever) wind you up so much, stop whining and get your news elsewhere. I'm so bored with people using these pages just to level crude abuse and their latest oh-so-witty wordplay at the BBC and its journalists.

  • Comment number 11.

    Some organisation somewhere set about blaming Saddam Hussein and his regime for 9/11. Who? Why?

    The conflating of 9/11 with Saddam Hussein's Iraq allowed the terrible events of 9/11 to be turned to the advantage of someone or some group?

    The answer is the Neocons in the USA - who even before 9/11 wanted to get rid of Saddam Hussein and his regime - for what purpose? This purpose is inescapably oil? Can there be any other reason - and there is always a reason?

    The lies, information manipulations, fake 'intelligence' and forged documents stem from this commercial decision. I think it is quite reasonable to suppose that the whole sorry business and all the death and destruction are the inevitable consequence of these commercial decisions. George Bush (jnr) was just a dupe and he took Tony Blair along with him, I am sorry to say, as an uncritical sycophant.

    Tony Blair's pride and arrogance greatly assisted the Neocons in achieving their aim. Was it a worthy aim? Possibly. Were lies told to achieve the aim? Unquestionably yes - you don't forge documents (see the Niger Uranium fakes) unless you already know that there are no real ones.

    Should Tony Blair have gone along with this plan? Probably not, but on the other side of the argument Saddam Hussein and his regime were a thoroughly destabilising force in an already unstable region. However we should not forget who supported Saddam Hussein and his regime and to a very large extent created the tyranny in the first place. That in itself gives us some justification in feeling that we (and the USA) should clear up the mess that we created.

    Were mistakes made in the process? Yes. Epitomised in Donald Rumsfeld's - "we don't do nation building" statement. Perhaps the crassest statement ever made by an invading and occupying power and almost certainly in breach of the fundamental laws or war. This attitude and incompetence in itself may rightly be seen as the cause of the vast majority of the physical and cultural destruction and the vast majority of the civilian and military deaths. We were a party to this stupidity - we should have known better and indeed we did know better.

    How far is Tony Blair personally culpable for this? He did cultivate absolute power as Prime-minister and with power comes responsibility. Could he have done anything about the stupidity and incompetence of the leader of the invasion and occupation - probably no.

    I am almost certain the the enquiry will not get round to investigate the role of the US necons in constructing the need for war. In a sense they too failed badly because the destruction caused reduced the commercial opportunities for rapidly restarting oil production.

    Everyone lost - mostly due, as I see it through bad management of the process due to the arrogance of power and hubris on part of the powerful - who need to be reminded - are the servants of the people!

    Signs are bad in Afghanistan for the same reasons, and Yemen looks ominous.

  • Comment number 12.

    6. At 10:31am on 29 Jan 2010, LippyLippo

    God help you - I have had to make some difficult decisions, making hundreds of staff redundant, sacking Etc. However, I have and never would, never carry out such tasks if they were not required for the greater good of the company. One should look at ones company if they act in such a way and are prepared to ask you to carry out actions that are not correct and can be justified. After all it could be your manager who may well be marking you down or sacking you next! Honesty between all members of staff from the boardroom down is essential and I for one have always insisted on the sharing of information with all those concerned and have explained why actions were being taken. I have only ever had a small handful of staff who did not accept what was happening, although not all were happy.

    If only our politicians would act with the same ethics. After all they are OUR representatives and are supposed to be carrying out our will.

    Our Government has lost its way and now believe that they know best and we the populous are not capable of understanding what is required.

    A extremely clever man once told me that with every pair of hands you get a free brain. Politicians should think on this fact..........

  • Comment number 13.

    This inquiry looks like every other that has taken place, it will achieve nothing and will muddy the waters even more. Until we have an inquiry with the evidence presented as in a court of law and the witnesses cross examined by suitably qualified barristers, the truth will never be told.There is no doubt that getting rid of Saddam was comendable, but if this nation went to war on a web of deceit then those who used this deceit must be punished. Blaming George Bush for the decisions of our government does not wash, they made the decision and must explain why.Parliament and the majority of the British people approved of the government's action based on the facts they were presented with, but now that these facts have been found to be spurious, then justice must be done and must be seen to be done.

  • Comment number 14.

    #6 do not agree you always have the option to walk, speak out or protest. But just taking it is not an option.

    This is a question of integrety of HMG at the widest level, people lives depended on it, for all his faults and many will point that out Churchill
    understood that what going to war meant. Given there are no ex-service personal in the Liebour ranks they do not understand the magnitude of there desicions. And this is one of many Liebour decisions that have just been rolled through like the non-election of brown to PM, both of which have been bad for democracy

    Not only that having given the order to go to war Blair should have instructed his Chancellor to then make sure the "lads" had all the support with equipement etc that was required to do the job rather than allowing them to be ham strung by the treasury.

    If that was the case I think then there would have been some oppostion in the cabinet from Mr Broon.

  • Comment number 15.

    Blair is 100% correct to say that 9/11 changed the background against which all foreign policy decisions in the Middle East had to be taken. It also changed the attitude of the West towards rogue states.

    This is not the same as linking the 9/11 plot to Saddam.

    Those desperate for Blair to be unmasked at this inquiry will be disappointed. There is no mask, no scandal, no subterfuge. There was a decision - made in good faith at the time, probably 'oversold' in a way that now appears grubby, possibly even the wrong decision. But Blair's reputation will, if anything, be enhanced by a more detailed exposition of the events in 2003, at least among those with a will to listen.

  • Comment number 16.

    #6 or relationship is so good witht the USA that they sent us some doggy Chinook MK3 helicopters that were unflyable in operational terms.

    That we have taken the JSF father than upgrading the EFA.

    You just look back at history the TSR2 and getting F1-11's not but then F4-phathoms with RR-spey engines, (all on liebour watches) we need leader with some spin

  • Comment number 17.

    "On the terrible loss of life, his friends point out that there are those who are alive now thanks to the war - because, they claim, infant mortality rates have improved since Saddam was toppled"

    Excuse me - wasn't the high infant mortality rates due to the refusal of the West to supply medication to Iraq. I.E. CAUSED BY MR BLAIR!

  • Comment number 18.

    "He will want to remind people that the government, the opposition and, yes, public opinion backed him."

    I don't remember any mass support for this war, in fact I distinctly remember taking part in the biggest public demonstration ever to take place in Britain in direct opposition to the war alongside over a million of my fellow citizens, and millions more around the world.

    "According to BBC News, between six and ten million people took part in protests in up to sixty countries over the weekend of the 15th and 16th; other estimates range from eight million to thirty million.

    Some of the largest protests took place in Europe. The protest in Rome involved around 3 million people, and is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of World Records as the largest anti-war rally in history."

    The Iraq war was one of, if not the most unpopular war our government has ever got involved in and this for me is more important than any questions over legality.
    The government took our country to war with a nation that posed no threat to us and against the wishes of over half of the population. This war has so far cost the lives of 140 of our Armed Forces, many private contractors and aid workers lives and over £5billion.

    If there was any justice in this country then Tony Blair would be spending the rest of his life in prison for the lies he told while trying to convince people that this was a war we needed to fight when all it turned out to be was an attempt to suck up to the neo-cons in their quest to take over the Middle East.

  • Comment number 19.

    I'm not interested in whether or not Mr Blair believed that attacking Iraq was "the right thing to do" - I don't question his integrity in that regard. I'm also not too hung up about the "legal or illegal?" question. A grey area and will remain so. The morality of it? Nope, not relevant - not in the context of this Chilcot Inquiry. I have my opinion on the morality of aggressive military action - it stinks - aggressive military action, I mean, not my opinion - but other people see these things differently. Which is fine.

    No, all that's a distraction - I want to know just one thing out of this Inquiry. It's in scope and it's the Heart of the Matter. Here it is.

    Did the Right Honourable Tony Blair deliberately & deviously mislead Parliament (and thus the country) when he said the following?

    1) That the reason we were about to invade Iraq was because the Saddam regime represented a clear & present danger to Britain via existing and planned WMD capability.


    2) That the UN Inspection process had failed to give sufficient confidence that such a danger did NOT exist, and furthermore had no realistic prospect of doing so even if given more time.

    I'm watching him now, will report back later.

  • Comment number 20.

    This inquiry should ask Blair a great many tough questions. One of the most important is about why Blair presented the intelligence about WMDs as conclusive proof that they existed, when he must have known that in reality it was nothing of the sort.

    And not only should the questions be asked, the inquiry should also demand plausible answers.

    Anything less than that will be proof that this inquiry is yet another government whitewash.

  • Comment number 21.

    Surly, what is important is that we the electorate finally get to hear the truth. To build a full picture we need to understand the facts and these include what all those who were around the cabinet and those in the cabinet 1) were told 2) what input they had on making decisions.

    If what is being suggested by some in Labour that the PM made these decisions in marvelous isolation. Then 1) TB must be held accountable and 2) those in Government should be held accountable with regards to the derivation of their duties.

    Once again can I state what I thought the role of our Government was and is, Government for the people by the people. How can we trust our Government when our Government believe they are above the people and when they are less than truthful and free with information. Often it is not what has been said it what was left unsaid. Back to the persons asking the questions - it is not what is being asked or even how they are asking it. It is what they are not asking!!!!!!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    Sadly, the old joke:
    "How do you know if Blair (or Brown, Mandelson, Straw, Goldsmith,Campbell etc. etc.) is lying?......His mouth is moving"
    is no longer a joke.

  • Comment number 23.

    Blair hasn't changed one little bit, that is the most damning observation anyone can make. Perhaps, like a condemned man, when on his way to the gallows, he will seek redemption too late to change his fate.

    His recent interest in matters religious may yet prove to be a deafening roar at a point where there is no one left to help him. I genuinely feel sorry about what awaits him. An intelligent man who has not learned the folly of deception.

  • Comment number 24.

    Blair has just dragged William Hague into his argument. Didn't take long for Blair to blame the tories.

  • Comment number 25.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 26.

    PDavies. To a point I agree with your post @15. I am not a barrister or in anyway legaly trained. To me the point is WHEN that decision was made. That sir will never be discovered until all the documents are released and declassified. If Mr Blair had assured Bush that we would put troops on the ground before publishing the dossier and getting parliamentry approval then he was wrong so to do.

    That is what we need to know.

    If he did then all sorts of things come into play.

  • Comment number 27.

    blair talking about executive summaries , seems reminisence of the eddlington "exec summary" and the REAL document.

    even is SH had the bits but distributes around the to make those WND
    is would take , eve nthis country, quite a while to assemble enough that going to have a war with them would make a difference, so 45 minutes to launch is quite a lie, by whom ever put it in place.

    it would take them months to assemble enough as one unless it was nuclear would make no difference, but then it would take year to "spin" up the vessles to create he raw materail in the first place. If he had some fissile material I think that would have been found or the traces of it by Hans blix and co as radiation leaves a trace. ANd there was not mention of that at all

  • Comment number 28.

    I just hear Tony B madman state that Saddam was in breach of (resolution 1442)

    Except that he wasn't of course. He couldn't be. He could never be in breach of that resolution.

    Because he did not have any WMD to give up. Therefore no breach could take place.

    Given that the weapons inspectors were charging round Iraq and not finding anything the case for a war based on res1442 collapses. It is a clear fraud to base a war upon it.

    I just heard the great war criminal state again that Saddam retained his INTENT to create nuclear weapons. You can't murder a million people because you think that they intend doing something at some time somewhere.

    I could intend to create an atomic bomb but it isn't going to happen.

    The man is lower than a squashed snake.

  • Comment number 29.

    #28 ah welcome to the fussy logic of the ZANU_Liebour left, this is the same fussy logic employed in the family courts, ie that I'm a father means that as most criminals of rape, murder and pedo's are men, therefore I have the same intend as them otherwise why would I be in court in the first place as the ex-partner states that I have intend to be voilent, even though there is no track record of that, but as a male they have "guilt by association". QED

  • Comment number 30.

    Today will tell us more about the Inquiry than Blair

  • Comment number 31.

    Sorry Mr Moderator

    Maybe you could let me know the reason for the referral

  • Comment number 32.

    What amazes me about TB's responses is that he blithely links Saddam H with Al Quida and the 9/11 attack. Saddams' regime was secular and was opposed to Al Quida and the perpetrators of 9/11 were from Saudi Arabia.
    Also why does no one mention that the definition of WMDs was widened from the obvious atomic weaponry to include chemical weapons, which we knew he had used on his own population.(Even this safe bet they could not find) I could go on. Did our MPs really believe him at the time? Certainly many millions of us did not.

  • Comment number 33.

    Blair keeps saying its was "a decision" to commit this country to go to War against Iraq. That reveals his presidential style. Fact is he mislead Parliament and this country.

  • Comment number 34.

    At 10:25am on 29 Jan 2010, brian192 wrote:

    Glad to see Laura is blogging as we may get some impartial reporting rather than the usual pro government propaganda.

    Well you didn't get impartial reporting or pro government propaganda.

  • Comment number 35.

    It is unrealistic and completely unfair to blame one man for the UK's role in the Iraq War. People conveniently forget only a handful of the Conservative party actually opposed Blair's decision at that time. On the so-called 'intelligence' received the opposition would have made the SAME decision. I wonder, if the WMDs had not been an issue - but rather just the toppling of the Sadam threat to his region and the world - and the same number of soldiers had been lost, would the outcry have been the same, or more accepted as the brave dying for the greater good?

  • Comment number 36.

    We had the debate seven years ago, nearly. WE were told there were WMDs and there wasn't any. We were told we had to go to war, that we had to get Saddam Hussein. But we, in actual fact, had to get Bin Laden who did the appalling acts in New York on 9/11. Then we were told we had to rebuild the country when at the time, and I am not a soldier, but even I realized the Army had to rebuild the country would take billions of dollars and lots of resources. Back then Rumsfeld didn't want to listen and insisted on full force. Blair was a Labour PM, why the hell was he acting as Bush's poodle? But to give him his due, he was a more effective PM than Brown. And I am not condoning what Blair did but it is too easy as I have just pointed out to criticize Tony Blair.Otherwise he won't have a friend in the world. But then again millions of people have been killed on all sides and I protested. I am so sorry I couldn't stop people being killed and Blair making a fool of himself.

  • Comment number 37.

    Bliar's Chilcot performance proved beyond doubt he is a messianic narcissist trying to change the World. He failed to resuscitate his reputation for good judgement and history's prognosis will be fatal to his reputation.

  • Comment number 38.

    Nobody expected Blair to regret anything but he says he had public opinion with him. Only because we were told that Saddam had WMD. I have to admit as should others that we would have wanted Saddam removed as he was a murderous Dictator, however should this be at the cost of our people and why then not elsewhere in the world? When we first went to free Kuwait the job should have been finished then as at that time I believe there would not have been the kind of retaliatory insurgency we had and have after this invasion. On this occasion the worst of Saddam's supporters e.g. his top fighting units, did not fight the war but merged into the community or formed terrorist groups which are those that have performed the bombings of civillians and troups. To me, this invasion was led by Bush trying to clear the name of the US for not completing the task on the first invasion where after it they coerced anti Saddamists to fight him, at their total cost having received no militray support from the US. Blair sought to use us the free Iraqis. very honourable but we had to build Britain into a civilised modern country. no one did it for us. We should only defend Britain, we are not big enough to do the job for others

  • Comment number 39.

    We went to war to remove a tyrant and some of our soldiers got killed,

    What's new about that?

    The British PM in charge at the time has not apologised. Make's a change.

    Perhaps we should leave the EU, a lot of people seem to want to, and join a union with Switzerland, keep out of wars, demob the armed
    forces, and save money. There's a thought.

    Anyone got a better idea?

  • Comment number 40.

    That Blair could say they did not expect Iran to meddle in Iraq shows how shallow his understanding of the Middle East was and obviously still is. I was against the invasion of Iraq because it was obvious that it would strengthen Iran and the shia position in the middle east. I also belived it would probably lead to Iraq being split into three parts the Shia south which would be effectively a province of Iran, Kurdistan and a small Sunni area in the middle. We are not there yet because we have a government in Iraq that so is heavily influenced from Tehran. And Blair still says he thinks he was right. Middle Eastern envoy or M E idiot.


BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.