Friday 29 January 2010

Tony Blair - Yesterday's Man

As predicted earlier this week, the giddy excitement about Tony Blair's 'Judgement Day' at the Iraq Inquiry turned almost inevitably to disappointment today.

As expected, the level of forensic examination by the mild-mannered members of the inquiry was poor, even on the basics. Pulling their punches repeatedly, they allowed Blair to once again misrepresent the text of UN resolution 1441 to justify his decisions, even though it required Security Council endorsement for military action that was never forthcoming. They failed to follow up on alternatives to invasion, even though we know there were back-channel discussions about the prospects of exile for the Iraqi tyrant. They even allowed him to repeat without real challenge his preposterous exaggeration about the level of threat from Saddam, long discredited by what we know now about intelligence failings and by the absence of WMDs.

And Blair was entirely predictable too - still convinced that he always does the right thing, still repeating his 'rules of the game have changed' routine and saying yet again that he had no regrets. His was like a voice from the past, with a message that Blair will probably still repeat to himself as he one day shuffles around an expensive American retirement home in his dressing gown. The only thing that was a little new was expanding his new-found public embrace of the benefits of 'regime change' - never the justification when rallying supine Labour MPs back in 2003 - to include threats to Iran, which is well beyond the remit of the Inquiry. Quite how Blair intends to step back into his supposed role as Middle East 'peace' envoy after today's performance is a mystery.

We knew before today's hearing that the only way that Blair will ever face genuine scrutiny will be under the interrogation of a prosecution counsel - and let's be honest, that's incredibly unlikely. Whilst I entirely applaud the efforts of George Monbiot in setting up the website Arrest Blair and offering a a reward to people attempting a peaceful citizen’s arrest of the former prime minister, even George recognises this is largely symbolic. I suspect that Flying Rodent over on Liberal Conspiracy is right to say that Blair will "continue shambling around the world jamming great fistfuls of dollars into his pockets in the full glare of the public eye", hopefully jeered as a war criminal at every turn. But spending huge amounts of time and effort trying to get him into a courtroom in The Hague seems like a enormous waste of energy.

Whether he likes it or not, Blair's historical legacy has already been written, whatever the justifications he came out with today. The Iraq Inquiry is likely to do little more than add further damage to his reputation. But with war grinding on in Afghanistan and the possibility of new military conflicts in Iran, Yemen and even possibly Haiti, the anti-war movement also needs to be prepared to move on.

Don't get me wrong: in the event that Blair is picked up at an airport in some distant part of the world and incarcerated, I'll crack open a bottle and celebrate. But if he ends his days still forlornly proclaiming that he was always right, ignored and largely forgotten, an embarrassing reminder of a discredited and misguided era, then that too will be a satisfying punishment for a politician who so obviously adores the limelight.

1 Comment:

Anonymous said...

"Non, je ne regrette rien".... sang mister Blair though doubt he has the same singing voice as Edith Piaf.

It was appalling, the 'questioning' was shocking, nothing adversarial about any of it. They missed a trick when they didn't ask why Iraq was not discussed at Cabinet level etc.

It is just all a sick joke!

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