Former prime minister Tony Blair's testimony was streamed live at 4:30 a.m. ET at the Iraq Inquiry website and on other sites, such as the UK newspaper the Telegraph which allowed viewers to rank Blair's responses on a "Lie Meter". Telegraph readers' top desired questions pre-hearing were:
* What was the real motivation for invading Iraq?
* Why did you not act like a Statesman and stand up to Bush?
* Do you think the world is a safer place after our illegal Iraq crusade/mission for regime change?
* I would like Tony Blair to tell us what he knows about the death of Dr Kelly
Try to imagine a U.S. media outlet proposing such questions to Blair's senior partner in crime! But the Inquiry itself did not put these questions to Blair in any effective way.
In the lead up to Blair's testimony, a London protest was planned here.
Documents were thought to be the key, and while the existing evidence more than proves the case of the war's illegality, this Inquiry, it was feared, might be barred from asking Blair about the public (and still secret) evidence. Bizzarely, this could have turned the thing into a whitewash, adding to the general impression that specific evidence is still needed to prove that a war is illegal. Any war not fought in self-defense or through UN authorization simply is illegal. But these fears turned out to be justified. Blair was not confronted with public and undisputed evidence that he knew he was lying about weapons, that he lied about his commitment to making war a last resort, and so forth. And nobody broke out of the whole charade to point out that an aggressive war is still illegal even if the nation attacked has weapons and even if other options have been pursued.
Some recent stories on the ongoing inquiry:
Elizabeth Wilmshurst is first witness to be applauded by the public.
Now we know: Blair went to war on an "assumption".
How Alastair Campbell changed Iraq dossier.
9:40 a.m. GMT The opening question was pretty discouraging: How did Blair view containment of Saddam Hussein? Blair responded that his view changed entirely on 9/11. This is bizarre, given Hussein's total lack of involvement in 9/11, but it went unchallenged. Blair spoke in terms of the "risk of Saddam reconstituting programs" - quite different from his blatant lies in 2002 and 2003 about his certainty that Hussein had "WMDs" and could attack the UK with them in 45 minutes, a claim already shown in this inquiry to have been a lie. Nobody questioned him on his shift to now talking about a "risk" of SH developing weapons "progams".
9:46 Blair's being allowed to go on and on with fearmongering about the people behind 9/11, whom he identifies only as "they" and nobody explains to him that "they" were not Iraqis, and nobody points out that the attack on Iraq inspired more would-be terrorists, not fewer. Blair says he had to go after North Korea, Pakistan, and "all of this", but he did not of course do so.
9:49 Now the questioner, Sir Roderic Lyne, points out that SH was not behind al Qaeda, but Blair seems not to comprehend the point.
9:51 Blair tries to refer to a document, and Lyne responds that, while it is public he's not sure it's been declassified, resulting in laughter from the audience - first sign of life from them, and only sign of life from them. This is not encouraging in terms of the prospects for bringing in documents.
The Aug 7, 2001, document, an Iraqi Policy Framework or Options Paper, Blair says was declassified yesterday. He drones on about sanctions. He argues that the sanctions might not have "worked," but nobody asks what that means or how the sanctions did not work, given the complete absence of the weapons this was all supposedly about.
9:56 Sir Roderick simply asks again if the sanctions might have worked, whatever that means. Blair says that the sanctions had to be watered down to please the Russians, etc., and weren't working (whatever that means), the implication apparently being that if the UN would not create successful sanctions (whatever that means) it would be necessary to go around the UN with an illegal war (without calling it that).
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