How Clean has Blair Come?
Although John Edwards argued Wednesday that President Bush had not taken responsibility for the intelligence failures about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction the way that Tony Blair had, there is some question as to how clean Tony himself has come. Bruce Anderson of the Scotsman suggests some ways in which Tony’s statements do not add up or are incomplete. He says,
‘ One damaging passage deals with Cabinet government, or rather the lack of it. Ministers were merely given oral briefings; they were not allowed to see background papers. There was no proper discussion in Cabinet or in Cabinet committees. In effect, it was made clear to ministers that if the PM wanted their opinion, he would tell them what it was. The decisions to go to war were taken on Tony Blair’s sofa . . .
Although there appears to be a misprinted date in the Scotsman text, Anderson argues that Bush told Blair already in spring of 2002 that he was going to war against Iraq, but that Tony continually dissimulated. As late as the end of August, 2002, he was maintaining, according to the Butler report, that the decision had not yet been made. But as Anderson says, this contention is ridiculous. Of course it had.
Among Blair’s most egregious errors was to claim that Iraq could launch a WMD attack “within 45 minutes” (with the implication of being able to hit targets outside Iraq) That was always ridiculous, and it was was based on a misunderstanding by Blair, a misunderstanding that is inexcusable. His military told him that Iraq could mobilize its WMD on the battlefield in 45 minutes. Blair somehow interpreted that to mean that the Iraqis could mount it on missiles in 45 minutes. Even then the Iraqis could not have hit Europe.
So, Edwards is being too charitable to Blair. Neither he nor Bush has truly dealt with the full degree to which he deeply misled the public.