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PostPosted: Sun Jan 31, 2010 2:35 am 
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Tony Blair has addressed the Chilcot inquiry being held into the Iraq War. The testimony itself is long and kind of disjointed and rambling, but you can see a video of some of the key points here, and many articles providing extensive coverage of the entire thing in The Guardian here. Briefly, from The Australian:

9/11 changed everything, says Tony Blair to Iraq war inquiry

Peter Wilson, Europe correspondent
• From: The Australian
• January 30, 2010 12:00AM

LONDON: An unrepentant Tony Blair last night stood by his decision to invade Iraq in 2003, saying that even though no weapons of mass destruction were found he still believed he had done the right thing and he would do it again today in the same circumstance.

The former British prime minister said that although the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US had not involved Iraq they had left him determined to not to take any risks with rogue states and WMDs.

"The decision I took - and frankly would take again - was if there was any possibility that he (Saddam Hussein) could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him," he said.

"That was my view then and that is my view now."

Mr Blair used his long-awaited appearance before the Chilcot inquiry into Britain's involvement in the war to meticulously defend his 2003 decisions and insist that the eventual discovery that Iraq did not have WMDs did not mean that the world would have been safe if Saddam had been left in power.

"Sometimes what is important is not to ask the March 2003 question, but to ask the 2010 question," he said. "Supposing we had backed off this military action, supposing we had left Saddam and his sons who were going to follow him in charge of Iraq - he had used chemical weapons, caused the death of over a million people.

"What we now know is that he retained absolutely the intent and the intellectual know-how to restart a nuclear and a chemical weapons program when the inspectors were out and the sanctions changed, which they were going to do.

"Now, I think that it is at least arguable that he was a threat, that had we taken that decision to leave him there, with an oil price not $25 but $100 a barrel, he would have had the intent, he would have had the financial means, and we would have lost our nerve."

With hundreds of protesters shouting outside, police helicopters hovering overhead and 20 relatives of Iraq war victims attending the hearing, the former prime minister initially appeared nervous but clearly gained confidence as he took questions from the five-strong inquiry panel.

Mr Blair spent some time defending his assertion in September 2002 that intelligence had established "beyond doubt" that Saddam had WMDs.
"What I said . . . was that I believed it was beyond doubt. I did believe it and I did believe it was beyond doubt," he said.

He had been convinced by reports he was receiving from the Joint Intelligence Committee that Saddam retained WMDs.

"It was hard to come to any other conclusion than that this person is continuing WMD programs," he said, stressing that he had not tried to deceive the public.

Despite fears among security officials that Mr Blair's testimony could be disrupted by protesters inquiry chairman John Chilcot thanked those attending the morning session for their "well-mannered" behaviour.
Mr Blair said that before the 9/11 attack he had believed that Saddam was "a menace, he was a threat, he was a monster, but we would have to try and make best". Afterwards he felt that rogue states with WMDs would have to be dealt with.

The US government's mindset "changed dramatically" after the attacks, he said, and "frankly, mine had as well".

"The fact is, force is always an option. What changed after September 11 was that if necessary - and there was no other way of dealing with this threat - we were going to remove him," he said.

Mr Blair said the issue of regime change and the nature of the Saddam regime could not be totally disconnected from the issue of WMDs.

He denied striking a "covert" deal to overthrow Saddam with then US president George W. Bush at his Crawford ranch in April 2002, 11 months before the invasion. Witnesses have suggested that Mr Blair had promised Mr Bush that Britain would join the US in an invasion. Mr Blair said he had been "open" about what had been discussed - that Iraq had to be dealt with and "the method of doing that is open".


There’s also a bit of discussion on the involvement of the Cabinet in the decision. Blair was frequently criticized for having a ‘Presidential’ style of government, and so he emphasized that he had the support of both the Cabinet and the Parliament in his decision.

It’s also interesting that the hapless Gordon Brown can’t escape criticism from the whole affair, even though he started the inquiry in the first place. For one thing, he was involved in planning Britain’s involvement in the war himself. And for another, some people have been quick to compare Brown’s political skills unfavourably with Blair’s.

Finally, is he really calling for regime change in Iran?

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