The dominating issue of the last few days has been the appearance of Witness 69 before the Chilcot Inquiry. A lot of hoohah over nothing much at all in my view. It told us nothing that we didn't know already. We knew that Tony Blair is a highly skilled operator, accomplished in the art of verbal gymnastics. He used every conceivable form of rhetorical flourish, deflecting any ball threatening his stumps down the leg side with Gavaskar like precision. The former Prime Minister wiped the floor with them - as anyone who's watched Blair in action over the years would have expected.
So what do we know now (at least as I see it). We know that Tony Blair decided to join George Bush in an invasion of Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power. We know that the concept of 'cabinet government' had been much weakened under the Blair Government, and most of them were not told the truthful reasons for going to war. Instead, the Cabinet, all other MPs and the people of Britain were told that Saddam Hussein had access to weapons of mass destruction, which could be activated against Britain within 45 minutes. It was on that basis that our Parliament supported Tony Blair's decision to launch the invasion. Many people (including me) are angry that we were mislead. I still find it difficult to believe that a British Prime Minister would deliberately mislead the British people in order to secure support for war. We know that Tony Blair was convinced it was the right action to take, still believes it was, and has told us that if he could 'rewind the clock' he would do it again.
Though my opinion was of no consequence, at the time I supported the decision to go to war. Later on, I was much angered that this support had been secured on the basis of untruths. But sitting in my office as I type these words, I cannot write that I would not have supported the war if the Prime Minister had told us the truth about why he considered it vital to British interests - if he had said that he wanted Britain to stand beside the US, and invade Iraq to achieve regime change. In the climate after the attack on the Twin Towers, I may well have supported Blair. I'm sure many other British people who supported the war, and are angry about being mislead, would share my uncertainty if they were to ask themselves the same question.
The issue that has most confused the position is the way 'International Law' is being spoken of as inviolable. Personally, I've always thought 'International Law' as riven with uncertainty and contradiction. In the end, its often a question of who carries the biggest stick. The evidence given to Chilcot so far, leaves most of us believing that the war was 'illegal' - but it seems to me that as long as the Attorney General said it was 'legal' (even if his arm was up behind his back at the time) it was legal. And the final question must be whether, in hindsight, it was the right decision. I usually say "its too early to say". Its clear that the post-war strategy failed. But no-one can say what the situation in the Middle East would be today, if Saddam Hussein was still in power. All Chilcot does (and will do) is raise more questions, and I'll be surprised if it delivers any certainty in its answers.