Wednesday, July 16, 2003

What were the real reasons Tony Blair joined us in our march to war with Iraq?
Over the months, many commentators have alleged that the war with Iraq occurred for one pre-eminent reason - because the United States wanted it. Clare Short recently said as much, too. But this claim has been laughed off by insiders. Now, though, Stothard has provided a compelling piece of evidence that the critics' charge was spot on.

The crucial passage occurs on page 87 of Stothard's diary-style narrative of the war. It comes as the author reflects on the political thought processes that had gone into the crafting of Tony Blair's widely admired speech at the start of the vital eve-of-war Commons debate on March 18. Stothard's reflections are contained in a relatively long passage, but it deserves to be quoted in full:

"Has Tony Blair become some sort of reckless crusader over Iraq? He thinks not. In September 2002 his analysis of relations between Washington, London and Baghdad was clear and cold. It rested on six essential points to which he and his aides would regularly return:

· Saddam Hussein's past aggression, present support for terrorism and future ambitions made him a clear threat to his enemies. He was not the only threat, but he was a threat nevertheless.

· The US and Britain were among his enemies.

· The people of the US, still angered by the September 11 attacks, still sensing unfinished business from the first Gulf war 12 years before, would support a war on Iraq.

· Gulf war 2 - President George W Bush v Saddam Hussein - would happen whatever anyone else said or did.

· The people of Britain, continental Europe and most of the rest of the world would not even begin to support a war unless they had a say in it through the UN.

· It would be more damaging to longterm world peace and security if the Americans alone defeated Saddam Hussein than if they had international support to do so.

"These six points - when scribbled on the back of an envelope or set out on a printed page - are not exceptional. What is exceptional is the certainty required to follow their logic. It is Tony Blair's certainty that has been the surprise for many Labour MPs."

Stothard sells himself short here. The six points are exceptionally important. First, because of the date. Second, because of the clear implication that Blair is the source of them (if he is not, then Stothard is sexing up his own dossier). And third, because it shows how passive British policy really was. Britain did not go to war to overthrow an evil regime, or even to control WMD. It went to war to keep on the right side of Washington.