Tony Blair, the poodle of the White House and darling of the Israel lobby, met the pussycats of the Iraq inquiry on Friday, tickled their tummies and was purred to throughout.
That was in public. Had it been in private as originally planned, it is easy to imagine them all playing with a ball of wool on the sofa.
TV audiences watching at home and in pubs and offices throughout the land, raged and fumed like despairing supporters of a bottom-of-the-league fourth division football team missing one open goal after another.
The inquiry team was primed with legal documents and explosive testimony that could have blown Blair through the back of the net.
But in six hours of feeble questioning there was just one electric moment when Sir Lawrence Freedman uttered the highly charged words "due diligence" and it looked as if sparks might fly.
What has been so obvious to the general public all along is that Blair and his supine Cabinet - and, lamentably, the main opposition party - failed to exercise due diligence. There was no thorough investigation or careful regard for information and legal considerations expected of any organisation before making a large-scale investment.
We expect at least the same level of discipline within government when planning to risk vast sums of taxpayers' money, innocent lives and national reputation in an armed assault on another country for questionable motives, and for which the leadership might afterwards be held to account.
Blair was asked by Freedman whether, by saying he believed the intelligence established "beyond doubt" that Saddam had continued to produce chemical and biological weapons, he was setting himself an impossibly high standard of proof.
Blair replied: "I did believe it, frankly, beyond doubt."
Freedman snapped back: "Beyond your doubt. But beyond anybody's doubt?"
Blair tried to shrug off the challenge by pretending that "beyond doubt" meant the same as the more frequently used phrase "it is clear that..." Then came the following exchange.
Freedman: "Intelligence is often described as joining up the dots, because your information is limited, and there was a very powerful hypothesis that allowed you to join up the dots in a particular way. But there were alternative hypotheses and they were around at the time.
"So it is partly a question almost of due diligence. Was there a challenge to the intelligence? Are you absolutely sure that there isn't another way of explaining all this material?"
Blair: "When you are prime minister and the JIC (joint intelligence committee) is giving this information, you have got to rely on the people doing it, with experience and with commitment and integrity, as they do.
"Of course now with the benefit of hindsight we look back on the situation differently.
"But let me say what was troubling me at the time was supposing we put it the other way round and it was correct and I wasn't going to act on it, that was the thing that worried me.
"And when I talked earlier about the calculus of risk changing after September 11, it is really, really important, I think, to understand this, so far as understanding the decision I took and frankly would take again - if there was any possibility that he could develop weapons of mass destruction we should stop him. That was my view. That was my view then and it's my view now."
Freedman: "But this is a different standard to the one that you are going to have to take to the United Nations..."
That was as exciting as it got. As their cosy fireside chat drew to a close the chief pussycat decently allowed Blair a platform to say whether he had any regrets. Instead of seizing the opportunity he sounded off about how he "takes a very hard, tough line on Iran today and many of the same arguments apply."
Blair in his testimony referred to Iran at least 50 times.
"I would say that a large part of the destabilisation in the Middle East at the present time comes from Iran," he said.
He told the inquiry that he had sent Jack Straw to talk to the Iranians.
"A very big lesson from this for me was that we tried with the Iranians, tried very hard to reach out, to in a sense make an agreement with them.
"One of the most disappointing but also, I think, most telling aspects of this is that the Iranians, whatever they said, from the beginning, were a major destabilising factor in this situation and quite deliberately...
"I had actually spoken myself to the president of Iran prior to September 11 when we were trying to get the new resolution on sanctions. I had actually had a telephone conversation with President Khatami at the time. I had gone out of my way to say: 'Let's have a new relationship' and so on..."
The truth is that there had been no real effort by Britain to reach out to the Iranians.
In 2001 Jack Straw was the first British foreign secretary to visit Iran in 22 years.
As Nick Cohen reported in The New Statesman on October 29 2001, in the early days of the march to war just after the September 11 terror attacks: "Robin Cook was booked to visit Iran three times between 1999 and 2001.
"On each occasion, the tour was cancelled because of pressure from Israel and America. I was a bit stunned to hear that a British foreign secretary can be instructed by Washington and Jerusalem on who he can and can't see. I can't imagine Blair standing up to the US under any circumstances."
Before that, in 1953, Britain was involved with the US in overthrowing Dr Mossadeq's fledgling democratic government and reinstating the cruel dictatorship of the Shah, which led eventually to the revolution of 1979.
Moreover in 1987, at the height of the Iran-Iraq war, the British government left the Iranians in the lurch by closing down their procurement office in London, which was responsible for 70 per cent of Iranian purchases of arms abroad.
Blair today, unchastened and apparently unable to learn the obvious lessons, continues on the warpath, bent on whipping up another bloody conflict - this time against Iran.
Stuart Littlewood is author of the book Radio Free Palestine, which tells the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. For further information please visit www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk
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