Blair’s righteous performance before Chilcot

I have never seen Tony Blair looking as nervous,
taut and defensive as he did at the Chilcot inquiry, says Ann Treneman in The
Times. But as the hours wore on, “like a lizard on a rock”, he absorbed the
heat of the spotlight until he began to glow “with something close to

No wonder, says AA Gill in The Sunday Times. The
“quartet of establishment flunkies” sat before him in awe. This was the “senior
common room of a honeycoloured college”. As his confidence grew, Blair even
allowed himself the “occasional smirk of disdain as he did keepy-uppies with
the simpler lobs”.

But if he won “every point, every skirmish, every
battle, he still lost the war”. What was missing in Blair was his old “antenna
for empathy”. When asked if he had any regrets, his prepared soundbite
‘responsibility, not regret’ elicited gasps and sobs from the widows and
bereaved mothers behind him. Ultimately, of course, Blair cannot choose his own
legacy. That bequest is “not Blair’s to give; it is ours to bestow”.

To admit regret would be to suggest British soldiers
died and were maimed in vain, and Blair will not, and cannot, accept this, says
Dominic Lawson in The Sunday Times. He sees no reason to doubt Blair’s
conviction that the war was right: he may have sincerely believed Saddam
Hussein was a “uniquely evil ruler” who had to be removed in the interests of
global peace and that the intelligence about the WMDs was enough to base a war
on. But the point is that Blair also craved a “leading role on the
international stage”, which “dove-tailed perfectly – and conveniently” with his
“messianic moral imperative”. Hence his desire to be the “inseparable best
buddy” of George W Bush. As an old friend of Blair’s once said to me, “Tony is
like a girl who wants to go to all the best dances”. The uncomfortable truth,
however, is that “the Americans were going to invade anyway, and did not
require, even by their own admission, any assistance from the British”.

In any case this inquiry shouldn’t be about the
legality of the war, says Norman Tebbit in The Daily Telegraph. “In my view the
war was legal because Parliament decided it was.” But “the question they got
wrong was whether it was wise”. It went wrong because not one of our “master
politicians” had worked out what do once the Iraqi army had been defeated. That
is the real crime that Chilcot should be investigating: “the total,
comprehensive and needless bungling of the rebuilding of that country”.

Quite, says Con Coughlin, also in The Daily Telegraph.
And that is why the sight of Clare Short “doing her level best” to destroy
Blair’s reputation is so unedifying. According to Short, Blair lied to the
cabinet, lied to parliament and lied to her. But given her “total unsuitability
for high office”, it’s quite easy to understand why Blair didn’t want to share
highly sensitive information. All he expected was that she made sure her
department was “ready to move into full gear” once the military operation to
overthrow Saddam was completed. Instead, “her department went totally awol”.
Worse, the Chilcot inquiry is in “serious danger of becoming a meaningless
forum where former Labour ministers… happily slag each other off”. Feuding
should not mask the crucial lessons we should be taking from Iraq.

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