Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Short on Credibility?

It was keenly anticipated, but Clare Short's turn at the Chilcot Inquiry has already slipped to the back water pages of the internet news sites.

Despite some stunning revelations which confirmed much of the thinking that Tony Blair did much of his decision making outside Cabinet, ran the country with just a few hand-picked, non-elected advisers, spun the truth and somehow got the Attorney General to change his tune, miraculously in favour of an all-out war when a few weeks before the legal case was nil - despite all this, there was something tawdry and sleazy about Short's evidence.

Part of it was that Alistair Campbell had already laid his marker on her when he gave 'evidence'. He had effectively marginalised her by making her appear 'unreliable', suggesting she was a loose cannon and a potential threat to us all. Further, the whole saga of her resignation was an on-off affair and it appeared she wavered about her decision, loyalty and, perhaps, ambition. Did she go because she could not get what she wanted or because she had a conscience? With Robin Cook it was unequivocal; with Short it was questionable. All the more pity that Cook is not around to give his view, as indeed Dr. David Kelly is also not around too.

Clare Short said a lot of damaging things but her colloquial and slangy style made her sound, frankly, unintelligent and, not a little, vindictive. She came across as having an axe to grind - Campbell's careful depiction of her was at the front of my mind when she referred to the country being run by 'Blair and his mates'. Great pub talk but hardly the accurate description for a major Inquiry. She made the Attorney General's volte-face on the legality of the war sound just like the nation's view of 'how could he move so far in just a few weeks' but there was no substantiation of her view and therefore it was no better testimony than that of you or I in this matter.

But what the whole performance did illustrate, if nothing else, was that the country was in the hands of a very small number of mainly unelected people, that Cabinet was just an 'For Your Information Only' pool, where there was little debate, and Parliament was for mere ratification - with the landslide majority effectively stifling any questions or any chance of democracy.

No matter when and where or for what reason Blair decided to go to war, once he had done so there was no turning back and he just made sure that it looked as though it was necessary. Looking back at the evidence that was presented to the Cabinet, Parliament and the nation, it now looks a laughable attempt to provide an excuse for such action akin to a young school kid making up a story of why it was late to class.

What Clare Short's evidence produced, along with Campbell's and Blair's, is how little real thought went into the whole process of decision making, how little debate was invoked and how trivialised were the thoughts, views and consciences of the British people. We were the last people to be considered and the least. Our vote had been cast long ago and was now a chip in the game of world power. By allying with the US, Britain was at the Top Table of international power and that was vital for Blair's future beyond being Prime Minister. He had suddenly found his raison d'etre, his legacy and his future in one go. He would forever be known as the hero who rid the world of Saddam Hussein.

To use a boxing analogy, Hussein was a former heavyweight who still thought he could fight and was lured into the ring with no training and no fitness. He was a spent force. All he had left was his country's oil, it's proximity to Iran, and that he would make a good butt for the vengeance of the United States for 9/11 even though it was clear he was no more a threat to the US than a defenceless old boxer. The United States had a symbolic war it could win.

But they didn't. Iraq, like Afghanistan, has been a fiasco that has cost $billions and many lives at a time we could afford neither. The legacy will be seen as two zealous, power-hungry fools wanting to make a strike for their faith and their egos.

The only thing Short confirmed yesterday was the image of a dictatorial pseudo-President running our country and that democracy had been suspended. If that is not a case for wholesale electoral reform, then I don't know what is.

No comments: