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In the United States, we’re all supposed to have forgotten that the narrative leading to the Iraq War was propelled by false facts and arguments, often in circumstances where the claim of good-faith error is difficult to sustain. We’re supposed to keep listening to political figures who made false claims, and utterly exonerate the media that allowed them to circulate and gain credibility. That’s the American approach: “look forward, not back.”
In Britain, however, a careful self-assessment is underway that has gained wide public attention. A commission of inquiry is slowly dissecting the developments, measuring the statements of political actors, and pressing them—civilly but firmly—to explain themselves in view of the subsequently exposed facts. There’s plenty to criticize about the British process (and in the second foreword to Sam Dash’s book Justice Denied, I did just this). But it’s a sober and introspective act that does honor to the democratic process.
Today former Prime Minister Tony Blair appeared before the Commission and was pressed about the bogus claims of WMDs in Iraq. Here’s a key clip from his appearance this morning, courtesy of the BBC. I’ll post more on this next week, after I’ve had a chance to finish reviewing the transcripts from the past two weeks.
More from Scott Horton:
Six Questions — October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm
Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.
On a Friday evening in January, a thousand people at the annual California Native Plant Society conference in San Jose settled down to a banquet and a keynote speech delivered by an environmental historian named Jared Farmer. His chosen topic was the eucalyptus tree and its role in California’s ecology and history. The address did not go well. Eucalyptus is not a native plant but a Victorian import from Australia. In the eyes of those gathered at the San Jose DoubleTree, it qualified as “invasive,” “exotic,” “alien” — all dirty words to this crowd, who were therefore convinced that the tree was dangerously combustible, unfriendly to birds, and excessively greedy in competing for water with honest native species.
In his speech, Farmer dutifully highlighted these ugly attributes, but also quoted a few more positive remarks made by others over the years. This was a reckless move. A reference to the tree as “indigenously Californian” elicited an abusive roar, as did an observation that without the aromatic import, the state would be like a “home without its mother.” Thereafter, the mild-mannered speaker was continually interrupted by boos, groans, and exasperated gasps. Only when he mentioned the longhorn beetle, a species imported (illegally) from Australia during the 1990s with the specific aim of killing the eucalyptus, did he earn a resounding cheer.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A tourism company in Australia announced a service that will allow users to take the “world’s biggest selfies,” and a Texas man accidentally killed himself while trying to pose for a selfie with a handgun.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”