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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Contradicting Tony Blair

No sooner has Tony Blair stepped off the witness stand at the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq war and people are lining up to contradict him. In this case it is Lord Wilson and Lord Turnbull, who were both heads of the civil service under Mr Blair, neither of whom recognise the picture he painted of a fully informed and unanimous cabinet set to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

According to today's Independent, both former Cabinet Secretaries made it clear that senior ministers were not kept up to date with Mr Blair's intentions:

Far from keeping his Cabinet in the loop, Lord Wilson, the Cabinet Secretary from 1998 to 2002, said Mr Blair assured them in April 2002 that "nothing was imminent".

"I don't think anyone would have gone away thinking they had authorised a course of action that would lead to military action," Lord Wilson said.

Lord Turnbull, who took over the job in the summer of 2002, described how he fundamentally disagreed with Mr Blair's version of events. "I shook my head when I heard [Mr Blair's evidence]," he told the inquiry. He noted a "mismatch between where the Prime Minister's thinking was and how much that was shared with his colleagues".

"The Prime Minister basically said, 'They knew the score.' That isn't borne out by what actually happened," he said. "By the summer [of 2002], he'd largely made up his mind at a time when his colleagues were a long way behind."

He said Mr Blair had repeatedly put off discussing the policy of invading Iraq until shortly before military action began in March 2003. He also confirmed key policy papers detailing the possibility of military action against the Iraqi dictator were not shown to many Cabinet members.

"None of those really key papers were presented to the Cabinet, which is why I don't accept the former Prime Minister's claim that they knew the score," he said.

The former Prime Minister may be a masterful performer when put on the spot but, as the Chilcot Inquiry is finding, his evidence was not as clear cut as he would like us to believe.
I didn't listen to the former Prime Minister's second 'roasting' or feather-dusting (take your pick), but it seems to me that the PM of the day would respond along the lines of:

It might be that some cabinet members or senior civil servants might feel that they were not fully informed, but as the Prime Minister at that time I can tell you that there were as fully informed as they should be not withstanding that I myself was still formulating what the UK response should be on an on-going basis as events unfolded keeping in mind that even I as Prime Minister was kept in the dark due in part to miscommunications or I simply not knowing what the President or White House was thinking at any given time. What I mean is, there were times when I wasn't fully informed so it's difficult under those circumstances to explain what is going on when I in fact didn't know what was always going on in detail at the White House.

"So you really were a Bush poodle ... then?"

(Sounds of laughter from the audience)

TB: I don't fully understand what you mean. Perhaps you mean was I a dog when all these events were happening? If you meant that, then I say to you that I was a good dog, an obedient dog, but to my wife, not President Bush or the White House.

(More laughter.)

"I think you understand fully what I mean ... but moving on ..."

Forgive me XYzee, but I thought that was a good response! I have always been obedient to my wife!

(More laughter)
What's this with "...will be visible after dog owner approval"?

("Only Joking")

PS I'm up for writing a play or parody based on Tony Blair ... anyone want to co-write with me? Meaning, I will do most of the writing, you just have edit and sell it. I will expect an upfront payment of two toad stools, ten liquorish all-sorts, two moose, and a crab in a pear tree.
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