Thursday, October 07, 2004

Cheney, Rumsfeld, Blair

C4 News' Jonathan Rugman had a long piece on Cheney ... lampooned by the 'left' , cue pictures of demonstrators chanting "their greed goes marching on" etc. ['moderate']. They didn't mention Powell's thoughts according to Bob Woodward : 'Powell detected a kind of fever in Cheney. He was not the steady, unemotional rock that he had witnessed a dozen years earlier during the run-up to the Gulf War.' (PoA P175, WP3)

They also managed to dig out a clip of Rumsfeld from late 2002 talking about links between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Even so, this was a somewhat less than confident assertion and they had to flesh it out with Dick Cheney, always running ahead of the president.

As The New York Times put it, 'While Mr. Rumsfeld often has cited C.I.A. reports of murky ties, including the presence of Qaeda operatives in Iraq, he has not been as adamant on the issue as other senior administration officials, in particular Vice President Dick Cheney.'

Having just read Bob Woodward's, Plan of Attack, and a few other accounts in the past, 2 questions still remain a mystery : why was it not possible to get a 2nd resolution ? and why, after Blair had promised not to take Britain into war unless there was a 2nd resolution, did it take part in the invasion, rather than just, say, taking part in the stabilisation afterwards ?

Kampfner stresses the major failure in British diplomacy due to Blair's over-optimism and naïvete - he got Chirac wrong, and Schröder and Putin. However, Powell, Bush and the Saudis also misread Chirac, according to Woodward. Rubin, on the other hand, lays the fault at the Bush administration's refusal to compromise, for example setting a mid-April deadline for Iraq : 'Blair and his diplomats worked hard to craft this compromise plan, but Washington's inflexibility doomed the effort.'

Maybe it was just French perfidy, like de Villepin's 20 Jan ' "Nothing! Nothing!" justified war. Powell was so furious... Any leverage with Saddam was linked directly to the threat of war...' (Woodward, P281-5). A trawl through Greg Djerejian's archives (March 16, 2003) gives this link.  'U.S. officials argue that it is clear that France... always intended to block a war, and that no amount of diplomacy would have bridged the gap. A senior official said ... "If we were diplomatically perfect, I'm not sure it would have fundamentally changed the outcome."  '

Second question: why did Blair then insist on British participation in the main war-fighting operation ? I can't remember who it was, maybe Blix, who suggested there was some political advantage in this (in spite of reservations about the war, people tend to rally round when troops are actually in action). If so, the benefit is merely short-term and, in the light of what has come out since, perhaps the option of British troops just taking part in peacekeeping should have been taken. Straw wanted it, Bush offered it, Rumsfeld leaked it - 'Rumsfeld indicated that the British might not participate if there was war. ... "What the f**k" are you doing?"  an official from the British embassy in Washington immediately asked.'   (Woodward, P340-1)

My guess is that Blair was just convinced of the strategic and tactical necessity of the war. Both Kampfner (P279) and Woodward (P337) quote from a Guardian interview : 'Defending himself against the charge that he was behaving like George Bush's poodle, he portrayed himself as a hawk in his own right. "It's worse than you think. I believe in it. I am truly committed to dealing with this, irrespective of the position of America. If the Americans were not doing this, I would be pressing for them to be doing so." '

Full Text: Final Report of U.S. Inspector on Iraq’s WMD - I certainly haven't read all of that. One quote, though, from Vol I P65 - '• Saddam surprised his generals when he informed them he had no WMD in December 2002 because his boasting had led many to believe Iraq had some hidden capability, according to Tariq ‘Aziz. Saddam had never suggested to them that Iraq lacked WMD. Military morale dropped rapidly when he told senior officers they would have to fight the United States without WMD. ' Comment is superfluous.

Update (18 Oct)

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