British press divided over Blair's Iraq grilling

22nd January 2011, Comments 0 comments

British newspapers were torn Saturday over Tony Blair's performance at the Iraq war inquiry, with some blasting the former prime minister and others saying his warnings on Iran were valid.

Blair told the inquiry Friday that he deeply regretted the loss of life in the conflict, sparking angry shouts of "too late" from dead soldiers' families.

During a four-and-a-half hour hearing, he also urged the West to use force if necessary to curb Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The Independent said Blair's "gung-ho" attitude showed the "folly" of his position on Iraq, adding that the "disastrous consequences remain clear for all to see."

The Guardian said that "for the most part, the old stager belted out familiar tunes" in a display of "chutzpah".

"It is not a trial, but the inquiry must nonetheless settle whether the former prime minister swept three particular things away -- the truth, the law and proper decision-making. Of these three, Mr Blair yesterday acquitted himself with least damage on the last."

The Daily Mail said it was "a predictably polished, slippery" performance, full of "self-justifying claptrap".

"Mr Blair agreed in secret to wage the Iraq war -- then lied, cheated and manipulated to make it happen.

"To this day, his actions stain the national conscience."

The Sun said that "nothing divides Britain more than our part in the war against the evil regime of Saddam Hussein".

"But the former prime minister argued a convincing case for taking action against one of the vilest regimes the world has ever seen -- led by a man who slaughtered hundreds of thousands of his own people.

"Extremism cannot be 'managed'."

The Daily Telegraph said: "So relentless is the chorus that the public has given up trying to listen to what he has to say, assuming that it is all glib self-justification."

But it added that his warning on Iran was based on "far more reliable information than was available about Saddam's Iraq".

Like him or not, a former premier's views "should command our attention. And, as it happens, he is right about Iran".

The Times sketch writer Ann Treneman said "the whole place was a "virtual floatation tank of emotion".

Blair's expression of regret over the lives lost in front of bereaved relatives seemed "like some sort of reckoning. Imperfect and messy, yes. Dysfunctional, certainly. But a reckoning, nonetheless."

The Daily Mirror said nobody's mind would be changed by the inquiry.

"It is the process which was at fault rather than any preconceived mendacity on the part of Mr Blair, a politician motivated by good intentions who made a catastrophic error."

The Daily Express agreed, calling the inquiry "pointless".

"Everybody by now must have reached a settled view. Clearly Blair massively overstated the case for believing Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. Equally there was always a case for removing the monster on human rights grounds and for staying close to America.

"As it happens, the negatives heavily outweighed the positives," it said, adding: "That is really all anyone needs to know."

© 2011 AFP

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