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Sunday, July 10, 2016
I watched as Colin Powell set out the reasons for war against Iraq's Saddam Hussein and I immediately concluded, as a non-expert, that this would be a war simply because the Chief wanted it, and it was being persecuted on the very shaky grounds of a pretext. My sense was that General Powell was not himself convinced this was necessary, but as the good soldier that he was, when the Commander-in-Chief says jump, all that remains is how high.
We have no real idea of why Mr Bush decided he would remove Saddam from power and send him to his death, although there are many theories, but in general there is a school of thought that held that it was not a good idea. American commentators are now very strident in their criticisms of that war, and for those British forces that fought and died, it is no small wonder that the families are unforgiving.
Having declared war, then Mr Bush went looking for people to join with him in that ill conceived adventure. He picked on Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar of Spain. Tony bought into the idea fully, but Jose, while confirming he felt he was a friend of the president did not commit Spain to go to war.
With that as the background we examine the role of Mr Blair which seemed to be even more enthused than the president himself. He was unrestrained in his selling of the war, and the reasons why Britain should be involved. It even seemed that Mr Bush was a bit embarrassed by Mr Blair's activism.
The Chilcot Report was based upon information gathered in the cold light of day, long after the events have taken place, and with the benefit of hindsight. This is always the way it is. There is no heat of the moment to be taken into consideration, so if we didn't get it right at the moment this exercise will highlight all your mistakes in an unforgiving spirit.
Saddam Hussein and his sons were truly evil people who should have been wiped from the face of the earth. I think that idea has a huge degree of support. However, if you are going to do something like that it will involve such complex reactions that will follow that there has to be a comprehensive follow up plan in anticipation. That is what appears to have been missing, so failures or mistakes in the execution are laid even larger by what has followed. That is the rub.
A lot can be forgiven if an action ends in complete success across the board. Even then you will not please everybody and people will find reasons to criticise.
Nobody ever said being a leader is easy. It did seem that Mr Blair was on his way to finding himself in a tight spot. However, when the head of a government makes mistakes like those highlighted in The Chilcot Report they are usually made at the expense of people's loss of life. Usually the only redeeming quality of mistakes are the lessons we learn from them.
Lessons learned too late for the dead!
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