by Chris Ames
Writing on the CNN website, Tony Blair both tells us that it is too early to tell whether invading Iraq was a good idea and rehearses some of his excuses:
The actual lesson of Iraq is not complicated but clear. When you remove the dictator — no matter how vicious and oppressive — you end one battle only to begin another: How to stabilize and govern the country when the ethnic, tribal and particularly religious tensions are unleashed after the oppression has been lifted.
This is the true lesson of both Iraq and Afghanistan.
But it doesn’t mean that it is right to keep the dictator in place. Or possible. Because the lesson of what used to be called the “Arab Spring” — beginning in 2011 — is that with young and alienated populations deprived of political rights, these dictatorships no longer had the capability of maintaining control.
The real choice for the Middle East was, and is, reform or revolution. So when we come to reassess Iraq, it is possible to disagree strongly with the decision to remove Saddam Hussein in 2003, to be highly critical both of the intelligence on WMD and the planning for the aftermath, and yet still be glad that he is gone.
Blair again tries to suggest that it was the intelligence that he was given that was at fault, rather than his misrepresentation of it. He is so addicted to spin that he just can’t help it. This from the man who told us that intelligence described by the Butler Review as relatively thin and full of caveats was “extensive, detailed and authoritative“.
Meanwhile, the Telegraph reports General Lord Dannatt as telling Blair he should “maintain a dignified silence” until the Inquiry reports. Rather more interestingly, it also reports that Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron has written to David Cameron urging him to ensure that national security checks do not further delay publication:
Mr Farron said: “It is simply not good enough for this process to be continually delayed and the report must be published as soon as possible.
“The Prime Minister must now set out his own timetable and let the families know just how long his National Security Council needs to go through the report and get it out in the public domain”
Matthew Jury, from McCue and Partners who represents the families of servicemen killed in Iraq demand to know more detail about the national security vetting process to ensure the report was not a whitewash
He told The Telegraph: “This ‘vetting’ is another process that may, if mismanaged, misapplied or abused, cause further delay to the Report’s publication.
“The families have a right to know what the vetting process entails, who oversees it and, most importantly, how long it will take.
“From the very outset, a timetable and deadline must be imposed and adhered to.”