Home / Dave Brockington / Today in British Understatement

Today in British Understatement


Chilcot says there was no need to go to war in March 2003.”

And . . .

“Blair “overestimated his ability” to influence US decisions on Iraq.”

“the inquiry does not accept Blair’s claim that it was impossible to predict post-invasion problems”.

“Blair presented the intelligence about Iraq’s WMD “with a certainty that was not justified”.”

Who would have thunk it?

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  • Snarki, child of Loki

    I suggest that Blair be given a lighter sentence in the war-crimes trial, if he rats out Bush/Cheney.

    • Ahuitzotl

      only cut his head half-off?

  • efgoldman

    Was this report scheduled for release about now? Or did they decide to let it out amid the Brexit hair on fire to bury the lead.

    • Warren Terra

      The inquiry started in 2009, at which time there was criticism its late start meant it wouldn’t release its report until after the 2010 general election (!). The long series of delays of the report has been a continuing source of criticism.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        Next in the pipeline: The Chilcot Report on the Crimean War.

        • Ghostship

          You mean the one NATO lost?

        • Warren Terra

          As a report on the invasion, it was likely beaten for timeliness by the Bayeux Tapestry, believed to have been ready in 1077, a mere 11 years after the invasion it depicted. Getting beaten to the punch by a bunch of monks weaving a tapestry by hand is … pretty bad.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            I am reminded of the Leaver who assured a group of people that the British defeated the Romans and the Normans. Really, you can’t make up just how ignorant these people are of their own history.

            • so-in-so

              We had those Texas college students who thought the South won the American Civil War, so it isn’t a unique phenomenon.

              • You mean it didn’t? Show your work

              • John F

                Went I went to Buffalo University one of my TAs was from Alabama, he remarked once that based upon what he was told in school growing up the South’s defeat in the Civil War was utterly incomprehensible – the South was better motivated, had better generals, better soldiers (more courageous, more skilled, more disciplined, etc etc etc), the South was far more unified (Southerners were 99.9% behind the cause and the North was split etc etc etc)… he said he eventually figured out that the North would have needed at least a 10:1 manpower and industrial advantage to overcome the litany of ways in which the South was far far far superior… But the real kicker for him was being told that the War of Northern Aggression had NOTHING to do with slavery and the in reading in High School the text of Alabama’s Civil War Constitution, the Confederate Constitution, and various statements/speeches made by various prominent Alabama bigwigs at the time Alabama seceded…

                Well it was about slavery, and the North had nothing resembling a 10:1 numerical advantage… so he knew what he was being taught had to be complete nonsense, but absolutely no one openly questioned it, and as far as he could tell the majority of classmates noticed no contradictions and unhesitatingly accepted what they were told.

                • witlesschum

                  Even limiting it to white people, the 99.9 percent behind the war part is always interesting me, the way a shitload of people who say they’re being proud of their history are actually pissing all over it given than their ancestors didn’t support the Confederacy. I know the ex-Confederates did a lot of murdering of white Unionists (less so than of black ones, of course) after the war, but not to extent where they didn’t have descendants.

                  I guess Hollywood is making a probably shitty movie about one of the Appalachian rebels, maybe it’ll be successful and people will start looking for Unionist ancestors? But generally, the South did a pretty good job of winning the peace.

                • Anna in PDX

                  Although Cold Mountain is kind of a maudlin story, I think it’s at the very least a good corrective on this myth that the Confederate boots on the ground were all enthusiastic secessionists.

                • so-in-so

                  Cold Mountain, the Civil War Odyssey. Except Odysseus doesn’t die at the end.

            • Ghostship

              Where are the Romans? Where are the Normans? Long gone. So who won in the end?

              • John F

                From The Sopranos:

                Ariel: You ever heard of the Masada? For two years, 900 Jews held their own against 15,000 Roman soldiers. They chose death before enslavement. The Romans? Where are they now?
                Tony Soprano: You’re looking at them, asshole.

              • Warren Terra

                Yeah, it’s super difficult to find any Norman heritage in the British établissement. Er, the British establishment.

                • Peterr

                  Barring great illness or accident, a William will once again be ruling Britain in 2066.

                  By then, Britain may be close to its old 1066 boundaries, should the Scots and Irish choose the EU over London.

                • NonyNony

                  Even were the Scots to bolt, I suspect that somehow Elizabeth would still be Queen of Scots and therefore William would be King of Scots. Much like how she’s still the Queen of Canada and Australia even though they’re not part of the UK.

                  Hell I suspect that the Northern Irish would make a similar arrangement, though it would probably be more contentious.

                  (Would a no-longer-part-of-the-UK Scotland still be part of the Commonwealth? Was that question part of the earlier Scottish referendum or not?)

                • Ghostship

                  To Peterr

                  Barring great illness or accident, a William will once again be ruling Britain in 2066.

                  But he will be a Wilhelm rather than a Guillaume.

                • Ghostship

                  To NonyNony
                  It’s always seemed to me that the Northern Irish loyalists are loyal to the Crown rather than to Britain or England so maybe we’ll see Ireland reunited as a constitutional monarchy – after all Ian Paisley Jr. (son of the DUP founder) is already recommending his constituents all apply for Irish passports.

                • NonyNony

                  Ghostship –

                  I would be surprised if the Republic assented to becoming a constitutional monarchy. They seem to like their self-rule without a monarch thankyouverymuch and I doubt that they’d take up the monarchy even to finally become a united Ireland.

                • Manny Kant

                  William will be 84 in 2066, so I’d say there’s a pretty solid chance he will have died by that point. Neither of his maternal grandparents reached 70.

                • Ronan

                  This idea of a dual monarchy has a long pedigree within Sinn Fein


                • Manny Kant

                  Arthur Griffith was a monarchist, but Sinn Fein was taken over by republicans during World War I and Griffith himself was on the pro-treaty side during the Civil War.

              • Chetsky

                Where are thw Normans? Teh funny. Tell another one,Jenny!

            • Bill Murray

              well the “British” did beat the Romans when Julius Ceasar invaded in 55 BC, and sort of won in 54 BC (in the sense that Caesar left no living troops in Britain) although some of the British, who supported Caesar did get restored to power and some tribute was supposed to get sent to Rome.

          • dejalynn

            The Bayeaux Tapestry is neither a tapestry nor woven. It is embroidery. That kind if line work would be impossible to weave. A 1000 year old misnomer that no one has ever bothered to correct because, who cares about fabric.

            • Warren Terra

              Dammit, you’re getting your facts in the way of my facile comparison.

              • Ahuitzotl

                and also, I think, embroidered by Duchess Matilda’s household, not by monks?

            • Peterr

              Why does that disqualify it as a tapestry? Tapestries need not be woven. From Cambridge Dictionaries Online:



              a piece of cloth with a pattern or picture that is created by sewing or weaving different coloured threads onto a special type of strong cloth

              (Definition of tapestry from the Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

            • Hogan

              While we’re pedanting, it’s Bayeux, not Bayeaux.

              • Warren Terra

                Y’know, I quote enjoyed comparing eleven years for the Bayeux Tapestry depiction of the Norman Invasion versus thirteen years for the Chilcot Report depiction of the Iraq Invasion. I thought it would be quick, fun, even very slightly glorious.

                But now it’s all gotten bogged down with nitpicking details about weaving, embroidery, nuns, monks, household servitors … even spelling. It’s turned into a quagmire!

                • MilitantlyAardvark

                  Console yourself with the thought that future generations will have similar disputes over the Baywatch Tapestry.

        • Ahuitzotl

          I look forward to the Malplaquet Inquiry .. due to convene next year I think?

    • Ghostship

      Why would the Tories want to bury it – Blair might have been a neo-Thatcherite but he was a Labour neo-Thatcherite? And if they had wanted to bury it, Friday June 25 would have been a far, far better day. As Harold Wilson, who kept the UK out of an earlier American disaster in Vietnam, said, “a week in politics is a long time”. But a fortnight is far too long.

  • twbb

    Are Brits generally aware of how much Bush capitalized on Blair’s support for domestic purposes, including the 2004 election?

    • witlesschum

      Are we sure this is at all true? It probably meant something to like NPR hosts, but a significant demographic caring seems unlikely.

      • rea

        I was against the war, but I remember being troubled by Blair’s support for it–he seemed like a decent, reasonable guy. That was about the only factor in favor of going to war that I remember from back then.

      • Captain Oblivious

        Bush made a big deal about the “Coalition of the Willing”.

        But I think this had less to do with dometic politics than with deflecting international condemnation.

  • sibusisodan

    I wish I could say I’m reading this stuff with a sense of disbelief, but it’s sadly all too believable.

    Blair’s private notes to Bush are…excitingly unrigorous:

    The military part of this is hazardous […] Getting rid of Saddam is the right thing to do. He is a potential threat. He could be contained. But containment as we found with al-Qaida, is always risky. His departure would free up the region. And his regime is probably, with the possible exception of North Korea, the most brutal and inhumane in the world.

    Containment: always risky. Better to nuke it from orbit instead.

    • MilitantlyAardvark

      His departure would free up the region.

      Indeed it did. Shame so many of the people living there lost everything, lives included, but.. omelettes.. eggs…

      Yo, Blair, where is that omelette?

    • CrunchyFrog

      And his regime is probably, with the possible exception of North Korea, the most brutal and inhumane in the world.

      That sentence is incomplete, but of course his intended audience knew the qualifier so it didn’t have to be stated. The full sentence would read: “…most brutal and inhumane in the world of those regimes that don’t fully cooperate with US/UK governments and multi-national corporations.” No point thinking about the brutality of the dictators “friends of democracy” who were making Bush’s oil buddies even richer in, say, the former SSRs north of Iraq.

      The reality is that if Iraq had just kept up its role as proxy warrior against Iran and not fucked about with “friend of democracy” Kuwait all of those “inhuman actions” would have been infinitely forgivable.

    • witlesschum

      This shit makes me mad all over again. Fucking morons playing with war like it’s goddamn Age of Empires who’ll believe anything if someone with power says it. Just utter human garbage, all of them.

      And I really wish I didn’t have to enthusiastically vote for one of the assholes who said yes to this foolishness this fall, either.

      In a better world, everyone who supported the Iraq War in either party would be ignored and banished from the political mainstream. It really was that stupid a decision, even on its own terms. Given that its own terms turned out to be especially moronic lies and bullshit, it was a crime.

      • vic rattlehead

        Who says you have to “enthusiastically” vote for Clinton? You don’t have to like it. It’s rather beside the point, as Lemieux has repeatedly explained.

        NB that I pretty much agree with you otherwise.

  • sibusisodan

    Also, it’s on days like today that I really miss Robin Cook.

    • Richard Gadsden

      And Charles Kennedy.

  • I never got what the upside was for Tony Blair to side with Bush. He could have been a hero, but became an accomplice instead. He was well on his way to becoming President of the European Council, but instead will go down in history as the man who helped Bush destroy the Mideast.

    • deptfordx

      I’ve thought that as well. the Iraq descision poisoned his legacy and tainted his reputation forever. If he’d acted as Chirac did and been as Skeptical as was his duty it’s hard to see how his personal reputation today wouldn’t be extremely high and well respected.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        I think Blair’s weak-tea Thatcherism and inability to think of a better way of governing would have wrecked him sooner or later. In a way, what happened to Gordon Brown was the long-delayed backlash to the domestic version of Blairism combined with Brown’s inability to look vaguely normal for the cameras.

        • deptfordx

          Oh sure, something would have brought him down sooner or later, politics 101. All political careers end in defeat etc.

          But there’s nothing to improve a politicians reputation like leaving office + time. John Major and Gordon Brown are both respected figures today and I think Tony Blair would easly surpass them if he hadn’t succumbed to folly.

      • sibusisodan

        There’s something genuinely tragic about Blair (if I understand the traditional definition of tragedy as ‘ruining or saving ones life in the shortest number of logically connected steps’ correctly).

        He’s the most electorally successful Labour leader ever, a good orator (there’s a wonderful video of him destroying Nigel Farage in the EU parliament), played a role in a bunch of historic legislative stuff. Reputation assured, if he’d only stopped there.

        Did he start believing his own hype?

        I’ve read some of his writing pre-Prime Ministership which appears to be considered, lucid and accurate on Labour history, strategy and tactics. Compared to that, these notes to Bush seem to be written by a concussed squirrel.

        I can’t account for the change.

        • postmodulator

          Compared to that, these notes to Bush seem to be written by a concussed squirrel.

          One writes for one’s audience.

          • LosGatosCA

            Are they in ALL CAPS as well?

        • Manny Kant

          He’s the most electorally successful Labour leader ever

          True, though it’s remarkable how few there have been. Only three (Attlee, Wilson, and Blair) have ever won parliamentary majorities, and most of those very narrow (only 1945, 1966, and Blair’s three elections produced substantial majorities). In the same time period, nine Conservative leaders (Bonar Law, Baldwin, Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Heath, Thatcher, Major, Cameron) have won parliamentary majorities.

          • Manny Kant

            Question: would Britain have been better off if the Liberals hadn’t collapsed and been replaced by Labour as the second party? That’s more or less the political situation in Canada, where the Liberals, rather than the Conservatives, have generally been seen as the “natural party of government.” Obviously you don’t get anything as radical as the reforms pushed through by the post-war Labour government, but you probably also get substantially less time with Tory governments, and Thatcherism is probably impossible with a relatively united center-left.

            • EliHawk

              But were the Liberals that much of a threat to ‘left’ Unity? In the days of Attlee, Churchill, MacMillan and Wilson, the Libs only fot 2-7% of the vote and less than a dozen seats. It’s not until Thatcher and the SDP that the ‘Liberal’ Left gets ~20% of the vote. And plenty of that, as we saw when the party went into government, was the kind of ‘I don’t like either of them’ protest vote that abandoned them when they had to be in government and compromise. That’s not to say the Lab/SDP split didn’t enable a lot of Thatcher (it helped her win her 83 and 87 landslides) but she had a healthy governing majority without it in 1979, when the Libs only got 14% of the vote and 11 seats. (That’s not to ignore Clegg, et.al.’s failures, just to point out that for plenty of people voting Lib/Lib Dem was a protest vote, not an affirmative one.)

              • rea

                Didn’t the Liberal party self-destruct over Ireland (and, to some extent, the Boer War)?

                • Richard Gadsden

                  No. It split in 1886 over Ireland, but that’s before the foundation of the Labour Party and was back in power by 1892.

                  As for the internal disagreements (no formal split) on the Boer War, that probably cost it the 1900 election, but it won a landslide in 1905.

                  It split over conscription in WWI (reunited by 1924, but Labour caught the Liberals in the 1916-24 period of the split), then again over free trade during the Depression; one faction of that split formed a political alliance with the Tories (and merged in 1964), while the other ended up as the separate Liberal party – but reuniting the two factions was on the table until 1951.

                  Part of the reason for the catastrophe of the 1950 and 1951 General Elections for the Liberals was that the two wings (independent and allied to the Tories) were much more focussed on negotiating with each other than on winning an election.

                  It really is only the three elections of 1950, 1951 and 1955 where the Liberals were a total irrelevance and British politics was a true two-party system.

                • Manny Kant

                  Even more than over conscription, it split over, well, Lloyd George. Lloyd George basically broke the party for his own personal ambition by allying with the Tories to oust Asquith and put himself in his place. The Liberals split between those who remained loyal to Asquith and those who stuck with Lloyd George, and during the 1918 election right after the war, the Asquithite faction (including by far most of the senior members of the party other than Lloyd George and Churchill) was decimated. Then, when the Conservatives inevitably betrayed Lloyd George, his own faction was decimated too. It was not until the 1923 election that the two factions managed to more or less get back together (and even then, they deeply distrusted one another), and by then Labour had passed them as the main opposition party.

                  The Liberals held the balance of political power during both of MacDonald’s minority Labour governments in 1924 and 1929-1931, and in both cases that position mostly hurt them – it made them seem unreliable to anti-socialist types (like Churchill, who went back to the Tories in 1924 due largely to his opposition to Asquith’s support for MacDonald), and also irrelevant to the left. But, yeah, they remained a significant political third force through the Second World War.

        • EliHawk

          It really is astounding to think how different British politics would have been but for Ralph Nader, a lousy ballot designer, a few hundred voters in Florida, and Sandra Day O’Connor.

          • Bill Murray

            and Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush. and the 150,000 Democratic Clinton voters in 1996 that voted for Bush in 2000. Depending on how these worked out, Pat Buchanon could have been Gore’s savior

            • Aexia

              Yes, things would be different if Southern conservative “Democrats” in the panhandle voted for Gore instead of the Republican like they almost always do. *eyeroll*

            • vic rattlehead

              This. The Supreme Court didn’t decide the election, they just legitimized the outcome (or tried to, I guess, I think they actually delegitimized it in the long run). Because of Harris and the Florida legislature. And wouldn’t Bush most likely have won a hand recount including undervotes?

              You should be angrier at: St. Ralph Nader, atrocious ballot design, and the purging of Florida voter rolls.

              I still think Bob Graham would have delivered Florida for Gore. I have no data, just gut feeling. Floridians love Graham. My mom has voted straight Republican since 1980 with the lone exception of Graham.

    • I’ve been wondering that too today. I think a lot of it comes down to the fact that everyone went a bit crazy after 9/11, and that no one really knew how this new, post-Cold War world worked. I can see how, under those conditions, people would be seduced by the idea of redrawing the world map.

      • True, but our leaders are the ones we elect to be clear-headed in time of tragedy, not running to the exit with everyone else. Very few actually act that way, but you’d think the leader of the country would.

        • NonyNony

          our leaders are the ones we elect to be clear-headed in time of tragedy, not running to the exit with everyone else.

          Actually our leaders are elected to represent the “will of the people”. So if the people are running around acting like madmen it shouldn’t be surprising that at least some of the leaders do the same thing. And the more devious ones will take advantage of it for their own ends.

          Leaders are not superhuman. Heck the entire system of democracy is basically premised on the idea that elected leaders will be basically ordinary people who will govern well because it is in their rational self interest to govern well. That it doesn’t always work out that way is why we at least have a sane system for removing leaders from office when they screw up without having to fight a destructive war to pull them out of power.

          • so-in-so

            There was a lot of discussion about this during the Bush II “who would you rather drink a beer with?” and McCain/Palin “she’s a soccer Mom, just like me” campaigns. I always agreed with the commentator (Jon Stewart?) who said he didn’t want a President who was just like him, he wanted someone much smarter and better disciplined.

            • NonyNony

              Oh I agree – but presidents still aren’t going to be superhuman. We can put the best person we can find in that job and they’re still just a person and they’re potentially susceptible to the same kind of poor decision making processes that the rest of us fall into.

              That doesn’t mean that we should go out of our way to find a George W Bush to sit in the office though. “Who would you want to hang out with” is the worst possible metric for picking a president, especially given that that isn’t in the job description. But it does mean that when our leaders act in ways similar to how the majority of the country is reacting – or even a large minority that they are sympathetic towards – we shouldn’t be terribly surprised. Push back against it where needed absolutely, but be prepared for it.

            • Don’t know if Stewart also said it, but Denis Leary had a funny bit about this (~2:45-4:20): http://www.npr.org/2008/12/06/97906053/not-my-job-denis-leary

            • Murc

              I always agreed with the commentator (Jon Stewart?) who said he didn’t want a President who was just like him, he wanted someone much smarter and better disciplined.

              I goddamn love that Stewart quote. I have it memorized: “Not only do I want an elite president, I want someone who’s embarrassingly superior to me, somebody who speaks 16 languages and sleeps two hours a night.”

          • vic rattlehead

            I think this is a bit glib. A responsible leader should override the will of the people when ordinary people are too craven to do what’s right.

            Representing the people does NOT mean that you must slavishly follow their baser instincts. Otherwise, what’s the fucking point in maintaining the charade of a civil society?

            • Rob in CT

              Right. Generally you need to be in step with The People. But The People can get riled up about stupid shit and it’s POTUS’ job to keep a cool head.

              Which is one reason I really, really like our current President.

        • Ahuitzotl

          our leaders are the ones we elect to be clear-headed in time of tragedy

          honestly, I’m very hardpressed to think of many leaders who actually manage that. David Lange, maybe.

    • NonyNony

      I never got what the upside was for Tony Blair to side with Bush.

      I’ve always assumed he thought that Bush’s people knew what they were doing, that Weapons of Mass Destruction of some sort would be found in Iraq, that Hussein’s regime would be removed and something better would be put up in its place, and that he’d be standing among giants like Churchill and Roosevelt who took a stand against tyranny.

      From a thousand feet and a decade+ away, what’s interesting about the Iraq War is just what a flustercluck it was. If there were some highly placed sleeper agents in the administration and they were planning a fifth column action to screw up the war, I doubt they would have settled on the Iraq War “plan” as it developed because they’d be afraid they’d get caught. I imagine that Blair’s “worst case scenario” for how bad things would get in the region (and how it may play out politically for him) might have involved the whole thing devolving into a mess, but I doubt he or his people predicted anything like the worst case we actually got.

      Hell I was against the war, protested against it, and assumed that it would lead to a giant a mess. And even I was dumbfounded at just how amazingly they screwed it up.

      • Hell I was against the war, protested against it, and assumed that it would lead to a giant a mess. And even I was dumbfounded at just how amazingly they screwed it up.

        Ain’t that the truth.

      • EliHawk

        I was legitimately torn about it at the time, though as I was in high school back then so it’s all with a grain of salt. But my biggest concern was that while I believed in the Wilsonian need for Democracy and human rights, and that those would be good things for the people of Iraq, I had zero confidence in the administration not to fuck it up.

    • CrunchyFrog

      I never got what the upside was for Tony Blair to side with Bush.

      Don’t discount Blair’s deep debt to Rupert Murdoch (look it up).

  • MilitantlyAardvark

    James MackintoshVerified account
    Goldman says sterling target in 3 months now $1.20, cut from its post-Brexit forecast of $1.32

    Just a roguish little Brexit dessert to follow the Escallope de Blair au Chilcot-Carnage.

    • Jesus.

      At least I expect a grant payment in dollars about then. Yay.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        Ian Fraser ‏@Ian_Fraser 6h6 hours ago

        More than half the UK’s £25bn property investment sector now suspended on #Brexit fears http://gu.com/p/4zv5f/stw via @LaithKhalaf1 @HLInvest

        Just to make your day a little better.

        I wonder when the Chilcot report on Brexit will emerge, because that’s starting to look worse than Iraq for the UK.

        • I saw that. We’ll see if the pound hits parity with the dollar.

          I can’t wait for my fixed period on my mortgage runs out later this year.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            Did you ever hear the joke about Thatcher and the pound/dollar exchange rate?

  • sibusisodan

    Now Blair’s giving a press conference. Initial reporting of his statements includes the following:

    His premiership changed completely on 9/11, he says.

    There’s lots to critique, but what leaps out at me here is the use of ‘premiership’. That is weirdly revealing about the role he thought he was playing.

    Dude, you were not a Premier. You were a disposable government minister. The most important disposable one, sure, but still a disposable one.

    Stop giving yourself airs.

    • Manny Kant

      Huh? Isn’t “premiership” just a synonym for “prime ministership”? A premier is certainly functionally indistinguishable from a prime minister. It’s short for “premier ministre”!

      • sibusisodan

        Oh. Perhaps it is. I’m just not used to hearing the word in this context, and it seems to me to be all of a piece with Blair’s transformation of the role of PM to something more quasi-presidential.

        • Ahuitzotl

          its fairly longstanding rhetorical turn of phrase in the UK (well, I can recall Harold Wilson using it, at least).

      • Murc

        Huh? Isn’t “premiership” just a synonym for “prime ministership”?

        This VERY MUCH depends on the context and country. It would be unwise to refer to, say, Trudeau in that fashion, because in Canada there’s an actual office called “Premiere”, they’re the provincial governors.

        • Manny Kant

          No, the provincial governors are Lieutenant Governors. The premiers are the prime ministers of the individual provinces.

          • Murc

            Semantics. You knew what I meant.

            • Manny Kant

              Semantics are important!

            • vic rattlehead

              I hope you realize the irony here. You’re talking about language and context and then getting cranky about “semantics.” You can’t have it both ways.

        • Linnaeus

          Although, to be technical about it, “Premier” isn’t the formal name of the office of the provincial executive. Use of the term “premier” was gradually adopted to distinguish between the federal and the provincial office; prior to that, provincial executives did style themselves as “prime minister”.

          ETA: Or what Manny Kant said.

    • sibusisodan


      He says troops could not have been kept on standby for much longer.

      I know I’m judging reported words at a distance here, but: aaaaargh?

      ‘We had to go to war, because the alternative was standing the troops down’ is not the most persuasive justification I’ve ever heard.

      I know he’s making an ‘it was now or never’ argument, but from where I’m standing I can’t see the ‘never’ argument being such a bad decision.

      • witlesschum

        It’s literally the reason the Germans had for really making sure World War I got going. If you want to be Kaiser Blair, you have to wear an extremely funny hat.

        • N__B

          That hat is all funny and games until someone gets poked in the eye.

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          Just about all the Continental powers felt that they couldn’t unilaterally halt the process of mobilization because they had all developed extremely precise timetables for deployment and to stop and have to work everything out again if their opponents went ahead could easily cost them weeks and maybe lose them the war from the getgo. The slaughter makes them all look foolish in retrospect, but it’s fairly easy to see why, at the time, none of them felt they could just apply the brake in isolation.

          • so-in-so

            One might hope we’d learned something in the 100 years since then.

            • MilitantlyAardvark

              Military timetables don’t change much over time. You are always going to want to get the jump on the other side – and to do that you have to start planning and scheduling months in advance. Politicians are generally very reluctant to try and apply the handbrake to that process once begun because it is so fiendishly complex and you don’t want to be remembered for losing the war by dithering. I doubt that will ever change.

      • twbb

        “‘We had to go to war, because the alternative was standing the troops down’ is not the most persuasive justification I’ve ever heard.”

        It makes perfect sense, but only if you’re a 1st century Roman consul worried about a charismatic general keeping his troops bored and close to Rome.

      • njorl

        Standing down should certainly have been considered an option. Standing the troops back up again certainly was not. Once the soldiers were sent to Kuwait, the only results possible were war and Saddam caving to all demands.
        It’s one of the more insidious problems with war. People have much less aversion to mobilizing than they do to war itself, but it almost always leads to war.

    • sibusisodan

      Just one more:

      But he says all decisions are difficult in a dangerous world. And the only thing a decision maker can do is take decisions.

      Again, as a justification for bad decisions, this is not even wrong.

      This is galling.

  • Manny Kant

    Re: this Blair press conference – at least Bush has the decency not to continue to make specious arguments in favor of the Iraq war. Blair and his closest cronies seem to feel it’s necessary to keep insulting our intelligence about it over and over again.

    • so-in-so

      Cheney and Rumsfeld are not so constrained, however.

      • Manny Kant

        This is true. I suppose it’s also that neither I nor anyone I even roughly agree with politically give a fuck what Cheney and Rumsfeld have to say. Whereas there’s a certain segment of the British center-left that is still invested in shilling for Blair, and thus for the Iraq War.

    • If you asked him I’m sure Bush would be happy to continue to make specious arguments in support of the war. Chaney sure as hell is

    • witlesschum

      I do believe Jeb Bush was insulting our intelligence on the matter earlier this year and came off looking dumber than Trump.

      • Colin Day

        came off looking dumber than Trump

        That’s some very difficult limbo!

    • NonyNony

      at least Bush has the decency not to continue to make specious arguments in favor of the Iraq war.

      To be scrupulously fair – this is mostly because nobody has given him a reason to do so.

      If there were a US equivalent of the Chilcot report, you can be damn sure that he’d have a prepared statement to defend himself from whatever was in it.

      • Manny Kant

        True. Although I’m still a bit puzzled by what the Chilcot Report has revealed that we didn’t already know ten years ago.

        • NonyNony

          I think there’s a difference between “what we know” and “what an official government investigation is putting into the record about what we know”. Especially when the “we” in that first fragment are folks who were against the war from the start and saw everything being said as obvious bullshit. But it was obvious bullshit that was believed by a large number of people who weren’t against the war.

          From what I’ve seen so far the Chilcot report basically sums up what those of us against the war from the beginning either knew or strongly suspected. But it’s an official document from an official inquiry into the matter so it has more weight than “how can you people have been so damn stupid – couldn’t you tell that this was all a pack of lies?”.

  • petesh

    Corbyn has the decency to say (link may disappear):

    So I now apologise sincerely on behalf of my party for the disastrous decision to go to war in Iraq in March 2003.

    That apology is owed first of all to the people of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and the country is still living with the devastating consequences of the war and the forces it unleashed.

    They have paid the greatest price for the most serious foreign policy calamity of the last 60 years.

    The apology is also owed to the families of those soldiers who died in Iraq or who have returned home injured or incapacitated.

    They did their duty but it was in a conflict they should never have been sent to.

    Finally, it is an apology to the millions of British citizens who feel our democracy was traduced and undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret ‘I will be with you, whatever’ understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed.

    He is speaking as leader of the party. We all know he is apologizing for actions he opposed at the time, but this is the right tone to take.

    • EliHawk

      Meh. It’s odd to me for someone who was there at the time and clearly opposed something, but had zero responsibility or influence for events that occurred, to apologize for this. It’s one thing for, say, the country’s head of state or government to apologize on behalf of the nation. (Like, say, Reagan for Japanese Internment, or Cameron for Bloody Sunday, or the debate about Obama and Hiroshima or that comes up any time a POTUS visits Vietnam) but this is mostly about Corbyn’s moral posturing and self regard, not sincere apology on behalf of a party that’s in the process of defenestrating him. If this were Brown, or someone who had been in the Cabinet, or even a minister of some kind, it would be different. But it’s not; it’s like Trump apologizing for Iraq on behalf of the Republican Party: Not really that sincere, and not particularly relevant.

      undermined by the way in which the decision to go to war was taken on the basic of secret ‘I will be with you, whatever’ understandings given to the US president that have now been publicly exposed.

      Meanwhile, this is just straight up pulled from context half truth. The fully relevant section:

      I will be with you, whatever. But this is the moment to assess bluntly the difficulties. The planning on this and the strategy are the toughest yet. This is not Kosovo. This is not Afghanistan. It is not even the Gulf War.

      The memo then goes on to discuss lengthily the need for a coalition, potential dangers, and importance of going to the U.N. It’s abundantly clear in the context of the memo it’s a rhetorical device setting him up to try and get him to listen, Like “Look, you know I’m on your team here, but…” The failure was thinking W/Cheney/Rumsfeld would listen and following them in anyway. But idea that this phrase was some secret agreement that they’d go invade is not backed up by the evidence within the memo itself.

      • petesh

        You don’t think the Labour Party should apologize? You don’t think that apology should be made by the current Leader?

        • MilitantlyAardvark

          I imagine that Corbyn or whoever pulls his strings is also just about cunning enough to see this as a chance to put down the Blairites, leaving him to be king of the ruins.

          I wonder whether one side-effect of Chilcot will be to make a split in Labour inevitable.

        • EliHawk

          I think an apology ‘from the party’ is pretty worthless when the leader isn’t even tenuously connected to the act. Unlike countries, parties are transient things in terms of their ideologies and memberships. It’d be like Obama apologizing for the actions of the Dixiecrats. Just because both he and George Wallace are both Democrats, doesn’t mean one is responsible for the other. Basically: Blair should apologize, Brown (or, say, David Miliband or some other then-Junior minister, now leader in this scenario) could apologize. Corbyn apologizing for something he never supported, never did, and was never in position to do much about one way or the other, is a big fat load of meh.

          • MilitantlyAardvark

            Corbyn apologizing for something he never supported, never did, and was never in position to do much about one way or the other, is a big fat load of meh.

            I disagree. The sight of the Labour party apologizing, even if it is just the Corbynite rump, is going to have a lot of resonance with the British public. It’s a public rejection of Blair by his own party and it means that for the foreseeable future anyone who voted for the Iraq war is going to find it very difficult to influence the party or the public.

    • mds

      I’ve been rough on Corbyn over his Brexit effort, so I think it’s only fair to apply a similar standard now. Are the Tories going to perform an official mea culpa over how ineffective they were at stopping the majority party from doing something stupid and damaging? I mean, Iain Duncan Shitstick Smith is still a Conservative MP; shouldn’t he be publicly beating his breast about what a useless bag of raw sewage he was as Leader of the Opposition in derailing the rush to war under false pretenses? Hell, he was on the Iraq bandwagon before Blair could even get out to the parking lot. (To complete the Corbyn parallel, I’d say “resign as Cabinet minister,” but he already did that in order to shiv Cameron for being pro-Remain. Miserable little slimy shit.)

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        The Tories don’t do that sort of honesty or morality – and IDS is a preening sociopath. Not a chance of any sort of decency from that rabble.

  • DAtt

    Without comment, I’m just going to note that in giving his statement on the Chilcot Report as Leader of the Opposition Corbyn was interrupted by Labour MP Ian Austin, who yelled “Sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace!”


    • jpgray

      My only comment is: to treat the public like suckers in some confidence game to win their support for unilateral “preemptive” war may be the greatest disgrace possible in democratic society.

      From the US perspective, I can never forget Colin Powell, his little vial, and his cartoon truck slides at the UN. Immediately following this… whatever it was all one could hear from the press and the established politicians was how deep and indisputable a case he’d made.

      My brain suffered a breach of trust that will never fully close in that moment. We should never forget (1) the case for intervention was always obviously bad, (2) the planning/discussion of what would follow was always obviously bad, and (3) “Hey I’m no hippie!” and “close enough” were all it took to win over all our important public darlings.

      Thank Christ that’s all over with and could NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN. Ahem.

    • petesh

      Austin has form for that kind of crap, having been rebuked by the Speaker several times (previously for unparliamentary heckling of Tories). He was close to Gordon Brown and has been opposed Corbyn for ages, sometimes in derogatory language.

      • MilitantlyAardvark

        On this one, it’s worth remembering that Corbyn’s links to all sorts of unsavoury groups – including the IRA – have now been thoroughly exposed, so Austin may well have found his “apology” just a touch hypocritical.

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