Blogging Blair (2)

Well, sadly, I couldn’t take my laptop into the auditorium, so it’s all written notes. You might as well head over to the Guardian Iraq Inquiry website for the live blog there. It’s the best one out there. So before I start watching the talking heads give their analysis, or, even worse, that of other Labour Party hacks (Margaret Beckett is droning on right now on Sky–anyone who lives in the UK will know what a dreaded prospect that is) here are some observations.

It was a bit surreal, in fact–the Alternative Viewing Facility turns out to be the large auditorium in the Queen Elizabeth II Center where the inquiry is being held. There must have been 800 people in there, not many of them likely to have been on Blair’s side. All very well behaved, I must say–and a really broad age range, Clearly a lot of people had taken time off from work, as I had. This was important. It’s like being in the Iraq marches in 2002 and 2003–there was a need to bear witness, and this was one of those occasions that required it. Chilcot, to his credit, understands this, I think. It goes without saying that neither Tony Blair nor the current Prime Minister, Gordon Brown (who testifies next month) wanted this inquiry. There were lots of demonstrators outside, of course, but there seemed to be even more police. Continue reading

Is apathy socially redeeming?

Many an activist and other members of the liberal left (sorry, conservatives, there’s nothing derogatory about that term you use for us) has torn out his or her hair over apathy on the part of the general public. Why do so few Americans care about inhumanity and injustice? Worse, why do they often vote against their own interests?

What compounds our frustration and bewilderment over our fellow Americans’ negligible participation in the political process is the overarching irony. We’re citizens of the nation that put participatory democracy on the map for God’s sake. How did we arrive at this sad state of affairs, which I call the enduring enigma of the American public? Continue reading

Blogging Blair

OK, today is the big day. We’ve already had three hours of Tony Blair this morning, but they’re only letting the public in to either a morning or an afternoon session for Blair’s testimony, and I got the afternoon. I can’t believe I got one of these tickets—I never win anything. But here we are.

And I haven’t heard back on whether they have Wi-Fi in the room that I’ll be sitting in, so I don’t know if I’ll be able to post. If not, it will all come out in one large post later.

So what happened this morning? Blair was asked about what happened at Crawford (nothing special, no secret deal), the relation of Iraq to the mid-east peace process (none, apparently, although he said he was “frustrated” at the lack of progress), his relationship with Bush (fine, and did not set conditions). So far, Blair’s main point is that 9/11 changed everything—specifically, the perception of risk. So even though he more or less conceded that the actual risk posed by Saddam Hussein did not change, the perceived risk did. And he was very fudgy on one point—he saw no real difference between regime change and disarming Iraq, an interesting non-distinction for someone who trained as a lawyer to make. Blair also said that his comments in his now-notorious interview with Fern Britton of the BBC last year was a mistake. We’ve also learned that Blair seems to worry a lot about threats—he’s mentioned Iran several times today. Is he secretly lamenting that he didn’t get an attack on Iran in while he still could? Continue reading