Simon Carr: You can catch an eel by the tail but it can still bite you in the face

Sketch

Share
Related Topics

What an eel he is. You can't keep a hold of him.

Oh, but the energy of the fellow, the memory, the capacity, the capability, the survival instinct. And the hands! They should be set to music, the way he uses them; the gestures are so big you want to shout at him: "I'm not deaf!" He's got a new big forefinger – as he wags it at us, it quivers slightly with certainty and sincerity.

He can contradict himself with such solidity it's hard to see the sleight involved. He's asked whether he agrees with a proposition that he probably doesn't. "Absolutely," he says, "in this sense." That's called keeping your options open. He likes to do that. It means you can do something or its opposite and still have a clear conscience.

He rested his legal case for war on the novel idea of being able to ignore "an unreasonable veto" at the UN. Asked how that worked, he said it wasn't a legal point he was making but a political one. You catch an eel by the tail but it can still bite your face.

His arguments are powerful, interlinked and interlocked. And when they're not it doesn't matter. Then he produces an entirely unrelated series of facts, assertions or a medley of previous hits.

Chilcot asked whether he was aware that Goldsmith "felt discouraged" about giving his legal advice that the existing UN Resolution 1441 wasn't enough to go to war on.

Eventually his reply got to the words: "I should say something about my relationship with the Attorney General's office: 20 or 30 years ago..." But by then no one remembered the question he'd been asked. He is never going to give short answers by choice – he will never behave like a man in the dock. The inquiry hasn't found a way to deal with that.

He does seem to be mainstreaming his account a little more these days. He is free with talk of regime change now in a way he never was at the time.

Maybe in a decade he will be able to give his nothing-new-here account of the death of David Kelly.

It's on the subject of Iran that he can make his critics short of breath. "At some point," he said, "the West has got to get out of its wretched posture of apology." Oh yes, our lie-down-and-take-it-up-the-tailpipe attitude. It was almost as though we hadn't killed half a million Middle Eastern Muslims in the past decade.

He said that al-Qa'ida was deliberately destabilising Iraq (what cheaters they are). The appetite for terror and war goes deeper into Islam than people will admit – he said – and it has to be confronted. Or... Or what? It's unsayable yet, but when the time comes, it'll be unspeakable.

He stands by every word, every action, every impulse. So he has to attack the future on the same premises as the past. To do anything else would be an admission of guilt, or error. That is something he's never done.

But to go through life never doing anything wrong – for that to work, you have to adjust the whole world around you to keep yourself in the right. That way madness lies.

twitter.com/simonsketch

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Digital Content Officer - Central London - £33,000

£28000 - £33000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Executive (Digital Marketi...

SSIS/ORACLE DBA

£400 - £401 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SSIS Administrat...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Day In a Page

Read Next
FBI photos depict various appearances of the convicted murderer JoAnne Chesimard  

Errors and Omissions: How to make a drama out of a few inaccuracies

Guy Keleny
Hillary Clinton said the role of president had become even more difficult in the 21st century  

This was meant to be Hillary Clinton's moment, but everyone’s still talking about Bill

Alice Jones
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform