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Monday, July 14, 2003
When thieves fall out
As the thinness of the case for having invaded Iraq becomes more apparent, one can only marvel at Tony Blair's continuing bad judgement. And now the US administration is claiming that Britain's evidence about Iraqi attempts to get yellowcake from Niger were not up to the required standard. Further,
In a letter to the Commons foreign affairs committee, Mr Straw also said that Britain was unaware, until recently, that Joe Wilson, a former US ambassador, went to Niger to investigate the claim and found it could not be substantiated.Ouch. More here and (BBC Timeline) here.
Hans Blix's public criticism is the latest in a succession of reverses on the matter of Iraq, dating back a year and more.
Blair has only himself to blame. He had enough opportunities to throw in his lot with the more cautious Europeans, where Britain's long term interests lie. Instead, he chose to support the current unpleasant US administration with all the consequences we now see.
I applauded his efforts to encourage the US to use the United Nations. But, when that strategy started to fall apart, he had ample excuse for leaving the invasion enterprise: Britain's forces were bearing the brunt of an extended firemen's strike and a widely publicised report on the armed forces showed how ill-prepared the army was for war. Without a second UN resolution specifying 'all possible means', Blair could have been principled and jumped ship
As a final escape clause just before the war, Donald Rumsfeld offered to release Britain from its pledge of active support. Blair must (should) have known then that all his Iraq intelligence would be soon be revealed as terminally dodgy. MPs who had been whipped into voting for the war option (or at least not voting against it) were, in the end, going to resent the deception.
Why then did he persevere? Is it, perhaps, that he thought the ultimate outcome would be so positive that people would forget the main reason for the war: hunting down WMDs? Was it that, as a quid pro quo for British support, Bush had promised to kick Ariel Sharon into a deal over Palestine, a cause dear to European hearts? Or was it that he wanted to trump Margaret Thatcher's legacy with a successful and popular war?
When Hans Blix, normally so careful with his words, criticises a World leader, one has to pay attention. It is probably a bit late for Blair to salvage his reputation. A recent poll in the US showed that the Seppos* trusted Blair more than Dubya himself but that's not much use if Airstrip One thinks Tony's as dodgy as his dossiers. This only goes to show that having an unshakeable belief in one's own abilities invites Nemesis.
[* Seppo = septic tank. Rhyming slang.]
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