Friday, 21 January 2011

Confronting demons

We all grow up with monsters...they mostly hide under the bed or in the wardrobe, terrorising us when we go to sleep. Pixar did a very good job in turning childhood fear into humour. For most of us, as we grow up the monsters go away. Today I saw a monster. A real live monster.

I assumed my place at the Iraq Inquiry this morning, surrounded by parents of dead boy soldiers. One wore a gold heart with her son's picture engraved on it. By the end of the morning, not one left without shedding tears. Some walked out when Tony Blair made a self-righteous, self-justifying statement at the end of his evidence. Others shouted at him when he left the room. He didn't look anyone in the eye. He had smiled at Lord Chilcott when he first arrived, but left grim-faced just after 2.00pm.

We learnt many things. The invasion was because after 9/11 it was important that UN resolutions were enforced. By invading we cowed dangerous countries into given up weapons of mass destruction - Libya was the only country he could name. There were unlimited resources for our forces to use - nobody had asked for more than they got. The policy that led to war was discussed extensively amongst all ministers....there are no records, because many of the meetings were informal. Ministers didn't need briefing papers on the background...but if they asked they could have had them. He didn't need a second resolution to go to war, and Lord Goldsmith understood that once he understood the negotiations behind Resolution 1441. Tony thought it good enough for us to get a 'majority' in the security council...a veto wouldn't have mattered, providing there was a majority. And so it went on....blah, blah, blah.

My arrival had been interesting - I joined a queue with my blue invitation, only to be pulled out by an official saying to someone with a green invite - "Green is good, blue is even better." I was taken to the front of the queue, with the same official saying "Ah Mr Nota Bene we know your name well". Once through the lines of armed police and scanners, I was searched. The one of the men in blue noticed I was seat zero. He quickly called over all his fellow officers, all with machine guns, all with heavy body armour. "Look seat 0" he said as they gathered. After a short pause one said, "No don't worry, that's just second row seat zero." I was allowed through. And the proceedings began with Mr Blairs appearance. He was very tanned and was taller than I expected. But then that's the point about monsters, they can be even bigger in real life than in your imagination.

So should I have thrown a shoe? I wore an older pair today. And perhaps I should. It had been a very serious consideration. My fifteen minutes of fame. But the truth is, many of the people there had more reason than me to complain...and the mother next to me said she wanted 'dignified protest'. My shoes stayed on my feet.