Tag Archives: Chilcot

Blair’s Dodgy Decision Making

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tony-blair

 

Judging by all the searingly emotional and often savage reactions to Tony Blair as a result of the invasion of Iraq, the continuing death toll and the Chilcot Report, purely for balance, I think it would be interesting if there was more understanding of Blair’s decision-making process. Such an understanding  may help many to begin to comprehend what prompted Tony Blair to invade and destroy a sovereign state.

I am certainly not a fan of Blair’s (and neither am I an apologist for Blair or his actions)…. but I do think it only fair that everyone should at least attempt to understand what he may have gone through in the weeks before he gave the green light for the British military to invade Iraq.

He is often portrayed as some sort of monster-warmonger and yet he was so loved by the majority of the British electorate until the moment that he latched onto George W. Bush’s shirt tails. Plus, he is a barrister and I therefore, I believe him to be a moral and honourable man.

Many decisions delivered by senior people are made on historical data rather than measurement. In other words, whenever a problem arises analogies are drawn between today’s problem and past difficulties with a decision being made on what may have provided reasonable solutions in the past. I hate labels but this is known as ‘decision-making by analogy’. In Saddam’s case it was “Remove the bad bloke and then it will  be much easier for us to put everything right.”

The question as to whether it was Blair’s job to ‘put everything right’ is not relevant  and debatable but throughout history, removing the bad guy at the top has proved to be the correct fix….and I believe that removal of Saddam was Bair’s core assumption and the premis upon which he based everything that followed.

Nowadays it is widely recognised that the best decision-making method is a systematic logical approach which actually looks at all the alternatives available, together with all possible consequences. This method removes what is known as the ‘gut’ decision and also takes all the emotion out of the decision-making process. This is not an infallible system any more than decision-making by analogy.  It is simply the best available to us at this time.

Here’s the simple straight-line thought process:

  1. Set objectives. In this case it would have been to remove Saddam Hussein and by doing so, to introduce democracy to Iraq.
  2. Evaluate objectives. For instance, would killing Saddam conflict with other goals and is democracy the right answer for a society with such a complex social system of religion, class, sect, politics and ethnicity?
  3. Collect information. The intelligence services were so obsessed with a specific type of information that everything else appeared to be ignored.  Was the correct information collected?
  4. Analyse all the information. Then re-analyse it.
  5. Develop alternatives. In this case, were different methods available? For instance, killing Saddam Hussein or possibly taking him out of Iraq. Did the Iraqi people actually understand what was meant by democracy? In which case, might it have simply been a case of replacing the man at the top rather than relying on people who had neither sense nor experience of government?
  6. Evaluation of all of the alternatives and then choosing the ‘best’ all-round alternative. For instance, the assassination of Saddam may have done the trick. Remember Gen Colin Powell pointing to possible WMD sites on satellite maps? Would destruction of those have emasculated Saddam?
  7. Communicating the final decision to all stakeholders – including Saddam and his people.
  8. Setting up control systems by deciding what was to be measured, how it was to be measured and when. Whatever solution was chosen, its effectiveness  and consequences needed to be measured or estimated.
  9. Implementing the decision after proper preparation and a detailed plan, including several ‘consequence’ scenarios.
  10. Finally, it’s the evaluation of the decision/solution. If the original objective was to introduce  Iraq to democracy – has it been successful?

In retrospect, it appears to be quite obvious that a modern approach to decision-making was not used, and that Tony Blair had made the decision to remove Saddam Hussein as an end and not as a means to an end.

However, when Tony Blair says that he feels that he took the ‘right’ decision, I believe him.

I also think that the root cause of everything that has happened since Blair made the decision to invade Iraq was a total lack of knowledge of a proper decision-making process compounded by an unnecessarily emotional attachment to George W Bush plus a strange and  yet-to-be-explained craving for a place in the history books.

Blair has certainly earned his place in history…so it really was a personal ‘Mission Accomplished’….but not as an evil person, merely as an incompetent.

Blair ne regrette rien

 

Sometimes history slips out of buff government folders and falls into the rough-and-tumble of current affairs, creates an impression, is rewritten and is quietly replaced in its folder – but not this time.

I missed the (almost) live feed of Tony Blair’s appearance at the Chilcot Iraq Inquiry and my subsequent viewing of  a recording of the day had all the qualities of watching  a tape of a football game after I had learned the result.  Many of the press articles on the following Saturday morning contained  what appeared to be pre-polished phrases and sentences – as if they had been written before Blair’s performance. Sometimes, political comment gave way to bar-room psychology and  biased-reporting seemed to have achieved a  re-birth.  Supposition appeared to give way to facts. It all seemed quite messy and unnecessarily over-emotional.

The first impressions were of placards outside the Queen Elizabeth Halls and people in anoraks chanting “We all live in a terrorist regime” – rather bizarrely, to the tune of the Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine“. Then the inevitable interview with an inarticulate lady whose son had been killed. As usual , she  couldn’t “find the words” but wanted to know why her son had been killed. Grave-looking TV newsreaders were conveying their disapproval of Blair, even before he’d had a chance to explain himself.

The odds appeared stacked against Blair.

As he sat at his table, ready to face Chilcot, the first thing that you noticed was that the boyish charm that had propelled him so far in the late 90s had gone. This was an expensively-suited, more serious introspective-looking Blair who had brought a rather thick lever-arch file to act as his comfort blanket and would allow him precious thinking time as he flicked through its pages when asked a difficult question. We knew that many of the people seated behind him were relatives of soldiers who had been killed in Iraq and if previous reports were true, they were angry; an only-just-contained mob which could strike at any minute. Blair’s hand shook as he filled his glass with bottled water.

This was British theatre at its best.

The following six hours were destined to  rewrite Blairs’ place in history and at that moment, many were anticipating  the odd admission, the odd touch of contrition, the odd apology and the odd regret. Once again, the “hand of history” was hovering over Blair’s shoulder.

The day unfolded to the gasping realisation that Blair was going to be having none of it. He defended and justified his position to the hilt. Contrition – forget it. Apologies – none.

Instead we had an exhibition of absolute self-regard – only just this side of vainglorious arrogance. There was even the odd laugh.

Previous witnesses had made it clear that the legal case for the invasion of Iraq was “constructed” and Blair was not only able to adopt the  “I was only following advice” stance  but showed that what has been interpreted as his “lying” was no more than the sum of his own self-justifying twisted reasoning and mutated thinking.

During awkward questioning, he would try and change the subject, use  the “unfinished sentence”  technique or even take his reasoning into a verbal “cul-de-sac” without actually answering the question.  The stage-hesitation coupled to  the slightly downward stare, the occasional shrug of the shoulders were all back!.  It was to be a master-class in the art of   provincial barristering.

So how did an apparently astute politician such as Blair manage to put himself in such an awkwardly – almost untenable position?  How had he managed to paint himself  into a corner? Back to the hand of history:

9/11 had undoubtedly given George W  Bush the opportunity to make a tenuous connection between Saddam Hussein, al Qaeda and the Twin Towers. That was when the decision to invade Iraq had been made. What followed over the next year-or-so was simply a sales pitch to Blair, Jack Straw and Peter Goldsmith.

Saddam had blotted his copy-book several years earlier by invading Kuwait. What is not generally known is that Iraq has laid claim to Kuwait for many years. Kuwait would have given Iraq direct and much-needed access to the Persian Gulf. Baghdad had laid claim to Kuwait since the 1930s – ever since Kuwait was a British Protectorate (Kuwait did not achieve independence fro the United Kingdom until 1961). When Saddam finally invaded Kuwait, fellow Arab states saw this a far less objectionable than Jewish Israel’s appropriation of Arab Palestine. But because of Western interests, a series of United Nations resolutions were passed on Iraq in 1990. Saddam’s intransigence and military “munchausenisms”  made the end-game inevitable.

Blair and Bush always referred to Saddam as a tyrant who killed his own people with weapons of mass destruction. That was true – but there is a context.

Saddam had spent years fighting the fanaticism of Islamic revolution in the Middle East. His own regime was grounded in Ba’athism which was  a brand  of  Arab Socialism  that owed more to Moscow than to Mecca.  Everywhere but in Iraq, ideology was beginning to defer to theology. Consequently, he was viewed with suspicion by his neighbours who were busying themselves with Islam-driven political re-engineering. The West did not like him because of his Mussolini-like macho posturing  and his refusal to be bullied by succesive American Presidents.

In those days the social climate in Iraq was far more liberal that in the rest of the Middle East  and Saddam was not considered to be either the  religious bigot or   crazed tyrant that he has been portrayed by both Bush administrations.

However, there was one major 1988 episode which would provide the catalyst for the Blair/Bush invasion of Iraq and which forever sealed Saddam’s reputation as a terrorist bogeyman.  The Kurds in the north of Iraq welcomed Iranian invaders into Iraq and were consequently attacked with mustard and nerve gas by the Iraqi air-force . The manner of their death has without doubt not-only made this one of the most appalling episodes in human history but subsequently enabled Bush and Blair to promulgate Saddam as a “monster capable of  anything”.

It was Saddam’s reputation and attitude which clouded the West’s every single subsequent Iraq-linked  decision. That in turn, led to the  2003 invasion of Iraq and the deaths of over 100,000 people. A Royal Running Flush of UN resolutions would have made little difference and as for the “legality” of bombing  and invading a non-aggressive state – it was irrelevant. The United States had already decided to invade Iraq and would have done so with or without Blair’s connivance. British participation in the war was firmly in the “nice to have” category and served only to give the invasion a superficial legitimacy. 

Politically, it can be argued that Blair had made the right decision. Although in the 2005 General Election, Labour’s Westminster seat-count  went down to 356  (from 413  in 2001), the still-healthy Labour majority demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that  Blair was continuing to enjoy the backing of the British voter. That was in spite of the 2003 Hutton Inquiry.

Tony Blair now says that his reference to  the fact that Saddam was capable of deploying  weapons “within 45 minutes” referred to “battlefield” weapons and not ballistic weapons. That suggests either a total lack of communication skill on Blair’s part, or a very selective use of information and misinformation. There is little doubt that Blair was in a hurry: He told us that Saddam’s weapons capability was “active, detailed and growing”. That appears to be a statement designed to motivate and hurry the country to action. Blair was in a hurry because Bush was in a hurry.

Later, Blair said that it was the future threat which Saddam posed which meant that action “had to be taken” . His earlier television interview with Fern Britton demonstrated the full extent of his clouded judgement and inconsistent thinking when he said that he would have removed Saddam regardless of whether or not he had Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Blair seemed to be clutching at every excuse and justification that came to mind – even if they contradicted each other.

Jack Straw’s  and Peter Goldsmiths evidence has clearly demonstrated that the legality of the invasion was “finely balanced”.  Therefore, one would assume that because the invasion of a foreign state is such a profoundly major event, one would naturally err on the side of caution and not invade.

Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s entire retinue of 27 Foreign Office lawyers thought that the invasion of Iraq would be illegal.  Unfortunately, Straw failed to convey that message to No 10. Why? Probably because  he knew that  some bosses only want to hear either the good news or the news which happens to dovetail with their own judgements.

Blair’s most memorable moment at the Chilcot Inquiry occurred when Chilcott asked him directlly whether he (Blair) had any regrets. This was Blair’s big opportunity and he blew it.  He said that he felt “Responsibility but not regret”. He was implying that Saddam-like, he felt no regret for over 100,00 dead soldiers and civilians.  He delivered his pre-prepared  and ill-judged  “no regret” vignette   to the chorus of “Murderer” and “You’re a liar”. Finally the gallery behind were able to have  their say.

It is doubtful that this is the way that Blair would wish to be remembered by history.  Remembering Saddam’s dignified exit as he stood quietly on the trapdoor while his executioners screamed obsceneties at him makes you think that Saddam may yet have the last laugh.

When that lever was pulled – it ended several careers.

 

Curiouser and Curiouser!

“Peter Goldsmith? He was following orders.”

The rather unpredictable way that the Chilcot inquiry is shaping up suggests that a “top-down” approach to  witness-questioning may have been far more effective approach.

The inquiry began with the “foot-soldiers” and is gradually working its way up to  Blair  as the “top-of-the-bill” star of the show. The curent “bottom-up” approach has given  Blair and his team of media-advisers and speech coaches time.

Inevitably, they will have been monitoring, interpreting and re-interpreting every single question and answer so far given during the inquiry.  By tomorrow evening they will be able to enhance Blair’s answers with those subtle shades  of language which will persuade everyone that white is black and black is white. Prepare for a Nadal-Murray-type game of “semantics ping-pong” with the occasional injection of self-justification.

It now seems that not-only most of the population but ALL of Blair’s legal advisers were (and still are) of the opinion that the invasion of Iraq was a “Crime of Aggression”. Parents of young soldiers killed in Iraq are already lining up to ask why their child was shot or blown-up – because they certainly were not fighting to “defend the realm”.

Former Foreign Office legal adviser Sir Michael Wood’s testimony was devastating to Blair but it was Elizabeth Wilmshurst, his former deputy who stole the show with her totally uncompromising manner and straight-talking. She even managed to inflame the gallery to such an extent that they rewarded her candour with a noisy round of applause.

One small matter has been overlooked- and that is the silence of the United Nations before, during and after the destruction of Iraq. It would be very interesting to see what their legal eagles’ views were.

Today, Blair’s warm-up act is performing. It  is the turn of Blair’s close friend, Lord Goldsmith. It will be very interesting to hear how he went from  warning  Blair  (by letter) in July 2002 that invading Iraq could be illegal  to sanctioning the invasion seven months later, even after seeking explicit approval from the UN had failed.

On 7 March 2003, Goldsmith warned the government that although Saddam could be said to be in breach of his international obligations, British forces could still face legal action if they participated in an invasion. Ten days later, he issued a brief statement saying invasion would be lawful and the bombing began on March 20th. Hopefully there will be some very intriguing “timing” questions.

There has always been talk of Goldsmith being pressured into making a firm decision on the legality of an Iraqi invasion. It seems that he was not-only subjected to political pressure but there were additional rarely-publicised commercial pressures.

There has been one notable absentee from the Chilcot inquiry; Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, a former Political Director at the Foreign Office, was not-only a BBC Governor but also chairman of QinetiQ. This is the privatised company which was formerly known as the Royal Aircraft Establishment, Farnborough. 

QinetiQ  was  closely linked with the Carlyle Group and with several US armaments companies. These companies were already supplying weapons for use in the Iraq conflict – even before Dr David Kelly had expressed his doubts about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction and before Lord Goldsmith had decided on the legality of the invasion.

At the time, the BBC was suggesting that the decision to go to war was based on a lie and Andrew Gilligan had “blown open”  the Dr David Kelly case. It has been alleged that Neville-Jones used her dual role as chairman of QinetiQ and BBC governor to punish the BBC for their reporting and by implication, their dissent. 

At the time , the BBC was questioning the reasons and justification  for the invasion of Iraq , which were primarily  the 45-minute “warning” and the “Weapons of Mass Destruction.”  This when Blair is said to have begun his “strong”-arm tactics. 

Alistair Campbell insisted on Blair’s behalf that  heads should roll at the BBC.  Allegedly,  Dame Pauline Neville-Jones, kept on pressuring her fellow governors until they agreed to give Blair  his wish and sack BBC Director General Greg Dyke – whereupon the Chairman Gavyn Davies and Andrew Gilligan both resigned.

Let us hope that the six hours each that Goldsmith and Blair have at the Chilcot Inquiry are enough because there is still so much to know. 

Brown Whitewash?

Chilcot Inquiry

During the latest Prime Minster’s Question Time, Angus Robertson of the SNP  asked Gordon Brown: “The Chilcot inquiry has heard that you were in the Iraq war inner circle and refused key payments for our troops on the front line. Will you confirm to the house that there is no impediment for you to seek a time to give evidence to the Chilcot inquiry before the general election?”

Gordon Brown replied: “This is, as I said, a matter for the Chilcot inquiry. I have written to Sir John Chilcot and I have said to him that I am happy to give evidence at any time. That is a matter for the committee to decide, but I will take whatever advice he gives me about when he wishes me to appear.”

Gordon Brown had already written to Sir John Chilcot and had said “I want to make it absolutely clear I am prepared to give evidence whenever you see fit.”

Chilcot fears that the Inquiry may become “politicised” as a result of the Prime Minister’s appearance – which will be within the next two months – and prior to the General Election.

The Chilcot Inquiry’s interrogation of Brown will probably be the equivalent of being flagellated by a warm marshmallow-on-a-rope.

Make no mistake, Brown would have preferred not to have been questioned at all –  but for pressure from the Opposition parties – notably Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The Iraq invasion was a transparently illegal act of war. A sovereign state was invaded and that is why many say that the Brits and Americans should now be asked to pay reparations to the Iraqi people.  In spite of the fact that there was more-or-less all-Party agreement and support for the invasion, it is the waythat that Parliamentary support was solicited and obtained that is in question. So, whether or not Chilcot agrees, this is a political matter.

It is probable that a Prime Minister lied to Parliament – possibly with the full knowledge of his co-conspirators – with Brown among them.

At the time, Brown was  Goering to Blair’s Fuhrer,  so in reality, they should both be standing shoulder-to-shoulder in the dock, next to that latter-day Joseph Goebbels – Alastair Campbell.

I make no apology for the Nazi parallels because it is becoming increasingly evident that the Cabinet was manipulated, as were Members of Parliament of all Parties. It seems that for a short time, democracy was a stranger to British politics.

Brown has to explain in detail,  his part in the decision to invade Iraq in 2003.

Jack Straw made it abundantly clear to the inquiry that he was anti the invasion and subsequent destruction of Iraq. At the time, it was the generally accepted feeling of both politicians and the secret services that any invasion of a Muslim state would result in increased terrorist activity targetted at the invading countries – and so it has come to pass.

Consequently, more and more of the United Kingdom’s and America’s resources are now focused on the “war on terrorism” which appears to consist of  no more than sending young soldiers to obscure places to be blown up and the UK  and USA “spook”  population running around in ever-decreasing circles in the sure knowledge that their political masters have ensured that they have a spooking  job for life.

The arithmetic is simple. Many more hundreds of thousands of people have been  bombed,  shot or blown up as a result of the West’s misguided attempts “prevent” terrorism, than have ever been killed by actual acts of terrorism.

Blair will be questioned next Friday – by then most of  the supporting acts will have done their “turn”. Let us hope that Brown’s interrogation takes place while feelings are still running high and that the Brown-hand-picked Chilcot committee temporarily puts all thoughts of future Peerages on the back burner and does its  job.

So far, their questioning technique is about as incisive as that of a old parish priest taking confession from a nun. Regrettably, there are no barristers present so we must not expect fireworks but it is hoped that Chilcot’s kindly old duffers pep up their somewhat moribund tennis-club-committee style of interrogation.

Originally, Conservative Leader David Cameron dismissed the Chilcot Inquiry as “an establishment stitch-up”. Let us hope that he was wrong. 

Blair the Invader

Tony Blair was a bad Prime Minister and his tenure at Downing Street was underpinned by nothing more than spin and window-dressing.

He is now attempting to justify his illegal aiding and abetting of that insaniac George W Bush’s mission to complete the Iraq job – or more specifically, his own father’s (George Bush Snr’s) failure to subdue Saddam in the 1990s.

Blair’s spinning habits have not changed at all and that is why he is suddenly acquiescing to the odd interview prior to his appearance at the Chilcot inquiry. That should be a laugh because judging by the inquiry events so far, Chilcot has already dipped the roller in the whitewash and is about to start redecorating the facts.

One hates to cloud the issues with facts but the only important one is that George W Bush and Tony Blair illegally invaded a sovereign state. They both knew that there were no Weapons of Mass Destruction.

Those two are the sole reason for the recent world-wide expansion of the terrorist industry.

Saddam was a merciless tyrant and was not the most popular leader but Iraq was stable, there were no terrorists blowing themselves up and there was nowhere-near the current body-count.

Imposing sanctions on Iraq so that, for instance. there weren’t enough medicines and then  refusing Iraq the ability to sell its oil were both clumsy amateurish attempts to paint Saddam into a corner. He and the Iraqi people felt very vulnerable and were easy prey to anyone who felt like invading them. It is no surprise therefore that Saddam decided to “big himself up” by making all sorts of claims about Iraq’s military prowess.

Everyone with an iota of intelligence could see that Saddam’s pronouncements were nothing more than Generalissimo-type posturing and window-dressing.  All that is except that Dumb and Dumber of politics: Bush and Blair. The thick and the slimy.

Blair is not a bad person, although his conversion to Catholicism does suggest that he enjoys reading fiction such as the WMD dossier. His actions over Iraq do show him to be an incompetent, ill-informed manager. It is difficult to refer to him as a “leader” because that describes  a generic ability which he lacked in abundance. It is also an inability which he so cleverly passed-on to his successor.

What is most worrying though  is the fact that he (Blair) allowed himself to be led by Bush – a man who , one suspects would have had difficulty finding the Presidential helicopter parked on his own lawn.

Looking on the bright side though – had Gordon Brown succeeded John Smith, we definitely would not have invaded Iraq.  The inquiry would  still be in full swing.

Kelly Whitewash

 

It looks as if the inquest into the death of Dr David Kelly will be reopened so the that final doubts can be removed as to whether Dr Kelly did or did not commit suicide. Six eminent doctors are demanding a new inquiry.

They are: Michael Powers QC who is a former coroner; trauma surgeon David Halpin; Andrew Rouse, an epidemiologist who established that deaths from cutting the ulnar artery – as claimed in Dr Kelly’s case – are extremely rare; Martin Birnstingl, another surgeon; plus Stephen Frost and Chris Burns-Cox. They claim that suicide was NOT proved at Dr Kelly’s inquest.

The cuts that Dr Kelly Sustained would not have caused him to bleed to death – neither would have the drugs found in his body. The medication in his bloodstream amounted to no more than a normal dose of painkillers. The doctors are basing their insistence for another inquiry on a medical technicality. This is what they said: “We have concentrated on the finding on the death certificate that the primary cause of death was a haemorrhage. We are spelling out why he could not have died from a cut to the small ulnar artery.”

The doctors are asking for permission to go to the High Court to reopen the inquest on the grounds that it was improperly suspended. If Baroness Scotland, the Attorney General  rejects that demand, or the court turns them down, their lawyers say they will have grounds to seek a judicial review of the decision. The inquest into Dr Kelly’s death was suspended before it could begin by order of the then Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer

Dr Kelly was found dead at a beauty spot near his Oxfordshire home in 2003, days after he was exposed as the source of a story that Tony Blair’s government ’sexed-up’ its dossier on Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction to justify invading Iraq.

It now seems that what many people have always suspected could be true: the 2003 Hutton inquiry into Dr Kelly’s death was a Blair-orchestrated whitewash. Hutton himself had been chosen to lead the enquiry by Tony Blair’s former flatmate, Lord Falconer. Hopefully, the whole affair will add another interesting dimension to the current  Chilcot inquiry.

Let us hope that the 6 year-old campaign to prove that Dr Kelly was murdered was not in vain – and well done to Norman Baker MP who has been at the forefront of the Kelly-suicide deniers. Norman Baker’s book on the unanswered questions surrounding the case, concluded that Dr Kelly may have been murdered by Iraqi exiles – but the finger has also been pointed at MI5 and the CIA.

We are yet to enjoy the long-overdue sight of Blair squirming as he attempts to deliver his version of the truth.