Wednesday 6 July 2016

Snapshot on Chilcot I: "That cynicism about politics in this country, I think, fed into the whole business of the EU referendum"

From tonight's BBC One News at Six:

Sophie Raworth: And, John Simpson, this investigation has taken years to complete. How long-lasting will its impact be? 
John Simpson: Far more than the seven years it took, Sophie. I think we're looking at decades. 
Let's look at the individual elements of it. 
I think you've got to go back to 1956 and the Suez campaign, which brought Britain's history as a colonial power effectively to an end, to see anything comparable. 
Iraq? I go there a lot - as often as I possibly can. It's a damaged, deeply, deeply damaged society, as we saw in Jeremy Bowen's piece. The damage goes right through. It's not going to recover quickly. 
The United States? Well, it got involved because after 9/11 it wanted to show it was still the dominant military power so it took on a country which looked strong but actually wasn't (Iraq). And yet, within a few years, the Americans were having to say, 'We can't fight two quite medium-sized wars at the same time'. 
Britain? We'll never be quite as close to the US again - or certainly we won't just automatically follow what they do. And I think you can say there is a line to be drawn from 2003 and the invasion right through to a couple of weeks ago. That cynicism about politics in this country, I think, fed into the whole business of the EU referendum.  
Sophie Raworth: Our World Affairs Editor, John Simpson. Thank you.


  1. I heard the same on radio 4 - nearly crashed my car Brexit bringing you "illegal" wars since 2003.

  2. I believe it was a Brexiteer who whispered in Eve's ear to taste the apple. They've been at it a long time! :)

  3. Um, I don't think John Simpson realizes what he just said. The Iraq War made people in Britain cynical about politics because Blair deliberately misled the public, and that massively inflamed the already widespread, simmering anti-Bush sentiment combined with the leftover of widespread anti-US sentiment from the '80s.

    The EU bill of goods being sold by Remain (and the BBC) was also a pack of lies, which is why people were cynical about it. But obviously that's not what Simpson meant. He meant that cynicism cause by something else poisoned the innocence of the EU debate.

    I know Simpson can be something of a fantasist, but that's really a giveaway of his pro-EU bias.

    Speaking of Simpson being a fantasist, he's wrong about the Bush's impetus for taking out Sadaam. It wasn't the cowboy stereotype this allegedly seasoned, wise, professional objective journalist claims. It was personal and political. Mostly personal, since we should have removed Sadaam back in '91, but Colin Powell and others warned against the chaos that would ensue if they didn't have a long-term, Roman legion-type strategy to follow up. Nobody wanted to take responsibility for it, so we did the no-fly zone thing and let Sadaam butcher his citizens and destabilize the region in other ways. So it's partially political. Unfinished business, and neither the UN nor anyone else said we technically were not at war or that anything had ended. Plus Sadaam constantly flouting the various sanctions, with the French giving him chemical weapons and the Germans building his bunkers.

    Then at some point he apparently started a plot to kill Bush Sr., so it's personal. Plus it's unfinished family business.

    Oh, and there was recently a tv documentary out (I cannot remember what channel it was on, or how long ago it was originally broadcast, or I'd find a link) with a few CIA guys who were there at the time saying that Cheney was always going around trying to get their analysts to claim that Sadaam was working with Bin Laden and Zarkawi, just to make an excuse to take him out. Fortunately, the CIA stood up to them and didn't do it. Unlike today, where the CIA and FBI do the President's bidding, regardless of the law.

    In any case, Simpson is willfully ignorant. I suspect he knows most, if not all, of what I'm talking about, but chooses to ignore it because of the,quite frankly, juvenile stereotype he has in his head.

  4. I would probably agree in a very broad way with much of what Simpson said. But none of it is particularly controversial or original. Until his last sentence, which is absurd.

    The divisions in both Parliament and the country over the EU had been brewing for many years before the Invasion of Iraq. In fact many years before the first Iraq war. Disillusionment with politicians may well influence all kinds of decisions, but I find it a bit far-fetched to cite that as a cause of the Brexit vote. People voted to leave the EU because of the EU. I suspect the Brexit vote would have been even higher if it hadn’t been for the concerns about the economic consequences. The main gist of the Remain argument was: We don’t like the EU either, and yes it is evolving into a kind of benign dictatorship, but if we leave we are economically stuffed. I didn’t notice any Remain campaigners extolling the virtues of a federal Europe. Not even the BBC.

    None of this has anything to do with Tony Blair or Iraq. Simpson is just looking for a convenient peg on which to hang the fact that he and the BBC backed the wrong horse - all very reminiscent of the BBC reaction after the last election. These are going to be challenging times for all of us and the BBC would be well advised to accept the decision of the referendum and look to the future. Perhaps, and this is stretching it a bit far, remember they are a public service broadcaster.


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