Tony Blair spent many hours yesterday testifying before the Chilcot inquiry. If the Guardian is your source of news, you have my condolences, but you'll also be able to read 11 separate articles apparently all agreeing that Blair was and remains awful. The New York Times, on the other hand, seems to have only one item on the testimony, and it's buried deep in their website where no-one will accidentally stumble across it. I guess the Americans don't really care much about what Blair says.
I'm unable to find a transcript of the testimony, which is too bad as it had some interesting moments. (I listened to parts of it live on the BBC). For me, what with my parochial interests, the most interesting parts were when he talked about Israel/Palestine.
As the Bush administration began to prepare for the possibility of invading Iraq, in 2002, Blair met Bush. One of the things the Prime Minister tried (unsuccessfully) to convince the President of was that it was important to get the Israelis and Palestinians to making peace: this would positively impact the Iraqi issue, he felt.
Blair was and remains a friend of Israel. As prime minster of the UK, he was also better informed than your average Guardian journalist or most bloggers. He'd had many opportunities to speak personally with all the main actors. None of which, apparently, made him understand what he was talking about. At one point yesterday he rather ruefully admitted that he now knows that making peace in 2002 between Israelis and Palestinians wouldn't have been possible. Since he left Number Ten he's been the top Quartet emissary to Israel/Palestine; he has an office in Jerusalem, and he spends a chuck of his time here on a regular basis. Now - but not then - he's beginning to understand what evey child, Palestinian or Israeli, could have told him back in 2002: that making peace at the height of the second Intifada was not possible. The Israelis had not yet stopped the tidal wave of Palestinian murders of civilians and the Palestinians thought they were on the way to beating Israel; Arafat was still the Palestinian leader and no Israeli government would ever again believe his word in any theoretical negotiations; and there was nothing to talk about nor any interest on either side.
Outsiders observing the Israel/Palestine conflict routinely pretend to be calm bystanders who can see reality in an impartial and reasonable way where the locals, embroiled as they are in their conflict, cannot; hence the need of the outsiders to pontificate and earnestly press upon us locals that we really ought to listen to them, they've got our better interests at heart, and given their detached viewpoint, they can help us out of our short-sighted emotional tantrums. This is always nonsense, and supremely arrogant; as Blair's admission yesterday revealed, it's also simply wrong. Even as earnest and informed an observer as the British prime minister simply didn't understand what was going on.
Amazing. Or not.