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John Rentoul

John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting fellow at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.

"The Independent's must-read man" - Daniel Finkelstein

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More on Marr

Posted by John Rentoul
  • Sunday, 7 February 2010 at 11:33 pm
One of the worst features of some opponents of the Iraq war is the assumption that because people died that makes it all right to accuse other people of lying. That is what Andrew Marr came too close to with his snarky introduction of Alastair Campbell, saying they would discuss "that dossier and his new work of fiction" this morning.

When Campbell fought to control his exasperation, Marr came back with the righteous "600,000 people died", which is a figure that needs to be cross-examined rather than asserted. When Campbell challenged it, Marr said: "Well, I'm taking internationally accepted UN figures on that." This is not the case, as I have repeatedly argued.* Even if it were true, and 150,000 dead is surely bad enough, is does not justify calling someone a liar.

Iain Martin, a journalist whom I respect, was at it too. He quoted Campbell's words on Marr's programme: “I’ve been through a lot on this… I’m a bit upset.” And commented: "There’ll probably be parents and partners of those troops killed in Iraq who will raise an eyebrow at that remark." That soldiers have died has nothing to do with questioning Campbell's integrity.

The transcript of the Marr-Campbell exchange is here.

*Meanwhile, sad to report that my own newspaper, The Independent on Sunday, has again carried a letter alleging "the killing of more than a million Iraqis is a direct result of a policy pursued by Blair and George Bush". 


Holocaust Denial
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 12:04 am (UTC)
is a crime in Germany I believe.

A pity that False Holocaust Advocacy is not even a misdemeanour.

One might judge the mind of those who advocate such a lie by their posts here:

Any advance on 2m?
Iain "Glenfarclas" Martin
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 12:08 am (UTC)
has decided to apologise for using the word "scum" on his Dully Tele blog about Wossy I think it was about a year ago.

Such has useful applications, those who use the term for abuse rarely do in my experience.
Andrew Marr
porkfright wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 09:37 am (UTC)
It really is a sign of the times that the B.B.C and Andrew Marr are getting such stick from pro-warrists. Many of us are of the opinion that the dear old Beeb became simply a NuLab mouthpiece after the Kelly affair upheaval. And Marr is certainly not one of my favourite 'seekers after truth'.The very fact that this interview happened as it did perhaps shows more than anything else that old allegiances are under change and review.
Re: Andrew Marr
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 11:56 am (UTC)
What codswallop!

The Today programme most obviously and Breakfast on tv are bastions of the conservatives who run the ToryBBC at the levels which count eg producers.

Since Gilligan was eventually forced to be sacked for his disgraceful role in the death of Dr Kelly the Conservatives and semi-demi trots at the Beeb have been on the war path whenever they can get away with it.

They don't believe Chameleon's assurances and look forward to a juicy series of privatisations too.
Secret Downing Street memo
bob_idle wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 01:46 pm (UTC)
- a reminder.

"C reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed round the policy."

Alastair Campbell was one of the recipients of the memo.

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 02:20 pm (UTC)
Opinion, and less evidential than the so called dodgy dossier I'd say. The concept that even those who make a living from comms heed every one with unerring accuracy (if such is possible) a bit doo lally also.

I wonder that so few have actually attended any sort of formal inquiry where the rules of evidence are in use, let alone been on a jury and listened to the judge's imprecations re objectivity?

Notable that Dr Kelly quite clearly gave as his opinion that military action was the only way to stop Saddam from resuming his WMD programmes and abusing the proceeds. He was honoured for helping find some of Saddam's WMD materials, and actually knew a bit more than the anti-war sages do in their blind retrospect.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
j_rentoul wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 02:33 pm (UTC)
Anyone one wanting to comment on this blog is required to do his or her homework. In this case, that means knowing more about the "Downing Street Memo" than Bob Idle. See
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
bob_idle wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 03:54 pm (UTC)
From your former blog:

"Sir Richard later told me that he had been misquoted. He reviewed the draft memo, objecting to the word “fixed” in particular, and corrected it to reflect the truth of the matter.He said that upon returning to London in July of 2002, he expressed the view, based on his conversations, that the war in Iraq was going to happen. He believed that the momentum driving it was not really about WMD but rather about bigger issues, such as changing the politics of the Middle East. "

Even if it's true that he had been misquoted ....

The above is just as damning really because the Blair argument was based on WMD. He put the case for war to Parliament and the voters based on WMD (45 minutes) - not on "changing the politics of the Middle East".

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
arnoldo87 wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 04:46 pm (UTC)
"He (Blair) put the case for war to Parliament and the voters based on WMD (45 minutes) - not on "changing the politics of the Middle East"

Bob - you're not having a good day are you? In the debate that took us to war on March 18th 2003, Blair didn't even mention 45 minutes.

In fact, Nobody did.

Want to try something else, or are you going to stop digging?
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
bob_idle wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 05:57 pm (UTC)
All the facts on the 45 minutes are here: "read it and weep"

Blair certainly used 45 minutes in the dossier which was published to whip up support for the war.

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
bob_idle wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 06:44 pm (UTC)
House of Commons

Tuesday 24 September 2002

The House met at half-past Eleven o'clock, notice having been given by Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order No. 13 (Earlier meeting of the House in certain circumstances).


[Mr. Speaker in the Chair]

Iraq and Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Prime Minister (Mr. Tony Blair):" I am aware, of course, that people will have to take elements of this on the good faith of our intelligence services, but this is what they are telling me, the British Prime Minister, and my senior colleagues. The intelligence picture that they paint is one accumulated over the last four years. It is extensive, detailed and authoritative. It concludes that Iraq has chemical and biological weapons, that Saddam has continued to produce them, that he has existing and active military plans for the use of chemical and biological weapons, which could be activated within 45 minutes, including against his own Shia population, and that he is actively trying to acquire nuclear weapons capability."

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
arnoldo87 wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 07:20 pm (UTC)
So Bob, with his trusty spade, has now unearthed the sensational news that there was a dossier published in September 2002 which mentioned WMD and 45 minutes.

Spellbinding stuff, Bob. I'll bet that the arguments raged on this topic for months afterwards.

But wait! Reading your BBC summary through my tears, I find this:-

"24 September 2002 to 29 May 2003
During this period between the dossier's publication and Andrew Gilligan's reports, the Commons library has told Labour MP Peter Bradley, the 45-minute claim was mentioned only once in passing in the Commons and twice in more than 38,000 written questions."

So, Bob - seriously - please just accept the fact that Blair did not use the 45 minute claim as a main plank of his justification for the war, as you implied.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
aardvark11 wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 07:31 pm (UTC)
Bob wins hands down so far. But if we are to believe you, just what was "the main plank of his justification". Whatever it was, it was certainly not "changing the politics of the Middle East".
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
mikeclark1 wrote:
Tuesday, 9 February 2010 at 05:11 am (UTC)
No Bob lost badly. For a minute there I thought he was going to pullout the 'no automaticity line' as well.

The threat to the region was indeed a case put by Blair.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
bob_idle wrote:
Tuesday, 9 February 2010 at 11:36 am (UTC)
"Threat to the region" because of the WMD Blair insisted Saddam was concealing (45 minutes).

Not "changing the politics of the Middle East".

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
quietzapple wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 04:47 pm (UTC)
As Blair has already pointed out the "45 minutes" was misunderstood by almost all those who quote it.

I recall reading various accounts of what was intended by the phrase in the press and hearing others in other media.

David Kelly also had the impression that there would be a war without having had those experiences. No-one's opinion is proven to be well founded because their prediction comes true.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
porkfright wrote:
Monday, 8 February 2010 at 08:48 pm (UTC)
Reading the exchanges above, one could be forgiven for thinking that there never was an Iraq war and that Blair, Straw, Campbell et al had nothing at all to do with it whatsoever. The phrase 'How many angels can be gotten on a pinhead' comes to mind. BTW Mr.Rentoul-I have done my homework but I am not handing it in.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
quietzapple wrote:
Tuesday, 9 February 2010 at 09:05 am (UTC)
Wrong and won't admit it.

Consider all the things which have NOT happened, so far as we know, which likely would sooner or later:

Saddam rebuilds his WMD programmes in the face of broken sanctions, and Iran escalates hers.

Terrorists steal some materials, but not the means to deliver them accurately and most effectively.

Attacks are launched simultaneously in Washington, London, Mumbai, Korachi, Bagdad 5m dead.

Re: Secret Downing Street memo
imsorrywhat_7 wrote:
Tuesday, 9 February 2010 at 11:31 am (UTC)
Im sorry, I really can't believe you just said that.

You cannot say that if we hadn't invaded iraq, terrorists would have blown up 5m people. It's like saying Islam would have conquered the world if the 1st crusade hadn't happened.

Under that line of thought we'd better bloody invade Iran and quick, because my god, they'll have nuclear material soon and who knows, that could be used to kill 10 million! Hell we should probably invade france too because they have nukes and muslim's live there, matter of fact what the hell so do we, we need to invade ourselves!

I can accept people saying that it was necessary for international stability and that saddam was a genocide committing tyrant, but I'm sorry, I won't accept someone saying that 5 million people would be dead by now if we hadn't invaded. That is just utter rubbish.
Re: Secret Downing Street memo
quietzapple wrote:
Wednesday, 10 February 2010 at 11:23 pm (UTC)
Good deal more likely that various means would have been used, high explosives not the principal means of killing people. gas, biological, nukes . . .

Iran, Libya, N Korea, Iraq - different means at different times to prevent them obtaining WMDs, and partly because no-one would want to guarantee their secure holding of such weapons.

People who co-ordinate flying airliners into buildings are desperate enough to send millions of us wherever they think we deserve.


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