Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Chilcot Report Open Thread

An open thread, for anyone that wants to discuss today's Chilcot Report.

Indulge me for a minute of rambling first, though.  I imagine I'll return to this but for now, having wasted a decade bickering and complaining about exactly the type of stuff that Chilcot covers, I'll confess that the headline news is immensely gratifying.

Is it childish to take such a horrifying global issue quite personally?  Very well then, I am childish. 

So aside from the usual backstage politics stuff, the most important of Chilcot's conclusions are surely the sections on planning and provision for wars.  The bottom line - don't invade countries simply because the Prime Minister thinks it's a good idea, because there is a severe risk of getting very large numbers of people killed, including your own soldiers.

I'm also very pleased by the declaration that the Iraq disaster was anything but unforeseeable, and that those who prosecuted it intentionally ignored the - very prescient - warnings of exactly the consequences that might ensue.

Already, I've seen yelps and screeches and loud complaints that this will now make it more difficult for the UK to wage wars, and indeed it probably will.  I say, good: our track record in recent wars is appalling, and substantial reflection is now sorely needed.

I'm also pleased that it's dealt bluntly with the "Did the Government lie?" question, by announcing that the Government "exaggerated" its case for war.  This saves us the long, boring argument about the difference between "Public Relations" and "Lies", and allows us to simply note that misleading PR about wars is a considerably more serious matter than misleading PR about a £3 bottle of shampoo.

For me, its very welcome that Chilcot's conclusions come with the official imprimatur of the British state.  For far too long, any public figure arguing that e.g. the government exaggerated its case for war, or that its case for war was mere PR for a decision already taken, was likely to be mocked as a conspiracy theorist and a nutter.  The suggestion that Britain's involvement in the war increased the threat of terrorism was treated as tantamount to siding with Al Qaeda, if not outright incitement to violence.

That these straightforward points were demonstrably and obviously true, did not help at all with Britain's highly belligerent and obnoxious pro-war party.  Those people will still be belligerent and obnoxious tomorrow, but the difference is that the facts are now decisively on our side, because they're part of the official record.

And on Tony himself, well, what's left to be said?  He was a lunatic and a true-believer when he was Prime Minister and as he demonstrated today, he's still as mad as a box of frogs.

The main accusation against him is, I think, that he preferred to risk the lives of millions of people on his own windy, arse-extracted interpretation of events, rather than listening to the advice of people who actually knew what they were talking about.

So what does Tony do?  He gives a rambling, 45-minute press conference in which he confirms beyond all doubt that the accusation is absolutely correct.  

I used to think that there was method in his madness but now, I'm not so sure.  Looking at him today, he reminds me of people who have been accused of the most serious crimes.  Those people very rarely plead guilty and usually maintain their innocence, even in the face of the most overwhelming evidence.

Why do they do this, when a guilty plea might slash their sentence?  They do this because some crimes are so serious that the reputational damage is too horrible to accept, and because prisons are full of stab-happy killers with lots of time to whittle shivs.

They do it because it's better to go to jail wailing about a non-existent miscarriage of justice, than it is to admit to what you did and face the consequences.

Anyway, on that note, have at it - I'm sure that there are plenty of hilarious attempts to muddy the waters out there today, and there'll be thousands by tomorrow.

But the good news is that at long last, it's them who will have to prove their points beyond doubt.  It's scant comfort, but even that has been a long time coming.


chris e said...

I suspect that the report is long enough that those Very Serious People will just selectively quote, and then double down.

gastro george said...

Can't they just take Blair away somewhere, it's like Groundhog Day with all the media appearances, but maybe that's correct and he should be forced to do a press conference or interview every day as penance.

He's definitely straying even beyond the "I only know what I know" territory, though. This morning the line was more "the words don't matter, I know what I meant is this". Yes, Tony, but that's called an imaginary world.

organic cheeseboard said...

I note that e.g. James Bloodworth has, among others inc. Saint Blair, gone back to the old 'if you didn't support the war you have to take responsibility for what would have happened if the war was avoided' line which we've seen so often, including in that Sarah Ditum piece which we discussed last year. But I still don't buy it. To support the war you not only had to e.g. support the ousting of Saddam Hussain, but you also had to believe in the good intentions, and ability, of people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz, along with George W who is now being discussed as possibly the worst President of all time - this was, as even Blair's memos make abundantly clear, THEIR WAR. Blair also makes it clear in his memos - or at least, in a charitable reading of them - that British support didn't have to be military, it could be political.

To reiterate things I said last year wrt Sarah Ditum's piece, this was the choice - you might well 'be responsible for' continuing suffering in Iraq (though, again, I'm really not sure the logic holds firm here - doesn't this mean that we're all responsible for any suffering anywhere in the world all the time? Doesn't Blair have the blood of, I dunno, North Koreans on his hands, by his own horrible 'logic'?), but to compare that with actively advocating a war planned and executed by people who were literally selling Saddam bombs when he was at his most murderous - there's no equivalence here. You couldn't, as Nick Cohen seems to think, support the ousting of Saddam in 2003 without also supporting the people doing that ousting, who clearly didn't have the best intentions of Iraqi bus drivers et al in mind.

The response though, as I think you've said, from pro-war people is entirely predictable. Kamm for instance is sticking doggedly to the idea that 'Blair did not lie' but the report says "“The judgments about Iraq’s capabilities ... were presented with a certainty that was not justified.” So claiming that something is certain, when you know it is not, = telling the truth now? Bizarre.

Just to revert back to 2016, I find it interesting that Corbyn fans are said to belong to a 'cult', won't listen to reason, etc. This is true of some of them, I'm sure, but what Chilcot demonstrates is that this kind of fingers-in-the-ears hero-worship and active misrepresentation is hardly the domain of 'the far left' (of course JC fandom isn't the preserve of the far left but hey). For some, there's literally nothing JC could do that would be any good (eg that Kamm thing about JC being unable to appear in public without 'bringing his party into disrepute') - for these same people, Chilcot could have found messages where Blair said 'this is obvo illegal but fuck it, let's bomb some hospitals' and they'd still claim that anyone who doesn't think he's great has Gone Bezerk!

flyingrodent said...

I note that e.g. James Bloodworth has, among others inc. Saint Blair, gone back to the old 'if you didn't support the war you have to take responsibility for what would have happened if the war was avoided' line which we've seen so often...

Yes, and for the same reason that men in foxholes are prone to reciting Hail Marys - when the artillery is raining down and the situation is hopeless, there's not much else you can do.

It was one of Blair's shittiest tactics - There, I have dropped an army on Saddam's doorstep. Now, there are only two choices:

1) Bloodily invade Iraq or
2) Give Saddam a PR boost.

To which the most appropriate answer is, Yes, thanks to you, you arsehole.

There's been a disappointing dearth of post-Chilcot defences of the war, really. Even HP Sauce only put up one, and all it says is: Well, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

I think Aaro and Rentoul's efforts are the best that we're going to get, unless there are a few hidden hosannas in the report that they can hold up. And both of them are basically saying that, if you pretend that the report was never published, then it's quite easy to think that the Iraq War was a sensible idea.

And I'm not even sure that they're right about that.

gastro george said...

Interesting to hear the reaction from Iraqis (not often heard or referred to) on the Beeb = "Meh, didn't we know all that already?".

flyingrodent said...

Time for the results of the "How will Nick respond to Chilcot" sweepstake.

Who had "He'll utterly ignore it and proclaim that he is and has always been absolutely right, about absolutely everything"?

It is quite a remarkable performance, I have to say. There may well be people in the UK who could watch the incredible series of recent disasters and conclude that it all proves them correct, in every particular.

Nick ain't one of them.

Ken said...

It's the sheer preening frivolity of the Nick Cohen article that stands out. OK, even if the war was a disaster and led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, it was still wrong to oppose it because that would put you on the same side as Galloway and the SWP.