Appearing with the demeanour both of a woman scorned and an avenging angel, today brought Clare Short to the Iraq Enquiry. It was never going to be a meeting of the Tone and George fan club: Short did not disappoint as she laid into Blair’s apparent lack of candour and the “extraordinary” volte face of then Attorney General Lord Goldsmith.
Crucially, Short echoed the testimony yesterday by forces chief Sir Jock Stirrup that there had been insufficient time to prepare for the conflict – and for the inevitable humanitarian deficit in its aftermath. Moreover, she pointed up where Blair had given her advice which proved to be at variance with the facts. And, a point that Blair, who is to be recalled to revisit some of his evidence, will not want to replay, she touched on the crude and unnecessary demonisation of the French.
The dumping on Jacques Chirac and Dominique de Villepin by both UK and US Governments was uncalled for, and need not have happened: Chirac had been prepared to support a second UN resolution and back military action, but not while the weapons inspectors were still at work. Hence his carefully worded use of the phrase “à ce moment” – “at this moment” to qualify his opposition to that resolution.
The inference of Chirac’s wording was clear enough: right now there will be no support, but that doesn’t mean there will not be support in the future. However, rather than maintain the diplomatic language and engage with the French, the US and UK cynically turned on them. This was particularly rich coming from the US, where some commentators accused the French of treachery, while conveniently forgetting that, without the French, the USA would never have come into existence.
Right now, that is “at this moment” once more, it will be interesting to see how the Blair rebuttal machine tackles Clare Short’s accusations. Big Al will not be pleased.