I’m not sure a lot that was new came out of Sir John Chilcot’s appearance before the liaison committee today but what it did show was his very naive willingness to believe and repeat what people tell him, often in spite of contemporaneous documentary evidence.
Chilcot quoted Jack Straw’s explanation for the failure of the Cabinet (including himself) to challenge Blair, as if anyone should ever believe anything that a devious toad like Straw says.
Similarly, he repeated Sir David Manning’s claim that Manning had tried to persuade Blair not to say “I will be with you, whatever” in his July 2002 letter to George W Bush. Here’s what Manning told the Inquiry:
SIR DAVID MANNING: I tried to take the first sentence out.SIR RODERIC LYNE:Why did you want to take the first sentence out?SIR DAVID MANNING:I didn’t think we should say that.SIR RODERIC LYNE: Because …?
SIR DAVID MANNING: It was too sweeping. It seemed to me to close off options, and I didn’t see that that was a sensible place to be.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about UK Washington ambassador Sir Christopher Meyer’s note to Manning, which preceded Blair’s note and in which Meyer recalled that he had told US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage that the US could
“rest assured that if and when the US decided to move against Saddam Hussein, the UK would be with them.”
Manning wrote on the note:
Christopher and I discussed the issues before he saw Armitage. I shall pick with Condi next week.
So Manning is happy for Meyer to tell the US that “if and when the US decided to move against Saddam Hussein, the UK would be with them” and will repeat the message to Condoleezza Rice.
But “I will be with you, whatever” is too sweeping and closes off options.