Or so a Downing Street spokeswoman, spinning away like a dervish, would have
Mr Blair was challenged by Sir David [Frost, on the new al-Jazeera
English-language channel] over the violence in Iraq, saying that the Western
intervention there had “so far been pretty much of a disaster”.
The prime minister replied: “It has, but you see what I say to
people is why is it difficult in Iraq?
“It’s not difficult because of some accident in planning.
“It’s difficult because there’s a deliberate strategy – al-Qaeda with Sunni
insurgents on one hand, Iranian-backed elements with Shia militias on the other
– to create a situation in which the will of the majority for peace is displaced
by the will of the minority for war.”
Seems plain enough to me, but apparently not:
Downing Street insisted it was not Mr Blair’s view that the violence in Iraq
had been a disaster.
A spokeswoman said: “He was simply acknowledging the question in a polite way
before going on to explain his view.
“To portray it as some kind of admission is completely
Was he trying to use this opportunity to connect with the yoof by emulating
the way they apparently talk; ‘Has is so far been pretty much of a
disaster?’ ‘ Well, yeah but, no but, yeah but, no but…’? I can’t see Cherie
Booth QC accepting that what, on the face of it, is a frank admission is, in
fact, the witness only politely acknowledging counsel’s question.
And his explanation of his view isn’t much better. To have failed to
anticipate that various separatist elements in the different regions of Iraq
would take advantage of Saddam’s removal and use this violently to enforce their
demands for autonomy or independence would have been a massive failure in
planning — that was obviously going to happen. It’s not as if we didn’t have
the example of what happened in the former Yugoslavia, at the end of a far more
benign dictatorship than Saddam’s, very much before us. And the former
Yugoslavia didn’t have neighbours who were obviously going to take the
opportunity to make quite as much mischief as have some of Iraq’s neighbours.
Even my MP admitted it was a likely outcome, when I went to see him to beg
him to vote against the invasion (he abstained, the coward, though he now has a
ministerial job so maybe he didn’t want to blot his copybook).
Consequently, at least one hopes — certainly my MP hoped — that plans were
in place to deal with this easily foreseeable outcome of our actions. Either
these plans are working or they’re not. Looks to me as if they aren’t.
I really wonder at times what the Intelligence Services get paid for. On
the Prime Minister’s account, they seem badly to have misinformed him about WMD
in Iraq and now now they appear equally badly to have misinformed him about the
insurgency that would almost inevitably follow any successful removal of
Quite why, given their track record, he and Dr Reid want to lock people up
purely on their say-so is a mystery.