I watched British ex-Prime Minister Tony Blair’s six-hour testimony before the Iraq inquiry in London today (January 29, 2010). It was a stubborn performance in his own defense and that of his close friend and ally, former US President George W Bush. Here are ten points made by Blair that struck me particularly:
- Blair said he had told Bush from the start that if the United States went to war in Iraq he would be with him.
- He did what was right in joining the invasion and would do it again.
- George W Bush decided UN backing for the invasion was not necessary.
- Russia and France, in Blair’s view, changed their position which prevented the second United Nations resolution authorizing force.
- The British cabinet did not want to be part of the legal debate on the Iraq invasion – The inquiry panel thought it should have been.
- Blair asserted that a humanitarian crisis after the invasion of Iraq was avoided – The evidence is contrary and overwhelming.
- He claimed that Iran today posed a greater threat than in 2003. He indicated that a similar military action might now be necessary against Iran.
- Claimed that extensive preparations had been made for the aftermath of the invasion, until al Qaeda and Iran began to play the role they did.
- What became clear in time [in answering questions about multi-layered conflict, including civil war] was not a lack of resources but a lack of security.
- At the end, the Iraq inquiry Chairman, Sir John Chilcot, asked Blair whether he had any regrets for the very high cost of invading Iraq, including deaths of British troops and Iraqi civilians. Blair had no regrets.
The inquiry chairman hinted that Blair might be called again before the panel. As the day’s proceedings ended, the former prime minister was booed from the public gallery and there were shouts of ‘come on’, ‘liar’ and ‘murderer’. Outside, there were demonstrations throughout the day.
There are those who feel Blair’s cross-examination should have been tougher. My view is that the panel’s questioning was pointed, persistent and tough.
It revealed the mindset that remains unaltered nearly seven years after he and George W Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq, with disastrous consequences.