Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The great and the good consult Aaro ...

One is a recollection from my own private meeting with Sir John Chilcot, some weeks ago, as part of his meticulous trawl through the people he thought might have something to add or suggest

we are suitably impressed.

another gem:

For example, was so much effort taken up in trying to get a second resolution at the UN that it detracted from planning for the invasion, occupation and postwar reconstruction?

oh so it's our fault! thanks.


Blogger Matthew said...

I thought one of the lessons of that piece was what you were saying on your own 'blog about the risks of classified information.


I was also wondering what Chilcott could have wanted from Aaro. Maybe an understanding of how one could be prepared never to believe a word the government says and then in reality from that day on do the opposite?

12/15/2009 01:13:00 PM  
Anonymous organic cheeseboard said...

That 'trying to get UN approval cost lives' thing is so lame. I think it's a question that has genuinely only occurred to one person - Aaro... There are also issues related to postwar planning that can be reflected back on him, aren't there? I mean, that 'there's got to be more' quotation could apply to lots of stuff Aaro was investing everything in back then.

Off topic, but it looks like you can't even trust Saint Hazel of Blears any more - or actually, you never could, but that didn't stop the Decents from buying into her transparent bullshit:


12/15/2009 02:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The tortured logic of Mr Aaronovitch strikes again!


12/15/2009 03:29:00 PM  
Anonymous Marc Mulholland said...

If a war of choice requires an extremely elaborate post-war reconstruction job then it's not a terribly good idea in the first place.

It should be that either a bloody mess is considered a price proportionate to the immediate tangible war-aim (e.g. circuit-breaking regional anarchy provoked by aggression), or the overthrowing of a regime is so unproblematic as to pretty much allow for the spontaneous peaceful consolidation of a successor regime (as was the case, more or less, in the Kurdish region).

This would be my objection to Aaro (also, I suppose, upon reflection, to BB's position on the invasion back in the day - which was still better than mine, I hasten to add).

12/15/2009 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Blix says nothing new here - but is quite sturdy in the G today.

But first, Tony meets Fern, and the ancient balloon (WTF?) well and truly rises, allowing such excited headlines as “Tony Blair admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway”. Of course, Blair “admitted” no such thing.

Well, how close to crossing the border does TB want to get on this one?

Is he going to say "Well, when I say I would have gone in anyway, I was of course using the future past tense, so did not actually admit I wanted regime chance etc etc"

12/15/2009 04:44:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Sorry that quote was from Aaro not Blix btw!

12/15/2009 04:46:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Don't look at the Blair 'confession' - here's a decoy about post-invasion planning, and for added interest, it's a conspiracy theory! Yes, Aaro is propounding a conspiracy theory! Look over here!

The CT does double duty because in suggesting that Blair was sneakily only pretending to confess, it says he's innocent after all. But then that's a conspiracy theory, so don't take it too seriously... desparate, intricate stuff, trying the thread a safe path through the inconvenient facts.

Aaro: such excited headlines as 'Tony Blair admits: I would have invaded Iraq anyway'. Of course, Blair 'admitted' no such thing...[TB:]"It was the notion of him as a threat to the region, of which the development of WMD was obviously one...So this was the thing that was uppermost in my mind: the threat to the region."

Not that anything Blair says can be trusted, but Aaro doesn't mention the bit later on in the programme where Blair, having avoided the 'God told me' trap, starts riffing on the clash if civilisations:

you also understand I think with these types of decisions that the judgement about them is a very long run thing. I mean it all depends what view you take, I mean I happen to think that there is a major major [sic] struggle going on all over the world really which is about Islam and what is happening within Islam. And I think it's got a long way to go. So I think it's probably only significantly later that you will look back and work out in a context - was this helpful to achieving change, or was it not helpful?

Hmmm, doesn't sound like a concern about clear and present danger of imminent aggression to me.

More Aaro: Mr Blair couldn’t have 'invaded Iraq anyway'. If, according to the hypothesis, he had 'known' that Saddam was WMD-free, then the UN and Parliament would also have known...

Now correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't the UN fail to endorse the invasion? So on what grounds are they supposed to have believed in a WMD hypothesis? And weren't MPs (those not already disposed to rubber stamp US ambitions, or Tony's decision) fed a pack of lies, against the backdrop of carefully maintained hysteria - tanks at Heathrow etc?

...So there would have been no Resolution 1441 - about compliance with inspection, wasn't it? And of course specifically, as subsequently confirmed, not about starting a war? (quite apart from the dubious propaganda term 'WMD' anyway.) and no vote for war. What he was really saying, I think, is that he was glad Saddam had gone, and didn’t regret his departure.

Lucky Aaro is here to interpret Blair's Humpty-Dumptyish use of language, innit.

All this shot through with the characteristic Aaro demand that the only kind of credence is all-or-nothing certain conviction.

Blair, to be unjustified, must have been convinced that there were no 'WMD'. That's a ridiculous standard. What about not giving a toss, or just not having sufficient evidence? Meanwhile the UN, to have passed 1441, must have been certain there were WMD.

Oh yes, BTW, it's far from clear that there was a major short-to-medium term failure of 'postwar' planning, anyway, from the point of view of the war's authors - in which case even the decoy is itself an exercise in mitigation - mistake not malice.

After all, the bases are there, the country is wrecked, thus no threat to Israel and unable to resist oil colonisation, plenty of reconstruction projects, a new untra free-market constitution, continuation of the War on Terror - all of which was predictable and planned. Everything else comes under the 'who gives a shit' strategy.

Aaro is basically saying that all that was (a) just a matter of inattention to detail, (b) (as BB points out) the UN-fetishists' fault, (c) the Americans' fault.

12/15/2009 05:41:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

BTW Aaro was on R4's Word of Mouth today pontificating about Orwell's Politics and the English Language btw. Classic!

12/15/2009 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

Blow me down, it's the Rentoul Defence. The logic seems to go something like this: the war was legal; therefore an illegal war couldn't have happened; therefore Blair can't possibly be saying he would have joined Bush in an illegal war in the absence of WMD. And "you would have had to use and deploy different arguments" can be translated as "never mind all that, let's just be glad Saddam's gone".

Brian is also on the case.

12/15/2009 06:45:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad some of you could find some sort of logic in Aaro's column. I could only think of a certain tea party, and Alice thinking that the Hatter's words were certainly English but she couldn't see any meaning in them.


12/15/2009 07:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks as if the US did next to no post-invasion planning, the UK was aware of this but didn't pull out; but the mess is due to those pesky voters writing to their MPs. I wonder what Orwell would have made of Aaro.


12/15/2009 07:58:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Alice thinking that the Hatter's words were certainly English but she couldn't see any meaning in them.

Too true.

'Curiouser and curiouser' cried Aaro.

12/15/2009 08:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Normski has been expatiating on this theme, mostly arguing that the Graun can't possibly run headlines like "Blair: I would have invaded anyway". Norm's argument goes like this - Blair says that, had he not believed there were WMD, he would have deployed other arguments; we can't say that parliament would have bought those arguments; therefore, with different arguments, Blair may not have been able to get a mandate from parliament to invade; therefore, we must give Blair the benefit of the doubt. QED.

You may think Norm is being a little disingenuous, especially given Norm's support for regime change as a casus belli. I couldn't possibly comment.

12/15/2009 09:32:00 PM  
Anonymous Phil said...

with different arguments, Blair may not have been able to get a mandate from parliament to invade

I can't believe how this argument is thriving, considering how weak it is. Blair took the country into war with the flimsiest of legal justifications; he's now telling us that he would have done the same, if he could, even without any legal justification. And the reason why we're not supposed to shout about this is... that in that scenario he might not have been able to get a majority in Parliament? It's not quite as feeble as Bob Ainsworth's display of sophistry ("I can't know whether I would have been persuaded by other arguments, because as it happened those arguments weren't made") but it's very close.

I mean, apart from anything else this is the man (Blair, not Norm) who demands to be judged on his intentions rather than on outcomes. And his stated intention on this case was to make war, with international law on his side if possible but without it if necessary. Appalling.

12/15/2009 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

What's so galling is the use of "conspiracy theory" as a catch-all dismissive phrase to exclude reality. Who's fucking dream is Aaro dreaming?

TB has traded a few confessional cards in exchange of an agreement he can couch semantics in his smarmy way. He gives lawyers a bad name - if such a thing was possible.

TB's also revelling in the art of fencing - which is particularly distasteful, given the subject matter.

But, hey, this is Awatch not TBwatch. If it was TBW it would be a stream of invective from me and utterly dull.

Having said that everything I say on here is probably a stream of invective.

Let's stick to taking Aaro's political soul to task, as TB's is not worth saving.

12/15/2009 10:29:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

particularly distasteful, given the subject matter.


FB: You say you're not haunted - and yet you say you are troubled and you feel responsibility of course for the war. And when you meet the parents of the people who've died, and they refuse to shake your hand and they say you're a war criminal and you have blood on your hands, that's the cross you will always have to bear.

TB: Well it's worse for them. Let's be clear, you know it's worse for them: they've lost their child. And it's very sad in a way [!]' I've...simply for the obvious reasons, but if you've lost your loved ones and if you think you've lost them in a cause that's not worth it, that make sit worse.

FB: But they always count you responsible.

TB: And that's the responsibility you [!] carry. But you've got to carry it, I'm afraid, because you can't - on the other hand there's no point going into a situation of conflict and not understanding there is going to be a price paid. Now it's also important to understand that many of those who are in the armed forces, including those who have lost their loved ones in Afghanistan or in Iraq, they also are very often proud of what their child has done and proud of the cause they fought in. So you've got to be - you know there are parents who feel very very deeply angry and resentful, and believe that the war was not worth it -

FB: [inaudible]

TB yup - But there are also those others who don't want to feel as it were that their view is ignored.


12/15/2009 11:33:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

It's inverse martyrdom! The Passion of the Shite!

12/16/2009 12:12:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why not be a conspiracy theorist? There is now an Inquiry whose job is to establish a credible narrative of how the UK became involved in the invasion of Iraq. An Inquiry became necessary because the present narrative is no longer credible. The facts no longer fit the standard narrative so there must be other facts that weren't in the public domain. A conspiracy!

I've always thought that WMD were a smokescreen used to avoid thinking about a difficult issue for the UK political establishment: how to maintain the idea of a "special relationship" with the USA when the USA was openly proclaiming a belief in the (illegal and daft) doctrine of preventive military interventions. So what has Mr Blair just said?


12/16/2009 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Why not be a conspiracy theorist?

Because if it's true, it's no longer considered a conspiracy theory, and because there is such a huge body of popular middle-brow literature dedicated to

* Discussing conspiracy theories on the assumption that they are a pathology (or in some way 'like' one) that needs to be explained'. The curecny of expressions like 'Be a conpiracy theorist' rather than 'accept a conspiracy theory' is part of the same ad hominising trend (sorry, that sounds a bit supercilious; not meant so).

* Fogging issues around qualified or partial belief and the suspension of judgement, instead insisting on categorical repudiation of the forbidden doctrines.

* Relatedly, insisting that any hypothesis involving concealed planning, corruption or covert action be inflated into some vast Byzantine etc, or even into a Conspiracy Theory of History (Popper, Hofstadter).

* Constructing sometimes superficially plausible-sounding general arguments about why you must be wrong to think that some sort of skullduggery might be afoot (Occam's Razor, the Julius Gold 'nothing succeeds as planned' thesis, pathetic fallacy, etc etc)

* Devising apocalyptic warnings about the terrible danger that the viral spread of 'pseudohistory' poses to Teh Enlightenment, truth, Good Governance, and the purity and essence of all our precious bodily fluids.

* Mounting fairly vicious attacks on anyone at all high profile who ventures beyond the pale of polite discussion.

,that's why.

Not the same sense of 'why' you were using, but still that is mostly why. And it's a biggish part of Aaro's role (yes, his role as allotted by the vast all-powerful Jewish Illuminati shapeshifting communist bankers' conspiracy.)

Which reminds me, there's a strong tendency to come up with unusually poor jokes of the above genre whenever the subject of CTs comes up, with a kind of guilty, sniggery prurience that's reminiscent of sex jokes - perhaps specifically, the kind of formulaic forced jocularity that mention of homosexuality prompts among self-consciously heterosexual males. esp in all-male company.

12/16/2009 11:28:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Sex jokes in the British tradition, anyway. Also the very slight edge of uneasiness at participating in victimising humour reminds me of racist jokes, and the guilty pleasure sometimes discernible in the laughter they provoke.

12/16/2009 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger Coventrian said...

I think we have to acknowledge that Blair had massive stockpiles of arguments for mass destruction, any of which he could deploy within 45 minutes of a phone call from George W. Bush.

12/16/2009 11:35:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice to see Good As Gold get a reference. Nothing succeeds as planned, indeed.

12/16/2009 12:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Why not be a conspiracy theorist?"

I forget, of course, that Aaro thinks that it is up to him to decide what is a conspiracy theory and what is a plausible argument. So presumably it is my fault that I find it difficult to follow his "plausible argument" and find that it depends on a number of odd assumptions about UNSC1441.

12/16/2009 02:47:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

It's not quite as feeble as Bob Ainsworth's display of sophistry ("I can't know whether I would have been persuaded by other arguments, because as it happened those arguments weren't made")

I think it's worse. Whether Parliament could have been persuaded is utterly irrelevant to Blair's attitude to justifiction of the war. At least Ainsworth could appeal to the underspecifation of the hypothetical. He could even appeal to the fine traditions of British pragmatism, the common law tradition and all.

Personally I imagine he was dodging a question of principle, but his is the less obviously bollocky arguemnt. Or perhaps I am slicing my bollocks too fine?

12/16/2009 03:07:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

Nice to see Good As Gold get a reference.

Perhaps Heller can have a brief run out as the Rev Dodgson has in the last couple of threads here from memory, 4 or 5 distinct allusions)

12/16/2009 03:10:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aaro, of course, is a coincidence theorist in these matters. But the more I think about this new trope of his, and specifically the way people like Nick have picked up on it, it's a bit of a sleekit manoeuvre. Aaro having defined a conspiracy theory as "an explanation of events that seems unlikely to David Aaronovitch", this allows him to cast anyone espousing such an explanation as a paranoid wingnut and equivalent to the 9/11 truth movement.

It helps, too, that Aaro systematically gives the benefit of the doubt to the government, so explanations that seem unlikely to him cover an awful lot of territory.

On the same theme, I'm tickled that my old mate Damian Thompson, of Counterknowledge fame, has come out as a climate change denier. This also, deliciously, puts Damo on the opposite side of the argument from the Pope, who's just written a rather fine pastoral letter dealing with ecology and sustainability. But I expect that will go down the memory hole, the same way hardline scientific rationalist Francis Wheen studiously avoids mentioning Private Eye's record on MMR.

12/16/2009 09:17:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Aaro having defined a conspiracy theory as "an explanation of events that seems unlikely to David Aaronovitch", this allows him to cast anyone espousing such an explanation as a paranoid wingnut and equivalent to the 9/11 truth movement.

I think that's the essence of what I find so disagreeable.

I couldn't give a hoot if a theory is couched by someone who frames it as a CT - all ideas are judged without prejudice and then looked at case by case.

But Aaro has an agenda, I believe, which is to use his Voodoo History concoction as an intellectual battering ram in order to pulverise "conspiracy theories" per se.

The problem though is that during the holocaust Jews, for instance in the States, believed the suggestion that their relatives were being moved - was a conspiracy theory.

He's playing games with truth, and that puts him in a corner.

12/16/2009 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Coming back on Tim - the Decent Left as Catch-22 characters, anyone? NTM does have something of the Minderbinder about him. Those saps who bought shares in M&M Enterprises - oops, the Decentiya £100 Club - might concur.

12/16/2009 10:53:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

TB: I mean it all depends what view you take, I mean I happen to think that there is a major major [sic] struggle going on all over the world really which is about Islam and what is happening within Islam.

12/16/2009 11:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, TB succeeded Major Major in power...

12/16/2009 11:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I see myself as Orr, but then again, who doesn't? Hoon is Major Major, obviously. David T must be Captain Black owing to the manifold similarities between the Glorious Loyalty Oath Crusade and the programme of Will-you-condemnathons. Clevinger is probably Galloway "His Islamist friends hated hm because he was a labourite, and his labourite friends hated him because he was an Islamist".

Blair is Aarfy. "Not good old Tony, no sirree."

Chris Williams

12/16/2009 11:42:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Shooting Blair is fish in a barrel territory. The only time I go hunting is when I see anon trolls.

But (when I'm not mixing my metaphors as I've just done) I'm staggered by the easy ride he has had.

It's not even skillful weaseling now. Moreover, he's on a fucking talk show yapping about religion and decisions but, penitence has been masqueraded in his age-old subterfuge and the game is back on.

Sorry! Pent up rage at the pro-TB trolls after the prior AW debate.

12/16/2009 11:50:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

CB - Nice one.

Mr K - If something is worth shooting, then if not when it is in/over/at the bottom of a barrel, when?

mixed metaphors - Aaro and chums had a whale of a time spotting those on the Orwell edition of Word of Mouth.

They were far too busy revelling in that barrel-shoot to go into what was certainly overlooked or underemphasised by Orwell, that some (well-judged, useful) metaphors may go through acliché phase, but then emerge as new meanings of words (subtitute technical terms to taste).

Stephen Fry had a thoughtful prog about that,also on R4, a while back. ('Revelling', 'overlooked', in the above, perhaps, at different degrees of de-metaphorisation.)

12/17/2009 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...


12/17/2009 12:24:00 AM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...


Re Fish in a barrel - I'm talking within AW, that's all. I'm happy to go all guns blazing on TB in another sphere, but there is a rarefied dignity to AW that I enjoy.

In terms of riling me, he still does, but until he adopts a new position of importance he isn't worth fighting, as we say in the north on a Friday night.

"de-metaphorisation" is a damn ugly word though. Like a deforestation for etymologists - though that would be a simile.

12/17/2009 12:44:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

"de-metaphorisation" is a damn ugly word though

True. crustallisation? Burgeoning?

12/17/2009 12:53:00 AM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

typo but might catch on

12/17/2009 12:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Darius Jedburgh said...

"De-metaphorisation" -- isn't it just a matter of dying?

12/17/2009 11:22:00 AM  
Anonymous Wrestling Dick said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12/17/2009 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

Re above. Can't believe aaro is trolling again.

12/18/2009 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger AndyB said...

God, it's getting like Harry's Place round here. Someone posts a reasoned, critical comment and BOOM! it gets deleted, leaving only the nutters.

12/18/2009 06:08:00 PM  
Blogger Mr Kitty said...

I thought they actually made some interesting points on the subject of eroticism and wrestling.

12/18/2009 06:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was so completely OT it was magnificent. But the juxtaposition of Aaro and erotic wrestling is an image that'll be hard to shake. Louis Theroux might do it, but Aaro has never been that hands-on in his journalism.

12/18/2009 07:42:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also, he doesn't like contests where there's any element of doubt as to the outcome. How do you back the winner then?

Chris Williams

12/18/2009 07:45:00 PM  
Blogger Tim Wilkinson said...

"De-metaphorisation" -- isn't it just a matter of dying?

Just looked it up and Orwell does talk about metaphors, once fully dead, reverting to ordinary words, thus being usable without loss of vividness, but it's not entirely clear he's talking about the same thing.

I'm talking about ones which are still used despite their imagery being faded to a mere undertone or connotation (degree of fading being degree of de-metaphorisation/ coagulescence) - and which get a new entry in the dictionary as a result.

The Fry programme's write up has language is shaped, like a coastline, by a flow of metaphors, which erode, break down and eventually become part of everyday speech and writing.

What is entirely clear btw is that Aaro et al, perhaps with the exception of the female academic, showed no interest in such questions.

12/18/2009 09:02:00 PM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

On this lunchtime's Dateline London on the BBC News channel, a late push by DA for Modest Comparison of the Decade:
"You're looking at me. Just as people looked at Barack Obama."

He also said "Climate deniers - I don't know if that's a good phrase." Surely climate change deniers, I thought it was only the British who claim to have weather instead of climate.

He says it is the profligacy of the Greeks that has got their them into Euro trouble, and says it will be good when the over-fifties generation in the UK are all dead, as noone younger has a problem with the Euro. I guess that makes him five years overdue for his Logan's Run.

12/19/2009 01:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Der Bruno Stroszek said...

He also said "Climate deniers - I don't know if that's a good phrase." Surely climate change deniers, I thought it was only the British who claim to have weather instead of climate.

Aside from the missing word, that's a pretty remarkably hypocritical sentiment coming from someone who's just released a whole book throwing juvenile smears at people who believe in conspiracy theories, isn't it?

More fuel for my suspicions that a Decent stance on climate change is around the corner, and they will agree that some conspiracy theories are more equal than others.

12/21/2009 10:14:00 AM  
Anonymous skidmarx said...

Someone has already compared anti-Stalinists with Creationists:

12/22/2009 05:43:00 PM  

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