We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq

We need to plan for withdrawal, and we need to understand why, why, why we were so mad as to attack Iraq without working out the consequences

I remember the quiet day we lost the war in Iraq

It was the moment I should have twigged. It was the moment I should have realised that I had voted for the biggest British military fiasco since the Second World War. I was wandering around Baghdad, about 10 days after Iraq had been “liberated”, and it seemed to me that the place was not entirely without hope.

OK, so the gunfire popped round every corner like popcorn on a stove, and civil society had broken down so badly that the looters were taking the very copper from the electricity cables in the streets. But I was able to stroll without a flak jacket and eat shoarma and chips in the restaurants.

With no protection except for Isaac, my interpreter, I went to the Iraqi foreign ministry, and found the place deserted. The windows were broken, and every piece of computer equipment had been looted. As I was staring at the fire-blackened walls a Humvee came through the gates. A pair of large GIs got out and asked me my business. I explained that I was representing the people of South Oxfordshire and Her Majesty’s Daily Telegraph.

That didn’t cut much ice. Then I noticed a figure begin to unpack his giraffe-like limbs from the shady interior of the Humvee. He was one of those quiet Americans that you sometimes meet in odd places.

He was grizzled and in his mid-50s and with a lantern jaw, and unlike every other US soldier I’d met he had neither his name nor his blood group stitched on his person. I grasped at once that this quiet American was no soldier. He had that Brahmin air, a bit Ivy League, a touch of JK Galbraith. Yes, folks, he was some kind of spook.

I remember how he walked slowly towards the shattered foreign ministry building, stroking his chin. Then he walked back towards us, and posed a remarkable question. “Have you, uh, seen anyone here?” he asked.

Nope, we said. All quiet here, we said. Quiet as the grave.

“Uhuh,” he said, and started to get back in the Humvee. And then I blurted my own question: “But who are you?” I asked. “Oh, let’s just say I work for the US government,” he sighed. “I was just wondering if anyone was going to show up for work,” he said. “That’s all.”

And that, of course, was the beginning of the disaster. Nobody came to work that day, or the next, or the one after that, because we failed to understand what our intervention would do to Iraqi society. We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq.

We destroyed the Baathist state, without realising that nothing would supplant it. The result was that salaries went unpaid, electricity was not generated, sanitation was not provided, and all the disorder was gradually and expertly fomented until it was quite beyond our control.

And what we had failed to see in advance was that almost from the outset the Iraqis would blame us – and not just the insurgents – for every distress they experienced.

It is now commonplace for people like me, who supported the war, to say that we “did the right thing” but that it had mysteriously “turned out wrong”. This is intellectually vacuous. It is like saying British strategy for July 1, 1916 was perfect, but let down by faulty execution. The thing was a disaster from the moment we invaded, and it wasn’t poor old Rumsfeld’s fault for failing to send in enough troops, or failing to do more “planning” for the post-war. No quantity of troops could have prevented this catastrophe; and the dreadful thing is that I think Saddam knew it.

A couple of years ago I had a chilling conversation with a very senior British general who was then intimately involved in our efforts in Iraq.

The trouble was, he said, that Saddam had thought it all through. He knew he hadn’t a hope against the Pentagon, so he had a three-stage strategy. First he instructed his army not to put up much resistance to the Patton-like thrusts of the US army. Then, when Baghdad had fallen, he encouraged his soldiers to melt away to their homes and keep their weapons. The third stage, said this British general, was the one we had been embroiled in ever since: a guerrilla war, spiced with sectarian violence, to become gradually more intense until it became no longer possible for the allies to remain in Iraq.

And was he right in his analysis, this British general? Look at the place now. If Saddam had somehow managed to elude capture and stay in that hideyhole, people might now say he was on the verge of a sensational victory. Last time I was in Basra I was able to go for a run past the Shatt-al-Arab canal. You’d need a death-wish to do that today, and even in the massively fortified British compound the risk to life is so great that the Foreign Office has pulled most personnel back to the airport.

Of course we must resist the great national sport of wallowing in our own failures. Of course it is still true that some good will ultimately come, just as some good comes from all disasters. But we must be honest and accept that the price has been far too high, and that General Dannatt is right to say that our presence is making things worse.

As long as we are there, the terrorists know that they can maximise the damage to Bush and Blair by blowing up our troops, and so we incite the very violence we are trying to quell. We need to plan for withdrawal, and we need to understand why, why, why we were so mad as to attack Iraq without working out the consequences. That is why I want an inquiry. I want to interrogate our Government, and above all I want to hear from the Americans.

I want to find that tall, quiet American spook, and get him to explain to a parliamentary committee exactly why he thought there would be people in that Iraqi government building. And I bet most British soldiers would be interested to know the answer.

100 thoughts on “Iraq”

  1. Blimey, Boris, I agree with you for once. Apart from the bit about voting for the war in the first place. Apart from that very slight, minor hiccup, resulting in the deaths of countless Iraqi children, you did a very good job.

  2. Vicus, what makes you think that would be welcome in Westminster?

    I also agree with Boris, except I don’t think that the US government went into this as innocently as he seems to claim; not even I believe Rumsfeld to be stupid.

    If the invaders had stepped up and paid salaries to the Iraqis doing those mudane sanitation, bureaucratic, or other humdrum jobs instead of bringing in overpaid American contractors to do the work, there could have been a smooth transition. As it is, Saddam Hussein looks good in comparison, and the death tolls for the invaders’ regime is approaching that of Saddam’s. No moral high ground there.

  3. Raincoaster.
    Enormous ego, big gob, no talent.
    I am surprised I haven’t been offered a job already by any of the political parties.
    I, too, wonder where Saddam came on the list of most oppressive rulers.
    Probably number one if you multiply oppression factor by number of oil reserves.
    How about invading Zimbabwe, Boris?

  4. ‘The biggest British military fiasco since the Second World War’.

    S’funny. I always thought we did quite well in that one…

    Just teasing. Thank you, Boris, for a good and an honest article.

    Now – if we could just learn, whenever we’re considering sending our troops to some foreign country, to ask ourselves how we’d feel if they did the same to us, we could avoid an awful lot of future fiascos.

    Raincoaster’s right about the US’s motives, by the way. If you go round treating foreign wars as an opportunity to feed your own economy, you’re going to find the people you ‘liberated’ turn on you toot sweet. We’d be outraged if someone did that to us, so why didn’t anyone ask whether the Iraqis would be likely to think the same way?

    Oh, I know why. Because they’re not ‘Western’.

  5. Boris, you are an unmitigated twerp in the Great British tradition of having 20:20 hindsight. What about doing something pro-active for a change?

    Fool that you are, you proudly display a photograph of Benjamin Netenyahu in your photographs section and I wonder how long it will be before this photograph will be spirited away and all knowledge of its existance denied furiously.

    Rather than banging on about the Iraq cock-up, which is pretty much a lost cause, how about trying to rebuild some bridges with the Arabic nations by calling for some committment to the Israel/Palestine peace road-map?

    You’re an idiot.

  6. Very well writtten article, and not one that many of us will disagree with, except for one puzzling thing: What on earth was it that made you vote for the war in the first place? If the foolishness of the war was obvious from the beginning even to paleolithic right-wingers like me, why on earth were so many MPs so blind?

    Regarding the photos: I think the ‘Melissa and the Snowman’ should start a ‘most appropriate comment’ competition.

  7. I disagree… I think we should stay, unless we can come up with a better strategy that involves leaving than the one we have now.

    Going to Iraq was a collosal mistake. we’ve managed to destroy the lives of millions, make the world a far more dangerous place, and all despite the fact that it was the obvious outcome to everyone in the country except Blair and those who were foolish enough in Parliament to support him (I think that’s the first time I’ve ever called Boris foolish…). If they had done their job and represented their people, then we would not have made the mistake.

    However, the mistake was made and now we (well actually Blair and those who went to war without our backing) are responsible for dealing with the mess in the best possible way. This past week’s Economist has a good article on exactly this, so in their own words:

    What you can’t do once you’ve gone

    At a minimum, America’s continuing presence in Iraq prevents the neighbours from joining in a civil war, as Lebanon’s neighbours did in the 1970s with much less at stake. The Americans can still move into and establish some order in areas where the violence surges out of control. They can protect the elected government and put pressure on its members to make a political settlement. They can continue to train Iraq’s own security forces and, if necessary, attack or dismantle some of the militias. Once they leave they can do none of these things. Senator John Warner spoke for many when he worried recently that the situation was “drifting sideways”. But there are worse directions than sideways. Leaving now stands a fair chance of plunging Iraq into an enlarged war and a far bigger bloodbath than anything seen so far.

    Personally I suspect they are right in this assessment. I do think that trying George Bush and Tony Blair for war crimes might be a productive move (maybe once they’re out of office) to stop other ‘western dictators’ from following in their footsteps. After all what is a dictator but someone who makes a unilateral governmental decision without the consent of and against the will of the people? And in my opinion anyway they have done more harm than Saddam ever did. But also leaving aside those petty recriminations, ‘we’ caused this mess, and ‘we’ must sort it out in the best way possible. If that means staying then we should stay, and the government should enlarge our army to accomodate that if necessary.

  8. Dear Boris,

    Lord Copper and His Majesty’s Daily Beast can be well-pleased with their war correspondent, and I’m sure that your comments continue Michael Heseltine’s fine tradition of refusing to conceal government wrongdoing over Iraq. It is perhaps a disappointment that you failed to remark upon the embarrassment of being involved in a second poorly-planned war in Afghanistan, where we are allied with the evil drug warlords who export heroin to Britain. Also, the satisfaction at the capture of Saddam Hussain must be slightly lessened by the failure to exact retribution on Osama bin Laden, who is the terrorist leader whose followers attacked the United States. He is in Pakistan, and his family live in Saudi Arabia, if it is of any help to Parliament. The Americans may have given up the search, but perhaps our police could be sent to arrest and extradite them? It would be a news story, it would increase the numbers arrested in the planned airport bombings to even more impressive levels and it would demonstrate to the world that celebrity cannot be achieved at the expense of thousands of innocent lives. When the Royal Navy fought the international war on slavery they did not hesitate to send landing parties to threaten recalcitrant recividists. If the police war against international civil rights is to succeed, the same tactics are needed.

    If the army are to be brought home without having helped to stabilise Iraq, after an invasion because of the ill-considered votes of gullible Opposition politicians, can we at least kill Phonics the Fatted Calf for their triumph-less return? We could retrieve their barracks from the Japanese, for a start. Though this proposal in itself might seem too much like turning back, I regret to report that the Slaughter Forum discussion of Iraq has tended to focus on the Scott Inquiry into the supergun affair, the first Iraqi WMD. It has been claimed that the Conservatives have been so supine over the lies of President-For-Life Tony Bahamas and his ‘Attorney-General’ because of the previous wrongdoing of their own Sir Nicholas Lyell and chums. It has even been said that the appointment of Lord Butler, the most senior civil servant who gave evidence to Scott, to head the only actual inquiry into Iraq (rather than the relationship between some bespectacled YouTube reporter sending in videos from his own bedroom and a lust-crazed government scientist) is evidence of certain amount of collusion, or CMD. The names of David Blunkett, Sheffield Forgemasters and Matrix Churchill are frequently used in the explanations given for this conduct.

    Boris, it has been claimed that you would not hesitate to have us all lined up against a wall and shot, or shot while under the impression that we were signing for a parcel, if the assassination was hived off to a foreign power- like our water industry. With my personal experience of gun attacks by Hitler-and-Satan worshipping Catholic lawyers, I’ve tended to discount such remarks as motivated by the desire to distract from the more tangible activities of President Bahamas and his Tontons, who I’m pleased to find referred to as ‘pigs’ on this blog- perhaps you could share the contact details of your barrister friend? After all, Churchill has often been accused of being a warmonger, yet he never launched an invasion based on the misconstrued observations of two foreign conscripts on how to deploy a portable mortar, as Bahamas has claimed to have done. Churchill was also against identity cards, though then they were just paper then, rather than Frankenstein’s monster proposals left by a blind sex worker. Cook’s comments seem more applicable than Butler’s: “this is not just a Government which does not know how to accept blame; it is a Government which knows no shame”.

    Best wishes,


  9. Jack Target :-“if that means staying then we should stay, and the Government should enlarge our army to accomodate that”.

    Excuse me while I give a big intake of breath……The only consequence of a move like that would be to drag us further into the quagmire that Iraq has become, (think Afganistan).

    What is the death toll of British forces to date 110 or more, plus a bill of 4, yes FOUR billion Pounds, and all this to satisfy the ego of a nondescript little tyke like Blair who is in total denial of the fact that he got it wrong.

    While we are on the subject lets not forget the suicide of that poor man David Kelly,when is someone going to face charges over that incident?

  10. You knockers should think again. That article is a landmark in 21st century politics. Here is a politician who is prepared to admit he was mistaken, to explain in language we can all understand why he was mistaken, and to learn from it.

    Compare with our present mob – never wrong, never learning from their mistakes except where it might have cost them a vote.

    Shame on you who condemn honesty.

  11. churstonchappie:

    That’s why we need Blair tried. I don’t mind picking up the tab as best I can, and helping to try and sort out the mess. 110 is not many people in a war that has lasted many years, by today’s standards for a modern army it might seem like a lot, but it’s peanuts compared to the Iraqi civilian death toll. And 4 billion is a small price to pay to try and fix the mess.

    It would be more immoral of us to jump ship now, IF as I suspect that would only make things worse. If getting out would make things better (and I’m prepared to be convinced), then that is what we should do. I even agree that us staying there is making things worse than they already are, but I think that leaving would make them even worse than that.

    But just because we’re the ones picking up the pieces, that doesn’t mean we should feel responsible for it. Make no mistake, this is Blair and Bush’s war, the deaths are on their head, and they should answer for it. But they are two separate issues, our job now is to help in Iraq as much as possible, and if that means staying then that is what we should do.

  12. I didn’t criticise his honesty, just his political acumen and IQ.

    The Israel/Palestine conflict is a constant aggravation to the Arabic nations of the Middle-East. Anyone who doesn’t understand that the uncompromising US and British support of Israel attracts as much, if not more, anger than Iraq and Afganistan combined and provides the main staple of Islamic terrorism.

    Every time a Palestinian child is shot by some arrogant IDF soldier for such heinous acts as ‘playing football too close to a checkpoint’ attracts more would be suicide bombers than a lifetime supply of sherbert and virgins.

    I’m not suggesting (before anyone starts the anti-semitic rant) that we abandon Israel; it has an important place in world affairs. What I am suggesting is that politicians, like Boris for instance, start to put pressure on our government to FORCE Israel to ameliorate its actions with regard to the Palestinian community under its control and scrutiny. Rather than, for example, sticking up photographs of ‘Adolph’ Netanyahu on their web sites.

    How many people ask the question “What does Osama Bin Laden want?”

    The IRA, wanted Britain out of Northern Ireland. Nelson Mandela and the ANC wanted the end of apartheid, the French resistance wanted the Germans out of France; all of these groups acted as terrorists to achieve their aims. They also shared, in my view, legitimate reasons for the ‘gripes’ they expressed violently (for the record, I agree with the legitimacy of the gripe not the violence)

    So what does Osama want? Has anyone asked him? What actions would it take for him to say “so long and thanks for all the fish”? i.e. pack up and eff off into the annals of history.

    This, in my view, is an important question because it was Osama who, allegedly, caused all this furore in the first place; Iraq and Afganistan are consequently symptoms of a much more fundamental problem.

    A problem which doesn’t seem to attract any discernable activity from Britain or the US.

    Very suspicious in my view.

  13. What on earth was it that made you vote for the war in the first place? (Chris Morriss)

    Indeed. Don’t you remember the ‘dodgy dossier(s)’ and David Kelly? Didn’t Blair’s full-blown scaremongering oratory not have you sitting up and thinking, “Hang on a mo'”? My own personal Bullsh*t Detection Meter was up near maximum, and the warning red light was winking. I simply couldn’t see how Saddam Hussein could have possibly metamorphosed from being a contained annoyance to an imminent threat. I was against the war almost from the outset. I saw no good reason for it. The only thing I got wrong was what a horrible mess Bush would make of it.

    In this respect, I’ve often thought that the idea of “regime change” rather implied a process akin to removing a blown light bulb and putting in another – i.e. easy. But Saddam Hussein wasn’t just a light bulb, but was much more like the keystone in an arch. The Americans wanted to slide out Saddam Hussein, and slip in Ahmed Chalabi in his place. But instead, when they knocked out the keystone, the whole arch of the Iraqi state collapsed.

    What next? I suggest reading How to cut and run by Lt. Gen. WILLIAM E. ODOM (Ret.)

  14. ‘That article is a landmark in 21st century politics’ (PaulD)

    Perhaps, however I don’t think it will ever be highlighted in GCSE history classes come the year 2040.

    When I did GCSE history in the mid-nineties we studied the Cold War. We studies the causes of the Cold War, the major events in it and the results of it. In 30 years time, when the details of secret cabinet meetings have been released to the public, perhaps schools will begin teaching about the ‘War on Terror’. Perhaps they will learn about both Gulf Wars in one subject area, perhaps the ‘War on Terror’ will just be taught as one phase of the ‘NATO – Iraq Wars’?

    Tony Blair does keep saying that history will judge him. I wonder what the results of the NATO – Iraq Wars will be in the year 2040 and how history will judge Blair? Will Iraq be a peaceful, functioning democracy when history students in the year 2040 look at what it has become?

    What can we speculate will be accepted as the causes and results of the NATO – Iraq Wars?

    What about political causes? These might include Iraqs invasion of Kuwait, 9/11, neo-conservative philosophy on ‘regime change’. Did the Saudi’s want us to go in? They’ve benefitted through higher oil prices. What about the Israelis? With the prospect of a nuclear, hostile Iran NATO now controls the airspace between the Mullahs and Israel. Did these countries influence the decision? Did the USA threaten to take away any of the UK’s ‘special relationship’ perks if we didn’t join in the invasion of Iraq?

    Economic causes could be seen as the need to secure oil reserves and the downturn in the US economy prior to and after 9/11. The economic results have been massive hikes in oil prices and the Saudi’s have been buying expensive military gear from NATO. Britain has been getting kick-backs through the F35 project from the US. Would we have got these if we have gone along with France and Germany? Perhaps in 30 years we will know.

    Some people claim that Evangelical Christians and other fundamentalists have a strong hold on US foreign policy. I’ve seen ‘surmons’ by these groups on Sky TV where they are preaching that there needs to be 3 huge wars in the Middle-East before the second coming of Christ. They wre actually praying for these big wars to happen! How has Christian and Islamic fundamentalist thought shaped recent events in the Middle-East?

    I hope I’m still around in the year 2035 so that I can read what really happened. I might even go back to college and do a history A-level.

  15. [Ed: moderated to follow]

    I can see the sweat on his forehead,
    The embers glow over his stubble blue…

  16. Well said, Boris! An honest politician at last.

    Though, in common with Chris Morriss and idlex, I can’t understand why you and the rest of the Conservatives voted for war, I respect your honesty.

    I look forward to reading your article on Bush and Blair’s trial.

  17. Boris
    I remember in 197somthing when the Ayatollah Khomeni was placed into power
    The papers said man of peace
    I thought extremist

    I saw as perhaps the British public did , in the run up to Saddam that he had no weapons. We knew we were being lied to.

    Why do you politicians not see the same. You are supposedly more intelligent than us

    I would actually be grateful for an answer on this , because a cursory reading of the worlds press would derive a world view diametrically opposed to that of you lot in Westminster.

    Please answer

  18. ‘because a cursory reading of the worlds press would derive a world view diametrically opposed to that of you lot in Westminster’ (allan russell)

    Once people get to a certain position of authority, they are never allowed to see the real world. In my experience everything gets ‘sexed up’ before they arrive.

    I remember working in an outsourced call centre selling mortgage protection policies to a list of schmucks who had taken out one of these 10%APR secured loans from some sharks we were working for.

    One day we were told to come into work wearing ties and be on our best behaviour because the MD of the mortgage company was coming to visit. If he had come on any other day he would have seen people lobbing paper aeroplanes around an office full of scruffy students.

    In another job I had a government minister came to visit our department. I wasn’t allowed to be anywhere near for some reason. Instead of actually coming to our office she was taken to a plush boardroom and fed coffee and biscuits whilst a swarm of senior managers hovered around her like vultures. One member of our department was chosen to meet her and answer any of her questions about our work.

    Paradoxical to what you said, I would imagine a cursory few months working as an MP would instill in most people a world view diemetrically opposed to that of most of the general public.

    On the Iraq thing though, I had a sneaky suspicion that we were invading because we knew he didn’t have any decent weapons. I too find it hard to believe that they all swallowed the ‘dodgy dossier’. The thing is MP’s are not allowed to call each other ‘liars’ in the house, nor can I see any way in which the opposition can effectively question official ‘intelligence’. Even the Lib Dems were not saying that it was all one big lie, they were merely saying the inspectors should be allowed more time if my memory serves me correctly.

  19. As anecdota points out, there is also the little matter of Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden.

    As I recall, Osama was holed up in Afghanistan in huge Dr No-style underground bunkers, and we were out to get him. The Taliban offered to extradite him to an islamic court, but this was refused, and the Taliban was promptly lumped together with Al Qaeda, and the hunt for Osama morphed into an invasion of Afghanistan, which ended with Osama fleeing the encircling Americans. Why are we there?

    The underground bunkers, needless to say, no more existed than did Saddam’s WMDs.

    So I neither understand why we are in Iraq, nor Afghanistan, although I imagine it’s probably all about oil. Nor do I believe that we are fighting any ‘War on Terror’ given that Osama bin Laden has never been captured, and Bush subsequently dismissed him as unimportant.

    But I suppose in about 25 years time we’ll find out.

  20. “[Ed: moderated]
    What are you running it on, a cellphone?”

    Taking out a criticism of the performance of this web site!! (Which is, incidentally, REALLY BAD) how unbelievably petty.

    I suppose you’ll edit this one too.

  21. [interlude]

    This is completely off topic but I am asking the internet community at large where one can find reliable film reviews.

    i.e. Where tedious arty rubbish doesn’t automatically rate five stars and anything with a laser beam in it gets one (or zero) by default. Thus giving the reviewer an undeserved reputation for possessing taste and culture.

    I am sick of going to the movies expecting a ‘rip roaring rollercoaster of action and drama’ and ending up reading the newspaper with a torch because my bus isn’t due for another hour.

    Oh, I nearly forgot, please take this thread to Cuba.

    [interlude ends, popcorn is available from the floor]

  22. Jerry H
    Enough already!
    If Boris is such and idiot and this website is so bad then WHY do you insist on making the effort to go on the site, read all the articles, look through the photos and then take more time and effort to make really unconstructive comments? WHY, WHY, WHY?

    And while we are at it…
    1) Boris is not an idiot!

    2) This website and its performance is really good, actually. Melissa works really hard running this site on top of all her other work and I (and I am not alone in this) think she does a really good job. Very few MP’s have sites like this where anyone can comment so I for one really appreciate this site. Thank-you Melissa

  23. Hedgehog – try (and we did Cuba a while back, try the archives)

    In Jerry H’s defence there have been a few probs with the site – it’s been defending itself while still providing service.

    K – v.good point. The overall performance of the site and the tireless work of all those involved is to be commended. (remember Simon in the back room, *waves* )

  24. Great article Boris. What annoys me is all the people saying “We couldn’t have foreseen this” which seems to me the biggest lie ever, because we were all here before the war when a million people marched through London, when thousands of people including high profile media outlets were saying that War was not the way, and that this could happen. If the government couldn’t have foreseen this, maybe they should have spent less time dismissing the anti-war movement and a lot more time listening to them. It’s frustrating when all those people warned this would happen, got completely ignored, and then when it does happen everyone runs around wondering why no one thought of it.

    Democracy can not be imposed and just work like it had been there all the time, Democracy has to grow organically, look at our country, we took 800 years of Democracy and bloodshed to get to where we are now, it took civil war and executions, it took people to lay down their lives for it. No one could have imposed it upon us, and there is no one size fits all democratic solution, democracy has to grow over time, from the inside of a country and it has to develop in a way that fits it.

    You know what would be nice? For Bush and Blair to be as honest as you are in this article, I really think it might help the situation for someone to stand up, say, ‘Mea Culpa’ and admit they were wrong. Perhaps admitting the fault is the first part of fixing it.

  25. The middle paragraph of my comment really doesn’t make sense in the context I was trying to put it. Feel free to ignore it, unless you understand what I mean, in which case, worry, you speak pete.

  26. I thought Cuba was the only allowable Hijack destination for discerning terrorists.

    Okay, take this thread back to Baghdad, and stop off for some chips on the way.

  27. Pete – what I meant was I understand you perfectly and agree. It seems this government wants to wipe away those years of democratic learning and fine tuning for a ‘shiny new future’ in Britain, free of habeas corpus which has been replaced by the ‘all-knowing’ government official. Hmn…. Boris for PM.

  28. And that, of course, was the beginning of the disaster. Nobody came to work that day, or the next, or the one after that, because we failed to understand what our intervention would do to Iraqi society. We failed to anticipate that in taking out Saddam, we would also remove government and order and authority from Iraq.

    But you are glossing over the fact that Bremmer and the neo-cons deliberately dismantled the Iraqi State. Had the US kept order and stopped the looting, and continued to pay the salaries of the army, police and civil service, things might have worked out.

    However, it was deliberately decided not to do this, so as to push through free-market reforms whilst the Iraquis were in a state of shock.

  29. I found Mr Johnson’s article stimulating and frustrating.

    It is an eternal mystery, as he points out, how so many British institutions got the Iraq scheme so wrong. So much so that it still seems inconceivable they actually were so mistaken. The establishment last voted for such a wholesale disaster, possibly, in the decision to fight the American Colonies.

    When I served in the Army, one of my specialities was NBC. That was over 20 year ago. The day following the UN decision to re-insert WMD inspectors, I wrote a short memo to myself to assess the threat and possible war scenarios. I circulated it to friends and colleagues, including a lady at the UN. I concluded that it was highly improbable that Iraq possessed a more than antiquated C threat (and far less an N or a B), and that it couldn’t use that beyond the battlefield (assuming they had procedures to apply command and control for its deployment), or manufacture it in practical quantities. I judged that anything short of that assessment by the then military and intelligence leadership must lead them to counsel against invading, since the hazards of operations (and the ineffective and debilitating nature of chemical countermeasures) were and are prohibitive, but that if they matched my assessment they would likely be tempted to have a go. Thereafter, I concluded the problem would not be the military conflict but its aftermath, and particularly the lack of hearts and minds culture, or of eyeball-to-civilian proficiency in the American soldier.

    A basic nerve agent is, however, available in most supermarkets. Called “Raid” among other things, it kills bugs. When the post-invasion search teams turned up “precursor WMD” were they in Baghdad’s down-town Tescos?

    All this is to say that Jackson, Guthrie and their like, whom I served under when lowly brigadiers and colonels are not the men to get such assessments wrong. If I could work it out, so could they, and they doubtless said so…

    Were they simply overcome by the unfortunately natural urge of soldiers to “see a scrap”? Did they not recall the value drummed in at Sandhurst, and only now resurrected by Gen Dannat, that the one thing worse than disciplined obedience was wrongful obedience? I doubt that, but that the failing was political, and must be the subject of an unfettered enquiry.

    Labelling the current fiasco a “war” is further evidence of the fatuous political leadership. A war was fought and won. It was superseded by an obligation under international law to supervise the recovery to civilian government of the vanquished. Just as the 9/11 terrorists and the Taliban, so the present Iraqi insurgents are not warriors, but civilians, armed and fighting it’s true, but civilians for all that. And what they conduct is a hideous and novel form of abject criminality, excused by perverted religious interpretation of a noble faith and a loathing for all that is civil and moral – not just the West but one’s moslem brothers. Indeed to call this war is highly dangerous. It diverts the moral purpose in ways that have undermined our own civil values and leads to strategic responses that cannot work.

    I’m interested in a constitutional point too: what remedy does the body politic have against being deliberately misled by the Executive, and against the committal of Her Majesty’s forces to war and the devastation of another people on false pretexts? Do we have a process of impeachment? Is the Judiciary the key?

    And if we do find our political leaders now divest the problem on Iraq’s current governmant and security forces, pulling back the military to symbolic bases or even out altogether, the fledgling new state apparatus of Iraq will be in an invidious position, that is even if they stick with it. And what of Saddam? His trial will surely not have finished, and there will be every chance in the ensuing bloodbath that he finds his way back to where he was before. For all his evils, he had no truck with sectarianism or radical islam, and it might be a return of Baathism that brings the current Iraq to heel, dispelling Al Quaeda which American-led action alone allowed into the country…

  30. Dear Boris,

    I asked my left-wing friends about the issues brought up by the valued contributors to your discussion on Iraq. ‘One is apt to perish in politics from too much memory,’ was their response. The official justification for the war was that Saddam possessed weapons which presented an immediate threat to this country. Though we were unable to share convincing evidence of such weapons with the United Nations, we invaded anyway and didn’t find any. Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, as we have since been told, demanded an unequivocal assurance that the war would be legal and received it. There was no real basis for such an assurance. The occupation should have come under the authority of the United Nations, with the invading countries being obliged to supply the troops their unwarranted actions require to remain, as there is no international legal authority for ‘regime change’ beyond that of our gun barrels. However if al-Qaeda is supposed to be the problem, then what Osama bin Laden wants is for the Americans to leave Saudi Arabia. His followers want to have repeated anal sex with us, then chop our heads off to make videos for retail. The Cuban prison camp is partly a cultural humiliation of radical Islam, but is also useful for President Bush to build a consensus on defying congressional and legal challenges to his administration, which without war in Iraq would have been weakened by only existing on a minority vote. The Democrats do not have an Iraq policy that I am aware of, and nor do the Conservatives. That seems to be the entire point of the war- to create such a quagmire that only the executive can possibly respond. It is a traditional tactic for leaders who wish to take greater powers over their unwitting societies. If oil is an issue, it is merely because the decline of our oil-based economies may create domestic problems that police states are being set up to pre-empt. Boris, your pension is safe with President-for-life Tony Bahamas.

    Lord Hutton has issued another denial that his report was a whitewash. His defence that his terms of reference ensured a whitewash is basically a dishonest one, a further and considerable breach of a public trust. He defined his terms himself, and if they were too narrow he could have declined to carry out an inquiry. When he makes claims like ‘However, in reality, if I had written such a report I would have been failing in one of the cardinal duties of a judge conducting an inquiry into a highly controversial matter which gives rise to intense public interest and debate.’ it is simply not true- the intense public interest was centred on the failure to discover chemical and biological weapons, not the suicide of David Kelly, which could have been left to the coroner. Kelly was never a senior enough figure to support Gilligan’s claims, as Hutton (and Campbell before him) rightly concluded (I am assuming that Gilligan’s approach did in fact betray his source rather than conceal him by using Kelly as an expendable scapegoat). However, Bahamas was contradicting the report of UN weapons inspector Hans Blix. The public was entitled to expect evidence as clear as that shown by Adlai Stevenson to the United Nations over Cuba in 1962, and though the action undertaken called for that level of proof what Bahamas did was to intimitate that such proof existed when it did not. Hutton’s assertion that there had to be positive evidence that Bahamas was untruthful rather than mere belief would be more usefully applied to Bahamas’s assertions about Blix’s report. Bahamas had no evidence strong enough to refute Blix and Hutton’s statement that he was in line with available evidence is deceitful. That Hutton failed to uncover or refer to Lord Goldsmith’s written requirement for ‘strong factual grounds’ was inexcusable. The BBC news was awful and still is- it is an elitist organisation with no proper terms of existence and boorish goon employees. Gilligan exposed a vulnerable and confidential source who then killed himself, and would have been sacked by a responsible employer. However, there was ample justification that the intelligence was ‘sexed up’ from the standard reports, Hutton’s methodology in uncovering evidence was risible and his expression ‘subconscious influence’ has no place in such a report. Lastly, even on his own small-minded terms of reference, Hutton’s failure to question Ms. Pederson about her relationship with Kelly was a terminal flaw, so that even the cover-up was a cover-up.

    The media is so directed by the government and has so little independence that I found information on the Tarkin Doctrine from the space opera ‘Star Wars’ a more useful means of explaining the war in Iraq. The Tarkin Doctrine was based on the creation of a superweapon to discourage opposition with awesome displays of force. The superweapon accelerates the entire mass of a planet to escape velocity, so that gravitation cannot reverse the escape process. Mass is the central concept in physics. Apparently the University of Newcastle has found it necessary to close its physics course, though there are many jobs for physics graduates and no shortage of applicants, because the university is so poorly organised that physics cannot be funded. The University of Reading has followed with another mysterious ‘dumbing down’ closure. I would suggest that these ‘Universities of Mass Destruction’ or ‘UMD’s’ are instead responding to the police opportunity created by the combination of the new arty ‘ID’ bridge downriver from the Tyne Bridge, and Newcastle’s specialisation in stem cell research, based on the curious Centre for Life complex, a genetic laboratory surrounded by homosexual nightclubs. It is almost as if Newcastle had some symbolic role for the Empire, one which has become available for exploitation by Sir Ian Blair and the police biometric ID/car exhaust project. An Old Etonian and Oxford graduate should know far more about this. Since stem cell research, intelligent design and ‘Michael Fox’ seem to have become an issue over the water, I will pray for Boris’s soul, that he defend us from Satanists, Nazis and Catholics, including Bahamas and his ‘divine light’- and also ‘Islamic militants’, if, after sufficient provocation, they also become a threat. Stop the Force, Boris.

    Best wishes,


  31. Jaq, thanks. I’m with you on Boris for PM, an honest politician? These only come along once every few generations, we should seize the day.

    • Vanity Fair Exclusive: Now They Tell Us

      Neo Culpa

      As Iraq slips further into chaos, the war’s neoconservative boosters have turned sharply on the Bush administration, charging that their grand designs have been undermined by White House incompetence. In a series of exclusive interviews, Richard Perle, Kenneth Adelman, David Frum, and others play the blame game with shocking frankness. Target No. 1: the president himself.

    One reassurance: no more ‘creative destruction’:

      Fearing that worse is still to come, Adelman believes that neoconservatism itself — what he defines as “the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world” — is dead, at least for a generation.
  32. “the idea of a tough foreign policy on behalf of morality, the idea of using our power for moral good in the world”

    I guess that one kinda fell over when they realised to fight on behalf of morality, you need to have some morality yourself.

  33. It’s been a couple of weeks now, but one thing about Clare Short is that she gets there in the end.

      Clare Short has resigned as a Labour MP and will sit as an independent for the remainder of this parliament…

      In a letter to Labour’s chief whip, the Birmingham Ladywood MP accuses Tony Blair of telling “half-truths and deceits to get us to war in Iraq”.

    It took her a couple of months to quit as a cabinet minister after the Iraq war. It’s only taken her another 3 years to quit the Labour whip.

    For myself, my contempt for Blair has gradually extended to contempt for a Labour party which retains this liar and fraud as its leader. They fully share that infamy now, those wretched people. Seems Clare Short has finally seen that too.

  34. Clare Short , she`s free to write her book now , watch this space. Its all very depressing and I reached the conclusion we should get ot a while ago myself. I retain the view that we were there as part of NATO and in support of our ally . The supposed benefits to world peace or whatever, are secondary ,and the threat of terror hugely exaggerated by miliatary standards .
    Boris has honestly changed his mind has he ?Maybe so . An alternative reading is that he has alligned himself with the direction signalled by D Cameron in the 9.11 speech freeing the Conservative Party to attack on the war and reflecting a leftish ambivulence to the US in the Cameroon mind set.

    Boris actually believes all this rubbish about Liberal Imperialism , honestly its in his book . What tosh. British soldiers are there top protect British people ;period . We went in on strategically self interested grounds and we have done enough . No apology or change of mind is required… and when we casue , millions of deaths ? JT

  35. Apart from the spelling, what IS the difference between the Labour and Conservative Parties these days? Cameron is a Blair clone and it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find Alistair Campbell popping up in the Conservative camp in the not too distant future (you read it here first folks). He can change his name to Conservative Camp(Bell) for the amusement value.

    Anecdota, very interesting set of observations (but I didn’t get the bit about the Star Wars superweapon). My interpretation of your comments boils down to: Bush has made all the situations under his control so nasty and complex that the democrats won’t even WANT to take over the mess he’s made; giving the Republicans, at least, another eight years. Is that right?

  36. “British soldiers are there top protect British people ;period .

    I assume you mean “British soldiers are there to protect British people…”, but regarldless of this correction, I still don’t understand it. Protect us from what? Iraq? Saddam’s WMD’s? Oil dependency?

    I don’t follow it, sorry.

  37. Saddam Hussein has been sentenced to death by hanging for crimes against humanity. He has asked for death by firing squad.

  38. There are better uses for bullets in Iraq, and enough of a shortage that Coalition forces are ordered to sweep combat areas, picking up reuseable bullets. A sword is more ecologically responsible, and lifetime imprisonment more of a punishment.

  39. Saddam doesn’t deserve death (not that I believe in capital punishment anyway…) If there’s one thing this war has shown us is that you can’t simply come in and import western liberal values to any old culture immediately. Saddam saved far more deaths than he caused simply by being tough and preventing the sectarian violence that “the world’s most powerful man” has failed to stop.

    He also stopped developing WMDs, something we in the west have never done. He also hadn’t invaded another country in the 10 prior years, something we did repeatedly. In fact, as I’ve said continually, we do much worse than he ever did, and on a regular basis!

    People might accuse me of playing devil’s advocate, but I could never do that in this case. George Bush is too awful for me to ever defend, even mockingly.

  40. Lol, and that’s actually saying something, because I have before defended the Devil, as well as Hitler, Stalin, etc. in arguments since nobody else was willing to do it… I wouldn’t do that for Bush.

  41. The Vatican abolished the position of Devil’s Advocate, and Christopher Hitchens wrote a very interesting article about that. He was interviewed by their representatives re: Mother Theresa’s sainthood.

  42. ‘Saddam doesn’t deserve death … we do much worse than he ever did, and on a regular basis!’ (Jack Target)

    No we don’t, when was the last time a British leader had over 100 of his own people subjected to summary execution?

    You can watch his reaction on the BBC website, it’s quite funny. ‘Down with the taitors … down with your laws and articles and clauses’ he says. Down the trapdoor is the only place he’s going.

    Maybe he’s regretting sending that letter to Bush after 9/11 praising the attacks now.

  43. Steven_L
    Ok we have not subjected the british people to execution, but (and correct me if I am wrong here) we have indirectly caused thousands of Iraq civilians to die since we invaded.

  44. Yup k, I agree,
    Blair and Bush are little, if any, better than Saddam. Bush is a mass murderer and Blair a willing accomplice.

    If Saddam swings, so should they. The ends do NOT justify the means and, if they do, Saddam ought to be given the benefit of the doubt too.

    The trial was a travesty of justice; as a result, even if he hangs, Saddam wins right now, same as the ‘war of Iraq’. Bit of a Phyrric victory though.

  45. The British governent is supposed to be opposed to the death penalty and refuse to extradite criminals to countries where they may face the death penalty so it is slightly ironic that we have gone to war to help bring someone to trial knowing they will probably be executed.

    I hate to sound like a bleeding heart liberal, but I also hate the double standards involved whenever Britain co-operates with America.
    In honesty, though, I do not agree with the death penalty, I think life in solitary confinment is a better option. Saddam Hussain may or may not deserve to die, but he certainly does not deserve to become a martyr

  46. K and Jack Target – am with you on Saddam Hussein. I think his martyrdom and our continued presence is a sad ending.

    raincoaster – “The Vatican abolished the position of Devil’s Advocate, and Christopher Hitchens wrote a very interesting article about that” – got a link? Mag title? Date? It’ll be on his website but some idea of date or title would help if you know it. Thanks.

  47. ‘I think his martyrdom and our continued presence is a sad ending.’ (Jaq)

    I don’t think Saddam will be remembered as a Martyr by many. He was caught hiding in a small hole, now he is going to be strung up like a common criminal by his own people. He’ll be remembered as a tyrant.

  48. I don’t think Saddam can really be called a martyr, since martyrdom implies innocence and often being executed for beliefs. But he was still the lesser of two evils in this conflict. When talking about Bush’s crimes, please don’t forget Guantanamo and the other CIA prisons (which incidentally have been confirmed now by the Bush administration). The Guardian has a quick summary of the latest US terror law:,,1884244,00.html

    Bush’s greatest crime is NOT the killing of thousands in Iraq or the destabilisation of the Middle East (now 8 other M.Eastern countries want nuclear weapons…). His worst crime was setting a precedent in the western world, in America even, for torture of prisoners, imprisonment of people without trial for years (often on nearly no evidence and against all reason), and seizure of power by the executive.

  49. A President, like a Prime Minister, are imperfect reflections of their respective electorates. The behaviour of such persons must therefore resonate, to some extent, with the people who put them there.

    From my perspective this probably means Americans and Brits should be shot on sight for safety reasons.

    Somewhat like plague carrying rats.

    Prof. P J Convery,
    New Zealand.

  50. ‘His worst crime was setting a precedent in the western world … for torture of prisoners, imprisonment of people without trial for years (often on nearly no evidence and against all reason) (Jack Target)

    I’m not sure Gitmo is such a bad thing myself. It must make people think twice before deciding to go join in some foreign war on the pretence of some kind of worldwide jihad.

    The people in there weren’t Afghans, they were foreign nationals, some British, picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan. What were they doing there? How did they get there? These questions need answering if we are to win the War on Terror.

    You know what these Muslim radicals are like, as soon as a war involving Muslims starts they start a worldwide recruitment campaign. They did it in the Balkans, the did it against the Soviets, British nationals have travelled to Israel to blow themselves up for the jihad. Now they are fighting against our forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    If captured, are these ‘holy mujahadeen’ fighters ‘prisoners of war’? Some of them were from NATO countries, that makes them traitors. I have no sympathy with traitors.

    They obviuously have links to the people who are organising the ‘jihad’, or they wouldn’t be there in the first place. Extracting this information from them could save British and US lives in Iraq or Afghanistan.

    So I’m not sure that imprisoning an assorted bunch of traitors is entirely ‘without reason’ as you suggest. Some have been released, so the process must be getting somewhere.

  51. Steven_L:

    The people in there weren’t Afghans, they were foreign nationals, some British, picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan. What were they doing there? How did they get there? These questions need answering if we are to win the War on Terror.

    Well, I can tell you something about the 4 British nationals who got released from Guantanamo completely free of charge after 3 years of imprisonment, sitting in cages and being tortured on a regular basis. They were visiting Pakistan at the time, decided to visit Afghanistan shortly before the war started, and got rolled up in the whole thing shortly afterwards (by rolled up I don’t mean enrolled, they weren’t fighting, but were in a captured village – when the americans discovered they were British they assumed they must be up to no good, why else would they be in Afghanistan instead of Birmingham?). My favourite example of the absurd intelligence they were holding them on, is when the interrogators showed one of the prisoners a photograph of ‘him’ at a terrorist training camp, asking him to explain where he was that day. Unfortunately for them he had a fool-proof alibi in that he was in a British police station at the time.

    Regardless of whether these people are guilty or not, they MUST br tried. They must have a chance to answer their charges. The phrase “innocent until proven guilty” is NOT just a phrase from history, it has a meaning, and that meaning is not locking people up and torturing them for 3 years, because they are, by definition, innocent. They are innocent. Until they have been tried, they are, in my book, innocent.

    And the president should definitely not be given the power to “interpret the meaning” of the Geneva Conventions as it suits him. Rape and mutilation are not the only forms of torture, you have to be completely mad to think so. Again I’ll repeat, mad! American policy in this “war” is insane – it lacks reason and sound judgement – it is insane.

    “Some of them were from NATO countries, that makes them traitors. I have no sympathy with traitors.”

    Treason is an old-fashioned crime, and while I think it could still carry a small penalty, I don’t see why it should carry a big one. I love my country, but there are other things I love more. All things being equal, I would fight for Britain, or at the very least not join her enemies. However, if, for example, Britain fought a war against a secular democracy, for no other reason than land conquest, or worse, to impose a relatively illiberal value set on their relatively liberal one (this is hypothetical) then I would fight on the other side. Or at least refuse to fight against them. I hate the ideals espoused by a number of muslim radicals, but I don’t fault them for being loyal to their beliefs rather than their home country (which is after all an accident of birth).

  52. Incidentally, even if you do decide that you prefer the doctrine of “guilty until proven innocent”, for whatever reason (in my view this is not good, but you might disagree), then SURELY they must be given the chance to prove themselves innocent?

    and Colonel Commonroom:

    A President, like a Prime Minister, are imperfect reflections of their respective electorates. The behaviour of such persons must therefore resonate, to some extent, with the people who put them there.

    This isn’t true, because of the flawed democracies we have. At the last election, we had a choice between Michael Howard and Tony Blair, for all intents and purposes. In theory, we could have elected anybody who’s party was standing in a sufficient number of seats to win the largest share of the vote (this in itself limits our choice to 4 or 5). To say that they reflect us is to say that everyone in the UK is the same as either Michael Howard or Tony Blair. Clearly we’re not. It’s even worse in the USA.

    The war in Iraq is also a perfect example, because it was OPPOSED by a vast majority of the British population. A very large majority, 70%. Regardless of your opinion about constitutional authority and nominal mandates, if anything this shows that a Prime Minister does not always reflect their electorate. Indeed, in this case he doesn’t.

  53. ‘Saddam doesn’t deserve death … we do much worse than he ever did, and on a regular basis!’ (Jack Target)

    No we don’t, when was the last time a British leader had over 100 of his own people subjected to summary execution? (Steven-L)

    I don’t see the difference between Sadam executing his own people and Bush and Blair bombing and killing many thousands of innocent men, women and children. Either way, human beings died in the most dreadful manner imaginable and all for nothing. These two wretched specimens deserve to be put on trial too.

  54. K- we have indirectly caused thousands of Iraq civilians to die since we invaded.

    As few as possible ,the West’s major mistake was underestimating the enthusiasm Iraqis have for killing each other. Our security is guaranteed above all by the alliance we have with America. I feel we sold ourselves very cheap in Iraq , but can understand the reasoning behind supporting America’s understandable imperative to snuff our any rogue states in the area, it could ,after 9.11.
    I find the suggestion that there is some sort of equivalence between President Bush and Sadaam Hussein wearingly childish but moral superiority would not be a special objective of mine.
    In this sense British troops are protecting British people , by bulwarking the secure world order in which we snugly sit, pretending, if you must, we cannot see the difference between an a elected President of a free country and a mass murdering gangster.

    Is this supposed to be “intellectual” ? There were , and still are , many intellectuals ready to betray the West during the cold war, and many apologists for Stalin. I have never quite understood the instinctive loathing that many of a certain class feel for America comes from. It is heavily represented in the media and Academic establishment and especially ,(obviously ), the BBC. .It appears this peculiar hatred continues unabated.

  55. newmania, they didn’t underestimate anything. They knew.

    WASHINGTON (AP) — A series of secret U.S. war games in 1999 showed that an invasion and post-war administration of Iraq would require 400,000 troops, nearly three times the number there now.

    And even then, the games showed, the country still had a chance of dissolving into chaos.

    In the simulation, called Desert Crossing, 70 military, diplomatic and intelligence participants concluded the high troop levels would be needed to keep order, seal borders and take care of other security needs.

    The documents came to light Saturday through a Freedom of Information Act request by George Washington University’s National Security Archive, an independent research institute and library.

    “The conventional wisdom is the U.S. mistake in Iraq was not enough troops,” said Thomas Blanton, the archive’s director. “But the Desert Crossing war game in 1999 suggests we would have ended up with a failed state even with 400,000 troops on the ground.”

    There are about 144,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, down from a peak in January of about 160,000.

    A week after the invasion, in March 2003, the Pentagon said there were 250,000 U.S. ground force troops inside Iraq, along with 40,000 coalition force troops.

    A spokeswoman for the U.S. Central Command, which sponsored the seminar and declassified the secret report in 2004, declined to comment Saturday because she was not familiar with the documents.

    News of the war games results comes a day before judges are expected to deliver a verdict in Saddam Hussein war crimes trial. (Watch people prepare as curfew sets across Baghdad in anticipation of the verdicts — 3:20 )

    The war games looked at “worst case” and “most likely” scenarios after a war that removed then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein from power. Some of the conclusions are similar to what actually occurred after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003:

    “A change in regimes does not guarantee stability,” the 1999 seminar briefings said. “A number of factors including aggressive neighbors, fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines, and chaos created by rival forces bidding for power could adversely affect regional stability.”

    “Even when civil order is restored and borders are secured, the replacement regime could be problematic — especially if perceived as weak, a puppet, or out-of-step with prevailing regional governments.”

    “Iran’s anti-Americanism could be enflamed by a U.S.-led intervention in Iraq,” the briefings read. “The influx of U.S. and other western forces into Iraq would exacerbate worries in Tehran, as would the installation of a pro-western government in Baghdad.”

    “The debate on post-Saddam Iraq also reveals the paucity of information about the potential and capabilities of the external Iraqi opposition groups. The lack of intelligence concerning their roles hampers U.S. policy development.”

    “Also, some participants believe that no Arab government will welcome the kind of lengthy U.S. presence that would be required to install and sustain a democratic government.”

    “A long-term, large-scale military intervention may be at odds with many coalition partners.”

  56. Steven_L – yes, I meant he would be killed. I’ve argued for the death penalty on this blog but am still uncomfortable personally with actually putting someone to death. I know that sounds quite mad.

  57. JAQ .- Not at all; I can`t say I would much like slaughtering my own meat but I do not think this is a moral position. I am not in favour of the death penalty , but as a mirror image of you . I cannot justify my position at all.

    (Got a bit up on abortion you might be interested in by the way)

    RAINCOASTER- Crumbs !,

    Noone asked but
    I have just filed my press cuttings and paper media bits . These are the categories . Brown bashing, Humour /Interest , Sleaze ( Labour), PC madness, Race/Culture and Immigration ,Anti Liberal, Anti Ken Livingstone, Crime , education , Economy, Parliament, Freedom , Housing , Transport, Local news , local democracy, Constitution/Europe / Devolution , Tax, Conservative Party , Transport , Environment , Foreign bits.

    This is why I am relatively quiet on Foreign stuff . Not that interested really .

    (Jazz People – I have listened to the Toronto concert and .. Its not my cup of tea . Thanks for the recommendation. I see live music is being cut from radio three and Elgar taken off the £20 . The barabarians are at the gate and i may well be one of them

  58. newmania:

    In this sense British troops are protecting British people , by bulwarking the secure world order in which we snugly sit, pretending, if you must, we cannot see the difference between an a elected President of a free country and a mass murdering gangster.

    This is the great falacy. I disagree flat out with three of the things you have said in this one sentence, and challenge the rest.
    1. “In this sense British troops are protecting British people, by bulwarking the secure world order”
    This has got to be nonsense, Saddam and Iraq never posed a threat to any British people. The greatest threat he could have posed was to british people within Iraq, and to the best of my knowledge there was no threat there. Even if there was, compare it to the threat to British people now…
    And what secure world order is it that we’re Bulwarking exactly? Saddam was a stabilising influence in the Middle East, he didn’t sponsor terrorism in foreign countries or his own, and had stopped developing WMDs. What he did was suppress militias in his own country (something we’re failing at) and force the factions to coexist (once again, look at our record.)
    Apparently the secure world order that we’re balwarking involves creating a bloodbath from a peaceful society, providing an opportunity for terrorists and militias to form at will, allowing racist and religious warfare, and adding yet another destabilising influence to the least stable part of the world.
    2. “the secure world order in which we snugly sit”
    Again I say, if we’re sitting snugly in this secure world order, then why do we need to imprison people without trial, torture innocent people for information, and go to war in countries on the other side of the world? Either we’re in terrible danger and have to destroy our civil liberties to preserve our lives, or we sit snugly in a secure world order, and can live in a free country again.
    3. an “elected President of a free country and a mass murdering gangster.”
    As has been widely publicised, George Bush’s election was dubious. I’m of the opinion that he did, JUST, get a victory in the final count, but regardless of that fact, the election itself was corrupt and fraudulent, manipulated and controlled by the media and G.Bush’s family, who secured him a victory ahead of the final count.
    And a free country? I reckon we have different definitions of the word free. A free country in my opinion does not torture people, it does not centralise decision making on the executive to such a great extent, and above all it does NOT imprison people without giving them a fair trial. It does not reinterpret the Geneva Convention because it finds it prevents it torturing people, and it does not imprison people on foreign soil so that they’re exempt from their own laws.
    America may be nominally a democracy, but it is still controlled by vested interests. The elections, the media, in fact almost everything that goes on in the country in controlled by the american power structure. This may not be a dictator sitting in a chair, but it is still an oligarchy, the rich minority ruling over the poor majority.

    The only point I will concede is that, as I hope we’re seeing now, when the truth is too overwhelming for the oligarchy to control, the ststem in place in the USA does allow for a redistribution of power of some sort. It doesn’t in practice allow for it to be distributed outside of the educated elite and business interests, but there can be a small change.

  59. The people in there [Gitmo] weren’t Afghans, they were foreign nationals, some British, picked up on the battlefields of Afghanistan.

    They were picked up all over the place, not just Afghanistan. The Americans put a bounty on their heads, and any number of innocent people were handed over to them, just to get the bounty.

  60. As for Saddam, all sorts of figures float around about how murderous he was, and it seems that they tend to include anyone who got killed in any war he fought, including putting down various insurrections in Iraq. On that basis, Winston Churchill would be counted a mass murderer as well.

    Saddam was well regarded in the West until his invasion of Kuwait, at which point he was completely demonized (I watched it happen), and accused of killing babies in hospital incubators (a story that turned out to be untrue).

    Personally, when I realize that someone is being demonized, I tend to discount accusations made against them. At around about the same time, ex-PM Edward Heath said, in the middle of this demonization process, that Saddam was “just another ordinary Middle Eastern dictator” – just another in a brutal bunch of people.

    I don’t doubt that Saddam was a murderous thug, but I’m not at all sure that he was one of genocidal proportions. And I think his trial has been a travesty.

  61. Suppressed militias is one way of putting it . Genocide would be another . Forced factions to die of gas poisoning together maybe? I `m surprised you are actually a Saddam supporter . You do not know that he had given up developing WMD`s . I doubt it , and he went out of his way to make it appear that he hadn’t. To scare the West , one assumes retrospect . For the same reason he would have obtained them I believe . We will never know now and you are free to tell us what a good things he was relatively speaking.
    No he did not pose a direct threat . Our strategic interest was to support America who believed he either did or would . It is a forward defensive shot if you like and it was hoped as a secondary aim that freedom from a murderous tyrant could also be achieved . Enoch Powell was a great fan of no foreign entanglement without physical and immediate thereat to Britain . I suppose you would have agreed .It’s a valid point of view but risky. I would have been close to the Enoch position on Iraq and felt we should be getting out a while ago.
    Iraq was peaceful only in the sense that anyone who didn`t like it disappeared . Perhaps if absolutely all the leaders of the ANC had been rounded up and shot regularly you would be applauding the peacefulness of South Africa today. The things you say are highly reminiscent of the arguments for allowing South Africa to continue as it was and not destabilising it . A bad regime , not as bad as the racist slaughter of the Bathists though. South Africa genuinely posed no threat whatsoever. Perhaps sanctions should have been dropped.
    We are sitting snugly in a secure world order because of the superior weaponry of the west and the will to use it . We have discussed the morality of torture or otherwise at length and the distinguishing two features of the US are its mildness and openness.
    Your further comments are the position of a pacifist essentially and as such you are likely to require others to protect you.

    Yes yes all of this well worn conspiracy theory will not prevent the Democratic removal of George Bush and the republicans , or not .A rather different matter to the Dictator you regard as roughly the same .The free media in the US has been the source of all your theories , not daring espionage by brave British Liberals and this media is scarcely republican in bias. As for your dastardly capitalist plot I `m only surprised you haven’t claimed the Jews are behind it all , that was the old version .America is a big place and like the starry sky you can join the points up in lots of ways . To say vested interests will be important is redundant and you describe ubiquitous dangers for any democracy . Do you think the Jews , who are important in Capitalist America act as a secret Society. I think they probably have a clearer identity of interest than some in an open and legitimate way. Is this the sort of thing you are describing ? A lot of the Left would agree with you . What is the up to date version ? NWO …ooohhoooo spooky ?

    Bear in mind I `m not myself concerned to be better than anyone . I feel for our security is was a reasonable thing to do to support the US and we sold that support to cheaply. I posted my own reasons for getting out some time ago .I see you count yourself amongst those who call the US the great devil. Bizarre , but a common establishment view in this country . Always has been . That’s why our secret service was full of fifth columnist traitors .

  62. Jack Target, regarding your comment:
    “This isn’t true, because of the flawed democracies we have. At the last election, we had a choice between Michael Howard and Tony Blair,”

    And, as I recall, you put them man responsible for these atrocities right back in power again as did the Yanks.

    So, from my flawed understanding of British democracy, that implies to me that the majority of Brits either agreed with him or were too apathetic to vote the mendacious bugger out. Either way, it’s a sad indictment of the British.

    You should be damned well ashamed of yourselves.

  63. newmania:

    There is a difference between South Africa and Iraq partly in location and population. Unlike South Africa, attacking Iraq carried two major risks, of encouraging the Islamic fundamentalism which you clearly dislike, and of destabilising a country within an already highly volatile region.

    I’m not remotely pacifist. Those who’ve known me for a while on this blog know of my plans to join the army, and I would be highly in favour of military intervention in Sudan. Possibly in Iran if it looks like they’re on the brink of getting nuclear weapons (obviously it carries the same risks as Iraq, if not even more, but I think a nuclear armed Iran is more destabilising than an unstable one). I would be in favour of military action against the USA to close Guantanamo Bay and free our citizens there (at least if I thought we had a chance of surviving the repurcussions of such an attack). Likewise if I was convinced that there was a way to achieve our objectives (of stopping the slaughter) I would be in favour of military action in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    So probably the only intervention I am unreservedly in favour of at the moment is Sudan. And even then in order to do so we would need to re-work the army and pull troops out of Iraq or Afghanistan. Either way, I’m not a pacifist, just a rationalist.

    And on a similar note I am definitely not of the same opinion as Enoch Powell, I hope as evidenced by what I said above.

    And the lack of WMDs? It was for precisely that reason that we were opposed the the intervention. 70% were against the war, but with a UN resolution (achieved by giving the weapon inspectors long enough to report) less than 20% were opposed (in the UK anyway). Saddam was probably right to pretend to have the weapons, the US was clearly looking for a scape-goat, and it didn’t choose the tough countries because they’re tough. It was a good idea of Saddam’s to pretend to be tough to try and prevent invasion, and if you remember, when he realised that the US was intent on attacking him regardless, he opened up everything to the weapons inspectors and ceased the posturing.

    On a slightly different note, my “dastardly capitalist plot” has nothing to do with Jews. I’m one of the social-justice liberation theology types who adhere to the doctrine of “Make Wealth History”. Regardless of your opinion of us, that is the reason for my anti-corporate rant… Not fear of Jews ruling the world.

    Colonel Commonroom:

    Unfortunately your understanding may be flawed (I don’t know how much you know about the British political system). One problem here is that the Prime Minister is tied to the House of Commons. Our choice for our local MP determines who becomes Prime Minister, and so we never got a chance to vote Tony Blair himself out. Some people do vote on the basis of their MP rather than the central government, because after all that’s who they’re electing, and local MPs have other impacts on our lives than choosing the Prime Minister who determines foreign policy.

    Look, I’m a member of the Tory Party and I voted against Blair in the last election. But Michael Howard ran an awful campaign against Blair (if you saw the ads, you’d know…), and likewise the Democrats in the states chose an astonishingly bad choice. Faced with choosing between Bush and Kerry, I would be cautious… Probably vote for Kerry in the end, but still. Voting between Bush and a potato is a no-brainer – go for the potato anytime.

    And incidentally no, a majority of Brits do not favour Blair and did not vote him in. He received 35.3% of the vote (which was from a 61% turnout) Now I would agree that those who don’t turn out to vote bear responsibility for the person who gets in just as much as the ones who voted for him, but it is still a fact that only 20% of the electorate voted for Tony Blair. That’s not a majority. The tories got 32.3% of the vote, so it’s hardly a clear Blair mandate population-wise.

  64. Colonel commonroom,
    The problem with the antiwar movement here, weel at least in my opinion, is that many of the peopl who are strongly anti-war also tend to be anti-tory on principle.

  65. I think Jack Target reminds us of a very important point about our democracy – in that it’s been fundamentally changed by this government to scew the outcome of an election. That’s not democracy. But it’s going to be interesting if a different party gets in power next time, to see if they will recind that bias and in effect weaken their own hold on power.

    As for Iraq, should we just pull the troops out now and let them get on with it?

  66. If we pull the troops out now and let them get on with it, the population of Iraq will be reduced to 1 even quicker than it is now…

  67. Agreed on Sudan, 400,000 dead and a Lebanon every ten days is a good reason for decisive UN intervention which is disgracefully delayed. The BBC ignore it mostly.
    I am not especially concerned with Islamic fundamentalism except that aspect of it that requires the believers to blow people up. Other wise , I care not.
    Your grounds for invading the US would have us invading all of Africa , most of Asia and the far east , Turkey and so on.

    Why not I `m sick of this place anyway.

    I am not sure what you’re social justice liberation theology thingy is, and last I heard you had argued god out of existence again, the army, is that on or of ? Is there more than one of you then? I wonder, were you accused of being an “original thinker “, whilst at Uni .
    Saddaam only caved in on WMD inspection when it was to late. It would never have been otherwise .How can you eat the spoon fed and sub Haw haw propaganda of a fascist state with such evident relish?

  68. I’m not sure how many British citizens there are imprisoned in Africa, I figured they would be reluctant to imprison them given the relative difference in power. I know nothing about it though, and will agree that Guantanamo is certainly not the worst prison of it’s kind in the world. The problem I have with Guantanamo is that it marks a step backwards for us in the west, heading towards fundamentalism ourselves.

    About God, social justice and liberation theology, I’m Christian again (I know, I have a very changeable character… I’ve been an atheist for most of my time, muslim, buddhist and christian at various points too! Not to mention communist, capitalist and anarchist… Just think of it as trying things out). I’m Christian again, but definitely a liberal. Liberation Theology is actually a branch of theology in the Roman Catholic church originating fairly recently in South America. It has been denounced by both of the last two popes though. Essentially it says that our first duty as Christians is to ‘actively’ love our neighbour. It’s not big on evangelism or doctrine, and doesn’t place as much emphasis on worship or prayer (although they’re definitely still part of it). It usually takes a form much closer to humanism that mainstream christianity. It’s been moving outside the Roman Catholic church too.

    Was I accused of being an “original thinker” while at university… well, I just started at university 1 month ago and so haven’t really had the chance to be called one yet! I have been labelled with a number of names ranging from Fascist to Communist, but usually having a meaning along the lines of “inconsistent”. I dispute these epithets consistently. Army may still be on, haven’t decided yet.

    And I would apply that last comment to you too…

  69. And Jaq:

    My point was fairly simple, and is based on the following logic:

    1. The vast majority of the violence in Iraq is Iraqi-Iraqi.
    2. Currently more or less the only safe parts of Iraq are the small areas under strict martial rule by the ‘allied’ forces.
    3. It is not inconceivable that some foreign nations might want in on the bloodbath/oilfields of Iraq.

    If we withdraw, the Iraqi-Iraqi violence will increase, there will be no safe-havens whatsoever in the country, and there may well be other competing foreign countries getting involved. Basically see my above quote from The Economist for some brief reasoning…

  70. Thanks Jack (sorry about being simple) but then that comes back to;

    SH was a ‘strong’ leader but perhaps that erm ‘strength’ is necessary to keep peace in that country and resist foreign control.

    I don’t know what do y’all think? But we’ve been bombing the middle east for over a decade and one minute shaking hands with SH then when Bush clicks his fingers, happy to see the man hanged. I’m not allocating sympathy as such – just confusion with our foreign policy!

  71. Suppressed militias is one way of putting it . Genocide would be another . Forced factions to die of gas poisoning together maybe? I `m surprised you are actually a Saddam supporter . You do not know that he had given up developing WMD`s . I doubt it , and he went out of his way to make it appear that he hadn’t. To scare the West , one assumes retrospect . For the same reason he would have obtained them I believe . We will never know now and you are free to tell us what a good things he was relatively speaking. (newmania)

    I suppose this is addressed to me.

    Yes, very broadly I think Iraq would be better off under Saddam than it now is under the US and UK. As best I understand, more people have been killed in Iraq in the last 3 years than in the entire era of Saddam. Schools, hospitals, power supplies, drainage, etc, are now in a worse state than in Saddam’s time. Some 2 million Iraqis have fled Iraq since 2003. Saddam’s secular society, which once boasted one of the highest standards of education in the Middle East, and didn’t force women to wear headscarves, is now turning into an Islamic fundamentalist state. All in all, I don’t see that Iraq has gained anything at all. In fact, I think we have inflicted an utter disaster upon that country. And upon ourselves.

    I rather agree with Jaq that maybe what Iraq needed was a ‘strong man’, or monarch. It seems to be an extremely tribal country, with tribal leaders being the principal sources of authority. Such authoritarian societies are very likely to end up with one man at the top, as a kind of boss of bosses, much like English kings in relation to powerful dukes.

    And I don’t see that democracy is always and everywhere better than monarchy. I tend to think that countries become democracies as they become more prosperous an emancipated (e.g. Britain), and revert to monarchies or dictatorships when they become less prosperous (e.g. Germany in the time of Hitler). That is, the political organisation of society reflects its economic development. Democracy is preferable only in the sense that prosperity is preferable.

  72. 2. Currently more or less the only safe parts of Iraq are the small areas under strict martial rule by the ‘allied’ forces. (Jack Target)

    You mean the Green Zone? Very little of Iraq is under strict martial law. There simply aren’t the troops available to do that. Americans go out patrolling, and come under attack almost immediately. They control very little at all.

    As Americans have gradually lost control over events in Iraq, it is now rather hard to see what the point is of them remaining in what has become a civil war.

  73. ‘I rather agree with Jaq that maybe what Iraq needed was a ‘strong man’, or monarch.’ (idlex)

    Perhaps they should ask Saddam and his henchmen what they would do about it.

    ‘Mr Hussein, we’re frightfully sorry, we simply didn’t realise what a good job you were doing. We were wondering if you’d like to earn some extra privileges by helping us out a bit. What would you do about all these Insurgents?’

    ‘Send in the army, shoot them all, capture the ringleaders and torture them to death.’

  74. I concur with PaulD November 2, 2006 4:34 PM writing:
    Here is a politician who is prepared to admit he was mistaken, to explain in language we can all understand why he was mistaken, and to learn from it.
    Compare with our present mob – never wrong, never learning from their mistakes except where it might have cost them a vote.

    Boris you are a rare person in the political cesspit. But still no genius. There were so many thousands who were right in advance, indeed who foresaw that the Afghanistan invasion would be a failure too. You failed us in that. But it is just about conceivable that you will learn from more of your mistakes and am sure we’ve far from seen the last of you, even though more blunders are likely ahead in your career.

  75. You mean the Green Zone? Very little of Iraq is under strict martial law. There simply aren’t the troops available to do that. Americans go out patrolling, and come under attack almost immediately. They control very little at all. – idlex

    Yup, hence my calling them “small areas”. But those areas are bigger than they would be if we left (by which I mean there would be none). I think you may be right about the strong-man, but how can we do that now? Any person we install would completely lack credibility, and there can’t be a popular leader now. Also, exactly what strength would this strong-man weild? We have destroyed the Iraqi institutions as well as the regime, and there is no strength now in Iraq except for the allied forces and the militias they oppose.

    Rather ironically there is only one man who could do it, and he is about to be hanged. I assume we agree that it cannot be a non-Iraqi? And now all the Iraqis with strength have been allied to one of the three main factions. Only Saddam Hussein could unite the country again, reminding them of the unity and stability beforehand. He would need our support to replace the strength we took from him, but it might be possible. I don’t know if I’m actually suggesting that as a solution… just saying that in my opinion he’s the only viable strong-man!

    Seeing as the chances of Bush and Blair reinstalling Saddam Hussein are smaller than me being consecutively struck by lightning 47 times (while sitting in a cave), I’m not that fussed with that ‘option’. The only one is for us to be the innadequate strong-man, prevent as much violence as we can and secure it’s borders as best we can, and hope for the best that a viable solution presents itself while we continue to train the Iraqi army and police force.

  76. Yup, hence my calling them “small areas”. – Jack Target

    But they are small areas which are safe only for Americans and other Westerners. If these people leave, they will no longer need them.

    And it seems most Iraqis want them to leave., published six weeks ago, shows that 71 per of Iraqis want the withdrawal of US-led forces within a year. No less than 74 per cent of Shia and 91 per cent of Sunni say they want American and British troops out. Only in Kurdistan, where there are few foreign troops, does a majority support the occupation.

      Hostility to the American and British troops has a direct and lethal consequence for the soldiers on the ground. The same poll shows that 92 per cent of Sunni and 62 per cent of Shia approve of attacks on US-led forces. This is the real explanation for the strength of the insurgency: it is widely popular.

    So if we’re doing no good, and most Iraqis want us to leave, then why are we “staying the course”? Presumably for the murky ‘strategic’ reasons that newmania won’t name. i.e. oil and regional influence. Or else Bush and Blair’s vanity.

    As I see it, it is more or less inevitable that it is going to be Iraqis who will sort out the mess themselves. So best leave them to get on with it.

  77. D’oh!
    Peace in the Middle East 101.

    1) Give Iraq to Iran;
    2) Create a seperate state (bits of Iraq & Iran) for the Kurds;
    3) Leave a crater where Israel used to be and give the non-radioactive bits to Syria;
    4) Make opium production legal in Afghanistan;
    5) Send Saddam to Libya where he can be tutored in the ways of righteousness (and peace with the West) by arch peacemaker Col. al-Gaddafi;
    6) Keep the House of Saud motherless on Johnnie Walker Blue Label for the foreseeable future.


  78. Tony Blair may not believe in the death penalty but the death penalty believes in Saddam Hussein!

    Personally, I’m looking forward to the Saddam Album featuring such hits as:
    ‘Swing low, you maniac…’
    ‘And did those feet in recent times, walk almost ten feet off, the ground’
    and, my all time favourite,
    ‘He’ll be swinging off a gibbet in a month, he’ll be swinging from the yardarm in a month.
    He’ll be swinging in the rigging, swinging in the rigging he’ll be swinging in the rigging in a month’

    They should send Chuck Norris over there to sort everything out. If Chuck Norris jumped off a cliff, the cliff would die!

  79. ‘The wages of sin is death’
    ‘Uneasy lies the head that bears the crown’
    ‘Nearer to the crown, nearer to the sword’
    To name but most of them.

    Come on Jack, chopping the head off one’s arch enemy is a time honoured tradition in Texas and British Parliament. This is the culture of Islam. None of this ‘first offence’ rubbish we have in the West, just ‘Off with his head!’

    Anyway, Saddam was like a professional hit man. He must have spent most of the last twenty years wondering when he was going to get two in the back of the neck.

    I’ll bet Saddam’s laughing his nuts off at the moment; he’s won (effectively). He might as well go out on a high point. How many people can say that? (certainly not Alex Ferguson…. probably)

    So how about joining in with a chorus of ‘We’ll hang up old Saddam on the Seigfried line…’?

    Did anyone see Adam Bolton (Sky News political correspondent) winding Tone up last night at the Prime minister’s press conference? Laugh! I nearly wet myself!

  80. “It’s a shame, Mr. Blair,” Quoth George Bush,
    “We invaded Iraq in a rush!
    We wanted the oil,
    Not this murderous toil
    We should have just financed a putsch!”

  81. The bit about Saddam’s grand plan sounds plausible until you remember that he was found, on his own, in a hole in the ground, and that doesn’t suggest to me that he had an exit strategy.

    What may have looked like soldiers melting away to come back later was soldiers running away. They were at heart all cowards supporting a regime out of fear.

    What you see now isn’t a resurgence of the old regime, it is Russian style gang warfare for nothing more than the pleasure of watching people die and establishing mini criminal empires. They are killing each other in far greater numbers than than their “hosts”.

    The US failure to take Iraq alive, as it were, was largely a result of indulging its own liberal elite. Had the US gone in and ruled with a rod of iron, just like Saddam did, things today would have been a whole lot better for Iraqis. Had they imposed curfews, shot detractors, summarily executed random people etc, etc, the locals would have taken this as business as usual and gotten on with it. But for some reason they imagined (how they did this I don’t know) they imagined they would be welcomed as heroes and gave out sweets.

    I think the war was evil, and predicated on lies, but if you want to win something like that I think you have to be very brutal.

    I still to this day cannot understand the mindset of anyone who voted for this catastrophe but thanks, Boris, for trying.

  82. Thanks for the ‘Don’t hang Saddam’ article, Jaq. My thoughts entirely. If we’re brutish enough to collectively murder people, then why punish murderers – since we’re all murderers too. No, let him suffer in prison.

  83. Auntie Flo – BTW, if you’re interested there was an infamous debate about the Iraq war twixt The Hitch and George Galloway. You can listen to the highlights here.

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