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Inside the Iraq inquiry I

Nick Robinson | 11:59 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

His face was stretched taut with nerves. His top lip appeared to be locked solid. As the Iraq inquiry's chairman, Sir John Chilcot, told the world that this was not a trial, the witness's hands opened a bottle of water, his hands visibly shaking.

Tony Blair, 1133Tony Blair clasped both hands together in front of him to steady himself as Sir John expressed the hope that the inquiry could go about its business in an orderly way without disruption. A burly security guard sat in the room just in case. The former prime minister stared straight ahead, barely blinking. I have not seen him so frightened since the evening I welcomed him backstage to take part in a live televised debate between the contenders for the Labour leadership 16 years ago.

As on that night, though, the nerves didn't last long.

The man who for so long relied on his capacity to charm and to persuade had, it seemed, decided that he must not be seen to do that. Thus, there was no opening statement or preamble of remorse for those who died in Iraq; nor were there thanks for the opportunity to give evidence.

Instead, he and Sir Roderick Lyne, the best inquisitor on the team, sized each other up. Blair repeatedly put on then took off his glasses as he reached out for the speeches stored in front of him in a lever-arch file, unsure whether to read them out. "We'll come to that," said Sir Roderick, to demonstrate who was in charge.

Soon, though, the witness was at ease, his face relaxed, his eyes more lively. As he warmed to his own tune, his hands began to move expansively - as though he were a conductor who had at last found the beat and was beginning to enjoy it.

Tony Blair, 1134Before Mr Blair had entered, the audience - in part invited relatives of soldiers who had died; in part members of the public who won their places in a ballot - had sat in quiet contemplation. Many had arms folded, looking as tense as the man about to appear before them. Only once did those of us in the room hear a reaction not audible to those watching on TV.

It came when Mr Blair was asked about the interview with Fern Britton, in which he appeared to say that if he had known before the war that Saddam had not possessed weapons of mass destruction, different arguments would have had to have been used to justify removing him. The Blair of old grinned, and then joked that, even with all his experience of doing interviews, he still had things to learn.

There were sharp intakes of breath, there were audible tut-tuts and there was shaking of heads - a low-key but collective expression of resistance by an audience who appeared to say: "don't think you can get away with that one."

It was on that issue - regime change - that we learned the most this morning.

Up until today, witnesses from Tony Blair's government have insisted that the Americans' stated objective of regime change was illegitimate and illegal. The British government's policy of disarmament was distinct, they insisted. However, Tony Blair said this morning that there was no "binary" choice between them and that they were, indeed, different ways of expressing the same proposition.

One particular phrase sticks in my mind. Even before the attacks on New York, he told the inquiry, "force was always an option... if necessary, we were going to remove him."

Remove him. Regime change. It had always been in his mind. Long before that meeting at George Bush's Crawford ranch where some allege he made a promise "signed in blood" to go to war.

PS: I will be back inside the inquiry room for the last session of evidence this afternoon. 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.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Interesting stuff Nick. Although you are indeed priveleged to be present, I can't say I envy you. It must be a pretty tense atmosphere in there.

    So what does this mean, I wonder. Proof that regime change was on the agenda? Does that change anything?

    Was there any follow up from the inappopriate joke?

  • Comment number 2.

    Actually it is a big yawn on tv but I think he has probably exonerated himself with facts and intellectual argument.

    I think - and what is most concerning to me - is that Labour used it as a big bang the drum for Labour exercise - Hey Gordon, we haven't been in power for yonks let's have a Falklands moment so we go down in history.

    Real driving force for it all is of course New World Order.

    His and Brown's biggest mistakes are to not actually take into account the British people back here, our thoughts, culture, traditions and wishes. He rode roughshod over it all and tried to make a name for himself and the Labour party on the world's stage.

    He's still on that stage now.

  • Comment number 3.

    The 45 minute claim which ultimately claimed the life of Dr David Kelly - probably our last chance to get the truth on this, and not a very good one.

  • Comment number 4.

    With all this coverage of Blair at Chilcot, it has been an excellent day for the Labour Government to bury bad news. Waiting lists for hospital admittances have soared by 50% according to statistics released today, and this from a government who want to 'guarantee' waiting times.

    I wonder what else this underhand goverment will want to bury on this good day for bad news.

  • Comment number 5.

    Thank you, Nick. So well put.

    Thank you too for quoting "if necessary, we were going to remove him."

    That says it all and squares with his interview with Fern Britton, albeit he looked far more serious this morning.

    Knowing how the law works, and how slowly people get their 'cum-uppance' as my mother would have called it, these snippets of truth which indicate much more of the true attitude toward the issue, will be collected and collated so that if and when the appropriate opportunity arises, an indictment may follow.


  • Comment number 6.

    I heard, and it has become true via this Inquiry today, that Blair would try and shift the emphasis of Bush firing us up to go to war by saying that Bill Clinton was already gearing up before Bush was in power.

    I don't think so far that anybody has said or asked Blair about Bush Senior regretting that he had not continued with the job when his government went in to save the Iraqis from Iran in the first Gulf War.

    In the light of that then, it is possible that Bush junior and Blair made a pact to finish the job.

  • Comment number 7.

    So he wriggles off the hook for his comments in the Fern Britton interview that he woulod have gone to war whatever with a throw away comment and thbe panel leaves it at that?

    Surely not?

    If that is the case then they have lost all credibility, with me at least.

    (I'm sure they'll be mortified at that prospect...)

  • Comment number 8.

    Blair has also been using today the 9/11 Terrorist attack on New York as justification for the Iraq War. How has he been allowed to link the two when there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein and Al-Quaeda were anything other than enemies? I would hope the Enquiry Team would ask him to explain how he has muddled up Saddam and Bin-Laden.

  • Comment number 9.

    This is the BBC - a public corporation from whom we should expect impartial reporting. The coverage looks more like Salem with emotionally charged language and loaded remarks all over the place. As ever, very little of substance from the BBC or the anti-Iraq-War people. Just a lot of vituperation.

    BBC News and Current Affairs must be sold off at the earliest opportunity. On this performance, they are as bent as any Murdoch organ.

  • Comment number 10.

    Who is the Minister of Truth now?

  • Comment number 11.

    Blair did not seem frightened to me, he seemed calm and in control and his decision to go to war based on the rick factor seems entirely comprehensible to me, due to the nature of the Iraq regime and Saddam's blatant disregard for transparency. Blair was neither required to make an opening statement of apologise for the deaths that occurred as a result of the invasion. I think this sort of journalism is just unhelpful melodrama and adding hype to a situation which would be better off without this ridiculous sort of reporting.

  • Comment number 12.

    It seems that truth these days is defined as what the majority believe rather than anything to do with the old definition. For example, was the expenses scandal really about expenses, no not really more about preserving the tax free status of MP benefits which is far more valuable than losing some of the excesses of payouts. ( average benefit to an MP £316,000 of pay equivalent if they were taxed like you and me)Now the war investigation cleaning up the deceptions Truth, first victim of war!!

  • Comment number 13.

    This morning was fascinating, if for no other reason than to hear from Mr Blair how attitudes changed so dramatically after 9/11

    It has been obvious that 9/11 would focus the world on Bin Laden, but it has not been so obvious how that event changed the way leaders looked at ALL possible threats and to reassess how the might deal with the potential threat of Saddam Hussain.

    I have never believed that there is some strange conspiracy behind all this (I leave that to the fools who think we didn't land on the moon either), but I am enjoying how the incredibly complicated process, the movement and analysis of information, how the decision is made not on the back of one fact, but over a period of time while looking at many options, contradicting facts and a plethora of information is being slowly laid bear.

    I think at the end of all this, at the end of this year perhaps, it will be difficult if not impossible for the enquiry to come up with one definitive conclusion - other than there were some mistakes made, some opportunities lost and so on.

    If I have any criticism so far, it is not with the enquiry panel, it is the sometimes ridiculous way this is being reported; how reporters are making very large assumptions as to what Blair or whomever are thinking or are trying to achieve, or how they are working, without any evidence at all - just their own assumptions. Listening to some of it I am surprised that the commentators are not reporting on what everyone is wearing and how old they all are.

    I get the impression though that in the breaks, the reporters actually have had nothing useful to say at all and are just padding wildly with irrelevancy.

  • Comment number 14.

    His crime is that he waged war against a country he had no business interfering with as clearly there were no weapons of mass destruction - Hans Blix, amongst others, said this time and again. Another thing: can the UK call itself a democracy, if a prime minister can start a war whenever s/he - or the head of another country - feel like it? Is it really democratic to instigate a war - and thus lots of bloodshed - against the wishes of the majority of citizens? And what we should have learned from all this is: we need to change legislation, so no war can take place without the explicit consent of the majority (at least 80%) of UK citizens!

  • Comment number 15.

    # boabycat What a dreadful thing to suggest. "You are awful. But I like you"

  • Comment number 16.

    This blogger would like to know the answer to just one question:

    When the US Government decided to remove the Saddam Hussein regime from Iraq, what was the expected end game?

    That is, what did the US (and other interested parties including the UK) think would then happen in that part of the world?

    It is quite a simple question but I have not seen any coherent answer to that from the 'policymakers', probably because we, the people, are not privy to their 'great game' and its objectives.

  • Comment number 17.

    Echo the remarks about Saddam and al Qaeda, he should have been pushed more on this... and I recently saw that old clip of him in the Commons saying that if Saddam agreed to disarm he would not be removed, or words to that effect. How does that square with his long held belief of regime change which he repeated this morning? The inquiry is missing a few opportunities. Hopefully they'll pick up on them this afternoon.

  • Comment number 18.

    Joss #13 - How good to see some sensible balanced comments about both the substance and the media presentation. I fear the BBC has unfinished business with Blair (re Hutton), so you cannot expect balance. Besides, news presentation is no longer about fact, but about personality, hyping-up & spin. (On the other hand, Sky, etc are worse - the "Globelink News" de nos jours). It seems to me that Blair is correct in saying there was sufficient, but not overwhelming evidence for military action & there was a legal case for military action being lawful - and that it came down to a matter of judgement at the time. Whether Blair lied to get the necessary Parliamentary and public support is unlikely to be proved one way or another. If he did, none of those in a position to know has so far broken ranks to say so: possibly because he didn't. This is likely to mean that Chilcott will be unable to arrive at the sort of clear conclusions which some people are seeking. I fear the world is messier & more uncertain than that

  • Comment number 19.

    To be honest. I've lost interest.
    He has obviously rehearsed every response, and is determined to deliver these responses whatever the questions asked.
    The toothless mandarins have allowed him to take over the discussion to the point where it seems to have become a political broadcast for the Blair Party. He is hardly being challenged by these establishment figures. Today's fiasco illustrates even more strongly that a top QC should have been appointed to the inquiry.
    Nothing new will come from this complete waste of time and money.

  • Comment number 20.

    Not clear what Clive Hill's point is ( comment9). The Beeb is putting out the whole thing live on 5, with minimal comment restricted to the tea breaks, so the reporting cannot be any more unbiased. Commentators, such as Nick Robinson, comment, that's what they are paid to do. I hope they comment from a position of scepticism ( ie from the 'why is this bastard lying school'?)

  • Comment number 21.

    #11 Felicity23

    According to various different weapons inspectors, including the chief inspector and his predecesor, he was becoming more cooperative so I don't know how you came to state 'Saddam's blatant disregard for transparency'. What exactly do you mean?

    One of the big problems is that Iraq never ever had WMDs (weapons of mass destruction designed to kill hundreds of thousands if not millions of people in one go say like 'Little Boy' at Hiroshima).

    There was a time when they had battlefield chemical weapons, and as we know, they despicably deployed these against their own people, and with our implicit support, against the Iranians (yes, nobody was too bothered when it was the Iranians on the receiving end). Anyway, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was disarmed of those years earlier and those left over were past their 'use by' dates(they have to be used within a short space of time as chemicals go off).

    The point I'm trying to make is that WMDs and battlefield weapons are two very different things and I don't think anyone has bothered to pay much attention to the differences. It was always clear that he no longer had the resources to create WMDs let alone deploy any.

  • Comment number 22.

    Old habits die hard... he has already quoted the Tories and then William Hague when it was irrelevant to the questioning... for which he was pulled up fairly smartly.

  • Comment number 23.

    Much as expected, one just has to hope that the Inquiry will take proper note of what's in the documents that they, fortunately, can see, but which aren't going to be declassified. As for Blair, it wasn't comforting to hear the 'I did this, I decided that, I....' The man really does believe he was a President. All good stuff for the group who are looking at the governance of Britain, and whatever has happened to the Cabinet. John Chilcot is one of them.......

  • Comment number 24.

    Why on earth has the BBC given so much coverage and credence to the obviously emotionally disturbed Mr Brierly?

    Is this man in any way an expert of even slightly informed on International Law (Other than by pulling those bits that confirm his predjudices off the web)?

    The " Regime Change" issue, the requirement was to Disarm Saddam Hussein; can anyone out there explain to me how it would be possible to Disarm Hussein and leave him in charge?

    WMD were not found, but the UN had spent years trying to find them,Saddam Hussein had spent years blatantly obstructing them, in police terms, if a suspect runs away, is seen stuffing things under their car seat or throwing things out of a car window during a high speed attempt to evade the police; are they not CERTAIN to believe that drugs or other paraphenalia or criminal acts are being perpetrated?

    The world and its Aunt believed that Saddam Hussein had or was preparing WMD and it is only the die hard " No Wars at Any Cost" pacifist naives that have been hi-jacked by the Anti everything rent-a-mobs that have continued this farcical witch hunt.

    The Guardianista tendency within the BBC aided and abetted by Mr Robinson's (small l) liberal-conservatism do us all a dis-service.

  • Comment number 25.

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

  • Comment number 26.

    re comment 12
    I have always thought it no coincidence that the UKs main right wing paper chose to blow the expenses scandal and actively made it run for so long just at the time when we could and should have been thinking more about the causes of the financial crisis. We were skilfully deflected into worrying about a few millions on duck houses etc when we should have been giving our full attention to the billions gone AWOl thanks to Fred The Shred and his ilk. The Telegraph got them off the hook and nobody has yet got them back on it

  • Comment number 27.

    He does seem to be getting a very easy time of it. goldCaesar's comments at #7 are spot on.

    Perhaps they should have had Fern Britton on the inquiry team. She seems to be much better at asking tough and probing questions.

  • Comment number 28.

    I said in an earlier blog that with hindsight I was duped by a master craftsman.

    Watch Mr Blair in action and re-remember with awe his ability with words and gestures.

    So credible - he still has the unswerving belief and talent to convince that black is white and vice versa.

    This then is the third way; and for just a moment there he had me going again!

  • Comment number 29.

    I only saw the first half hour today, but was underwhelmed by the quality of examination, eg: Question to Mr Blair, awhat was your policy of containment of Saddam prior to 9/11.
    answer. 'we did our best'
    That is certainly not an explanantion of the policy, yet there was no comeback question, it appeared to be accepted as an answer.

    My understanding of Qs and Qs since then does not inspire me with confidence that we are properly examining the witness.

  • Comment number 30.

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

  • Comment number 31.

    I think Blair is doing an admirable job of defending his view. This is not Blair on Trial, it is understanding the sequence of events that took us to war. We rely on these leaders having information from the secret services we are not party to; Iraq was unique in that we were given a glimpse of some of the information they are normally only privvy to. Our thirst for more means that we quetion the limited info we are presented with in an attempt to learn and understand more. Had we not been given the Iraq WMD dossier, instead told that the information was highly confidential and would place our nation in substantial and unnecessary risk if it were placed it in the public domain, then I honestly think we would have gone to war oblivious of the frailties in the intelligence, and I believe the majority of the nation would have supported the action.

    A little information is a dangerous thing, this proves it in my mind. Never again should we partially publish select intelligence to as to gain suupport for military action. Publish itr all or publish none.

    I support the war, Saddam was an evil dictator and the region and world is a better place for non having him in it. The cost in lives is deeply regrattable both on the Coalition and Iraqi sides, but ultimately I feel the right thing was done.

    May this be the last enquiry into this affair, we have to draw a line under and move on, the wounds cannot heal while we keep cutting them open for another look...

  • Comment number 32.

    nick r comment he was nervous shaking ect we can'nt see it on tv,i am sure like others can see clearly that the camera is able to go very close and staight on but if you are in the room how close from behind can you see,ok he may well have appeared nervous at first but please stop acting like drama queens,another enquiery that will amount to just that another waiste of tax payers money,better used in assiting the relatives of our brave soldiers who have been injured and the families of the dead.

  • Comment number 33.

    His face was stretched almost as much as some of his answers were... my feeling is that the questions are lame, and could be much more direct. They also seem to be giving a lot of time to expand his defences, as opposed to cutting to the chase, as it were.

    I would like to see them ask such questions as: were the details of the documents changed deliberately to make the case for action more realistic? I think a lot of people will be disappointed by the lack of aggressive questioning.

  • Comment number 34.

    How many others are listening to this with one eye being dragged repeatedly to the stilted and cynical anti Blair "twitter" posting as BBC comment on the right hand side of the screen ? Is anyone else tired of having thios coverage including this blog permeated through with anti blair bias ?

  • Comment number 35.

    I know that when a family suffers a tragedy such the loss of their child they go through stages and one of them is anger. It is clear that some parents will take longer than others to come to terms with their son or daughter's death in the Iraq war. It is sad but was always an occupational hazard.

    Blair looks to me an almost broken man, more humbled than before, he has learned the lessons of time. The older you become the wiser you become.

    That's it now. It's happened. We are where we are. The sheer small scale of the great unwashed (protestors probably on benefits) shrilling protesting outside the Inquiry shows that :

    The past is gone it is dead, let it sleep, it's lessons alone are the things we should keep.

  • Comment number 36.

    All those who are questioning the link between 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, I would recommend a book called "Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear" by Dan Gardner. It clearly explains the psychology of terrorism and how this was seriously affected by the events of 9/11. In the aftermath, people in the Western world were all of a sudden experiencing a new kind of terrorism. It was no longer an IRA-sytle bomb intent to cause relatively small-scale casualties and destruction, terrorists now had the ability to kill thousands of people at once anywhere in the world. The fact that a single man on an American aircraft on Christmas Day can instigate massive security policy changes in th UK shows how susceptible we are to knee-jerk reactions to fear. Tony Blair is human, and as such his view of the risk posed by Sadam Hussein will have been seriously affected by the events of 9/11, and we all bought into that belief. Now we can see years later that this may have been an over-estimation of the capabilities of Sadam Hussein, the British public are looking for a scape-goat so that we don't have to seriously think about how we collectively made such a huge mistake. There is only one real question that needs answering by this inquiry:

    Did the information provided by Tony Blair to parliament and the public truly reflect the best possible intelligence available to the UK regarding the risk to the British public?

    If it did, and parliament went ahead with the war, then the war is the responsibility of parliament as a whole (remember there was cross-party support for the war).
    If it did not, then Tony Blair should be prosecuted for misleading parliament.

  • Comment number 37.

    #14 MACMARTINA

    80% of the population of this country can not decide which socks to put on in the morning, it is quite possible that at some general election in the next decade less than 50% will actually bother to vote on who should govern this country.

    I wouldn't trust the vast majority of people in this country to decide whether to breathe or not, and I'd expect 50% of those that actually managed a choice to get that wrong.

  • Comment number 38.

    Gee, tough audience today Mr/Mrs/Ms Moderator

    Isn't it true that Bliar is attending an inquiry, the object of which is to discover information rather than actually putting Mr Bliar on trial?

    Isn't the Hague where you prosecute heads of State?

    Isn't it true that the information gathering is so that the British state can learn from the whole exercise, and learn lessons which could be implemented if the state were ever presented with the same circumstances again?

    To read your blog Mr Robinson you might believe otherwise

  • Comment number 39.

    This Regime Change v WMD distinction is a red herring. You can link them (validly) by saying that Saddam's regime was such that the only way to stop Iraq becoming a serious threat was to remove it. This holds up even if he didn't have WMD at that point. Gets into areas of "know how" and "plans" and "motives" and "programmes" and "capability". Grey Areas. Not interested in this. The "legality" point is also doomed to remain neither proven nor unproven. Not interested in whether he thought the invasion was the Right Thing To Do. I'm sure he did believe that. Chose to stand with America, come what may. That's clear. Good judgement? I don't think so. They didn't need us on the practical level (was symbolic only) and the whole episode, apart from causing untold death & destruction, has alienated further the Muslim world (root cause of which is the unaddressed Palestinian issue) and has left Iran as the dominant power in the region - has sent the message to Iran that you'd better go nuclear if you don't want the same thing happening to you. But that's all judgement & opinion. As is whether Blix (who is revealed as a sideshow) should have been given more time. Another judgement call. Believing "beyond doubt" in something - the existence of WMD - that turned out to be rubbish? Poor judgement, but nothing more. Did he tell Bush at an early stage that we were IN? Of course he did. But fine, he believed it to be the correct position for Britain to take. Bad judgement (IMO). But he still had to sell it at home. If Parliament had voted against, we wouldn't have gone in. Yes, the intelligence was sexed up but that I put down to people trying to give the Boss what he wanted. Poor process. Oversold case. Biased presentation. More Campbell (and the likes of) than Blair. Poor (overly autocratic) process - bad judgement all the way along the line - but his judgement. It happens. He got plenty right in his career. He got this wrong. The Americans would have done it anyway, no need to involve us the way he did. But nothing much to question the INTEGRITY of Tony Blair. And it's this I'm interested in, is there anything which throws doubt - real doubt - on his integrity?

    There's a couple of things:

    1) He said that if Saddam had "complied" - had been able to demonstrate no WMD - then he was happy to leave him in charge. That looks like a deliberate untruth.

    2) He said that the intelligence showed beyond doubt that Iraq had WMD. That, too, looks like a deliberate untruth.

  • Comment number 40.

    My last comment on the matter cos I am a bit fed up with it:

    This is an exercise which is allowing people to vent their spleens. Most of all it is a big opportunity to bash the present government. Nothing more, nothing less. The hysteria shows how the country is crying out for change.

    Let's move on.

  • Comment number 41.

    What is known for certain is that any war will involve killing, no 'intelligence' is required to come to that conclusion.
    The level of death in advance is however an indeterminate quantity and I wonder that if the figure had been known whether Blair would have changed his mind and not rushed to war, as 'it was the right thing to do'. What is the figure that he would be content with ?
    The people who have really suffered as a result of Blairs 'judgement' are no longer here and now seem hardly mentioned.

    Blair's response to the Fern Britton interview question this morning, as Nick Robinson mentioned, gives the greatest insight into the man and his character, and to the inquiry itself for it's failure to pursue.


  • Comment number 42.

    Joss 13:

    Your comment on the complexity and ambiguity of decision taking as events unfold is a welcome corrective.The people who keep demanding further enquiries, will go on doing so, if Chilcot doesn`t deliver until they get the answers they want.

    Information was patchy,the UN was divided on the issue irrespective of whether there was a case for war or not.Saddam played cat and mouse with inspection,gave enough so his friends at the UN would support him,not so much that his enemies had accurate information on his military capacity.

    9/11 was the climacteric moment combining threat and urgency.Saddam led a rogue state,he had the will for terror,no one knew whether he had the means.They did know he could not to be trusted,he had funded and lauded terror in other regions.Used WMD against his own,waged aggressive war.

    Mistakes? Plenty,especially the aftermath. But life is lived forward and understood backwards.Mr.Blair made a stand,he had the strength to take an unpopular decision.





  • Comment number 43.

    Unless the members of this panel are masters of deception and have a hidden agenda I think that they are not pressing those who appear before them as vigorously as they might to arrive at the truth. I realise it is not a court of law and they are not prosecuting barristers but they are not challenging some of the more blatant evasions practised by those appearing before them.

    As far as Blair is concerned -did anyone really expect him to show any contrition or tell the unvarnished truth? Does anyone expect him to be condemned for his alleged warmongering? I think not.

    I hope against hope that this enquiry will justify what I suspect will be truly staggering costs.

  • Comment number 44.

    I think it is rather worrying that the major intelligence services in the world actually believed that Saddam had WDMs.

    Given the number of spy satellites available and the various agents supposedly on the ground, it's ridiculous that not one service could backup this belief with evidence.

    Could it be that because he had WMDs in 1991 they assumed that he still had them and didn't actually bother to check.That makes a mockery of the security services.

    Given too that Tony Blair was about to take the country to war it is a major act of omission not to have checked the 45 minute issue before making his speech.

    He overexaggerated the risk because he and George Bush wanted to remove Saddam and the lack of evidence would have prevented the invasion.

    Blair deliberately mislead Parliament and the British people and his legacy is the number of innocent people who lost their lives in an unnecessary war which he and Bush instigated.

  • Comment number 45.

    34. At 1:44pm on 29 Jan 2010, edward white wrote:
    How many others are listening to this with one eye being dragged repeatedly to the stilted and cynical anti Blair "twitter" posting as BBC comment on the right hand side of the screen ? Is anyone else tired of having thios coverage including this blog permeated through with anti blair bias ?

    ----------

    In fairness Mr Blair is pretty darn unpopular, I imagine that the comments here and the twitter entries are pretty representative of the national mood.

    Surely it would be worse if the beeb 'balanced' the comments to give equal space to pro & anti comments when that is simply not the response they are getting?

  • Comment number 46.

    #4 - these are routine stats and the publication date is set months in advance - and these dates are publicly available. There would be more fuss if they were not released as normal.

    Also 'Waiting lists for hospital admittances have soared by 50% according to statistics released today' is not a correct statement.

    The DH states 'The number of patients, for whom English commissioners are responsible, waiting over 13 weeks at the end of December 2009 was 57,600, an increase of 12,300 (27.3%) from November 2009, and a rise of 18,000 (45.3%) from December 2008.'

    This is not the same thing as total hospital admissions. In any case the Govt Target is treatment within 18 weeks.

    In any case the BBC dosrnt think these are important as there is (at the time of writing) no mention of these stats on the Health or Politics pages.

    But back to Blair. Some of the reporting by the BBC (and others) has been less than fair.

    From what I read of the BBC summaries, he is answering the questions openly and honestly and if the panel didn't belive him they could press him further.

    As for the comments on him taking the country to war without the approval of Parliament, I seam to reacall a full debate and a vote in the Commons on a substantive motion. Contrast that with the Falklands War where there was only a 3 hour debate and NO vote other than one to adjourn the house.

    I guess that some people would still not be satisfied if he got down on his knees and prostrated himself in apology and contrition (which he would then be accused of being dishonest over(before being hung, drawn and quartered or (a la Sadam) taken out and shot.

  • Comment number 47.

    #4. boabycat

    Well the government needs to make cuts somewhere to fund this inquiry.

    I work within an NHS organisation so i get to see things from an inside perspective. Trust me, it's not good and there are more cuts on the way where I work.

    Personally, I feel the money could have been better spent. Who chose the members of the Panel? The Government. That says it all in my opinion.

    Does any of this change the fact that we are at war? No.

    In my mind, this inquiry is pointless, the whole truth will never come out. This inquiry is nothing but a stage show production to make it look like the people are getting what they want while making sure that all those involved come out at the end of the day with a few minor smudges to their names to make it look like justice has prevailed.

    We should have spent the money elsewhere but we already know the reputation this government has for making good financial decisions.

    Nick, time to start spilling on the actual costs involved in setting up and running this production. Next they'll turn it in to a movie and supply everyone with a fortune out of the takings.....not that Blair needs help in that department.

    Knowing our luck, this will be nothing more than a PMQ event where the questions are screened before the event and those being questioned can get away with saying whatever they like. After all, this isn't a trial, nobody has done anything wrong so we don't need to bring in the lawyers to discuss the legality of the war.....oh wait a moment, isn't that what this is all about.

    We all know that Blair's a Lawyer in an inquiry discussing legality and as was mentioned in the news, who on the panel is a lawyer or has extensive knowledge on the legal issues involved? Nobody.

    To top it all off, all the final reports from this inquiry will probably be considered classified information and held away from public scrutiny until a Freedom of Information Act forces the documents out of them and then we can go through the routine of publishing redacted documents that are pointless anyway.

    When people ask for the truth, why does it take an expensive inquiry to make this happen?

    Who knows, but I'm certain this will not settle things in the minds of the people. If Blair and his colleagues believed in the war so much why aren't they out there fighting, instead of earning far more money than that of a soldier while sitting in their offices, having meetings that never achieve anything, etc.

    Send Blair & Brown out there now after fast tracking them through infantry training, that should allow their perspectives to become more aligned to the peoples' views on this matter.

    The death toll for our troops is still increasing and all we get is a "Well, the information was a bit wrong, if only we had known. Ah well, it can't be helped. At least I believed in my decision to send your family members out there to die for an unjust cause. Now, when do we get lunch served, I'm starved." (Yes, a bit exaggerated I know, but it reiterates the point).

  • Comment number 48.

    sometimes people tell so many lies that they cannot remember what lies they have told to whom and what was have been made public.

    The fern brittion interview was about a man gone swimming with no trunks on and forgot the tide times and the tide has gone out.

    what a tangled web we weave when we are trying to decive (think pink floyd)

  • Comment number 49.

    42. bryhers

    'Information was patchy'
    Good enough to declare war?

    'he had funded and lauded terror in other regions.'
    But had no links to 9/11

    'Mr.Blair made a stand, he had the strength to take an unpopular decision'
    Unpopular? Not in terms of removing a dictator. But in misrepresenting the facts in arriving at that decision.

  • Comment number 50.

    The Saddam regime in Iraq was odious. Iraq deployed poison gas against its enemies on 2 notable occasions.

    In 1988 during the campaign to retake the Fao peninsula during the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq was assisted in the accurate targeting of its Iranian enemies by some 60 officers of the US Defence Intelligence Agency.

    A Lt. Rick Francona of the US DIA toured the battlefield and confirmed the use of chemical weapons to Washington. A US Colonel, Walter Lang, later told the New York Times "the use of gas on the battlefield by the Iraqis was not a matter of deep strategic concern"

    On March 17/18th 1988 Iraq deployed poison gas against the Kurdish town of Halabja killing more than 5,000 civilians. The gas was made from a hydrogen cynanide compound developed with technical aid from a German company. The US CIA responded to this attack by sending out a briefing note to US Embassies in the Middle East suggesting that they may wish to blame the Iranians. The US State Dept. instructed its diplomats to say that Iran was partly to blame.

  • Comment number 51.

    The DID have WMDs in Iraq:

    Weapons of Medieval Destruction!

  • Comment number 52.

    I agree with message 14.
    To go to war Blair needed the consent of :-
    1/ the United Nations. He didn't get it. He admitted Russia and France would have vetoed it in the Security Council.
    2/ international law. It is illegal to invade a foreign country for the purposes of regime change.
    3/ the Cabinet. They were kept in the dark about his negotiations with the Americans. The American public were fed the misconception that Al Qaeda, Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein were all part of the same threat that had led to 9/11. Britain should not have allied itself so closely with a government so blatantly feeding its population with such false propaganda.
    4/ Parliament. He lied to Parliament by saying that he had information that he could not divulge to them for security reasons, but, if he could, they would agree with him that war was essential.
    5/ the British people, who were split 50/50.
    'I believe' is a hollow mantra, and irrelevant. He was a servant of the public, and his personal opinion was subordinate to the consent of all the above. His continual insistence that it was his decision, his judgement, his belief is entirely mistaken. It wasn't. He was a British prime minister, not a despot.

  • Comment number 53.

    Nick, If you ever find that politics bores you or disgusts you, you have a new career awaiting you in theatrical review. I could almost smell the perspiration on Mr Blair's brow, read the body language and hear the hum of subdued anticipation from the invited audience. Whatever the former prime Minister has to sat you have set the scene in a way that should be the envy of your peers. Messrs Dimbleby look out, for a commentator for the next great state occasion you have met your match!

  • Comment number 54.

    #8 yeah it would also be like linking 9/11 to iran, whom by all account themselves were ready to invade afgahanistan around that time, as they feared the taliban too.

    Seems Blair has not linked Mugagbe to al-queada then, but he is still in place as just as bad as SH.

  • Comment number 55.

    Tony Blair did hint in a recent interview as to what might have been hoped for in a post-Saddamn Iraq.

    Blair stated that a new political development in Iraq was the recent formation of bi-partisan political parties i.e. parties that crossed the sectarian divide betwen the various Muslim factions.

    Hear we, the people, get a glimpse of what the policymakers may have been aiming for - a viable democracy in a part of the world where there is a deficit of such.

  • Comment number 56.

    I am afraid I am jaded by all the cynical machinations of Blair and his cronies, and can only conclude that nothing will change after this enquiry. The inquiry team will not be as tough on Blair as they should be, he will get away without having to admit to any of the crimes that he most probably committed. Other members of his government will no doubt suffer some form of censure (Jack Straw for starters should be booted out immediately for his flagrant, arrogant and irresponsible disregard for legal counsel), but I suspect that Teflon Tony will slip away scott free. It makes my blood boil, but that is the nature of the world we live in now, and the way in which he and his like changed politics in this country for the worse.
    Ref to Nick Robinson's opening comments: Do you really think he was scared? Come on, this is the the greatest cryer of crocodile tears, the most cynical manipulator of the public emotions that ever lived. I suspect the shaking and the tense fidgeting was just part of the act. Given how lightly they seem to be treating him, I guess it achieved its objective.

  • Comment number 57.

    For a reporter sitting at the back of the room, there is a lot of dramatic licence used here. Just how good is your eyesight?
    "His face was stretched taut with nerves. His top lip appeared to be locked solid."
    Good grief - this reads like the beginning of a Raymond Chandler novel.
    Please stick to more factual reporting - there is no need to put your ego up against Mr Blair's.

  • Comment number 58.

    Tony Blair and Sir Roderick Lyne, the best inquisitor on the team, sized each other up. Blair repeatedly put on then took off his glasses as he reached out for the speeches stored in front of him in a lever-arch file, unsure whether to read them out. "We'll come to that," said Sir Roderick, to demonstrate who was in charge.

    Blair stands up in anger -
    “Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Whose gonna do it? You? You, President Sarkozy? I have more responsibility here than you could possibly fathom. You weep for Iraq, and you curse the Americans. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know. That Sadam’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And that my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. I know deep down in places you dont talk about at parties, you didn’t want me in number 10, you needed me in number 10. We use words like honor, code, loyalty. We use these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provided, then question the manner in which I provided it. I prefer you said thank you, and went on your way, Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a pen, and write a book. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you are entitled to!” [Tony Blair, ex prime minister at the Iraq enquiry]

    Tony Blair(witness): “You want answers?”
    Sir Roderick Lyne(inquisitor): “I think I’m entitled.”
    Tony Blair(witness): “You want answers?”
    Sir Roderick Lyne(inquisitor): “I want the truth!”
    Tony Blair(witness): “You can’t handle the truth!”

  • Comment number 59.

    Is there anyone out there brave enough to say what they would have done in the aftermath of 9/11?

  • Comment number 60.

    Just the one last thing.

    Quibble all you like over which side of a very wavy legal line this came down on.

    Do not however forget that in a very rare occurrence in recent times;
    Iraq INVADED a completely independent country called Kuwait without provocation or reason other than to acquire its petroleum assets.

    His pretext being (c.f Hitler and the Sudetanland)was that in times long gone it had been a province of a Greater Iraq.

    In the war to genuinely liberate Kuwait he got walloped, and still continued to build and rebuild his armed forces, He had previously run a nice little war with Iran at a cost of over a million lives while attempting genocide against Both the Kurds and the Marsh arabs.

    GET over yourselves, Saddam was an irrational despot who had the wealth and means to commence construction of WMD, and it was only his refusal to fess up and say " My toys aren't as big as your toys" that lead to an unavoidable need to end it.

  • Comment number 61.

    #20 fromtheedgeofthefen

    I have no problem with Nick Robinson making 'comment', it is clear in a blog that's what this is. You selected only the live radio and ignored all of the reporters' comments, how many people do you think will listen to all of that ? They will rely on the tone and content of people like Laura Kuenssberg and the 'impartial' article in the front of the website.

    The headline sets the tone with 'Blair denies covert Bush deal'. Not, say, 'Blair Explains Runup To War'. It contains such little gems as

    "...Earlier witnesses to the inquiry have suggested he told Mr Bush at their April 2002 meeting at the ranch in Crawford, Texas, that the UK would join the Americans in a war with Iraq.

    But Mr Blair said: "What I was saying - I was not saying this privately incidentally, I was saying it in public - was 'we are going to be with you in confronting and dealing with this threat'...."

    I don't see the difference but by separating these two with a 'but' they make it look as though earlier witnesses contradict him. In a sidebar, Peter Biles says "There was not a hint of contrition or regret, in spite of the fact that bereaved families who lost loved ones in Iraq were among those sitting behind him in the public gallery, listening to every word of his evidence.". Is that not emotionally charged ?

    In Laura Kuenssberg's sidebar "Blair doesn't really engage with question about Jack Straw's alternative plan to military action..." Does that not go beyond reportage into opinion ?

    The piece ends with "Rose Gentle's son, Gordon, was killed by a roadside bomb in Basra in 2004, while serving with the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

    She said the families of the dead wanted closure and for Mr Blair to explain "in depth" to the families and and the public "why he went in" as she said he had never done that before." More emotionally fuelled stuff.

    It is not the truth the BBC are trying to report. They are of the 'either a crucifixion or a whitewash' school, familiar from the Hutton inquiry. This is a disgrace and I have to pay the BBC to do it.

  • Comment number 62.

    There seems to be a lot of talk about the 45 minutes claim, we know Iraq had chemical weapons as the US and others gave them during the Iran Iraq war, the only question was 'how much he had left?'
    George Bush knew all this cos his dad told him, Saddem didn't fund the Iran war himself, he was supported by most of the other Sunni Arab countries in the area, I witnessed first hand convoys od trucks 1000+ en-route to Iraq from Egypt across Saudi Arabia. Once the war finished Saddam had to be silenced.

  • Comment number 63.

    Today on trial in the Hague... oh wait this is'nt the Hague and is'nt a trial... could of fooled me.

    For one i'm proud of what we have achieved in Iraq, the removal of Saddam was neccesary, a killer of Stalin stature, yet all the neh saying cowards are lining up to say, "terrible idea, any one could of seen the alternatives" could they, could you. Or did Tony Blair just make a decision any moral principle abiding individual in the same position would have.

    Hind sight is a wonderful thing, i'd like to finish with a phrase which sums all you up, "pateince is a virtue, until it becomes cowardice", see how this might fit into the Saddam resolution scheme, a line was drawn in the sand, the British army as they always do then claimed that sand for peace and freedom, virtues that will, eventually, be installed in the Gulf.

    Tony Blair is a leader, he personifies what all leaders require, guts, it only takes good men to stand by for evil to prevail... Tony Blair is a good man, shame on you all

  • Comment number 64.

    Sagamix @ 39 wrote:
    There's a couple of things:

    1) He said that if Saddam had "complied" - had been able to demonstrate no WMD - then he was happy to leave him in charge. That looks like a deliberate untruth.

    2) He said that the intelligence showed beyond doubt that Iraq had WMD. That, too, looks like a deliberate untruth.


    >>

    I think you're setting the bar a bit high here. As far as (1) goes, it seems clear that if Saddam had visibly changed his attitude to the UN and its weapons inspectors even as late as 2003, Blair would have had no option but to pull back from the brink. His whole case was founded on non-compliance with 1441. Probably wouldn't have been 'happy' but he would have had no choice. Admittedly the US might have gone in anyway.

    As for (2), it is self-evident the intelligence can't have shown beyond doubt the existence of WMD, since none existed. But at the time, no member of the UN security council doubted their existence or accepted Saddam's statement that they had been destroyed. It was not just British and American intelligence, but French and Russian intelligence too. His possession of WMD or WMD programs was an accepted fact at that point in history, partly because it was very difficult to understand why Saddam would push the US and Britain to the point of military conflict through non-compliance with 1441 if in fact he had disarmed anyway. To doubt the existence of WMD would have seemed very naive.

  • Comment number 65.

    All news channels clogged up again.

    This is a charade and it'll only highlight that we can't trust Labour politicians... how can Chilcot run an inquiry without all the tools, notes and documents.

    So Browny you stop using the word transparent its making you look dumb

    We won't know the truth we won't know the lies we can only assume them and blame other people perhaps needlessly.

    One thing puzzles me, if there were any war crimes why has other countries and UN not spoken out or have the had 'sweeteners' could it be this they are masquerading?

    Not telling the truth or hiding evidence is a crime - but not with this lot!

  • Comment number 66.

    Mr Blair has just fulfilled a teenage dream.
    I was a student a couple of years after Mr Blair and, at that time, one of the causes célèbres for the Student Socialist Societies was an end to the Ba'athist regime in Iraq, though then it was because Sadaam Hussein was seen as a CIA puppet installed to depose a socialist government friendly with the Soviet Union. He wanted régime change in Iraq for 30 years and finally, thanks to the US, ironically, got the opportunity to achieve it.

  • Comment number 67.

    "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 68.

    #58 Jack Nickelson as Blair , that would be good

  • Comment number 69.

    63. At 3:02pm on 29 Jan 2010, Daniel wrote:
    Today on trial in the Hague... oh wait this is'nt the Hague and is'nt a trial... could of fooled me.

    For one i'm proud of what we have achieved in Iraq, the removal of Saddam was neccesary,

    Not the point - The question is not if Saddam was a Bad Man It is whether we as a nation were told the truth. This I fear is not going to be asked.

  • Comment number 70.

    Of all the bad leaders in the world and many are brutal and gangs room freely terrorizing the people, the West tends to see those with a resource of interest as being deserving of the most attention. It was about oil, Bush - oil man - Cheney - oil man....coincidence you think?
    Aghanistan, where the terrorist were located, was futher down the agenda and could be addressed once the oil was secured.

  • Comment number 71.

    45. goldCaesar:

    "In fairness Mr Blair is pretty darn unpopular, I imagine that the comments here and the twitter entries are pretty representative of the national mood."

    You're right, though "very unpopular" might put it better. This isn't only about Iraq, though his motives over that (as well as his actions) seem opaque.

    The fact is that the man sold himself and "New" Labour as a break with the past, and just delivered "same old same old" with a new brand of spin. Today is showing him for what he is - slippery, self-satisfied and evasive. The dislike of Blair is mainly a huge feeling of having been conned and let down. He also (intentionally or not) let Brown run the whole domestic side of things, and as his legacy foisted upon us an unelected and deeply flawed successor.

    Obviously this event is bad news for Labour, but it should be a warning to Cameron if he persists in appearing like "Blair Lite". As the old Who song has it, "we won't get fooled again".

  • Comment number 72.

    I am not able to hear Blair first hand and can only judge on the commentary.

    Whether you agreed with the war or not, the misrepresentation of the intelligence to parliament and the public is the main crime.

    The legality is also a side issue , other actions with better outcomes were not sanctioned by UN and are generally accepted as the right thing to do.

    The end result is a destabilisation of the relationship between east and west and the radicalisation of a small number young men and women in the UK who feel little connection with their place of birth, coupled with the worrying rise in Islamophobia.

    This particular "crusade" will have ramifications for years to come.

  • Comment number 73.

    I think Tony Blair acted in good faith, whether or not you agree with him. Britain sometimes seems in naive denial about the real threat that is facing us since 9/11.

  • Comment number 74.

    #60 Moncur´s Maraudeluders. You are not a big fan of either history or reason are you?

    #63 Daniel My guess is that you are a cognitive infiltrator, because I don´t believe anyone could hold the opinions you express unless they were being paid to hold them.

  • Comment number 75.

    I have seen today from various sources and without comment from observers like you Nick, reference made to 9/11. Of course 9/11 was planned and acted upon by Al Qaida. The most steadfast enemy of al Qaida in the arab world were Baathists like Hussein in Iraq and Bassad in Syria. It is well understood that Sadaam,for all his evils, had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11. I wonder why no one seems to have commented on Blair's statements from that point of view.
    Is this a case of the victor writing the history? If it is, then I feel it is a little premature for Blair to adopt that role and for you as an analyst to accept it without question. Are you on the winning side Nick?

  • Comment number 76.

    #35 Flamethrower

    'That's it now. It's happened. We are where we are. The sheer small scale of the great unwashed (protestors probably on benefits) shrilling protesting outside the Inquiry shows that'

    Quite possibly one of the worst generalisations I've ever seen (sic). Very smallminded comment, you do yourself no favours. Just because people object to a dubiously intentioned war does not make them dirty. And as for the 'benefits' quip? Blimey!

  • Comment number 77.

    Chris it's all well and good paraphrasing the only person who claims Blair has done nothing wrong, but if you just pick bits out are'nt you using what I wrote out of context, is'nt this what Blair is being accused of with the intelligence reports.

    And i'm afraid your wrong its not about being 'told the truth' or not, its bigger than people whinning about a technicality, ask the Iraqi who's relative was mutilated by the Saddam regime if they're happy hes gone or not, please people its as simple as this, SADDAM WAS A BAD MAN, Blair was a cog in the process that got rid of him, this contrary to popular opinion was a good thing. He interpreted the Intel reports, made a commitment, and saw it through to the end,

    Also you talk of fear... my god we live in one of the most stable democratic societies in the world, we dont know fear, myself i'm a forensic scientist i've seen what Saddam was responsible for, I do not condone capital punishment, but he pushes the bounds of dialogue surrounding the issue,

  • Comment number 78.

    Nick,

    A nice piece ... and I will be very interested to see if anything will have changed by the end of the day, especially with regards to your own opinion.

    Personally, I am of the opinion that Blair is indeed nervous, VERY nervous - this inquiry has become "his legacy" (a fact that the media continues to impress upon us) - however, the cynic within me believes that this is all that will be alluded to by the BBC (stock BBC News Anchor's response: "he is an assured communicator, isn't he ?" JOKE !).

    Let be be plain right from the off: I have never liked Blair or his brand of press-managed politics. It is obvious - TO ALL - that the Iraq War was illegal and that the case for war was a sham.

    This enquiry - although bordering on the absurdly polite at times - has already thrown up a number of conflicting opinions which all point to some serious errors being made in regards to such "a difficult decision".

    Oh, and on the point of it "not being a conspiracy but a decision etc.", well such pre-rehearsed GUFF makes me SICK. This country WAS dragged into a bloody and needless war, based solely on some erronious intelligence and a misguided allegiance with a fading super-power.

    Any other conclusion is an insult to our intelligence. At least this country has the "decency" to allude to such an enquiry ... although any conclusions that it may arrive at will be at best foregone and arbitrary.

    After all, when the chief protagonist's main argument is "it was a tough decision", and that piffle is backed up by "this was the best evidence that was available at the time" then what is the point ??

  • Comment number 79.

    The reporting is so laced with what the journalists and commentators WANT to see (and perhaps want us to believe)

    What he terrified? Of course not. He knows his position (whether you agree with it or not) and he is proficient at explaining it. He does however take the issue very seriously - which he should. I am fascinated that Nick Robinson could see clearly "through" Mr Blair (who sits with his back to the gallery) to observe his hands shaking.

    Has he been struggling during the session? No. He has been answering carefully, as his lawyer training has taught him, and has obviously been keen to put across the case as it was at the time - now several years ago. Menzies Campbell is just stooping to cheap political jabs. He used to be such a good politician at one time, and now he is just a sideline jeerer.

    Is he a broken man? Not in the slightest.

    I really could not tell you whether Iraq was a good thing or not, whether it was legal or not, or what would be the case now if this had never happened.

    But I can tell when journalists are embellishing reporting of an important event with their own rubbish.

    In the end, I was interested most by the opinion of the Kurdish lady being interviewed on News 24 - She commented that her people in Iraq were completely bemused by the way the British kick their own leaders over something that her compatriots thing was a rather good thing.

  • Comment number 80.

    72. meninwhitecoats:

    "This particular "crusade" will have ramifications for years to come."

    Yes, it will.

    The Islamic world always believed that the west was hypocritical. Lockerbie - convictions and compensation. Iranian airliner shot down by the US? No convictions, no compensation. Bhopal. And so on.

    9/11 gave the west (and the US in particular) huge political capital in the form of goodwill. The vast majority of Moslems were as outraged as everyone else.

    Bush, helped by Blair, squandered this capital, this once-in-a-lifetime chance to forge a bridge between the west and Islam.

    It's a collosal mistake for which, as you say, we'll be paying for for decades.

    Beyond issues of honesty and legality, it is this issue of a massive MISJUDGEMENT that will be Blair's (and Bush's) legacy. Just be grateful that Blair didn't get elected president of the EU.

  • Comment number 81.

    Just a thought; when did a British Primeminister have the power to commit forces to action without Parliaments consent?

    So did he tell Bush he would support him with troops WHWN?

    Was everything done to ensure that Parliament said yes?

    He was not a President with the power to decide. What was the Foreign Secs role when Blair had his own Foreign affairs advisor. One or other was superfluous.

  • Comment number 82.

    73. At 3:35pm on 29 Jan 2010, jill novell wrote:
    I think Tony Blair acted in good faith, whether or not you agree with him. Britain sometimes seems in naive denial about the real threat that is facing us since 9/11.
    ------------------------------------------------
    I believe in many years time history will tell what was really going on.
    Far better to have a degree of sceptical denial rather than the rabid paranoia as seen in the states, but then 9/11 was in the states.
    In any case 9/11 was not directly linked to Iraq anyway.

  • Comment number 83.

    Monster @ 75 wrote:
    It is well understood that Sadaam,for all his evils, had nothing whatsoever to do with 9/11.


    Agreed. But I think this has been addressed - for example in my post 15 on previous thread. 9/11 was a game-changer as far as attitudes to rogue states were concerned. Whether you consider this an over-reaction or not will have a bearing on your attitude to the invasion of Iraq. But it's unfair to suggest that Blair was blaming Iraq for 9/11 or claiming that Iraq and Al Qaeda were closely linked.

  • Comment number 84.

    Okay thats now 3 key issues the panel haven't followed up on.

    Firstly Mr Blairs comments in the Fern Britton interview were discarded.

    Secondly the panel did not question Mr Blair on his interactions with Lord Goldsmith immediately prior to the attorney general changing his legal advice.

    Thirdly as mentioned on the live streaming the panel did not follow up on a response by Mr Blair that seemed to imply problems with the military budgeting.

    Very disapointing, i know its not a court but still...

  • Comment number 85.

    64. At 3:14pm on 29 Jan 2010, pdavies65 wrote:

    To doubt the existence of WMD would have seemed very naive.

    XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

    Interesting you should use the term Naïve regarding WMD. I know you are a confirmed Self confessed Blarite, however the truth will out, consider this.

    To make a WMD effective it needs to be of some strategic value (i.e. would have to have significant effect on enemy soil). Therefore it would require a means of deploying that weapon remotely.

    To do this there are two principle means of delivery, by aircraft or by missile.

    Now consider this. During Gulf War 1 the entire Iraqi air force hopped over the border in retreat to Iran.

    In addition at that time, the most significant strategic weapon the Iraqis had were Scud missiles (remember them?) They at that time only had an effective range of approx 300km. Therefore could only realistically reach neighbouring states,
    - Lebanon
    - Syria
    - Israel
    - Jordan
    - Egypt
    - Saudi
    - Iran
    - Kuwait

    Also cast your mind back to the supergun incident (the one where the Israelis allegedly bumped of the Canadian designer). That was the high tech intercontinental deployment system the Iraqi Government were chasing at the time (when they were not being sanctioned)>

    Now consider this that was Iraqis’ capability at the top of their game. After that they had suffered 13 years of no fly zones and extreme sanctions. Do you honestly believe that in that time and with no resources they could go from contracting from other nations a “Supergun” with little or no high tech deployment or accuracy to something as advance as a strategic WMD. That truly would be naive.

    As an addendum to that, I was in Iraq in 2003 and as the country had collapsed, part of our remit was to uncover Weapons bunkers to bulk demolition all ammunition found. It was ironic at the time as all the weapons, mines mortars rockets etc had all been unpacked from their boxes and spread all over the place. Why? Because the locals who knew of the locations were using the crates as fire wood and were even resorting to chipping the copper driving bands of the projectiles. My reason for mentioning this was at that time we were obviously heavily on the lookout for anything damming (chemical Projectiles and the like). A college of mine did find some empty carrier projectiles that would have been capable of a chemical load. When found the local Polad was all over us, as there was desperation to uncover any kind of smoking gun, unfortunately for him the casing was dated 1988, spooky when you consider the Chemical Ali association.

    That said for my four month stint not a hint of anything damning. Even the local Iraqi commanders were informing us that we were wasting our time. Wish that was all we wasted. Money lives both NATO and Iraqi and reputation in the area.

    I am all too aware you will dismiss all this as all the government officials always do, however facts are facts. I wish you luck in viewing Blair with some kind of misty eyed admiration, for me he is and was an idealistic fool who cares for little else other than his own self promotion and the pursuit of personal wealth. I hope in time he will get what he deserves.

  • Comment number 86.

    Chris London wrote:

    63. At 3:02pm on 29 Jan 2010, Daniel wrote:

    Not the point - The question is not if Saddam was a Bad Man It is whether we as a nation were told the truth. This I fear is not going to be asked.

    ###

    The trouble is what is the truth?

    I feel that there are thousands of people that think this is a simple question with a simple answer. If there is any truth at all its that there is not a simple, single answer.

    Many people, often lead by the nose by the press, want to boil everything down to "yes" or "no".

    At the end, whether we went to war or not is a conclusion based on a thousand decisions and another thousand opinions.

    If people asked genuinely, did Mr Blair come to the right conclusion? Then you have cause for a proper enquiry and debate (which Chalcot is desperately trying to conduct.

    If the question is did Blair LIE?

    Then the answer would be as banal and useless as the question.

    For those same reasons the enquiry cannot ask the question that many people want. "Mr Blair, did you tell us the truth."

    "About what?"

    "Er .... EVERYTHING!"

    It is as pointless as the Douglas Adams answer to life the universe and everything.

    What we need, and are getting, is an enquiry that asks whether the entire process was conducted in such away as to produce a reasonable case for a definitive decision.

    But that is hardly very sexy. And in the same way the the X-Factor will always more ratings than the news, so the pointless question is the one most people will want to ask.

  • Comment number 87.

  • Comment number 88.

    I attended the inquiry this morning and I have say I certainly do not remember TB shaking Nick but under the circumstances it wouldn't be surprising if he was. I wasn't happy about having to sit with a mostly anti blair/war mob but good to see TB have the chance to give his side of things. I thought he did really well. He was clear and precise in his answering and for once we were able to hear his account of things. I simply do not see 'a liar' in him atall.

    What angers me so much is this has turned into the most unbalanced debate against Tony Blair. The anti war mob seem to be on a crusade to prove Tony lied so it doesn’t matter if there were a million Iraq enquiries, they are willing to believe all the evidence against Tony and dismiss anything that suggests otherwise. This is trial by media & totally unfair!

    At least the blair supporters are fighting back:

    http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/ban-blair-baiting/sign.html


  • Comment number 89.

    46.mag-pol bear
    Big difference between Falklands and Iraq, so not comparable, Argentina had attacked British Forces, when going to South gergia and then Falklands, there was no thoughts of regime change in getting Galtieri out of Argentina.

    As for 9/11 link it is on the basis that US had failed to capture Bin Laden in Afghanistan, they needed to show and exert their authority and Iraq was a convenient foil for that, Israel/India/Pakistan amongst a lot of other countries had refused countless UN resolutions to disarm actual nuclear programmes that there was irrefutable evidence of existence, but no action taken.

  • Comment number 90.

    Consummate performance by Tony Blair.
    Such that HE is writing the lessons to be learned as he goes along.

    What is clear is that Laura Kuensberg is quicker witted in spotting Blair's use of language and phrases than the Chilcott panel.

    Not a whitewash, but certainly a tame, meek interrogation

  • Comment number 91.

    I think the BBC and the media generally have blown out of proportion the potential importance of Blair's testimony. Whilst he is no saint he has set out fairly well the logic and processes that were followed in terms of assessing the complicated risks in a situation where things are never 'black and white'. I wonder whether Nick Robinson and the BBC will respond constructively to some of the criticisms above in terms of their interprretation of Blair's demeanour and interpretaion of his comments and the fact that they are devoting so much live resources to this. Perhaps the National Audit Office's current criticsm on the BBC's lack of cost control on live events is fully justified!

  • Comment number 92.

    On my 46" screen I saw no shaking! This enquiry and its panel are a disgrace anyway. How dare we bring up for questioning a prime minister who was elected by the people repeatedly. Unlike the usurper GB. War is war and has arisen throughout the history of Britain. Bestial Sadaam and his henchmen brought it on themselves. Too many purists and do gooders abound for the good of the British. We should be grateful that there have been figures like Churchill, Thatcher and Blair with courage to do what they feel is right. Frankly the whole exercise is sickening.

  • Comment number 93.

    hi PD,

    Re your 64. Yes, on (1) perhaps he was saying that if Saddam complied, he'd have been happy to leave him in charge - although knowing that the Americans would have made sure he no longer DID remain in charge. But then again, it seems clear that if America attacked, we were with them - so I'm not sure that construction works. And a word, too, about the ultra tight definition of "compliance". That - total co-operation with the Inspectors - one could realistically expect from Saddam only if he ceased to be Saddam. Which gets us back to where we were - TB was not, in truth, happy for Him to remain in charge under any (realistic) circumstances. On (2) - the intelligence - I do take your point, but I find it a stretch to accept that he himself didn't stretch (the case). He seems to have overegged his presentation. When does stretching a case become misleading the audience? Not easy to say. It really comes down to your comment about where one "sets the bar". Where I've set it (too high, in your view) he's crossed the line. Where you've set it (too low, in my view) he hasn't.

  • Comment number 94.

    Scot @ 81 wrote:

    Just a thought; when did a British Primeminister have the power to commit forces to action without Parliaments consent?


    Simple answer: always. In fact, the Parliamentary vote on the war with Iraq in 2003 was unprecedented. No previous PM had sought the backing of Parliament for military action.

  • Comment number 95.

    81. At 3:55pm on 29 Jan 2010, Exiledscot52 wrote:

    Just a thought; when did a British Primeminister have the power to commit forces to action without Parliaments consent?

    So did he tell Bush he would support him with troops WHWN?

    Was everything done to ensure that Parliament said yes?

    #

    It was decided to take this through parliament and have a debate and vote because that seemed the right thing and was being called for, not because it was a legal necessity.

    Also, any leader of a democracy will understand that another leader might well have to get the decisions through some sort of democratic process and therefore will know that any commitment will have an "as long as we can get it passed" rider to it.

    Even the US President, even though they can commit troups, if the rest of the system wont pass the budget for doing it, the whole thing falls flat.

  • Comment number 96.

    Blair was only doing what any British PM would have done - support the Americans, who barely even notice our existence. The rest of Europe seems to get on well enough without the 'special relationship', but us British just can't stop acting like pathetic fags to the biggest boy in the playground it seems. Sure, we'll help, Uncle Sam! How would you like a chocolate factory as well?! Do our leaders enjoy being trodden all over? Must be the influence of Eton! Anyway, whether there was any explicit agreement to invade Iraq is academic. There would always be an implied agreement, especially as America was desperately short of international cooperation from anyone else at the time. They made it clear that they would invade whether we went along or no. It was their call. We tagged along to help. Putting Blair & co on trial is a bit like asking the Man City cleaners and boot boys why they lost to United! Ask the organ grinder, not the monkey. Get Bush and his administration out of wherever they're hiding and ask them what on Earth they were thinking and why! Funny how they've slunk off into the shadows whilst everyone is looking at nice boy Obama. Very convenient. Almost as if they deliberately threw the election just to lie low for a while. Now that sounds like a great conspiracy theory!

  • Comment number 97.

    88. labourbird wrote:

    I attended the inquiry this morning and I have say I certainly do not remember TB shaking Nick but under the circumstances it wouldn't be surprising if he was. I wasn't happy about having to sit with a mostly anti blair/war mob but good to see TB have the chance to give his side of things.

    ###

    That is interesting, and I would love to hear more of what you felt was the atmosphere of the room and so on.

    The problem with anything like this is that although the tickets were allocated, they could only be handed to those who were interested in going in the first place, and just like people who dont agree with executions are rarely going to apply to go to a hanging, so those who apply here are mostly going to be those who want to see TB being kicked.

    It is the same with demonstrations - they are almost uniquely AGAINST something. So, if 1 million people demonstrate against, that does not mean that there are NOT 1 million people who are in favour - but you would not normally demonstrate in favour of a decision that has been made. So, you have no clear indication as to what the balance of opinion truly is.

    The same fault lies with polling (though polling companies try and compensate for this). I was stopped not long ago and asked if I would take a political Poll. I have better things to do when shopping, so I gave it a miss. As did nearly everyone else walking up and down the street. But when did you last see a poll state "1127 people polled, 25,345 people declined to answer?"

    Consequently there is always going to be bias where you have a controversial subject or event, and it will normally be the Anti position that will be best organised and loudest.

    Doesn't mean, however, that they are either right or in the majority.

  • Comment number 98.

    #84 the third point,

    much arguement can be had about the others, but point 3
    is the one about brown and Blair and having order the lads in he
    did not order brown to provide the funding ?

  • Comment number 99.

    77. Daniel:
    And i'm afraid your wrong its not about being 'told the truth' or not, its bigger than people whinning about a technicality, ask the Iraqi who's relative was mutilated by the Saddam regime if they're happy hes gone or not, please people its as simple as this, SADDAM WAS A BAD MAN, Blair was a cog in the process that got rid of him, this contrary to popular opinion was a good thing. He interpreted the Intel reports, made a commitment, and saw it through to the end.

    *************

    HYPOTHETICAL: I shoot and kill a paedophile. When questioned, my defence is "he was a bad man - I am only a cog in the process that got rid of him." What would happen to me? and what if I had 'interpreted' the pictures of known sex offenders that were published in newspapers a few years back, thought I recognised someone, and it turns out my 'interpretation' of the information was flawed. What would happen then?

    REALITY: It's ALL about the legality of what Blair chose to do. Yes he made a decision and acted on it. But a decision based on a desire to topple Saddam was illegal. Had WMDs actually been present, then the legality of the war wouldn't be in question. But they were not, and time has proved this to be so. Evidence gathered at the time by Hanz Blix and his team demonstrated this over and again.

    Blair's expressed opinion that he would have found another argument to justify the removal of Saddam clearly shows that despite his protestations, regime change was a clear motivation in his decision making, and tehrefore makes the invasion and subsequent occupation an illegal one by all recognised International law. And it's the LEGAL standpoint that is at issue here, not Tony's skewed moral compass, or the rights and wrongs of the former Iraqi regime.

  • Comment number 100.

    with respect , the understanding that Sadaam had nothing to do with 9/11 might well have been well expressed in your previous writing, Nick, but that was certainly not what Blair said today nor was it what was reported on. "If they could have killed more than 3000 people they would have" was what I read from my primary news source about the reasons for invasion ( BBC news website). That was a plain untruth and misleading statement. Why is it reported without comment? If I am wrong in that I look forward to a correction.
    Cheers,
    Bill

 

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