Ah, we've been expecting you, Commander Blair. Do please sit down.
Thank you, schir.
I and my fellow members of this inquiry are fully aware of the sensitivity of your role. Rest assured that no information about you nor any specifics of your professional activities will leave this room and that the transcript of our meeting will be censored by the relevant authorities before publication. Everyone present at this gathering has been cleared to the highest level. You can speak freely here. Have I made myself clear?
Excellent. Well, let's not beat about the bush. We are all familiar with the events of the night of your assault on Mr Hussein's headquarters in 2003. I have to say that, based on my own service in the Royal Marines, and having read the classified documents about that raid prepared for the committee, I am, frankly, startled.
Commander Blair, the tactical approach which you and your comrades-in-arms chose to adopt could be described at best as dangerously unconventional and at worst as downright reckless. Given that this official residence-cum-military installation was believed to contain nuclear, biological and/or chemical weapons, some sort of protective clothing might have been in order at the very least. But, really, to launch a commando raid clad in black tie?!
Well, one wouldn't want to visit a palasche underdreschsed, schir.
Ah. Exactly as I was warned. It didn't take us long for us to spark your famous dry “wit”, Commander Blair.
And I was wearing a wetschuit, schir.
Yes, so that you could approach Hussein's patio via one of his swimming pools—I've read your account. Very discreet, I'm sure. Again, please forgive me for being out of touch with current military practice, but do you not think you were placing yourself at something of a disadvantage by spearheading this particular mission alone, armed only with a small handgun, a watch, and a fountain pen, having sped across hundreds of miles of exposed desert road on a motorcycle?
An invischible, rocket-powered motorschycle, schir. Armed with heat-scheeking misschiles.
Yes, yes, I'm sure you had the very latest toys, though they don't always survive your playing with them. I have heard that your damages and expenses claims are a perennial source of entertainment for my colleagues in Intelligence. And, goodness knows, they're going to need some light relief once their part in this business becomes public.
Well, schir, I think one would have to agree that the ultimate kill raschio of thisch operaschion compared favourably with almost any other Britisch military adventure in the pascht schixty years.
Oh, you certainly deliver results, Commander Blair, but is it always necessary to take such enormous risks?
“He who dares…” and all that…
It's one thing to “dare” on one's own behalf, Blair, quite another to endanger the lives of citizens of longstanding allies. Present on the evening of your assault was a Mademoiselle Totté of the French Secret Service, who suffered multiple cuts to one arm, concussion, and bruising to her thighs.
[Raises eyebrow.] I don't think sche acquired the bruisches during the operation itschelf, schir.
And Mme Totté already has enough to explain, having ignored specific orders from her own government as to how Mr Hussein should be treated. Did you have anything to do with her disobedience, Blair?
We may have discussched geopoliticsch in the abschtract, schir, but Mme Totté is a schtrong head on her schoulders.
Hmm. I think we are, as often happens with these things, drifting away from the central question. According to all reports and the testimony of the members of the special forces who arrived at the scene in time to assist your and Mme Totté's escape from Hussein's elite bodyguard, no significant stockpiles of strategic weapons were to be found anywhere on the premises; this is even allowing for the quite spectacular destruction wrought by the explosive devices you somehow managed to arm and distribute around the site during the confusion of battle—a battle, I might add, in which you came under direct fire seven times, sustaining only two superficial bullet wounds.
I wasch wearing my lucky bowtie, schir.
But you weren't very lucky when it came to locating these much-discussed weapons of mass destruction, were you?!
Did you find any weapons-grade Uranium?
Modified SCUD missiles?
Giant laser beams, trained on the International Space Station?
Even allowing for the small and lightly armed force deployed, and for the remarkable speed of the victory, this was an enormously expensive operation, Blair. I fully recognize the collateral benefits of Hussein's removal from this theatre of operations and the modest improvements in the material circumstances of the locals, but you called in this action on the basis of your “hunch” that Mr Hussein was in possession of something rather more unpleasant than sitting-rooms full of 70s kitsch and a number of over-made-up mistresses. We at the ministry might not expose ourselves to the same physical threats as you do in your line of work, Blair, but you don't have to justify this kind of costly farrago to the Treasury, or, indeed, to the ordinary people who work hard every day to pay for your vodka Martinis. Surely there was something this despot was guarding and hiding out in the wilderness? My God man, if you didn't find banned weapons, what did you find on this expedition of yours?
Dead bodies, schir. Thouschands and thouschands of dead bodies. No weapons of massch destructschion, schir; juscht men, women, and children, murdered and buried under earth.
Well, I'm sure that uncovering the remains of Hussein's victims was thoroughly unpleasant, Blair, but they were hardly worth starting a war over, were they now?