Radio 5 has replaced its usual Friday afternoon film programme, featuring Mark Kermode, with wall-to-wall coverage of Tony Blair’s trial - sorry, appearance at the Chilcot inquiry (see here). I’ve been listening to it on and off (they're taking a tea break as I type) and so far I think the former PM has acquitted himself rather well, remaining determined to comply with the supposed aim of the inquiry to learn lessons from Iraq, rather than taking part in a pointless blame game.
A few random thoughts:
Reading the slanted coverage in Tory papers like the Telegraph (no, I don’t buy it, but I was flying to and from Edinburgh yesterday, and you get it free with a bottle of water, or vice versa, at the airport), and reading about the top civil servants sticking the knife into Tony, then listening to the cries of ‘murderer!’ from the lynch mob outside - it struck me that Chilcot might be viewed as the revenge of a perverse alliance of Establishment mandarins and the anti-imperialist left, on an upstart Labour leader whose popularity and success they have always, for very different reasons, resented.
Another thought. Why is it that the USA, where opinion on the merits of the Iraq war was just as fiercely divided, indeed where the current President was elected partly because he vigorously opposed that war, has not seen fit to organise anything along the lines of the Chilcot charade? Answers that don’t rely on fatuous anti-American or anti-British prejudice on a postcard please…
Then again (and this is sticking my neck out a bit), it occurs to me that the violent hatred of Blair that seems to have gripped much of the country, and of which Chilcot is the latest lurid manifestation, is actually rooted in a deep national fear of terrorism and violence. But, as with the whole 'Blair's bombs' episode, instead of that fear being directed against those who actually threaten us - whether jihadist suicide bombers, or Iranian or Ba'athist nukes - it's displaced on to our own government. The 'reasoning' seems to be: if you don't bother these people, they might just leave us in peace, and if you do dare to stand up to them, then we'll blame you and not them for the way they react. The reasons why some, particularly on the 'left', seem unable to direct blame - whether for 9/11, 7/7, or the Iraqi insurgency - at those who were actually responsible, are complex and have often been the focus of posts on this blog, but inverted racism, cultural relativism and a deep-seated revulsion from western modernity are all somewhere in the mix.
A scapegoat must be found for our deep unease about the post 9/11 world. And as of today, that scapegoat's name is Tony Blair.
Well, it's all over. From the bits I heard, I thought Blair offered a powerful defence of liberal interventionism and a clear and unwavering assessment of the threats that still face us. Radio 5's summary of his testimony began with 'Well, he didn't apologise and he didn't admit he lied', or words to that effect, as if that was the only 'take away' from Blair's appearance that would have satisfied the journos. Truly, the mainstream media coverage of Chilcot has been a disgrace.
More from John Rentoul here.
And from Hopi Sen here.
And Max Dunbar here.