Blair at Chilcot: alternative questions
Updated on 27 January 2010
Ahead of Tony Blair's appearance at the Iraq inquiry on Friday, Channel 4 News decided to set up its own panel and to ask its three members to formulate questions for Mr Blair.
If you were on the Chilcot inquiry team and could ask one question to Tony Blair, what would it be?
With the vast amount of coverage Chilcot has inspired, and the readiness of almost every national paper to offer its own list of "the questions Blair should face", there is no shortage of advice and ideas.
Problem is, most of Mr Blair's supporters insist he has already answered most of these questions several times over - not least, of course, in the 2005 general election campaign (something he won with a large majority, those same supporters will remember to remind you).
Are there really unanswered questions? Or is the Chilcot process, at one level, a reunion tour - a return to an issue that divided the country in 2003, but whose salient points have largely been covered?
We decided to test this. We set up our own alternative Chilcot Inquiry - consisting of three people in public life who could, perfectly reasonably, have been chosen to be on the panel and whose careers, in different ways, are marked by a passion for finding out truth.
Each of them have the challenge of coming up with the most important question area they can, to elicit something they think has not yet been revealed.
While our three panellists were researching their questions, we scoured Tony Blair's public interviews and writings to identify his most revealing statements yet. The actor Chris Courtenay would learn a large number of such statements, and also study Blair's mannerisms and thought processes.
In this way, we could hope to confront our panel with most accurate possible anticipation of how the real Mr Blair would reply.
That way, they'd be able to test and refine their question... or, perhaps, have their question satisfactorily answered.
And it's not an academic exercise. For those who do believe Mr Blair has a serious case to answer, this Friday is almost certainly the last time and the best opportunity for that to happen.
It is surely vital, regardless of your opinion on Iraq, that the key issues are felt to be ventilated to everyone's satisfaction. Our theatrical experiment is clearly not the complete primer, but it is a real exercise in finding and honing the right questions.
Introducing our panel
Anthony Beevor is a renowned military historian. A former army officer, he's now written eight studies of major battles, including the best-selling Stalingrad, Berlin - The Downfall 1945, and D-Day - The Battle for Normandy.
Jonathan Goldberg has been a barrister for nearly 40 years. He practices in both civil and criminal cases, and has appeared in several of the most high profile cases of the last few decades. He practices in both Britain and the United States, his skills of logical argument being highly regarded on both sides of the Atlantic.
Aina Khan is a successful solicitor, running a partnership specialising mainly in family law. She is one of the country's top experts in how to handle the highly charged negotiations and issues arising from these most charged of court cases. She was one of the leading advisors behind the setting up of the Muslim Council of Britain.
"The intelligence of every sort of country in the world was more or less the same, which was that Saddam had an active programme... It's true that there were debates about the extent of it, you can’t be sure about how fast it’s growing and so on, is it growing fast, is it growing at a slower pace and so on. But I just simply defy people to go back and read them and say well actually you conclude from them that he didn’t have such a programme, or it was an issue whether he had such a programme." - Blair at War, BBC 2 2007
"There were 30 countries that took part in the coalition, the action against Iraq. All of those countries came to the same conclusion. If you couldn't get a second resolution with an ultimatum in it, and Saddam was in breach plainly in breach of UN resolutions, as he was, then you can proceed." - Channel 4 News, 3 May 2005
"In response to their questions, our Tony Blair said: "The point about the September 2002 meeting was that it was really about the United Nations, did we go down that route or not ... It was resolved that we would go back to the UN ... The issue had to be confronted one way or another but obviously if it could be confronted differently and peacefully that would be better." - Blair at War, BBC 2 2007
"This idea that we did not have a plan for afterwards is simply not correct. We did but there are people in Iraq who are determined to stop us." - Press conference, 17 September 2004
"I remember having a conversation with him [President Bush] and saying - look, you do understand, if Saddam completely complies with this it’s going to be different all together. We are not going to be in the position of taking military action. And he said I understand that." - Blair at War, BBC 2 2007