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Inside the Iraq inquiry II

Nick Robinson | 17:49 UK time, Friday, 29 January 2010

Regrets. He had very few. So few that, for the first time in many hours of evidence, the public attending the Iraq inquiry erupted.

"Come on: a regret, man!" shouted James Shadri, who has been living in Syria for the last two years and working with Iraqi refugees.

Sir John Chilcott gave Tony Blair another chance to express his regrets. He declined it.

Tony Blair

Leaving his seat minutes later, he was greeted by boos and a shout of "You are a liar." And another shout: "...and a murderer." As I left the room, one woman was in tears.

Not content with answering questions today, Tony Blair decided to ask them, in particular what he called "the 2010 question".

What would have happened, he asked, if Britain and America had lost their nerve and Saddam had survived with the know-how and intent to build weapons of mass destruction?

Not content with defending one war, the former prime minister went on to hint that another might be necessary. I take a tough, hard line with Iran, he said.

Those hoping that today's proceedings would heal divisions or would ensure that Tony Blair was brought to account will not just be disappointed; they will, I suspect, be furious.

Far from apologising, Mr Blair is telling the country that he was right, that he is still right and that they cannot ignore his warnings about dangerous regimes which wish to arm themselves with WMDs.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Well why so surprised? He would wouldn't he?

    He is only human as are we all. I hear now on LBC many Iraqis ringing in to say they are grateful and Iraq is becoming a better place.

    I don't know what would have happened had he not stood down from his Prime Ministership early.

    Next stop Brown in the dock over Afghanistan I suppose.

    As a woman I find it all very distressing and sad.

  • Comment number 2.

    I wasn't surprised by Blair's responses, but not at all impressed. He seemed 'cheesy', and almost pathologically arrogant and sure that he was right.

    I was shocked when he said that Iran would be next. Is he supported by the arms industry?
    It shocks me so much that he parades his "Christianity" while being complacent about all the killing. To me it's another example of his arrogance.

    And I used to be a labour voter.

  • Comment number 3.

    Blair ran rings around the enquiry panel. They asked very few pressing questions nor did they attempt to dispute his statements. They basically let him dictate his well rehearsed point of view all day. He found his stride, looked confident and showed no regrets. He's a talented speaker. But he's still a misleading, narcissistic, dictatorial man, obsessed with his own legacy. Perhaps he should donate some of his millions to the families of the war dead if he can express no regrets in words.
    The sad thing is if he was still Prime Minister this country would probably vote Labour back in. At least we live in a democracy, but then again what use is a democracy if the average voter has such poor judgment. In fact for that reason I guess we deserve everything we get. Let’s hope the enquiry don't give Gordon Brown such an easy ride... in his case guilty for starving our armed forces of funding, leaving them unprepared, vulnerable and also responsible for many avoidable deaths. I won't hold my breath.

  • Comment number 4.

    Far from apologising, Mr Blair is telling the country that he was right, that he is still right and that they cannot ignore his warnings about dangerous regimes which wish to arm themselves with WMDs.

    I suspect he is right, if the British public were privy to the information our leaders have then the British people would not sleep soundly at night.

  • Comment number 5.

    Dear Nick

    Just heard the following expression uttered by former Labour Prime minister, Tony Blair:

    "The decision I had to take."

    Could you tell us on what constitutional grounds it was a decision he had to take. I thought we were a democracy with an executive accountable to Parliament. This goes to the heart of how Britain was embroiled in the Second Iraq War and why Blair's successor Gordon Brown, published proposals entitled, 'The Governance of Britain' immediately after taking over as Labour Leader and Prime Minister.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    Peter Kenyon

    http://petergkenyon.typepad.com/peterkenyon/

  • Comment number 6.

    There he goes; one of the most despised politicians of this and probably any era. He has his legacy; he will always be remembered as the Prime Minister who lied to Parliament, lied to the British public and took them into a terrible war in Iraq that has killed hundreds of thousands, maimed many more, wrecked the country and wasted the lives of hundreds of British service personnel.

    He ought to be facing charges of war crimes at a court in The Hague. Saying "good riddance to bad rubbish" is, in his case, simply not enough.

  • Comment number 7.

    Regrets he had very few. In fact, none could also be expected. To have any, would be admitting a mistake. Admission of a mistake or mistakes would implicitly mean admission of guilt. Tony Blair isn't ready to do that since it could potentially damage his own personal reputation.
    Of course, the 2010 question is his best defence. If things would have turned out the other way round, would he have asked that question at the inquiry? It's easy to ask that question now and in 10 years' time in 2020, could we ask Tony Blair the same question if things do not turn out well? Tony Blair has conveniently forgotten the key objectives of the inquiry and chosen to blockade himself behind the shield of after fact.

  • Comment number 8.

    Blair became a neocon after 9/11. By agreeing to support the USA come what may he committed the UK to the neocon agenda, which had wanted to get rid of Saddam ever since Bush Senior failed to do it during the first Gulf War. His problem then was persuading a sceptical public, Parliament and Labour Party to back him and in this he succeeded brilliantly. He stretched and twisted the truth and was able to do so because ultimately, as the Prime Minister, a lot of people gave him the benefit of the doubt. He has gravely damaged the reputation of that office and is in no small part responsible for the low opinion in which politicians generally are now held. Very sad to see such an able man, who was elected trailing clouds of glory, sink to this and take so many colleagues down with him.

    The Cabinet, the civil service and the intelligence agencies were all supine to an astonishing degree. In the end, with a few honourable exceptions, when faced with the choice between their careers and political/personal integrity, they chose their careers, as to have gone against Blair and his crusade would mean only one thing - the exit.

    A truly shameful episode in UK political history, worse even than Suez.

  • Comment number 9.

    Tony Blair has no choice but continue to say he made the right decision to invade Iraq. Most likely, deep down he knows he made a mistake, his a clever man and the evidence is pretty much overwhelming. If he admits he was wrong he looses all credibility and all the lives lost would be proven to be for nothing. What would that do for his lecture circuit fees? It would perhaps open up the argument for war crimes.

  • Comment number 10.

    I find it disturbing that one man, Prime Minister or otherwise, is in a position to commit the country to war. It appears to be the case that once Mr Blair had decided war would be waged, that was that. Cabinet colleagues who disagreed could make their objections or resign. Two did resign, but it made no difference, those who did not resign carried the day. There was no reference to the general population, the reasons put forward were untrue, there does not appear to have been much meaningful discussion and so we are stuck in a costly (in more than one way) war whilst having to cut back on domestic spending, including third level education, and again there is nothing we, the general public, can do. An election may remove this government, but it is too late and the legacy will go on blighting this country for years. Somehow this does not feel right and one problem, as with the banking crisis, is that no one appears to takes any responsibility and there is no retribution so no wonder people become more and more disillusioned. Just one banker and one politician on a lamp post each, please.

  • Comment number 11.

    Tony was really impressive 6 hours of questioning, never at any stage stumbling. All today showed was what a fantastic performer he is, shame he was hounded out by Brown. He is still a political colossus.

  • Comment number 12.

    #11 balancedthough

    Couldn't agree more! The fact that it has almost brought the irritating Robinson almost to tears of exasperation is just a most welcome bonus.

  • Comment number 13.

    Sir Roderic Lyne was the only one whose questions underscored Blair's disingenuousness. The Chair was just that, Martin and Freedman had to self-flagellate before either of them got a question out, and the witness ate Baroness's vexatious agrression for breakfast. As someone who supported the war the only totally avoidable and therefore unforgivable casualty is Dr David Kelly.

  • Comment number 14.

    11 Thank you for that unbalance thought. Blair - he kept asking himself questions and answering them at every opportunity. He fumbled and was evasive. His hands were shaking. Thank God he is yesterdays man. There was/is a problem in Iraq, there was/is a problem in Afghanistan. Blairs approach is not an answer. Full legal action should be taken against him.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

    I agree with all of you that Tony Blair is not the most likeable or perhaps trust worthy of politicians by all accounts, however I still belive that some of what he has been saying makes a lot of sense. If Saddam was still in power what would the situation be like now? After the inspectors had left he would have been free to do what he wanted. Unfortunately many needless lives have been lost and i think the preparation and the management of the war needs to be examined even more so than the reasons behind it.

  • Comment number 17.

    I found Mr. Blair's inability to conjure even one regret or aspect of remorse utterly frightening. He seems completely unwilling or unable to engage with an alternate view of the Iraq conflict - which is very odd for a man who made a career in democratic politics. Quite how you get all the way to Number 10 with such a blinkered outlook & disregard for the views of others is a mystery. Sorry Mr. Blair, but today you just plain scared me.

  • Comment number 18.

    Has no one given any thought to the statments made by Georges Sada one of Sadam's Generals who is on the record stating that when he was air Marshall his men made some 56 sorites in converted 747's at the time of the Dam disaster in Syria at which point the WMD's were shipped by plane to Syria from Iraq. There you have your WMD's which were in Iraq all along.
    Frankly, it beggars belief we put our Politicians on public display having to give an account for actions thought correct on the day now they are made to back-track in the hope that something new and revealing will come out of the wood-work to justify a 'See I told you so, we were wrong to go to war'. Britain is the laughing stock of the world putting our politicians on public display. There was a man who killed over a million of his own people, invades a neighbouring country and would have gone on to intrude in other neighbouring countries if not stopped. What would we do if we had a dictator in the UK who was to gas part of our population. I think we would want that person taken out if it meant by force by another country.

  • Comment number 19.

    History shows us as a Warrior Nation. Far more so than many other countries who have never been involved in a war - well leastwise not a large one.

    That said, for the future, we need far more expertise and consultation in what we can and can't do, what are the moral and social implications, how we interact with the military etc.

  • Comment number 20.

    The world is a better place without Saddam and I am grateful the Tony Blair took a stand that wasn't hand ringing and appeasing. Watching him today showed what a consumate politician he is and how the current Labour and Tory leaders lack stature in comparison.

  • Comment number 21.

    It's hard to determine if the Chilcot inquiry is incompetent or is a whitewash. Either way the public looses. The public was clearly communicating that it desperately wanted Blair held to account. To fail on this regard was to fail the public who are paying for the inquiry. Like a typical whitewash, this inquiry will drag on pointlessly for months to ensure that we no longer care about it. Chilcot should do a public service and wrap-up this nonsense quickly.

  • Comment number 22.

    Whether he truly is a liar or not, there is no way of knowing, and probably we will never know. However it seems that most people think as I do that his idea of truth is not quite what it should be. Sometimes I think he took this country to war in the belief that it would give him a place in history as the Falklands did for Margaret Thatcher. He is right, but for the wrong reasons ,Thatcher was fighting for our own people, he was not and seems to have been hell bent on going to war whatever the consequences or whatever the justification. His place in history may well be for dishonesty and the deceit of parliament and the people of Britain.

  • Comment number 23.

    3#

    "The sad thing is if he was still Prime Minister this country would probably vote Labour back in. At least we live in a democracy, but then again what use is a democracy if the average voter has such poor judgment. In fact for that reason I guess we deserve everything we get."

    Brilliantly said.

    "Let’s hope the enquiry don't give Gordon Brown such an easy ride... in his case guilty for starving our armed forces of funding, leaving them unprepared, vulnerable and also responsible for many avoidable deaths. I won't hold my breath."

    Agreed.

  • Comment number 24.

    Why do the BBc continue to peddle the view that TB took us to war. Parliament took us to war, they voted. The fact that no WMD were found does not disguise the fact that all major intel agencies thought he had them. Most deaths in Iraq since the invaision are iraqi on iraqi - thats there choice. Kosovo was more of an illegal war that Iraq, but that obviously played to the bleeding hearts who despise Blair so much.

    It was good to see him agin, how Labiur will miss him.

  • Comment number 25.

    Pretty much everything Tony Blair said seems reasonable to me.

    It's the public and the media I have a more difficult time understanding.

    I'd have maybe liked to see more discussion and acknowledgement and sorrow from Blair about the number of people dead, killed, tortured etc; it's a solemn subject. The figure of 100,000 was mentioned in passing, which I guess is less than the than the mentioned figure of a million people killed in the Iraq / Iran war - i.e. maybe less than the amount of people that would have died if Saddam had been left in power. I really think the media should focus on whether the war was a lesser of two evils, even if it's only in terms of body count, rather than going on about some silly 45 minute soundbite and revelling in the public's lack of understanding of the confusion surrounding WMDs.

  • Comment number 26.

    A very impressive performance by Blair, in stark contrast to a very unimpressive performance by the Inquiry members. Blair turned the session into a platform to spell out his case, including generous helpings of post-rationalisation, spin and rewriting of history. Time will tell whether the Inquiry's final report will draw their own conclusions from the non-answers to some questions and changing the subject in response to others and translate this into serious critcisms.

    Some very interesting stuff did emerge. Listening to Blair(and Powell before him) it is almost impossible to escape the conclusion that his belief was that the only way to remove the threat represented by Iraq was to remove Saddam's regime. Clearly, he had no expectation (or wish?) that Saddam could stay in power and be able to do anything which would remove the perceived threat. This mirrored the USA view.

    This was never a case of working forward through the evidence to guage whether or not armed intervention was necessary. Rather it was a case of working backward from the decision to intervene militarily, in order to create a case to justify that decision. He presented a false prospectus to Parliament, the country and, one suspects, all or mots of his cabinet.

    I think he made a fair case today for the decision he took. However, it was not the case he laid before us.

    As to the so called unwillingness to accept a risk that was acceptable prior to 9/11 but not after/as result of it, it was most remarkable to hear him concede that other axis of evils states represented a greater threat than Iraq but the difference was that we could point to UN resolutions in the case of Iraq. Convenience and sellability rather than prioritised risk?? Really extraordinary.

    Final point. He seemed to me to be making at least as strong a case for action against Iran now as he ever did for action against he did against Iraq then. Perhaps it is as well he is no longe in post.

  • Comment number 27.

    8. Buddhaman:

    Blair became a neocon after 9/11.



    Yep. Hard to tell whose more right wing now, Labour or Tory.

  • Comment number 28.

    Iraq Enquiry ! ! Tony Blair ! !

    Both stories consigned to the middle pages courtesy of a High Court judge this afternoon.

    The Scottish editions may still lead on it but the British, sorry English, press will only have eyes for John Terry.

    Conspiracy theories, burying bad news, etc ? ?

  • Comment number 29.

    Mr Blair has had his opportunity to express his views, should we now not wait until the committee report, rather than prejudge their findings, surely that is the purpose of the inquiry..a considered overview of all the evidence given.

  • Comment number 30.

    What an expensive soapbox.

    Now Tony wants to take on Iran. Is he really fit to be the Middle East PEACE envoy?

  • Comment number 31.

    The Arab world had been tweaking the West with threats and posturing and the West thought that this was encouraging the terrorist and some were providng havens. The West decided that it was time to say they had crossed the line and that was that. Since Saddam had oil and was threating other oil fields of friends that was not going to be tolerated. The business community is always the reason for war. Do you really expect him to say it was about oil? The US was going to go it alone and like any business assoicate some decision was made about cost/benefit. The elected hypocrits who supported the position or voted to fund the adventure will now all posture with voices of concern and having been mislead. Scratch the surface of a poltician and you wil find shallow.

  • Comment number 32.

    The point everyone is missing is this:

    On one side you have a leader who has been voted in by a democracy. On the other, you have a dictator who has used chemical weapons on his own people, his enemy and also brutalised his people.

    Saddam had every opportunity to prove to the world that he had no WMDs. His stubbornness stopped him from doing it. Meanwhile, his people were starving due to the UN sanctions which he manipulated for his own means.

    Every UN inspector that went in, even to the last minute, could not prove that WMD did not exist in Iraq. More so, Saddam frustrated their every move.

    If Blair and Bush are guilty of anything, it is the post war phase that they messed up completely.

    Now who would you trust? I would trust Blair's judgement anytime.

    The world would understand once Iran has the nuclear bomb how dangerous it will be.

    Finally, what would you expect from Blair appearing today? This a trained lawyer and a very good one. One of the best politicians of his generation. Unless you had Supreme Court Judges on the panel, he was going to turn it into what you all saw today.

  • Comment number 33.

    Of course, there were many pointed questions Tony Blair was not asked at the Chilcot inquiry. A few among them:

    1. By what authority did he think he was entitled to act as the world’s policeman?
    2. Given that Britain expressly conceded to the UN Security Council that resolution 1441 did not authorize war without a further resolution, how could he claim, just a few months later, 1441 as his legal basis for invading Iraq?
    3. Doesn’t all his and his supporters’ talk about doing what he could in 2002/2003 to give diplomacy a chance really just mean that he tried to convince the UN to accept the Bush/Blair viewpoint, and when it wouldn’t they told it to go to hell?
    4. Do his actions then mean he only respects the UN when it agrees with him?
    5. When he ultimately justifies the war by claiming that the world is a safer place without Saddam, what are the limits of this worldview? By “world” does he just mean the Western world? If not, what about the dozens of other regimes, several of which definitely do have WMDs, that are a threat at least to their neighbours?

  • Comment number 34.

    So now we know, the Iraq Inquiry will definitely be a whitewash. Instead of being pressed on essential questions, Blair was allowed to go there and make speeches to a supine bunch of establishment lackies.

    The 45min claim Blair made was vital to his case that the UK was in imminent danger from Saddam yet he and others have been allowed to treat this as though it was a minor point. If Blair could not show that we were either being attacked or about to be attacked then his whole case falls apart.

    Blair keeps saying he had to make a difficult decision but unless he could prove the above, the decision to attack Iraq was not his to make, it was for the UN which patently they didn't do.

    There is absolutely no argument, Blair broke international law and all of his periferal rants are just distractions.


  • Comment number 35.

    Whether we believe Tony Blair was right or not to join the USA in the invasion of Iraq ,we should be carful about blaming 1 person for these actions ,Had Tony Blair been isolated in cabinet he could not have gone ahead .Other members of the cabinet & security services were involved at the time if they did not agree why did they go along with this.
    Tony Blair was and will never back down and say he was wrong over this invasion ,because like all leaders who have gone to war they believe they are right ,and Tony Blair is not going change his mind now.

  • Comment number 36.

    Agree with – Observer. But Nick Robinson is so predictable, "the public erupts" - 2 people? Earlier the news media were reporting evidence as it emerged but now it is drowned in "liar" and "murderer" headlines. There is a discussion to be had on all the evidence of the Inquiry and there are some interesting comments here, but sadly the inflammatory reporting of the so called 'political commentators’ – Robinson being a key one, not only fails to illuminate but fuels prejudice.

  • Comment number 37.

    The gaps in the questioning in almost every session are becoming frustrating. To take six items from today:

    1. Blair kept stressing his conviction that Saddam was a menace, but he emphasised a history of threat rather than the intelligence (which was full of qualifications) he received on the position at the time. Why was he not pressed on the evidence base?

    2. Nor was he asked about his knowledge of/sanction for the attempts made by Downing Street staff to encourage the JIC to be less equivocal. Similarly, he was not pressed on his reaffirmation of "established beyond doubt"

    3. Ditto re Goldsmith's advice. Blair was not questioned about any role he may have played in encouraging the discussions between Goldsmith and the US lawyers.

    4. Blair was unconvincing in explaining the transition from equivocation to confidence in Goldsmith's opinion on legality. If Blair was still at the Bar, would he really give advice requiring certainty on 'material breach' solely on the basis of his client's assurance? He'd want to see the evidence. Goldsmith and Blair should have been asked about this.

    5. If a determination on legality was a critical requirement, why did Blair not seek the Attorney-General's opinion earlier?

    6. Blair admitted that it was probably wrong to claim that Iraq's WMD potential was active and growing, yet the Tribunal did not press him on the charge of misleading Parliament and the public.

    He did make a fair point about the spectre of a nuclear Iraq confronting a nuclear Iran, but that was not the threat at the time. They have to be faced as they arise.

  • Comment number 38.

    @ 20

    "The world is a better place without Saddam"

    This is true but is not relevant. America would have removed Saddam in any case. By the same method and with the same outcome.

    Blair's decision to involve Britain had only one material consequence - that Britain was involved.

    This then had three consequences of its own.

    (1) Some British soldiers were killed and injured.
    (2) Significant sums were spent by the Exchequer.
    (3) Britain was confirmed to Muslim extremists as being at one with America.

    Blair's decision was a judgment call. In order to defend it, one needs to detail the benefits and make the case that they exceed the above 3 costs. And one of those benefits cannot be the removal of Saddam, since that was not a consequence of the Blair decision.

    I would like somebody on here to make this case, please, and I will consider carefully.

  • Comment number 39.

    I really cannot understand why anyone should regret a decision they made in good faith based upon the facts and data they had at the time. The fact that some of the data may now be questionable is regrettable, and he did say that some of the wording in documents may be, in retrospect, not ideal; but that's all we should expect.
    The broader question about whether the UK should continue to try to take a world leadership, peacekeeping, and nation building role in the future is a completely different issue, and more about who we choose to elect. When a party and its parliamentary candidates stand on a mandate of taking a more passive stance and only ordering militiary action when directly attacked and after full debate (after which you've lost), AND get elected, then we can moan when their leader and Prime Minister takes a different course.

  • Comment number 40.

    1 What is the point of being a member of the UN if it means behaving in a rogue manner when there is a disagreement of any kind.
    2 Mr Blair did not have to make any decision at all with regard to Iraq other than accepting the democratic decisions taken in the UN. It seems to me he wanted to play the 'big statesman' alongside the US and had no alternative but to find some way to do it 'legally' and the weak people around him would not stand up and be counted.
    3 It seems that somehow, magically, Saddam Hussain, El Quaeda and WMD were all magically connected after 9/11 so that George Bush could finish off what his father had not done!
    4 We may not agree with what goes on in other countries, but unless forced by invasion or request our armed forces should defend our shores not interfere in other sovereign states. Afterall some countries may not agree with our regime!! Mr Blair may think he is god, but I think God may have something to say about that.
    5 I believe the world is a more dangerous place due to his arrogance (and must admit I cannot understand why on earth there are people in this world, who pay to listen to that man speak.)
    6 It is all very well saying this and that MAY have happened if we had not invaded, but it also may NOT have.

  • Comment number 41.

    As one who like the 120 people present (60 this morning and 60 this afternoon) attended, including the 60 or so from the families who have lost sons at the Iraq Inquiry, I do not have the journalist's desire to report 'sensation over truth every time'

    Yes, OK one agitated young man shouted out what Nick Robinson claims at the very end, but the rest remained in dignified silence throughout. No hisses, no boos.

    The fact that Blair offered no regrets in such a situation, where he could so easily have said one or two to the Inquiry as crumbs to those three feet behind him who had lost so much, shows a man willing to take tough decisions.

    Rather than Nick Robinson chasing after the angry young headline grabber who had lost no one, it would surely have been rather better to speak to those who listened intently throughout with quiet dignity, the other 120 or so there and especially those who lost their nearest and dearest?

    Sorry Nick, but I think you let yourself down from your usually very high overall standard of reporting

  • Comment number 42.

    Brilliant, well done Buddhaman.

    Worth a read if you haven't seen it.......

    8. At 6:35pm on 29 Jan 2010, Buddhaman wrote:......

  • Comment number 43.

    Oh Dear....the people who are on this blog praising Blairs performance need to get a grip of the real issues at stake. Did you hear the interviews with the mothers and families of the dead soldiers after the day had finished? Did you hear their voices shaking with emotion as they tried to make any sense of Blairs answers and reasoning? That's the real issue, I've always thought Blair was a self publicising egotistic maniac, and today just proved it.........

  • Comment number 44.

    Mr. Blair is out there in the Middle East as the representative of the 'Quartet' and probably knows as well as anybody that a grotesque race-against-time is now on.

    Namely, will the young people of Iran overthrow the current regime before said regime reaches the tipping point of nuclear weapons, which will initiate an Israeli military response.

    Hence Blairs' blunt comments about Iran.

    Real politik has a habit of rudely intruding on higher minded ideals.

  • Comment number 45.

    I didn't hear Blair today but from what I have heard, he just trotted out the same tired reasoning that he used back in '03 onwards. Nothing new. As we all know, Blair has a good legal brain and has the nouse to evade the sort of questioning he was going to face today - easy. Chilcott et al just don't have the firepower to deal with the likes of Blair and Campbell - its all a bit of a waste of time IMO as there will be no prosecutions, just a public washing of Labours dirty linen with regards to the war for the umpteenth time with questions still unanswered.

    At the end of the day, most politicians are doomed to fail but to justify their actions they stick to their convictions and decisions, whether they be right or wrong. He will never change his mind or apologise for what he did. Why should he? He thinks he is right and that is all that counts... je ne regrette rien as Norman Lamont once said.

    He will have to live with the consequences of the what he authorised for the rest of life and only history ultimately can judge whether he was right or not. Once this enquiry closes, hopefuly the same can be said of this whole grubby affair - the only losers being the Iraqi people who have lost friends and relatives since the invasion and subesequent fallout and have seen their county divided by bitter religious and political rivalry.

  • Comment number 46.

    Will this inquiry bring back the dead, restore the damage done, heal the maimed and wounded, replace despair with hope, comfort the broken hearted, end the fractious infighting of a handful of bigoted semi-religious nutters inside Iraq or even determine if these much sought after WMD ever existed? I think not. We cannot undo what has been done.

    The victims of this war will not get any justice from this inquiry. Those who initiated this war care little for its victims, they did not even honour the dead.

    Let history judge Mr Blair’s Government, but I fear it will not look kindly upon him. Whether he likes it or not, that will be his legacy.



  • Comment number 47.

    It's God what done it.

    Blair doesn't need to answer any questions on Iraq or any other issue. His irrefutable guidance comes from above. He repeatedly says "he believes", and he means it. He is above 'legality' and all that nonsense, when will we get that message? Why don't we back him when he's 'fighting evil' ?

    He should have been asked about his divine guidance, but wasn't. Is that because it isn't relevant, because it's personal, because we just don't question "christian" motives, ever, anywhere.

    Bush and Blair - two disciples against the world.

  • Comment number 48.

    It's a great pity sections of the media wanted to make this into a circus. Sensationalist reporting ruled the day. Describing the sweat on his face and his shaking hands - I mean, what next!! When I was younger, most journalists seemed to be after the facts, and only a minority were of the tabloid type. Now all seem to be sensationalist, they clearly wanted a feeding frenzy in this case, and are frustrated they did not get one.

    Blair's resiliance was such that he did not crumble to this pressure. He stuck to the facts of the case, some complex, some unwelcome, but nevertheless sadly valid.

    (And, by the way, when is the BBC going to start interviewing the multitude of parents each year tragically bereaved as a result of drunken driving? Not so headline-grabbing, perhaps?)

  • Comment number 49.

    Wouldn't it be ironic if Iraq did indeed become a beacon of democracy in a region so desperately lacking in it?

    Those who would try to write Blair's legacy today are almost certainly in for the rudest of awakenings.

    I would remind the vast majority of previous contributors that it is easy to do nothing. Sometimes we must fight for what we believe. If that means taking the country to war, then so be it. If that means voting a Prime Minister out of office (something the British public did not do for Blair - even after the war), then so be it.

    I find the whole lynch mob act rather disgusting. It is too late to complain and this is no time for regrets. We must simply learn from our mistakes and move on.

  • Comment number 50.

    Buddaman @ 8

    You say that the USA ... had wanted to get rid of Saddam ever since Bush Senior failed to do it during the first Gulf War.

    That is not correct, there was a UN resolution to authorise the ejection of Saddam Hussein from Kuwait and Bush Senior followed it to the letter and therefore was precluded from continuing to invade Iraq and topple Saddam.

    What changed after 9/11 was that the US Government not longer felt (in private) restricted by UN resolutions, that was the sea-change which that terrible event bought about.

    However, I believe that the current POTUS, Barack Obama, has an 'inclusive' approach and would try to work within the UN.

    You also went on to say that Blair did not operate in a consensual way with respect to other Ministers and this does appear to be the case, which often leads to poor decision making.

    It is a sad episode in the history of our politics, Mr. Blair won three elections, one of them after the Iraq War.

    I am not sure what conclusions you can draw from that but Jack Straw did once say that {skillful politicians} have the ability to 'shape their public' and that certainly seems to have been an outstanding attribute of Mr. Blair when he was PM.

    Hence I suspect, at the end of his tenure, urged on by David Cameron (heir to Blair no less), the standing ovation he was given in the HoC.

    Politicians must be able to recognise a master of their craft.

  • Comment number 51.

    le roi des voleurs, just because a TV interviewer managed to get one or two families' who have had their son pay the ultimate sacrifice, to say something, should not detract from the quiet grace of the 120 others there.

    It is about time that those who make hay from natural grief, just got on with it. Blair may have led us to war, but he genuinely believed on the basis of the best available intelligence at the time that he was protecting us all from possible 9/11 attacks and specifically Saddam using WMD and chemical weapons again, and nuclear weapons, on anyone in and around the world.

    Thirty nations did the same thing and the world is a far far better place without the world's biggest mass murderer, Saddam Hussein, and mass murderers like Al Qa'eda around to force us into all becoming muslims.

    To paraphrase Blair's argument: If Al Qaeda could have killed 10 million Americans or Britons on 9/11 they would have.

    That was why 9/11 required action against those allies of Al Qaeda developing and using WMD and who desired nuclear weapons.

    That the French and Germans (as usual) allowed the 30 other countries to do their dirty work in spite of what their intelligence services said too, doesn't detract from the need for the UN to act on its resolutions

  • Comment number 52.

    #49 bgab

    So you were one of “the first to volunteer” then, straight down to the recruitment office to join the colours for the 2003 Gulf War were you?

    Or did you let somebody else fight (and die) for what you believed in?

  • Comment number 53.

    Saga @ 38 wrote:
    Blair's decision was a judgment call. In order to defend it, one needs to detail the benefits and make the case that they exceed the above 3 costs. And one of those benefits cannot be the removal of Saddam, since that was not a consequence of the Blair decision.

    I would like somebody on here to make this case, please, and I will consider carefully.


    >>

    I don't quite follow why you're discounting the removal of Saddam as a benefit. Is it because the US would have done that anyway? I think that's a subtly different question from whether the decision to go to war was justified. In deciding, for example, whether supporting the UN troops in Darfur is the right thing to do, would you have to decide whether the presence or absence of British troops would materially affect the outcome?

    It's a hard case to make unless you count Saddam's removal as a benefit. A fool's errand probably. So you need to reconsider your terms before I have a go.

  • Comment number 54.

    Most folk want to blame somebody for what went wrong in Iraq following the war and Mr. Blair is an obvious target because he personally made the decision to commit us to the enterprise, with significant resources.

    IMHO, that was a tactical error because there was no need to do as much as we did, i.e. the Australians are bound politically to the US just as much as us yet managed to keep the US 'onside' by just committing some special forces and medics to the campaign.

    Anyway, if somebody has to be blamed then there is only one candidate - Don Rumsfelt.

    Rumsfelt insisted on 'invasion light', which turned out to be a correct decision but then he went completely wrong by stating that that was all the troops that were needed to occupy Iraq, when in fact, a surge was needed immediately following the invasion to keep control of the country.

    It all unravelled from that point until the latter day surge occurred some years later and control was regained but at an enormous interim cost - which has come to reflect badly on Mr. Blair in our country.

  • Comment number 55.

    The Iraq war will remain controversial as there are deeply held views for and against the action taken by the UK Government. We should acknowledge that the current inquiry has provided an opportunity for the public to see and hear the questioning and responses. This may help to shape perspectives on some of the issues but I don't think that the final report will change too many mindsets. We are where we are.

  • Comment number 56.

    Some leaders think they are above the law. That they are untouchable. Like the the old day dictators who are being tried now. Like pinnochet. One day Tony Blair will be brought to justice and justice will prevail.

  • Comment number 57.

    To be honest the whole thing today was a farce.

    First off thoug why did the BBC need 4 reporters inside the conferance centre as well as those outside? As an NAO report said yesterday you are sending far to many staff to events that shouldn't need them

    Second the comments on the live feed. What a surprise, Andrew Gilligan got a lot published, I wonder why? Perhaps because the BBC sees this as an attempt to over-turn the results of a previous one? On the same area we had constant comments by MP's who voted against the war, but no balanced comentry by those who voted for it, what do they think? Would they still have voted for it?

    Third the enquiry itself. It seems to be going way outside it's remit. It was set up to learn lessons, not rehash an intelligence inquirey we allready spent millions on and that allready said the intel was rubish, and not to aportion blame. They spent far too much time rehashing old arguments that are on the public record paid for by the public and not enough looking at the planning and execution of the post war strategy, barely 1 hour! They wasted half a day trying to get Blair to say he thought he shouldn't have gone, he was never going to say it, total waste of time!

    Fourth, almost every comment published has been by people who are reiterating the opinion they allready had, the worst was the protestors who didn't even wait for him to open his mouth and then get invited to talk to the BBC as if they were in the room all day when they were outside without any way of seeing what was inside.

    Fifth, the witnesses. Chillicot and co seem to be of the opinion that everything Blair and his team say is dubious (they came close to calling him, Straw and Goldsmith liars on several occasions) but believe everthing the "anti" crew say and lap it up. Take the lawyer the other day, she said her whole department thought the war was illegal, they seem content to take her word for it. Now if I was in charge I'd have called every single one of them and asked them, then I'd have asked what they did about it and why they didn't have the guts to resign! Can you imagine what would have happened had the entire FO legal team resigned the day before the vote? Also on the witnesses why aren't we seeing any Tories? Why isn't M Howard being called up and asked why he voted for the war? Had he told his party to vote against it would have been different, oh wait! I know why he did, because the Tories were calling for an invasion a year before the 1st dossier! Somthing they, and the media determined to get them elected, would rather the public forgot. And what about Charles Kenedy? What did he see in the evidence that other party leaders didnt?

    And finally Cameron, he voted for the war, the public deserve to know why. And more importantly we deserve to know what he would do if he had the same intel were he elected, would he do the same thing? We need to know, becuase it may come to that with Iran! Unfortunatly neither the inquiry, nor the Media, seem to be interested in the lessons we need in the near future, only in racking over the coals of the past.

  • Comment number 58.

    ARHReading @ 55

    I agree with you that most minds are already made up about this and a number of the commentariat have mentioned that for some people, the fact that they 'believed' in Tony Blair, circa 1997, has soured their subsequent view in the light of events.

    In the so-called 'real world' Tony Blair in his PM role, given the historic links between the 'mother country' and the US, had no real choice other than to make the strategic decision to support the US when George W. Bush decided to overthrow Saddam Hussien.

    Where Tony Blair was not very wise was in his tactical decision to commit significant UK military resources to Iraq - IMHO that was a big mistake which had lead directly to the anguished relatives at the enquiry today.

    Mr. Blair will just have to live with that one and will always justify it by referencing the 'greater game' and the fact that his earlier interventions in Serria Leone, Bosnia and Kosovo saved countless lives.

  • Comment number 59.

    #52 feduplittlefellow

    No I was not the "first to volunteer", nor was I the second, third, fourth or last. I hope you noticed that I counter-balanced the argument for going to war with voting out our then Prime Minister. The vast majority of people in this country voted for this man knowing his interventionist doctrine, and the intention of my comment was to simply to draw attention to the hypocrisy of doing nothing in years gone by, and that maybe Iraq will be a better place in years to come.

    As it happens, I never voted for Tony Blair and I am all in favour of scaling back our foreign policy agendas.

  • Comment number 60.

    41#

    Maybe he does read these blogs after all. Just watching the 10pm news and there is a peice being done with one of the bereaved families.

    49#

    I agree to a point. I didnt agree with the original invasion, but did with GW1 when SH was kicked out of Kuwait; However, being a former serviceman, the troops have my absolute full backing; if Iraq is not given the chance to develop into such a democracy, then it could be argued that the lives that were lost, particularly of our service personnel were for nothing.

  • Comment number 61.

    Tony Blair was a brilliant prime minister. He was elected 3 times. He was elected AFTER the Iraq War. The British people supported him then, and should still support him now. The handful of Baathist sympathisers outside the hearing do not represent the opinion of most people in this country.

    Force was always an option. It was used against Saddam in 1998 and 2001, in case you have forgotten.

    If only we had gone for regime change in Germany in the early '30s we might have avoided the holocaust. So stop the stupid arguments about regime change. There are regimes so terrible that they must be changed. If international law says that is wrong, then international law is wrong.

  • Comment number 62.

    Well the righteous Tony Blair has again shown that he is for the good of himself.
    A converted religious fellow with no remorse for the thousands of lives he and his
    nice friend George have ruined. How can he even think that after his terrible mistakes
    of attacking a sovereign state ever be justified. Even now wanting war with Iran!!!! He has been led by the American
    war machine. This is all about the New World order. He doesn't care about people
    nor countries. He has betrayed the population of Britain without any due regard. He's part of a criminal
    club and must be tried along with others in a court of law as one.

  • Comment number 63.

    #6 & others. You state Blair lied. So far there is no conclusive evidenc of that. the fact that WMD weren't found AFTER UK/US troops were in Iraq doesn't mean that was known at the time. Until someone provides EVIDENCE rather than belief, I'll remain agnostic. Similarly #56. Blair isn't above the law. But in order to be tried under law - UK or international - you have to have conclusive EVIDENCE & be certain what law(s) as interpreted by the courts have been broken. In the absence of evidence, your statements are morally no better than the person you are aiming them at.

  • Comment number 64.

    #1 Flame

    What a load of rubbish. Looked forward to TB in the dock now on to GB. You and your sort will never be satisfied. What ever was said today you will not be satisfied. Stand for parliament yourself and see how you handle these issues.

    3000 people killed and it was luck it wasn't ten times that amount. Who knows where the next attack may have been? What would you do? Stand back and wait for the next one and the next and the next?

    Decisions have to be made and sometimes there not very palitable, but they have to be made. To sit here now in judgement and assume that any PM sends troops to war for nothing more than their own vanity is preposterous. Just imagine you are the one on the night before the decision must be made. Do you think you have some higher moral value than these politicians who actually do have to make these dreadful decisions have?

    As for all that, " As a woman I find it so distressing and sad".

    Don't you think we men find it distressing and sad. What the hell do you think any of us think about people dying?

    Get back behind your net curtain and think about it.

  • Comment number 65.

    #55 ARHReading

    A good summing up, thank-you.

  • Comment number 66.

    Tony Blair will always be a hero in my eyes. The Iraq war was a huge success and more people will realize this in the decades to come. Many lives were lost but you can't know how many lives were saved.

    The bigger question now is if there are any leaders left in the world with spine enough to confront the people that want all of the West destroyed and have no qualms about saying it. I don't see any leaders today that will step up and do something when their country and people are threatened and I find that very unnerving.

  • Comment number 67.

    Tony Blyer and the Bush team are criminals, who blatantly violated all international laws, norms and UN resolutions. Their criminal Iraq adventure - military aggression and removal of Sadam, have no justification (legal or rational), neither 'before' nor 'after' 9/11. As they knew well all facts about his perceived 'threat'.
    They all should be brought and tried as war criminals before the Internation court in Hague.

  • Comment number 68.

    I for one am glad that the world is rid of Sadam Hussein, granted the then government may have gone about certain things the wrong way, but decisions to go to war are never popular, and are always difficult judgements to make. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, its the devils advocate! Some decisions made by Blair then, now appear to be the wrong choice. The same can be be said for Afghanistan, if we knew then what we know now then things would be different, and different choices would have been made. I believe Blair made the correct decision to help the Iraqi people and lift them from oppression by a evil dictator and mass murderer.

  • Comment number 69.

    You can prolong the past for as long as you like, but the future is always coming. We prefer to have a safer future without the hideous hussein.

  • Comment number 70.

    Can we please get it straight that Tony Blair has not killed anyone. He obviously made the right decisions based on the information available. He probably made the right decisions even if the information available was dubious. I, like all right thinking people, feel for all of those who lost loved ones during the Iraq campaign but this does not mean that it was wrong to be involved. I fail to comprehend why the media gives so much time and space to the protesters that have opposed the action. I personally find their opinions generally offensive. Many parts of the world would consider them to be disidents and deal with them most severely. We, however, live in a democracy where they are allowed to say as they like and we enjoy that right largely because we have had leaders like Tony Blair. I just wish more people would come out and support Tony Blair. I for one have had enough of having minority groups (and a complicit media) telling me what I am supposed to think.

  • Comment number 71.

    64. Saga

    Settle down now. The nurse will be round soon with your tablets.

  • Comment number 72.

    #60 perry neeham

    Which GW1 is that then?

  • Comment number 73.

    I think Blair gave a good account today !! No one wants our brave service folk to be injured or killed but if you join the services then you should be prepared to put your life on the line. We (thankfully) have won every conflict we've been involved in.....except the American War of Independence. That being the case we are always in a position to rationalise the subsequent "peacetime" effects !! If we'd lost WWII would that have been deemed as an exercise in futility...even if we'd been able to discuss it under our Nazi masters !!

    Saddam had to be toppled he was a mass murderer (>5,000 Kurds gassed)....and he invaded Kuwait !! I believe that his removal DID suspend a potential nuclear proliferation with Iran, the reason WE supported Saddam in the earlier years. I agree that oil was a decider that we got involved, we should have also toppled Mugabe, but of course no oil was involved in that scenario.

  • Comment number 74.

    pd @ 53

    "So you need to reconsider your terms before I have a go"

    Darfur c.f. Iraq? Mmm, not sure that works! So yes, go for it please. Brief is to weigh up the benefits of British involvement against the costs. With the benefits not including removal of Saddam, since that was not a consequence of Blair's decision.

  • Comment number 75.

    Yawn, the usual comments by the usual bloggers all over again, we have already had one Chilcot blog, nothing new is going to be said between now and the time of the final reports publication, those that believe Blair was correct yesterday still believe the same tonight, those who believe he was a "B Lair" yesterday still believe the same tonight. Even the baiting of Brown and his near-future appearance in front of Chilcot has as much if not more to do with the up and coming election than anything relating to the decision to go to war against Iraq and the politicos wanting to get to the raw facts of the matter. As I said, YAWN...

  • Comment number 76.

    71. At 11:11pm on 29 Jan 2010, Flamethrower wrote:

    "64. Saga

    Settle down now. The nurse will be round soon with your tablets."


    Sounds like you might need sedatives yourself, claim down, the man is allowed an opinion and the day he is not is the say that I (and many others I suspect) emigrate!

  • Comment number 77.

    Boiler @ 76

    She's also confusing me with Eyewish. Tablets all round!

  • Comment number 78.

    A quite brilliant appearance and a reminder that he was absolutely a great prime minister. And continuing to make us face up to the real issues that we need our leaders to answer today. What do we do about dangerous, undemocratic countries like Iran and North Korea which acquire the capability of Weapons of Mass Destruction?

  • Comment number 79.

    11. At 6:38pm on 29 Jan 2010, balancedthought wrote:
    Tony was really impressive 6 hours of questioning, never at any stage stumbling. All today showed was what a fantastic performer he is, shame he was hounded out by Brown. He is still a political colossus.

    =========

    But did he lie to Parliament?

    Basically I'm still waiting to discover if the man is Elmer Gantry or Walter Mitty, if the first he needs punishing, if the latter we need punishing.

    Mind you we are getting punished!

    Post 8 says it all much better.

  • Comment number 80.

    What now? The High Noon performance of Tony Blair has re-energized the debate?

    Too early to tell.Charisma fades when the magician leaves the stage.We protested,The UN,Workers of the World,Baathists,we protested.

    Was it right,was it wrong,surgical or bloody.North Korea or Zimbabwe,surgical or bloody.

    The magician leaves the stage, the cards fall.A sludge of feet confront,the looming tyrannies of the night.









  • Comment number 81.

    I see the protestors on the news and I feel hard pressed to identify what they're protesting about.

    I've never known so many people to throw so much doubt into the leader of their country, Blair is lying apparantly, how do we know this? Are secret military files available to the general public now and i've just not noticed?

    I haven't watched the enquiry and I don't really intend to. I know what it will contain and from what i've seen in pictures it looks like some sad TV show with "The Iraq Enquiry" on posters on the wall, hardly a serious affair if you ask me.

    I expected Blair to defend his position all along and so he should, it was an easy decision to make and he made it with the best intentions. If the protestors got their way tyrants would still be in power

  • Comment number 82.

    Oh what's the use? Even if he is a lying toadie who deceived a nation, history will remember him well. The only British PM who isn't remembered well is Chamberlain and that's only because the result of his failure was so obvious. With Tony it's like proving a negative. He'll even get a state funeral with lots of baubles and 21 gun salutes decades from now.

    Historians may argue about him in the future, but history - the real history, that of word of mouth or whatever's in the first 100 words of a GCSE textbook (which is all most kids will remember, if at all) - will remember him as a strong leader or some other such nonsense. And the details will be forgotten - how many of you even remember arms inspector David Kelly's suicide in 2003? Or how his widow let Tony off the hook?

    The war in Afghanistan has been lost because of the Iraq distraction. I don't even care about the thousands who've died in Iraq, be it the thousands of Westerners or the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis (Lancet, 2004). All I want is for my cushy way of life in the West to be preserved. And now a bunch of people who want to take my cushions away from me are pissed because of some unnecessary war in some far off land. Grrr.

    It's over. Tony has won, too. Not just the recruiters for 'the other side'.

  • Comment number 83.

    78 DB

    Yes of course. There is potentially absolutely no limit to the countries we can go to war with. And if we are very good at going to war thru practise we can ensure we turn a huge number of people around the world against us which will create more opportunity to go to war. Just as long as we can be a minor partner in this endeavour with some other country and have no control over the policy they wish to set, the timetable they wish to implement, and the outcome they create, that will ensure the most effect. Just as long as there is a very highly debateable legal loophole that will do. A legal loophole other countries consider not to be there. Above all we should not go back to the UN and seek a mandate because they will close the loophole. Better not let opportunity for such activity be diminished.

  • Comment number 84.

    At one stage Blair asks the question, presumably of himself, or of the panel: "Given Saddam's history.... could we take the risk of this man reconstituting his weapon's programmes?" So it sounds as though he was well aware far ahead of the invasion, on at least an unconscious level, that there were no actual weapons, and that any weapons programmes were shut down at the time.

  • Comment number 85.

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

  • Comment number 86.

    It should not surprise us that a man, whose moral principles are so weak that he was prepared to start a war, when there was the alternative of letting Hans Blix's commission complete its task of destroying any illegal weapons Saddam, might have had, should be prepared to use lies and half truths so freely.

    The Fern Britton interview revealed his attitude to the rule of law. When it gets in the way of your ambition, you just invent an excuse to evade it. Uncharacteristically, in the interview he had deviated from his usual lawyer's tactic of not admitting anything, even when his guilt was completely obvious.

    When challenged about this he used the well known trick of a self depreciating joke.

  • Comment number 87.

    #59 bgab

    In the mid 80s, British hospital staff treated Iranian victims of Iraqi chemical weapons. Was that doing nothing?

    In 1990-91, coalition forces drove Saddam Hussein’s aggressor armed forces out of Kuwait! Was that doing nothing?

    From 1991-2003, Coalition Air Forces contained Saddam Hussein within the borders of his own country; indeed, Operation Northern and Southern Watch even constrained his military to a central zone. The RN had a patrol ship in the gulf checking incoming shipping for weapons. Was that doing nothing?

    The UK supported various UN resolutions. Was that doing nothing?

    The UK gave sanctuary to fleeing Kurds and Iraqi citizens. Was that doing nothing?

    War brings nothing but misery and death. It must always be justified and always be the last resort. Saddam Hussein could quite easily have been contained within his own borders indefinitely. He was a foul dictator, who would brook no opposition, hence his destruction of any opposition within Iraq, including AQ. It can be argued, from a security point of view, that his destruction of AQ groups within his own borders actually helped our security.

    Information I received whilst serving within the military convinced me that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was decidedly “dodgy”. The large public demonstrations against the 2003 war and the Dr Kelly affair have reinforced my opinion.

    Mr Blair may be an eloquent speaker and polished politician, but I am not convinced by his arguments. He won three consecutive elections, but the 2005 poll turnout was very low. I don’t think you can argue a “vast majority” of people in this country voted for him in 2005.

  • Comment number 88.

    #78 Douglas Bridger. Go on then, tell us all all. What should we do about states that ignore UN resolutiuons, ignore judgements from the world court and refuse to join the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty. Oh yes we should call them Israel.

    What do you think we should do to members of our own security services who aided and assisted AQ Khan in his endeavours. OK nothing! Well that is all right then.

    Have you considered the possibility that you are seriously deluded?

  • Comment number 89.

    #70 Andy. Why not just say you "fail to comprehend" and leave it at that?

  • Comment number 90.

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

  • Comment number 91.

    I'm surprised how few people have mentioned Blair's Christianity as a factor in his decision to go to War.

  • Comment number 92.

    Blair did what he considered to be the right thing to do in our national interest. The invasion of Iraq was inevitably an American decision. The idea that we could have invaded on our own is ludicrous. So Blair's choice was either to be seen to support the Americans in their invasion as a close ally or to stay out as Wilson did on Vietnam. If he thought it was in Britain's supreme interest politically and economically to be seen as a close ally of the USA then Blair had no choice but to go along with the invasion as a military partner. It is what he had to do.

    An alternative would be to integrate more fully with our partners in the European Union and formulate an effective EU wide foreign and defence policy - but this was unrealistic at the time of the Iraq invasion. In the future because of our much reduced financial clout we will be unable to take more than a marginal role in international military expeditions and have even less influence on the defence policy of the USA or anyone else. This enquiry is purely of academic interest insofar as it affects future policy.

    People forever examining the entrails of past policy decisions do no more than waste taxpayers money. The Chilcott enquiry will do nothing to change anything in the future. The tired old phrase 'lessons will be learnt' is about all that will come out of this bout of navel gazing. Coming to terms with the reality of the UK's position in the world seems to be impossible for some people.

  • Comment number 93.

    After a day of listening to Blair on the the radio and his "no regrets", I have just finished watching 'The Hurt Locker" this evening.

    This war has killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and ruined the lives of millions of iraqis. It has killed thousands of UK and USA lives and ruined hundreds of thousands of UK and USA lives. Even the hundreds of thousands of UK & US soldiers that return without physical injury ...many of them will be psychologically damaged.

    This single war has ruined the lives of millions of people around the world.

    It reminds me of the senior officers that commanded the soldiers in the WW1 trenches. The pawns on a chess board are expendable.

    It's all so so sad.

  • Comment number 94.

    #93 ed

    Maybe if people didn't sign up it wouldn't have happened.

  • Comment number 95.

    Unfair Criticism
    We seem to have short memories. If there had been a referendum at the time on the war decision, we would have gone to war. Polls showed a large majority in favour.
    We forget that Saddam was making the dithering international community a laughing stock (16 resolutions...'no, no its really your final warning this time....), with all the other rogue state leaders being encouraged that they too could flout international law with impunity.
    We also forget all the lives saved when we acted in Kosovo and Bosnia.
    It is easier to put names and faces to the people who died from taking action, but the truth is many more had died due to Saddam's brutal regime, and more people would be dead today if he had been left in power.
    Being honest, none of us would really have wanted the decision, based on imperfect information, as to whether to act and incur loss of life, or to fail to act and incur a high risk of much greater loss of life.
    Tony Blair has my admiration for one of the most courageous leaders in the 20th century. Nobody would have chosen to be in that situation, but when it came he weighted up the information and acted in line with his principles, and the expressed support of the opposition parties (now hiding away in cowardice) and the popular support of the country.
    Armchair criticism using hindsight is too easy. Of course mistakes were made (reconstruction planning) but I have not heard anyone make a convincing argument for an effective alternative way to deal with the threat that was posed.

  • Comment number 96.

    Blair took us into Iraq. My reading of events is that following the initially successful invasion of Afghanistan (which I supported, and still support, following 9/11) both the G.W. Bush neocons and Blair believed that regime change was both practical and desirable.

    Iraq was a mistake. Saddam, brutal dictator though he was, wasn't the threat that G.W. Bush and Blair believed.
    I didn't believe, at the time this war started that Saddam:
    A) Could strike us within 45 minutes.
    B) Wanted to do so, anti-American though he was.

    I also don't think that a strong country has any a right to invade a weaker country, just because it can.
    History shows many examples of this (e.g. 1066, Poland in 1939), but I hope that international opinion and an increasingly interconnected world is dissuading political leaders of this course.

    I still believe the Iraq war was due to G.W. Bush (and D. Rumsfeld) thinking it represented unfinished business from his father's period in office in the1990s (Kuwait & Desert Storm). Iraq was the result of a family feud.

    Iraq was a mistake because it took our eyes off Afghanistan, where following Tora-Bora it should have been obvious that the Taliban would eventually regroup and fight a guerrilla war; they hadn't been utterly defeated. Afghanistan is where we should have concentrated our efforts.

    Was Iraq a mistake? In my view, strategically, yes.
    The Rumsfeld doctrine of regime change was flawed from the start, and lessons should be learnt from that. (The fall of a capital city, or its leader, doesn't mean that a war is won. There are now quite a few books about how unprepared the USA was for the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, and how badly it was handled.)

    For those that have lost loved ones. I do understand feelings that those they loved died for an undeserved cause.
    Those that oppose war under any circumstances will inevitably be hostile to Blair.

    Have there been any benefits from the Iraq invasion?
    It's probably too early to form an opinion. Saddam is no longer in power and his psychopathic sons are not in a position to succeed him.
    But Iraq is not stable, to put it mildly; and Iraq and Iran used to be one country (Mesopotamia) until divided by Britain and France following WW1; something I'm sure Iran hasn't forgotten.

    So to the issue of 'regret'.
    If you go to war then people, particularly those in the armed services, will die or be injured. That is a hard truth.
    If you join the armed services then you must expect to be sent to war. That is another hard truth.
    Does Blair feel that with hindsight he was wrong to take the decision he did? Clearly not. Saddam also did the unthinkable; of getting rid of his WMD, whilst pretending he hadn't.

    Blair had to make a judgement call. I believe his judgment over Iraq was wrong, he doesn't; but having made it he stands by it.

    Are there are positives from the Iraq war? Well, Saddam is gone. That the coalition was prepared to take such a step almost certainly has had an impact on other leaders in the region. e.g Gadaffi.

    As for political leadership in the future.
    I would prefer to see all international disputes resolved by negotiation etc (Jaw Jaw better than War War - Churchill); but, there may be instances where that is not possible.

    "If a dog makes a dash for my trousers, I shoot him down before he can bite."
    Churchill on Hitler, October 1930; that's before Hitler took power in Germany.
    Churchill recognised a threat when he saw one.

    How will we handle Iran if it gets nuclear capability and threatens to destroy Israel?

  • Comment number 97.

    Here's a thought - could he have an eye on coming back as Labour leader post Brown ? He clearly wanted to be the first European President but for reasons we all know that attempt failed. What's left for him other than his - very lucrative, agreed - lecture circuit. People like Blair do not go willingly into that dark night..He might fancy his chances of defeating a lightweight (words of Obama) like Cameron...

  • Comment number 98.

    Nick

    You made great play in your report on Blair of his hands but you did not apparently notice the lack of adornment of the ring finger of his left one. Where has the wedding ring gone?

    Rick

  • Comment number 99.

    It is interesting to note what (96. At 03:22am on 30 Jan 2010) SheffTim wrote: How will we handle Iran if it gets nuclear capability and threatens to destroy Israel?

    It seems many here are not giving breathing room to judgement in human reasoning, and few seem to realise the key in decision making is timing. Due process and due diligence are worthy and desirable, but often speedy action dictates itself. I recognise some might say "some politicians will use this 'action imperative' as an excuse to bolster their own image, and reputation." That is as maybe.

    But the tension between genuine judgement and due process can be a close call.

    Iran does seem to be a much more difficult issue - the risks involved are huge. A nuclear war between Iran and Israel could erupt and the resulting scale of deaths and disasters will make all previous conflicts pale into insignificance. It may be THIS is what the jihadists want.

    I think 96. (SheffTims) last point deserves to be more than an after thought. Perhaps a war like Iraq, in Iran's back yard, gave that country cause to pause. Perhaps a judgement like that formed part of Blair's decision making. However, Blair does not say. Perhaps he is wise not to.

  • Comment number 100.

    Nicks performance in reporting this matter in the last 24 hours has been nothing short of scurrilous !

    On the BBC News last night we were privileged to receive an excellent summary of proceedings from Lansdale. Measured, restrained and wholly worthy of the BBCs best political reporting.

    This was followed by 'a nervous ' report from a 'trembling' Nick 'white-faced' and 'piquey' looking 'apparently miffed' at his number two role, on this occasion. In contrast to Lansdale we get, and continue to get,subjective piffle from Robinson. Redtop paper populism.

    Last nights performance and 'Inside the Iraq inquiry 1' blog just do not cut it professionaly and are a very poor harbinger for 'Tory Boys' reporting of the election.

    I do'nt expect humbug from the BBC !

 

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