Thursday, January 20, 2011

A bit of Rentoul Watching

Sorry to the Couscous Kid, I know we promised not to, but we were asked.

I am much puzzled by a tweet of Rentoul's.

In a sane media environment, this Chilcot evidence would be recognised as supportive of the Blair govt's case

I don't follow him; it was retweeted by DA. I admire Paul Waugh (to whom Rentoul links), but I trust the FT rather more. Rentoul believes that this sort of stuff is supportive of Blair. I am not convinced.

SIS4 says he had no problem with the intel being shown to the Prime Minister. But he then adds a curious turn of phrase that could either be dry sarcasm or something straighter:
"What I divine to be the direction of questioning is the issue of whether the Chief detonated a psychotropic line of thinking and excitement in the Prime Minister by giving him what in quieter days might be thought rather precipitate briefing on casework which turned out not to be real. I don't think it's for me to offer a judgment on that."

Waugh asks, "Don't you just love that "psychotropic" phrase[?]" I think I like 'detonated' rather more.

From this whole article, we can gather that the security services thought WMD existed.

He makes clear that he felt that Saddam DID weaponise VX nerve agent and that it was there to be found somewhere. 'C' says he is "sick of this being glossed over".

'Felt' might be a better word, because they produced no evidence at the time, and there has never been evidence of 'weaponise[d] VX nerve agent'. My prejudices are largely anti-spook, and their 'feelings' here seem fanciful to me. I think -- perhaps naively -- that governments should work on hard evidence. If Blair was swung by this, more fool him.

Can anyone fill out Rentoul's case? Let's leave aside the 'sane media environment' thing as the product of the exigencies of Twitter and not a serious claim about anything.


Anonymous BenSix said...

I believe this is the essential fallacy in Rentoul's line of thought.

The SIS4 bloke's testimony has largely been redacted. Here's a bit to make one squirm... touched on the kind of regime that might follow Saddam, and you said it would be important not to parachute a regime in from the external opposition. They would be regarded as US stooges.

What they "knew" about Iraq's WMDs has mostly been expunged. Everything about Hussein Kamel is gone, for example. This is interesting, though; re: the dossier...

SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN So, [REDACTED] were you seeking to tone the whole thing down?
SIS4: I would have been.
SIR LAWRENCE FREEDMAN: But you weren't very successful.
SIS4: Absolutely not.

1/20/2011 10:37:00 PM  
Anonymous BenSix said...

(Psychologising one's rhetorical opponents if, of course, a fallacious, childish tactic. But (a) I am childish, (b) I'm, like, totally joking and (c) he started it.)

1/20/2011 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Chardonnay Chap said...

Great stuff, Ben.

Just looked at the link in your second comment.

It is not a secret that Tony Blair, from at least November 1997, supported the use of military force to make Saddam Hussein comply with UN resolutions.

My understanding is that sanctions such as those imposed upon Iraq are always explicitly backed by force. Blair's support for this is not radical or insightful or at all a demonstration of 'leadership'. It's bog-standard acquiescence to the status quo. That's what we had, eg how the Kurds were protected by the USAF.

Regarding the other points:

2 True enough, but it was an obvious deception, and the legal system doesn't allow for conviction solely by confession, evidence is required too. (People can be bonkers, or self-deceiving, etc).

3 Oh, I think they have. The Attorney General was not convinced that it was a legal war. Wars start off if you will illegally, like forcible entry into a house. If the police do it, they need legal backing.

4 Pedantic and not convincing.

5 Citing larger figures can be substantiated by reference to the Lancet. They are not exaggeration. Misdirection.

God, I find Rentoul very unconvincing. There must be a better case than this. Surely this is propaganda; why is it in the Independent? Where's the objectivity, impartiality and things smart-ish people expect of a newspaper?

1/20/2011 11:29:00 PM  
Anonymous dd said...

"2. There is a difference between a lie and something widely believed to be true that turned out to be a deception on Saddam’s part."

this always, reliably pisses me off. If you tried to float a company on the Alternative Investment Market operating to that standard, you would be prosecuted, sued and banned from the industry for life. When you are setting out on an important exercise, you check, check and then you are totally upfront about your evidence and its weaknesses. Why (oh why oh why) is it less regulated to start a trillion dollar war in which hundreds of thousands of people die, than to raise $2m in the flotation of a chain of car washes?

1/20/2011 11:50:00 PM  
Anonymous Asteri said...

This comment summed it up pretty well...

"I don't know about others, but the constant stream of Blair defences from John Rentoul and his few supporters actually hardens my own attitude. It is the total failure of them to admit just the slightest amount of wrongdoing in Blair's actions that really irritates me. It seems to me that even a moderate centre of the road sort of person might admit the following.

1) Meetings between Blair and Bush raised suspicions that some sort of pact was being cococted. Nothing has been place in the public domain to reduce those suspicions.
2) Blair overstated the available intelligence on WMDs.
3) Blair overstated the 45 minute claim. This claim was based on just one unreliable report. If Blair knew this, he is guilty of misrepresentation. If he didn't know, he was guilty of gross negligence.
4) Campbell and other spin doctors should never have been allowed to influence the dossiers. I can say without fear of contradiction that Campbell's ONLY talent was in spin. What was such a man doing if he wasn't hyping up the facts? This is something the pathetic Lord Hutton failed to address.
5) Blair totally failed to plan for the aftermath of the war, costing tens of thousand of innocent lives, including hundreds of our own soldiers."

1/20/2011 11:56:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One day Rentoul is saying that the invasion of Iraq was legal. The next day he is saying that we should have known from September 2001 that Blair had signed us up to Bush's illegal adventures.

I am surprised that the Independent keep him and that Ed Milliband hasn't tried to get him removed. His illogical apologies for New Labour do the paper and the party a lot of harm.


1/21/2011 08:25:00 AM  

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