“I will be with you, whatever”
Not a line from a cheap and tacky Get Well Soon card, this is a memo from Tony Blair to George W. Bush back in 2001, mentioned prominently in the Chilcot report published yesterday. The Chilcot report by Sir John Chilcot is a 2.5 million word document on the Iraq war, which began in 2003.
The ex Prime Minister spoke live on TV yesterday, and took questions from the press, in all, a 2 hour marathon.
Blair is a master speaker, like Obama, he knows how to deliver a speech, how to get a point over. He knows everyone will hang on every word, dissect every statement, and he also knows body language is all important in the final analysis.
Blair read his reply to Chilcot, giving his side of what happened in the days after 9/11 and the build up to invading Iraq. Now, let’s be very very very clear… there is, and was, no connection made between Saddam Hussein and 9/11. The invasion of Iraq was because Saddam was believed to have weapons of mass destruction. Blair in fact wrote a memo to Bush, stating that any links between Saddam and 9/11 were tenuous. Yet time and time again, yesterday, Blair drew upon the 9/11 event to justify the Iraq invasion.
Blair read his reply to Chilcot, in a broken voice, the “on the edge of tears” voice. Brilliant coaching in my opinion. He must have practiced that for hours. Over and over, getting that tone. However, after he had read from his speech, a comfort zone where he knew what was coming next, he then invited live questions from the assembled press. The questions were quite cutting, and Blair fumbled for answers, stumbled to keep the sad voice, and at times verged on anger… almost a “how dare you question me” you weren’t there maaaaaan!
Blair drew on hindsight quite often, Chilcot’s report, the journalist’s questions are all with the benefit of hindsight.
In my opening quotation, written by Blair… “I will be with you… whatever”! There lies the key to everything which happened afterwards. No matter what Blair says about the following line in the memo, about seeking UN sanctions, the memo opens with those words… “I will be with you… whatever”! The “whatever” overrides anything which is written after that opening statement.
In the UK, we have a Prime Minister and senior Members of Parliament who form what is known as a Cabinet. Essentially, these MP’s look after various parts of our daily life. There is a Minister of Health, another for Education and so on… these Ministers are all part of a team (Cabinet) in times of great importance.
So, shouldn’t Blair’s memo have said… “We will be with you… whatever”?
In fact, Blair didn’t consult his senior MP’s over Iraq, he relied on political Aids and others close to him. That’s why the memo states… I rather than We.
The USA were going to invade Iraq anyway, no matter what. Most European countries opted out, waiting for a UN mandate, but the UK however, committed itself to war. A minor role maybe in terms of size of armies… but Tony Blair wanted to show George Bush “our” solidarity with the USA… like some lapdog wanting a pat on the head for not crapping on the carpet.
Back in 2003, there were many who took to the streets of London, protesting against the impending war, hundreds of thousands held banners pleading with Blair not to put us in an illegal war. But he did. No notice was taken, no shaky sad voice back then, no crocodile tears… only BRAVADO! Tony the warrior, filmed with our soldiers, the leader in a pure white shirt, no tie. But Tony wouldn’t be fighting, Tony wouldn’t loose any limbs, Tony wouldn’t die in a heap of sand. Tony was too busy perfecting how “hard men” walk, with his friend George Dubbya… a man who can’t even find a door, or string 4 words together without forgetting what the 3rd one was.
But the very important question surely must be, when did Blair decide to go to war, was it after consultation with his team of advisors in 2003, or was it on the day he wrote that personal memo to Bush in 2001…?
That memo is the smoking gun…